Lawrence Adkins

Lawrence Adkins
2005 Candidate for Cambridge City Council

Home address:
Lawrence J. Adkins
45 Hayes Street
Cambridge MA 02139

Contact information:
Tel: 617-661-5949

Send contributions to:
Committee to Elect Lawrence J. Adkins
c/o David Phillips
40 Howard Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

About Lawrence J. Adkins: One of the ideas behind electing a City Council chosen 'at large,' by proportional representation, was diversity: diversity of profession, knowledge, opinion, education, and life experience. These are important in securing responsible democratic government. Therefore it becomes important to know for whom you are voting when you decide to work for the election of a diverse City Council. How long has it been since we elected a City Councillor who graduated from Rindge Tech, someone who learned and worked at a trade, a City Councillor whose education prepared him to deal with the realities of working people?

Family: Lawrence is a 4th generation Cantabrigian on his mother's side. She, Gloria Phillips, and her mother, Marion Bowen, were born and educated in Cambridge. Grandfather Leon Phillips came to Cambridge from Boston, and Lawrence's parents bought the house at 45 Hayes Street over 50 years ago. His mother, father and an uncle worked at the nearby Riverside Press.

His father Alfred Adkins settled in Cambridge at the end of the war, having been stationed at Hanscom Field where he served in the Air Force during the Korean War. There was plenty of industrial work to be had in the neighborhood after the end of the war. When this changed, Alfred Adkins went to Boston for work and was employed at the Boston Insulated Wire & Cable Co., in Dorchester. He continued to be active in Cambridge civic affairs, as well as in his immediate neighborhood to protect it from HUD, and other hostile government interference in the 1970s. After Lawrence's birth, Gloria and Alfred Adkins had three more children: Steven who lives here in Cambridge and works for the MBTA, Marcia living now in Alabama, and Carolyn in Maryland. All of them attended the Houghton School (now the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School). Lawrence, as the oldest shared in the responsibility for his younger siblings. They remain a close family.

Education: Lawrence was fortunate to have as his 8th grade teacher at Houghton, Regina B. Key, an inspiring teacher in language, writing, drama, and all the arts, who developed a program called 'World Conference' in which each child was assigned an area of the world to study and develop an oral public presentation for adults as well as children. Lawrence remembers doing his presentation on -- Pakistan.

Going on to Rindge Technical High School, Lawrence brought his skill with tools and language with him, but soon ran into the problem of low expectations, and teachers who were hostile to students 'ambitious beyond their station in life.' His experiences at high school taught him what the social situation was and how it affected his schooling. But by the time Lawrence finished, he had been exposed to the computer field -- from his sophmore to his senior year, he took Computer Science and had learned Fortran, Cobalt, and a 3rd programming language on an 1130 IBM A-frame -- Rindge Tech was the first school nationally to have such a computer.

Lawrence participated in high school sports. He played defensive guard on the Rindge Tech team, The Warriors, that beat Cambridge High's team, Cantab, Thanksgiving 1973.

Work: Lawrence worked while in High School, at the Harvard Coop, Stop & Shop, the Cambridge Public Library. After High School, he followed his father to work at Boston Insulated Wire & Cable, where he started as a taping machine operator, working his way up to Foreman. He worked there from 1973 to 1980.

During the same period, he worked for the Cambridge Recreation Department at the Hoyt Team Center, ending as Assistant Director. There he had the greatest personal interaction with the community, working with teenagers and having a good influence on them.

Continuing his desire for civic involvement -- to work and live in Cambridge -- he wanted to be a fire fighter, went through training, but was injured, and could not be hired.

In 1990 he went into business together with his mother and brother, opening Phil's, an eatery on Western Ave.

Other experience: Lawrence is a single parent; he lives at the family home on Hayes St. He brought up two sons. The youngest son suffered a grave illness from age 2, and Lawrence's attention and care has continued until the present day. Because of this, he has a vast direct experience of the available health, medical and social services.

The Union Baptist Church, on Main Street, is the family church.

Lawrence is a Past Master of Castle William Lodge #11, which is a subsidiary of Prince Hall Masonic Grand Lodge.

Civic/Political Involvement in Cambridge: Lawrence helped to revive the Riverside Neighborhood Association and has been serving as President for some years. He became involved after Mr. & Mrs. Loose (who had already been involved in a successful rezoning) alerted the neighborhood to Harvard's plans for a museum at the Mahoney site (with Renzo Piano as architect) -- and called for a moratorium on development. During the building moratorium Lawrence served on the Riverside Study Committee appointed by the City Manager, as a local business representative. He continues to serve on the oversight committee charged with insuring that the intent of agreements with Harvard University be protected.

Lawrence was one of the founders of the Cambridge Town Meeting Association, which for four years conducted public forums that allowed all candidates for public office to present themselves equally.

A leader in combating racism in Cambridge, Lawrence was active in 1999 in organizing effective citizen response to the search and seizure of elementary school kids by Cambridge school security. He helped to form and served on a committee to develop policies to protect children from abusive behaviors by school employees. In 2004 he was party to a lawsuit that would require the City Manager to obey City Ordinances in the matter of appointments to the Police Review and Advisory Board. Dealing with the special needs of his son, he learned how to navigate the school system, and has a good understanding of how that system works.

Lawrence is a participating member of the board of the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods.

Active on behalf of the Kids' Council Out-of-School Time Subcommittee, he helped develop a city-wide policy to benefit all young people, including special needs kids, and to secure approval of the Inclusionary Out-of-School Time Policy , voted and unanimously passed by both the Cambridge City Council and the School Committee.

Lawrence has a 30-year history of active City participation. He will bring to the newly elected City Council, abilities, skills and values of a kind unique to his life experiences.

Top Priorities:

• encourage development of inexpensive housing for people who work in Cambridge, want to live here with their families and send their children to our public schools.

• stop taxing residents more on space they live in to make up for tax revenue losses on vacant commercial spaces

• provide relief from sudden large tax increases for long-term home owners

• make clear that the triple-A bond rating should be used to benefit everyone by providing first-rate public services

• make the budgeting process for city departments transparent and hold all city offices accountable

• encourage you to take ownership of your city. Ask yourself these questions: Do you know your city? What is your own role in city governance as a citizen under a Plan E form of government?

• make sure the City Council, when approving the school budget, considers whether the system meets the needs of every child, rich and poor

• make sure that all students are expected to succeed and are taught accordingly, starting in Kindergarten and continuing through High School

Quality of Life and Public Safety:
Urban planning in Cambridge must be directed to getting rid of unnecessary automobile and truck traffic. In view of the fact that some streets in Cambridge are treated as highways for through traffic, it is necessary to work with neighboring jurisdictions. The City Council should require this of the City Manager. Much improved infra-structure will be needed to make our streets walkable, and alive with people. Rationally placed traffic-lights on one-way streets such as River, or Western, to control speeds are an immediate step that the City Council has not taken.

Traffic, Parking, and Transportation:
- Improve the public transportation infrastructure.
- Regulate traffic flow by placement of timed traffic lights.
- Redirect traffic from "F" intersections, and assign additional traffic police during rush hours. Require staggering of work hours in Cambridge workplaces.
- I believe that Cambridge should collaborate with neighboring towns in seeking State legislation to develop a public transportation system that can compete effectively with private car use. The cost of such infrastructure must be made one of the costs of the private development that will profit from the added population density. Private shuttle buses, under contract to universities and corporations, (they sometimes run their scheduled routes almost empty) should be opened to all residents and travelers.

Municipal Finance, City Budget, Assessments, and Property Taxes:
The current method method of taxation is abusive of residents, most particularly seniors and lifelong Cantabrigians. All inhabitants should share the financial burden. The Dover Amendment was not intended to place a heavy burden on cities or towns to free Universities of the obligation to maintain their urban environment. Send a Tax Bill to all Universities. Get rid of 'in lieu of payment.' The city solicitor should prepare to take action.

Land Use, Planning, Economic Development:
- I am opposed to the increase in numbers of car-dependent developments inside the city. Adding parking that is used to appease opposition to development projects adds to traffic congestion.
- I oppose the North Point storm water runoff proposal that would add to the pollution of the Charles River Basin and converting almost five acres intended as a park for a densely populated (several thousand people) residential project as a retention pond.
- I support the efforts to protect the flood plain in North Cambridge from incorrect development. No plan for dealing with flooding includes dealing with increasing rainfall and rising sea-levels.
- The city must take the initiative in seeking regional solutions and actions, wherever necessary.

Human Services Programs:
There isn’t any need to lose current services if everyone is contributing fairly. A better, smarter distribution of funds and resources would provide even more social services for the same money we are spending now.

Open Space, Parks, and Recreation:
- I worked as a member of the Riverside Study Committee to develop and force Harvard University's recognition of the importance of maintaining civic access to the Charles River front of Cambridge and saving the Mahoney site for public use. i have acted to protect trees.
- Parks should be developed as public spaces, and also as urban preserves of notable features. Unique environments must be protected.
- Funding should come from careful use of the money made available through the Community Preservation Act.

Energy, the Environment, and Public Health:
To improve the quality of the air we breathe;
- Reduce through-traffic of heavy trucks on city streets. Prohibit traffic at times when conditions (heavy pollen falls, prolonged lack of rainfall) result in grinding the highway debris into fine air-borne particulates.
- Protect and enforce the City's asbestos ordinance that deals with air-borne asbestos danger.
- Put effective scrubbers into exhaust stacks of generating plant at Blackstone and River Streets.
- Develop incentives to reduce private automobile use, through urban planning that makes walking more enjoyable than driving
- Measure existing air quality by continuous air sampling stations in key locations, so that we can better know the consequences of various actions
We should increase the amount of trash we recycle. and also apply the city's 'living wage' ordinance to waste management corporations contracted by the city.

Protect all residents from eviction because of low income. A city should be able to house the people on whose work our economy depends.

Preserve the housing of low-income residents whose work is essential to our economy. We must intervene to prevent our neighbors being driven out of the city by 'market forces' and not put all the blame on federal and state government. Some prefer a government rolling in cash, using 'diversity' as a marketing tool while hiding poverty. My city respects the hard work we do to keep this a place where all can live whole lives. An elite town of the wealthy would destroy that collaboration of citizens leading the sort of civilized life that makes a city thrive.

Arts and Public Celebrations:

University Relations:
The University's building projects are carried out in disregard of the effect on the urban environment. Get rid of 'in lieu of payment.' A healthy urban environment cannot be maintained when the largest landowners pay no taxes.

When a University or any institution embarks on rapid, unlimited, competitive growth, the burden of the economic imbalances can severely damage healthy development in its social environment: increased poverty, insufficient housing, environmental pollution, and inability to deal with the unintended consequences.

Civic Participation:
At City Council meetings and hearings, encourage citizen participation by allowing people to testify on matters that concern them, especially by allowing them to speak on communications that have been placed on the agenda. Strengthen the powers of the City Council, acting in accord with the charter.

The most important lesson to learn from the destruction in the Gulf is that all governmental authorities left the inhabitants unprepared to deal with both the threat and the disaster. All government, whether local, regional, state, or federal will be unable to handle situations in which only a portion of the inhabitants have the wherewithal to follow government instructions. If the poor and disabled are instructed as if they own a car and they do not, and have no place to go to, the recipe for disaster is there.

Top down planning does not work. Having a City Manager working and planning under the Homeland Security rules, takes the ability to protect themselves away from our residents, and ignores the fact that FEMA's ability to respond was severely hampered by being placed under that administration. By helping to revive the Riverside Neighborhood Association, becoming a member of the board of the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, I have continued to encourage residents of Cambridge to participate actively in the management of their city, and would continue to do so as a City Councillor. "What I know, you will know." is the first principle of sound representative government. It does no good to tell be people to be responsible. In this, like many other things, we have to help each other. Education beginning in kindergarten has an important role to play.

Cambridge Public Schools:
Granted that some schools are trying to make improvements, the Cambridge public school system remains in disarray. Too much attention is given to high school performance, when the real problem and the place where an impact can be made sooner is in the third and earlier grades.

I know the Cambridge Public School System. Civic education is essential. It was American Native Indians who first tried to teach the settlers the importance of taking care of the environment “mother earth”, man can not only take from the earth without returning something to it.

When the rubber first hit the road, our awareness of the environment was already late. But as we go through our daily intercourse with human kind, educating the public about our surroundings becomes more important to each of our existences. Since we are a society of human beings and trying to make each of our days on earth better for one and all, our schools should explain and commence the thought of alternative means. There should be a daily consideration during the early school days of the consequences of human production, waste, and general bad habits. This will make the social balance between the money voluntarily spent for an environment for the world -- as opposed to thinking first of profit margin -- and using what is left for other desires that do not put the environment as a priority.

Twenty-eight years is enough! I do not accept the existing relationship between the city manager and the Council. The public disagrees with the manager on issues of civil rights, policing, traffic management, planning, and appointments, while our elected representatives yield to his entrenched power. The elected Council should conduct a national search and hire a fresh manager. In my vision, the Council listens to the citizens, sets policy, and sees to it that its chief employee acts according to its instructions. This structure gives residents the transparent government they deserve.

Page last updated July 08, 2009 Cambridge Candidates