Kickoff: The Roasted Granola Cafe, 1346 Mass. Ave., held Friday, Feb. 28, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Ask Lenard T. Diggins a question, and expect a complete response.

Lenard Diggins, Select Board candidate, 2020Diggins

​A potential candidate for the Select Board in this April's town election, he was asked basic queries, which YourArlington sends to all who take out nomination papers.

As of Jan. 13, three aim to be candidates for two three-year seats. One opened up in December, when Dan Dunn, in office since 2011, said he was not seeking reelection.  The incumbent is Diane Mahon, in office since 1999. She, Sean Harrington and Joseph E. Curran have also taken out papers. The latter two did not return papers.

Here are the responses from Diggins, which were edited:

Q: In general, why are you seeking the Select Board seat?

I've been involved in our community in a variety of ways. That includes recording nearly every Select Board meeting over the last four to five years as an ACMi volunteer, creating a series called "ART in ArlingTon," recording presentations to the Women's Networking Group of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and becoming a Town Meeting member.

I've become connected to the community in a way that feels meaningful. I don’t just live in Arlington; I feel like am a part of it. I am motivated to contribute to a place that I have come to love to continue to make as much of a positive difference as I can.

Q: What specific qualifications (and characteristics) do you have that support your candidacy?

I serve on the Transportation Advisory Committee, the Sustainable Transportation Plan Advisory Committee and the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Action Plan Implementation Committee. Given that a couple of our biggest issues, transportation and housing, will require the cooperation of many towns and cities, my experience with the MBTA Rider Oversight Committee and as chair of the Regional Transportation Advisory Council of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, I can help Arlington continue to be a leader in developing solutions.

I have good relationships with current members of the Select Board and many people in the administration along with many Town Meeting members as well as with many people in planning agencies and departments in greater Boston. Turning good ideas into reality requires people working together; that’s much easier when people know each other.

My formal college education was in biology. I've done research in population and evolution genetics as well as neurodegeneration (Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases). I've produced, edited and/or engineered many video programs for various audiences. They include K-12 children to those who want “Helpful Hints.” In the early days of the Internet's transition from being accessible only to educational and government institutions, I worked for Software, Tool, & Die (aka "TheWorld"), the first commercial Internet service provider doing tech support and systems administration. My skills include database management and robotic (small-instruments) programming. I am much more of a generalist who is eager to understand just about anything.

From my coding skills and my research skills, I am able to break down problems into their constituent parts and then design tests with solid methodologies to provide data that can point toward solutions. My high school debate skills trained me early on in life not only to see both sides of an issue but also to be able to argue both sides in pursuit of the truth.

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Q: What key issues face the board? How would you address them?

1.) The structural deficit. We rely heavily on residential property taxes for the town's revenues, but we are limited to increasing those revenues by Proposition 2½. Since the growth in expenses exceed 2½ percent, we must ask the residents for overrides periodically. I expect to be more involved with long-range planning and explore ways to relieve the tax burden and sewer/water rates on the seniors and others with limited financial means. I also appreciate that those in the middle are being squeezed hard, too, and I want to make sure that their voices are heard and their concerns addressed. I want everyone who wants to continue living in this town to be able to do so.

Other than reducing expenses -- nearly impossible to do without reducing services that benefit residents -- we need to continue to explore ways to increase the tax base by bringing in more businesses. There are sites that if developed in creative and bold ways could bring in more businesses (primarily nonretail).

2.) Transportation, housing and land use. In some ways, these three separate issues are connected. They are regional issues, which require cooperation with surrounding and neighboring towns and cities.

I have ideas for improving transit that involves a major expansion in bus service and how to progressively pay for the transportation that merges such funding with the advent of new automobile technology. I am happy to discuss deep details about these ideas in conversations with anyone.

We also need to explore more ways to make our roads safer for pedestrians. Whether the collisions are caused by automobiles, cyclists and/or the pedestrians, let’s work with our Transportation Advisory Committee, Sustainable Transportation Policy Advisory Committee and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

To the extent that we see economic diversity as a means toward making our society more equitable and the social fabric stronger, then our housing policies on a local, regional and state level will need to continue to create and implement practices that guide market forces toward our goals. Through sustainable land use and transportation policies and practices, we can at a minimum reduce the rate of degradation to the environment and climate in the near term and then begin to reverse the damage done. Advocating for these changes and making these changes effectively requires persistent civic engagement. I’m well-suited to sticking with the effort of increasing civic engagement about any issue.

3.) Strengthening the bond between Arlington’s service departments and the community. We saw difficult issues raised in our community last year [in the Lt. Pedrini matter], which focused our attention more intensely on tolerance and diversity. Overall, our town has made a lot of progress on these social issues, which in many ways make it exemplary. That said, it’s clear that with more effort, we can make members of the community who feel either uneasy or very upset appreciate that the town takes their concerns very seriously and that the Select Board and the administration will take measures to improve relations between everyone in every department and those that they serve in the community.

4.) Participation in town governance. Town Meeting is a wonderful form of government, but many, if not most, people in our town are unaware of how it works and how they can be a part of it. I want to continue working with Envision Arlington to improve Town Meeting members' engagement with residents in their precincts and the administration. The goal? To function as more of conduit of information from those who are making decisions to those who are affected by them. The precinct meetings that I worked with Envision Arlington to organize are just the start. I fully support the Election Modernization Committee, which should continue until its work is done.

Let's also explore ways to get the youth and young adults more engaged in governance. To formulate policies and practices that work for them, they should have a meaningful voice at the table. The town should create a Youth Advisory Council. It could resemble a Student Council, one with which the Select Board and other committees/departments would consult. The youth council would be encouraged to submit its own Town Meeting articles. I hope that the process will create citizens who are more engaged in town government at a younger age.​

Q: What personal background can you provide?

Born in New Orleans in 1963, I moved to the Boston area in 1981. I've lived in Cambridge, Somerville, Allston and for 17 of the last 23 years, I've lived in East Arlington with Jonathan, my loving and supportive partner of 25 years.

For a list of major offices on the ballot, expiring Town Meeting Member seats, the 2020 annual town election calendar and other election information, visit

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This news summary was published Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. All potential candidates in the April election have been asked a similar set of questions. All responses received will be edited and published.