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12 letters backing Preston for Housing Authority

Chris DiMeo Park Street submitted this letter.  

Jo Anne Preston, Select Board candidate, 2020Preston

While the Arlington Housing Authority plays an important role in overseeing government owned and subsidized housing in Arlington, it is not, typically, a governing body that gets much attention.

The authority consists of five members -- one appointed by the governor, the other four elected by Arlington voters. They have a considerably large scope overseeing the four housing developments serving seniors and persons with disabilities along with Menotomy Manor, the family housing community.

They seem qualified and dedicated; however, there has not been a significant rethinking of the authority’s role in the community it serves for decades. In fact, there hasn’t been a contested election for the authority in some 15 years.

Along comes Joanne Preston. With her extensive background in many issues faced by seniors, her experience in tenant advocacy and some 25 years of community service, Joanne is proposing significant changes in how the authority seeks to improve the lives of its residents.

She wants to include residents in the ongoing planning and implementation of major renovations as well as in updating the authority handbook to include information about tenants’ rights set forth by government regulations.

She thinks that the board should increase attendance at board meetings and take steps to improve communication and responsiveness with residents. But some of her most innovative ideas for reshaping the authority’s role are around improving social activity for residents, particularly in the senior-housing developments.

It’s very refreshing to hear about developing programs to help better integrate seniors into the community by resuming precinct meetings and other aspects of town government. Joanne has thought a lot about addressing the social isolation of many residents and wants to expand cultural programs, especially for residents who are not able to travel to the Senior Center.

She is talking about offering art instruction and resident exhibits, movement and even writing workshops with the town’s poet laureate, Steven Ratiner.

To make these changes happen, Joanne brings an extensive academic background, including a PhD in social sciences with a specialty in gerontology, and has taught courses in Aging and Society for many years at Brandeis University. Joanne serves as a Town Meeting member in Precinct 9 and has a deep understanding of the many facets of Town government.

I urge my friends and neighbors to vote for Joanne Preston on June 6.

This letter was published Monday, May 25, 2020.

Asia Kepka of Silk Street submitted this letter.

It is my pleasure to write here in support of Jo Anne Preston's candidacy for the board of the Arlington Housing Authority.

Affordable housing has become a leading issue of concern on the local as well as the state level. In the Boston metro area, a person would have to make an average of $34 per hour working full time just to afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent, according the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Yet the average hourly salary in Massachusetts is $15.80.

The scarcity of affordable housing in our town means that the Arlington Housing Authority, one of the two main suppliers of affordable housing in Arlington (besides the Housing Corporation of Arlington), is a critical agency in satisfying overwhelming demand. In addition to the five properties under its domain, AHA also runs the Section 8 housing-choice voucher program, which serves hundreds (if not thousands) of people across the state.

Part of ensuring that affordable housing is accessible and equitable is having dedicated and compassionate board members who care about present and prospective tenants and voucher holders of the AHA. In that vein, Preston is the perfect candidate. A former tenants rights activist, Preston is also a retired social worker with the aged, a volunteer with the Council on Aging, and has a PhD focusing in gerontology -- all invaluable experiences, considering that a high proportion of AHA tenants are seniors.

She is an active Town Meeting member, which means she also understands the basics of local governance.

AHA board members have a recent reputation for being relatively nonresponsive to tenants and generally hard to reach. Preston has vowed to be communicative and available to tenants and local voucher holders. She has also pledged to be proactive in seeking ways to expand and maximize affordable housing options through the AHA here in our town.

Finally, Preston's addition to the AHA will add some much-needed gender diversity to a board currently composed of men.

This letter was published Monday, May 25, 2020.

Kathryn Kilroy of Arlington submitted this letter.

Jo Anne brings not only long-term and varied experience, but also the desire to help and the compassion for individuals that this position desperately needs. She has identified under-the-radar issues that affect quality of life, safety and perhaps, most important, how AHA residents can have a much greater voice in their own lives.

I believe she will be a truly tireless advocate for them. She is not afraid to stand up and say what needs to be said, not matter the audience. It is past time for her skills and heart to be brought to bear on behalf of these Arlington residents, and she's got my vote.

Joanne is such a passionate person in general but more so for her fellow citizens of Arlington. She only wants what is best and fair for all of us. She wants to make a difference. Please vote for Joanne.

This letter was published Monday, May 25, 2020.

Rosalind Shaw of Richfield Street submitted this letter.

I’m writing in support of Jo Anne Preston for the Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) Board.

I’ve known her for 10 years, and have seen the perceptiveness and creative energy she brings to all her work. Jo Anne would be an extremely strong addition to the AHA. Her advocacy for those with a low income, for those who are aging and for issues of inclusiveness in Arlington have been constants for as long as I’ve know her.

This commitment grows out of her years as a social scientist at Brandeis University, where her scholarship and teaching focused on social, economic and psychological dimensions of aging. She taught courses on Aging and Society and was research director for Brandeis’ Institute for Aging’s study, “Aging and Generational Relations.”

She also has a wealth of experience and advocacy as a former social worker. As chair of a tenants' association for many years, she has a long familiarity with issues facing tenants. Her work for our town, then, is built upon an impressive combination of knowledge and hands-on engagement.

Through this work, she has developed a balanced understanding of our community’s strengths and its areas of need. She is a Town Meeting member for Precinct 9, where she is a strong advocate for low-income residents and affordable housing.

Recently, she has met with police to make Chestnut Street safer. Used frequently by the residents of Chestnut Manor, Chestnut Street was the scene of a fatal pedestrian accident in December 2019.

She also volunteers for the Council on Aging’s Thanksgiving Program and the holiday gift program for Chestnut Manor and Winslow Towers.

In addition, she has expertise in grant-writing. She became a successful grant writer at Brandeis and used this skill to secure federal funds for library books for the Thompson School, where her child was a student.

As a member of the AHA Board, she would work to bring funding to the Housing Authority. With Jo Anne’s combination of expertise and engagement, her commitment to inclusiveness, and her advocacy for those who are older and those with low incomes, she would be an important voice for AHA residents’ interests and rights. I encourage you to vote for her.

This letter was published Monday, May 25, 2020.

 Montserrat Zuckerman of Gay Street submitted this letter. 

Improvements as well as an increase of affordable-housing units in Arlington are vital issues for residents of Arlington who want the town to continue to be a welcoming and inclusive community. It is for this reason that I am endorsing Jo Anne Preston for the currently all-male Arlington Housing Authority Board.

I first met Jo Anne and was impressed by her presentation at a pre-Covid-19 meet-and-greet for candidates on the ballot for the now June 6 elections. As an Arlington resident for the past 25 years, Jo Anne has served as a Precinct 9 Town Meeting member, volunteered her grant-writing skills for the Thompson School library, made her opinion heard at Select Board meetings and reported on School Committee meetings and issues for

Something that comes across loud and clear is Jo Anne’s grass-roots approach in her advocacy for addressing residents’ expressed needs by matching those needs to available and viable solutions. I find her solutions for the campaign issues she has identified to be of a practical nature and ready to be implemented. For instance, Jo Anne’s proposal for better communication between the AHA board and residents includes formalizing attendance by board members at tenant council meetings.

She has identified the Arlington entities that need to be consulted (and prodded) to improve safety for pedestrian access to the town’s libraries, recreation areas and shops, a key component for successfully engaging all town residents in its daily life. And, as a former leader of a tenants’ organization and seasoned grant writer, she would use her expertise to identify funding available to the town for improvements in public housing.

I urge you to vote for Jo Anne Preston for the Arlington Housing Authority Board.

This letter was published Friday, May 22, 2020.

Claire Odom of River Street submitted this letter.

Jo Anne Preston, candidate for Arlington Housing Authority board, deserves your vote June 6. Uniquely qualified, Jo Anne has a long history of working to improve the lives of others.

Jo Anne tirelessly and successfully wrote grants for the Thompson School. Her grant-writing expertise could garner more funding for the town. This funding could be used for developing more programs, at the Housing Authority buildings, such as enrichment classes, resident involvement and participation in decision making, and intergenerational activities.

Jo Anne’s other achievements include earning a PhD. from Brandeis University, with the focus on the special needs of older adults. She taught courses about aging in society.

Jo Anne strives to enrich the lives of others. She is approachable, available and accommodating. Please vote for Jo Anne Preston for Housing Authority board on June 6.

This letter was published Friday, May 22, 2020.

Laura Kiesel of Mass. Ave. submitted this letter via the Martyn campaign.

I am writing to express support for Jo Anne Preston for the board of the Arlington Housing Authority. My support for Preston’s candidacy is informed by my firsthand experience with the AHA as one of their clients.

At the end of last year, my name finally came up on AHA’s Section 8 voucher waiting list. The timing was fortuitous: I was about to have a major surgery that was going to render me incapacitated and out of work for two months. Yet, due to a disagreement between the Housing Corp of Arlington (which owns the building I live in) and the AHA over what my rent should be under the voucher, the AHA told me I needed to move out ASAP or lose my voucher altogether. I explained to them I couldn’t move due to my forthcoming surgery and recovery period. I put in a formal request to AHA for a reasonable accommodation and hardship consideration under the ADA. This was ignored.

Even when the HCA was willing to compromise on the rent, the AHA balked. During this time, I emailed the AHA director and the board — explaining my situation and asking them to communicate with the HCA. These emails received no response. The AHA granted my request weeks later after town counsel contacted them on my behalf and I had retained two additional lawyers from separate firms and informed them I would file for a formal public hearing. To sum up: the AHA put my housing security in serious jeopardy over a feud it has with the HCA.

Additionally, the minutes from the board meeting when my request was supposedly reviewed have still not been posted, though it’s been eight months, in seeming violation of state law.

By contrast, Preston has always been responsive and communicative. She first contacted me two years ago, when I was coordinating a local tenants advocacy group. She was one of only a few Town Meeting members to attend our meetings. She always exhibited deep concern for renters’ rights and empathy for renters. She has pledged to prioritize the safety and health of AHA tenants and vouchers holders, and values transparency and accessibility. She cares about, and plans on focusing on, significantly expanding affordable-housing opportunities in our otherwise prohibitively expensive town.

She has my vote, and I hope she has yours.

This letter was published Friday, May 22, 2020.

A. Michael Ruderman of Alton Street, a Precinct 9 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter.

Imagine you could design the “ideal” candidate for the board of the Arlington Housing Authority. What characteristics best serve the needs of elderly, disabled or impoverished residents?

Would you want someone with advanced learning in the science of aging, even a doctoral degree? A former social worker? Someone who’s been a volunteer in the local holiday meals and gifts programs? And while we’re asking for everything, someone who knows how to organize and empower tenants’ associations, to ensure their needs are respected and prioritized?

Jo Anne Preston is all of these, and more.

Jo Anne is committed to following the word and the spirit of the Open Meeting Law, with broad posting of meetings and agendas and minutes that accurately reflect each meeting’s business. She advocates for better safety in our public residences, and safer access for elderly and infirm pedestrians to enjoy their communities. And she’ll bring a more engaged and responsive spirit to the administration of the AHA.

Jo Anne's education, her life's work and study, her activity in her precinct (9) and the town, combine to make her truly an ideal candidate.

I urge you to join with me in electing Jo Anne Preston to the board of the Arlington Housing Authority on June 6.

This letter was published Monday, April 27, 2020.

 Gina Sonder of Kimball Road, Arlington, submitted this letter to the editor:

Jo Anne Preston, a resident of Arlington for 25 years and a member of Town Meeting, offers hands-on experience, expertise, passion, and vision to the residents of our town.

When I met Jo Anne Preston in March, I was astonished to here that The Community Preservation Act program received no grant applications this year for affordable housing and has $700,000 in surplus funds. Jo Anne Preston would not only apply for funds within the Town, but has a vast knowledge of other sources of grant money for affordable housing that have been untapped for years.

By attending Tenant Council meetings and opening informal channels of communication through email, phone, and personal contact, Jo Anne Preston will work with AHA tenants, bring their issues to the AHA Board, address the issues with solutions, and obtain the necessary funding to act on resolving those issues.

As a retired assistant professor of sociology at Brandeis University with a Ph. D. and longtime advocate for those who are older and those with low incomes, Preston has a combination of expertise and engagement, a commitment to inclusiveness and deep personal experience as a social worker and tenant council chair. All would make Arlington very fortunate to have her as a board member. As the only woman on the board and a scholar on our aging society, she would be an important voice for AHA residents’ interests and rights.

I am grateful to Preston for stepping up and running for this important position and encourage you to give her your vote.

This letter was published Saturday, April 18.

William Flesch of Brattle Street submitted this letter:

I urge your readers to vote for Jo Anne Preston for Housing Authority. I've known Jo Anne as a colleague at Brandeis, where she taught sociology and studied the experience of aging, and as a fellow resident of Arlington, where she has been a tireless proponent of fairness, justice and decent policies.

She's been an active member of Town Meeting, a tireless volunteer in many Arlington organizations and an Arlington parent deeply active in the school system, especially at Thompson. I was particularly aware of her contributions to the school library when both our children were at Thompson. Jo Anne got me to meet with the students in a session at the library, discussing my own job, and I was very impressed with the way her dynamism made an important community institution work.

She'd be a great, tireless, caring, probing member of the Housing Authority, and I urge you to vote for her.

This letter was published Tuesday, March 10.

Anne Keefe of Broadway wrote this letter on behalf of many:

As retired and long-term residents and renters in Arlington, we support Jo Anne Preston for the Arlington Housing Authority Board.

We witnessed Jo Anne Preston at public town meetings where she addressed our mutual interests regarding affordable housing and proposed changes to existing rental communities. Jo Anne's preparedness, articulation and professionalism at these meetings not only expressed our concerns but also gave a voice to those seldom heard and whose needs are often overlooked.
Jo Anne could bring grant-writing expertise to the Arlington Housing Authority. She successfully wrote grants for the Thompson School library.

Additionally, the Community Preservation Act program did not receive any applications for affordable housing this year. As a result, they have $700,000 in surplus funds. Preston's knowledge and experience as well as her innovative problem solving would enhance that program's use of funding for affordable housing.

Jo Anne's concern for safety issues could give tenants better access to the community and leave them feeling less isolated. Furthermore, her desire for better communication with residents would address their multifaceted needs.

Jo Anne Preston's education, depth and breath of knowledge and expertise as well as her compassion and strong desire to improve the lives of residents will make her an excellent addition to the board. We fully support Jo Anne Preston for Arlington Housing Authority Board.

This letter was published Tuesday, March 10.

John Burt of Mystic Lake Drive, the candidate's spouse, submitted this letter:

I write in support of Jo Anne Preston for Arlington Housing Authority Board. Jo Anne has years of experience advocating for tenants, particularly for low-income tenants,  and serving their interests and rights. She also taught courses on Aging and Society for many years at Brandeis University and has a great deal of expertise on issues about elder housing, the social issues elders face, and the psychological, medical, and economic well-being of elders.

In 25 years of living in Arlington, she has studied the town closely as it has gone through many transformations, since 2016 reporting on the School Committee and other public bodies for She seeks to ensure that Arlington is a welcoming and inclusive community. She serves now as a Town Meeting member for Precinct 9. She is perceptive, compassionate, practical, hardworking and intensely committed.

Jo Anne seeks to improve communication between the tenants and the Housing Authority by attending the Tenant Council meetings (and making sure that they meet regularly), and by making sure that the informal channels of communication through email, by telephone, and by personal contact remain open.

She also is concerned with safety issues, such as with the crossing between Chestnut Manor and Arlington Center, where a pedestrian was recently killed in a traffic accident.

Finally, when she served on the Thompson School rebuild committee, and on the Ottoson OPAC, she successfully wrote grants for books for the Thompson library, for art for the library and for an architectural student intern to help design the rebuild of the Thompson. She intends to bring this grant-writing expertise to the AHA, in order to bring to Arlington some of the funds from the Community Preservation Act. She also would like to obtain grants to further fund the tutoring program at Menotomy Manor.

Jo Anne will work hard to improve the lives of our residents and to increase affordable housing in our town. Please give Jo Anne Preston your vote for the Arlington Housing Authority Board on April 4.

This letter was published Tuesday, March 10.

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