UPDATED, March 27: With no major candidate facing opposition in this year's town election -- in itself a remarkable moment in local history, at least since the late 1970s -- the annual revelation of political hopefuls sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Vision 2020 pressed forward nonetheless.
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After an estimated 200 people listened at Town Hall on Tuesday, March 21, a relatively large number given five uncontested races, here is a summary of what each said. Asking questions was Margaret Hoppe of the Lexington LWV, introduced by Patty Muldoon of the Arlington League.
Treasurer: Dean E. Carman (3-year term)
The 15-year town resident who was born and raised in Belmont said he and wife planned to live here five years before returning to his home town. "It took three months to fall in love with Arlington," he said.
He has served on the Finance Committee for 11 years and is the prekindergarten coordinator for the Arlington Soccer Club. Trained as an accountant, he said he is not a politician, calling that role "quite uncomfortable for me."
Favor a proposed integrated finance department?
He sees the need for it, but does not think the schools' chief financial officer and the deputy town manager should be part of such an arrangement. "We'll work as a community to figure this out," he said.
Investment management policies?
Carman cited "transparency," which would show the where, when and who of town investing, as well as what town fund balances are. "It's not known what the strategies are," he said.
Would you be the selectmen-appointed parking clerk?
Smiling, Carman said: "If they want me, I'll take it. If they don't want me, I won't."
Position on changing an elected treasurer to appointed (Town Meeting Article 19)?
He said that if the meeting agrees, then the matter goes to town voters in a 2018 referendum.
In closing, he said he looks forward to working for the town. He invited anyone with a question to "shoot me an email." He said his time on the Fincom has helped him to grow "thick skin."
Board of Selectmen: Diane Mahon, Dan Dunn (3-year terms)
Mahon, on the board since 1999, said she saw many friendly faces. The mother of three, assistant varsity cheerleading coach and court reporter said: "I'm just so excited by the job." Saying she had helped hire three town managers, she said she "played an integral part" in keeping current manager Adam Chapdelaine here when he had an offer elsewhere in February 2016.
Dunn, who first ran in 2011, the last operating-override year, did so with a promise to focus on finances. He said he has carried through on that, citing support for enrollment-challenged schools as well as Minuteman High School.
Favor an appointed treasurer?
Dunn expressed strong support for that change as well as for a unified finance department. "We should all be working on the same systems," he said, "and make decisions driven by a single voice."
Mahon agreed, saying she has "worked her way [to this view]." She said she is a firm believer of school leaders making their own decisions.
Next override, impact of enrollment growth?
Mahon referenced those on the Long-Range Planning Committee projecting last January an operating override in 2021. She acknowledged the double-edged sword of enrollment, a "fantastic thing" that leads to more spending.
For the next override, Dunn gave a specific month, June 2019. He called increased enrollment one factor, but not the only one. He asked listeners to consider increased revenue from new growth, cuts in costs for trash hauling and cuts to health insurance for town employees.
Does the town have sufficient resources for all building projects, underway or planned?
"It does not" have enough resources, Dunn said. Opening a new high school, whether renovated or rebuilt, requires a tax increase.
Mahon echoed her colleague, noting that the Hardy expansion will occur under the town's capital plan.
Does being a sanctuary town benefit citizens and make the community safer?
Both made clear that they backed this Town Meeting article. Mahon said she "feels strongly" about it. "For those affected, we need to say we're proud of it .... This is not [a measure] to let bad people do bad things."
Dunn said: "We are a safer town when all feel like they can cooperate with police." As to benefits, he cited the support for those in a position of risk, referring to the family of four who died in 2013, victims of domestic violence."
Status of the Mugar project in East Arlington?
"Mugar is a swamp," Dunn said, to some laughter. He said he is deeply concerned about the size of the condo project sited on a wetlands. Now stalled in a long-running hearing process, the matter is headed for court, no matter what happens before the Zoning Board of Appeals, he said.
Mahon said that the selectmen had voted to do everything to find a solution that is fair to the Mugar family.
Town Meeting articles aiming to prohibit single-use plastic bags?
Mahon cited selectmen's vote to support and vowed an outreach to business in the matter.
Dunn said he needed to be persuaded to end up supporting the article. He said 42 other locales have adopted such a measure, and the keys to having it work are education and outreach.
How well are Center parking meters working? Could the plan expand?
"Pretty well so far," Dunn said, adding it encourages circulation of spaces. He said he had heard initially from those who wanted meters in the Robbins Library lot removed. They will remain.
On the other hand, he said, a resident made a suggestion that the town will look into: The readout on the meter is hard to see at night.
As to trying this elsewhere in town, he said more data is needed. "It's way too early to consider more," he said.
Mahon called the effort "successful so far," based on feedback from 20-plus businesses and transportation officer Corey Rateau. She credited Selectman Steve Byrne for responding to issues with the 15-minute-free button.
Registry of vacant storefronts: How can more pressure be put on owners to find tenants?
Working with planning, Mahon said, the town is looking for measures that are enforceable and are finding that "really tricky."
Dunn said, "This is a tough one." Long valuing data, he said he needs to know vacancy rates and turnover. He cited "particular, difficult landlords," making the issue hard to resolve. He thought the solution would probably not be found through a bylaw but by working with the Planning Department.
Revisit overnight street-parking ban?
"Good one," Dunn said. When he first ran for selectmen, he thought of trying out lifting the ban through an experiment on limited neighborhoods. Then the ballot question came before town voters, and the measure failed in every precinct. He said he is open to revisiting the issue despite the hurdles.
Mahon said that, apart from a number of resounding ballot defeats earlier, she still encourages those with special circumstances to make their case to the board for an overnight-parking waiver.
In closing, Dunn said he has spent all afternoon preparing for questions about the medical-marijuana buffer zone, a comment that drew chuckles. He said he is proud of the tone of the conversation between officials and the public has remained positive.
Mahon said she is eager to continue to serve, educating people who don't have accurate information.
School Committee: Jennifer Susse, Paul Schlichtman, Bill Hayner (three-year terms)
Susse, seeking a second term, was cochair of Build Arlington's Future, the successful debt exclusion last June, and a Town Meeting member. The parent of two children in the town public schools, she has kept her eye on increasing communication.
Schlichtman, a Town Meeting member since 1993, raised his voice to emphasize the intensifying trend in continuing enrollment increases. The number now stands at 5,670 students. It has risen 10 percent in the last three years.
Hayner, on the committee six years, called the lack of contested races "unprecedented." He called the enrollment increase "my generation's fault." He explained the joke saying he and his wife didn't have kids, had moved out of town for a period of time, opening the way for families with children.
Variations in projected budget deficit, and what might be the impact of federal funding cuts?
"A projected deficit is just that, a projection," Schlichtman said. "It's sort of a natural process that evens itself out."
As to the effects of the Trump budget, he said: "God knows what's going to happen .... It's totally insane." Arlington gets about $2 million on the schoolside, he said, "and we're not the most vulnerable" district.
Hayner expressed deep concern that the schools might not get Title 1 funding, and Susse clarified that the deficit is from last year's budget, not fiscal 2018. She reminded the audience that in 2018, the Fair Share Amendment will be on the ballot. She is referring to the so-called "millionaire's tax," which aims to raise a levy on those earning more than $1 million.
How did the plan for the former Gibbs become one year instead of three?
The three candidates pretty much agreed that the plan assures equity (Hayner and Schlichtman). "Taking out time really helped," Susse said, as did talking to all stakeholders. The fact that teachers strongly supported the option helped carry the day, she said.
If federal officials request personal information, should a warrant be required?
The question had two hopefuls thinking: "Great question," Susse said, adding she would look into committee policies. Schlichtman called it a "new situation," adding that several communities have passed policies to address what he called threats spurred by the Trump administration.
As chair of the policy committee, Hayner said that in his opinion, resolutions have no impact of law and that Massachusetts has strong regulations covering student records.
Do you support an effort to return to teaching civics at AHS?
All three supported this, preferring an integrated approach to including civics into a number of courses. Anyone concerned about this, Hayner said, should seek out Denny Conklin, head of social studies, or look at the schools' website to see a complete outline on each grade level.
Do we need more teachers, textbooks or more support? Describe programs with significant impact put on back burner.
"Yes, yes, yes," Schlichtman responded. "I'd like to have them all."
Hayner echoed: "What he said. We need better libraries. Some have had no books in 13 years. Thank god for the PTOs."
Susse noted: "I'm more worried about the kid who is struggling" ... as opposed to those she termed "the high-flyers."
In closing, Hayner said he is "constantly frustrated" with the money available to pay for education. "If you like what we do, let us know," he said.
Schlichtman called on the public to pay attention to contested Town Meeting races. He said: "I ask for your vote on April Fool's Day, and it's the fools who fail to use their vote."
Susse read a statement, urging the community dialogue to continue. She added, "People have been saying nice things to me lately, and that's been great."
Two other candidates seeking reelection were invited but were not on stage. Mary Winstanley O'Connor, longtime member of the Board of Assessors, said she was prepared to speak, but because of a mix-up, she was in the audience.
Stephanie Lucarelli, seeking reelection as town clerk, a position she has held since 2010, wrote March 27 that an injury prevented her from attending.
March 11, 2017: To incumbent town clerk, her office is like family
Feb. 18, 2017: Why Dunn runs: to keep an eye on town finances, housing
Jan. 20, 2017: Hayner seeks 3rd term as budget advocate
Jan. 11, 2017: Fincom member eyes treasurer seat, new role for office
This news summary was published Saturday, March 25, 2017, and updated March 27.
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