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Experience, collaboration, respect matter in town leadership

Sue Doctrow, Precinct 21 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter. 

Juliana H. Brazile, clerk candidate, 2020Brazile

Liz Exton, School Committee candidate, 2020Exton

Lenard Diggins, Select Board candidate, 2020Diggins

This Arlington town election season brings transition, with three longtime town leaders, Town Clerk Stephanie Lucarelli, School Committee member Jennifer Susse and Select Board Member Dan Dunn deciding not to seek reelection. I’m proud to support the following candidates, all prepared now for the new challenges of these key roles:

As our new town clerk, I support dynamic volunteer leader Juli Brazile. Arlington is fueled by volunteers, participating in our government at the highest levels. Juli has served as Town Meeting member (Precinct 12), cochair of the Recycling Committee, chairman of Envision Arlington and in several campaigns to fund our schools. The clerk’s office is the primary interface between Arlington’s town government and its residents, and Juli would lead it with great effectiveness, friendliness and professionalism. Read my endorsement letter for Juli here.

For new School Committee member, I support Liz Exton, with her impressive array of highly relevant credentials, including a master's in child development, 18 years working in early childhood education (teaching kindergarten for the past eight years), and leadership of the successful advocacy effort, as a Stratton parent in Arlington, for full-time kindergarten teaching assistants in all elementary schools. Liz is also a Precinct 15 Town Meeting member and worked hard on the recent overrides that were so crucial to our schools. We are very lucky to have a candidate with such a breadth of experience in local activism, town government and as a professional elementary educator.

That she is ready to step up and contribute, from day one, to a collaborative board of seven is quite evident in the way she has conducted her campaign. This is such an important election because, among other reasons, the School Committee will be hiring a new superintendent and experience like Liz's, as a longtime public school teacher with substantial input on important hires, will be so beneficial. I am excited to vote for Liz, as well as to reelect School Committee incumbents Bill Hayner and Paul Schlichtman.

For Select Board, Len Diggins is my choice, after observing a uniformly civil, very respectful three-candidate race. I first met Len through his participation in Envision Arlington, where he organized precinct meetings, seeking to give all residents the chance to learn about town government, meet their Town Meeting members and provide input on local issues. In our conversations, I find Len to be kind, thoughtful and, above all, very open-minded and independent. He strives to really listen (and to hear), to seek common ground with others and, in particular, to address even the most controversial issues calmly and respectfully.

Crucial to my choice is that Len has prepared himself for the highest elected office in Arlington through prior service to the town. He is a Precinct 3 Town Meeting. This position involves not only voting on town bylaws and appropriations but, importantly, enables us to learn in detail about how our town government functions. A transportation leader at the local and regional levels, Len serves on the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), an appointed body advising the Select Board on traffic and safety issues.

The TAC is known for thorough, data-driven, yet also sensitive and respectful, approaches to complex traffic challenges that can inflame neighborhoods. As an ACMi volunteer, Len has filmed, and thus observed, many Select Board meetings for years. This has not only advanced his goals to bring town government closer to its residents but has also given him a very detailed view of the higher office he seeks.

Experience matters, especially for this leading executive role, so I am voting for Len and to reelect incumbent Select Board member and current chair, Diane Mahon.

For Arlington Housing Authority, I support Jo Anne Preston, who has a background in gerontology and experience advocating for low-income tenants. She brings her commitment to affordable, safe housing for all, including seniors, the disabled, and others served by the AHA and serves as a Precinct 9 Town Meeting member. It was disappointing that her opponent did not participate in public candidate forums, preventing voters from obtaining information they deserve. I commend Jo Anne for responding gracefully, by participating in a one-woman “debate” on ACMi.

For several reasons, this local election has been an especially difficult one. This is why recent words by progressive activist and former School Committee member Barbara Goodman resonated with me: “… fighting for justice is hard work … moving forward is going to take a lot of work by many people with a variety of skills and knowledge. As you evaluate candidates for the upcoming local election, I urge you to choose individuals who are able to appreciate the efforts of the past, acknowledge the good work that has been ongoing and bring their energy to work collaboratively with veteran activists to make Arlington an even better place for everyone. Let’s fight racism – NOT each other.”*

Arlington will be best served by electing a combination of experienced incumbents and new contributors, all united by sincere commitments to collaborate collegially and challenge one another only with respect and integrity. This also applies to Town Meeting, yet, regrettably, some exceptional members consistently performing “the good work that has been ongoing” are opposed in this election by slates organized by “Arlington Fights Racism (AFR).” Joining Town Meeting is the most effective way for interested residents to become familiar with our town government, not only its process but also its people. It is no coincidence that all major office candidates I support also serve in Town Meeting.

There are outstanding first-time and returning candidates for Town Meeting this year, some under AFR, but many running independently.** Please do not assume that only AFR-endorsed candidates will “fight racism” or, more broadly, promote a more inclusive Arlington. Instead, evaluate each candidate on his or her merits and, for incumbents, scrutinize their Town Meeting voting records. (Note that this scrutiny is possible only because of electronic TM voting, a 2014 change spearheaded by one incumbent meeting member now targeted for defeat by a full AFR slate.)

By collaborating, new office-holders and incumbents will ultimately make our town even more accessible to all. Together, we should build on Arlington’s strong progressive foundation — including its proud, decades-long history of fighting racism so eloquently described by Barbara — not aim to tear it all down and start over.

 *Barbara’s essay is affirming and inspiring. Please take the time to read it, because it is important for understanding Arlington’s progressive, inclusive history. It endorses no candidate or advocacy campaign in this election but, instead, calls for us to work together to continue to make progress because, of course, we can and must do even better.

 **Select Board member Joe Curro’s reflections on Town Meeting member candidates illustrated this well to me so, with his permission, I share it here.

This letter was published Thursday, June 4, 2020.


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