One might have thought that the precious, coddled People’s Republic of Cambridge would stay inside by fiat when the mercury shrunk. But truth be told, Cambridge is a lot heartier than its fuzzy liberal image allows.
True, the DPW plows are out with the first flakes; they even slated the bike path on my way to yoga this morning. But in 14 years of my children attending Cambridge Schools, they rarely closed for weather, and were open for learning today.
There are other fascinating contradictions about living here. The city has a reputation for being Socialist, when it’s actually a hotbed of capitalism. All the start-ups. All that intellectual capital. There are more jobs in Cambridge than residents. What other city can boast that statistic?
As a result, our commercial tax base is phenomenal, and our residential property taxes only half to 2/3 of neighboring communities. Yet services in Cambridge range from excellent (all those plows) to exorbitant (Cambridge spends over $27,000 per student in our schools) to absurd (we have a full time Peace Commissioner and Smokey-bear outfitted ranger who patrols Fresh Pond).
Cambridge takes itself too seriously and is prone to discuss everything too much. It takes days to determine the results of City Council elections due to our uniquely completed form of electoral government (proportional representation – good luck figuring that out). Yet, we have a long history of squeaky clean government. The city is simultaneously complicated and transparent.
In short, although it’s not perfect, Cambridge is a city that other localities can only dream of becoming: an affluent place with a solid social safety net, distinctive schools, high paying jobs and moderate taxes. But all of our advantages don’t make us soft. We don’t close down just because it’s cold.