Cambridge is located in eastern Massachusetts, immediately north of Boston. Cambridge is home to two of the top universities in the world, Harvard and MIT. Landmarks include Central Square (location of city hall) and Harvard Square (adjacent to Harvard University.) Fresh Pond, located on the western end of the city, provides drinking water and is part of a favorite recreation area for joggers, bikers, and especially dog owners, as it is the only legally recognized off-leash public area.
Cambridge had a noted role in the history of same-gender marriage, thanks to the decision to open city hall at midnight on May 17, 2004, the date established by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court as the deadline for the recognition of same-sex marriages. While Cambridge accepted the first marriage applications at this time, the first marriages did not occur here, as a 3 day waiting period or court waiver is required following application.
Politically, Cambridge is known for very progressive views, earning it the nickname, "The People's Republic of Cambridge." Cambridge is also notable for its system of electing the governing city council. Elections for the 9 city council and 6 school committee seats use a combination of instant runoff voting (IRV) and proportional representation (see Voting Systems.)
In this system, voters rank candidates, up to the available number of positions. "Quota" is defined as one more then the (total number of ballots cast) divided by (the number of positions plus one). Any candidate receiving this number of first place votes is elected, and any ballots they receive over quota (randomly selected) are reassigned to the second choice on those ballots. Any candidate who receives enough of these reassigned ballots to make "quota" is also elected, and their excess ballots reassigned to the next choice. Once this process does not give any more candidates "quota", candidates with less than 50 #1 votes are eliminated, and ballots ranking them first are reassigned to the second choice candidate. Finally, the assignment continues with the elimination of the remaining candidate with the lowest number of votes and the reassigment of their ballots to the next ranked candidate, continuing until all candidates are eliminated except those that are elected. <p>Cambridge has a "weak mayor" system, in which the mayor is elected by the council from among its members for a two-year term. The position that carries out the executive duties typically associated with mayors is the city manager. The city manager is selected by the city council.