Arlington Candidates Night - Mar 28th, 2018

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Notes from Arlington's candidates night, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. There are two question and answer panels. Three selectmen candidates are on the first panel; two school committee candidates are on the second panel.

Selectmen Candidates

The selectmen candidates are Mike Ruderman, John Hurd, and Joe Curro.

Opening Remarks.

Ruderman. We elect the board to solve problems. I want to make Arlington friendly for all ages. I will stand up for your neighbors, to protect them from ruinous developers. I'd be a new voice.

Hurd. I grew up in Arlington. I went to school here, and run a law office in Arlington center. I appreciate the vibrant and diverse town. I'd like to see us rebuild the high school and revitalize the business districts. I want Arlington to continue to improve.

Curro. The job of a selectman can be difficult, but it's worth it. Arlington is rated one of the best places to raise a family. The high school and affordable housing are two issues facing the town. I try to be accessible to everyone. Meeting people is the lifeblood of this job.

Question: Do you support changing the Treasurer from an elected to an appointed position?

Hurd. I support the change. Surrounding municipalities have done this, and it's time for us to catch up. During the appointment process, we should weigh the candidates and their qualifications.

Curro. I support the change. 85 percent of towns have already done this. This opens up a larger pool of candidates. I agree with the move towards professionalization.

Ruderman. The treasurer ran on a platform of modernization, and we are well-served by the treasurer.

Question: What about the consolidation of the municipal finance department?

Curro. I'd like to see all our financial capabilities within one house. We've moved toward Munis as a platform for managing the town's finances. I'd like more coordination between finance positions.

Ruderman. I favor articles 18 and 19. One risk of consolidation will be a lack of cross-checking between departments.

Hurd. I favor the consolidated finance structure. Putting the finance folks together will improve communications. It will also provide an upward mobility path for people who serve.

Question: How would you coordinate the operating override and debt exclusion?

Ruderman. This is a difficult issue, and we owe voters an explanation. The voters deserve to know they're getting good value from the town. I'd like to do both together.

Hurd. I support the high school rebuild. Arlington has had a period of financial stability. It's incumbent to review both costs and revenue. I'd put both on the ballot.

Curro. Communities envy our long-range planning committee. I'd put both questions together on the ballot. The high school is a major piece.

Question: How should the town increase affordable housing?

Hurd. We should take advantage of opportunities for mixed use development. I'd support a review of knock-downs, which are increasing property costs.

Curro. We have enough affordable housing to avoid 40B encroachments. I support mixed use development, reductions in parking requirements, use of community development block grants, and the community preservation act.

Ruderman. We qualify for safe harbor under 40B. We've made progress.

Question: What about vacant storefronts?

Curro. We passed a storefront registry, and that's led to a drop in commercial vacancies. I'd like to streamline the workflow for permitting new businesses.

Ruderman: We gone from seventeen to five vacant storefronts. But that's the hand of the marketplace. We need to diversify businesses in Arlington.

Hurd. The registry has worked. To solve this problem, we have to support local businesses. Revitalize the business district, increase parking, and have a better cultural center.

Question: What about the Mugar property?

Ruderman. The Mugar property is currently in litigation. It's a terrible development plan. We have to gain control over development on this property.

Hurd. I second what Mike said. This would be one of my top priorities. Development would be horribly detrimental.

Curro. No part of town has more persistent traffic complaints than Lake Street. Flooding is a big concern. I support the litigation.

Question: What are your thoughts on the opioid problem, and recreational marijuana?

Hurd. The opioid problem is awful. I'm in favor of local support initiatives. For marijuana, I support the decision of the voters, and I'd work to find a suitable location.

Curro. There are lots of deaths due to opioids. It's a big problem. I support our moratorium on recreational marijuana. I support medical marijuana.

Ruderman. I admire the care and leadership of our police department. Medical marijuana is the law of the commonwealth. I'm hesitant about recreational marijuana.

Question: Senior homeowners are moving out because they can't afford their taxes. Would you support a CPA discount for seniors?

Curro. I support tax relief for seniors. I'd like to raise the limits for income eligibility.

Ruderman. 41C limits are outdated. I'd support a surcharge exemption for the CPA. I'd like to see the town do more to publicize assistance options.

Hurd. I'd look at a CPA exemption, and ways to defer costs for seniors.

Question: What about transportation issues?

Ruderman. We need to do a better job at intra-town transit. Reliable, available, and regular options would help.

Hurd. I'd like to create a lot of parking in the business centers. I'd support any avenue to help seniors. Something like Lex-express could help.

Curro. I'd start by looking at our enterprise fund for transportation. We could use CDBG to support transportation initiatives. We've also radically increased handicapped parking.

Closing Remarks.

Curro. I have two core promises: to be honest, and to work hard.

Hurd. I've met with and listened to many residents. I'm humbled. We need to address issues in a way that serves Arlington residents.

Ruderman. I'm the person who can listen to people and respond.

School Committee

There are two candidates for school committee: Jeff Thielman and Jane Morgan.

Opening Remarks.

Thielman. Jeff talks about teenagers advocating for gun control. These kids benefit from having a great public education. I want to ensure that Arlington's kids continue to have a great public education. We'll need to increase property taxes to meet the demands of increased school enrollment.

Morgan. I've never run as a candidate for town-wide office before. I have four kids and I teach statistics. I'm running because our schools are so important.

Question: Are Arlington schools doing enough for special needs students?

Morgan. We're doing what we can, but there's room to improve.

Thielman. Our SPED teams work very hard, and they care about the kids. We're not perfect, but we're doing better.

Question: What do you think about our policies and procedures for safety?

Thielman. We've implemented the ALICE system, and improved safety locks. Safety comes from a deep relationship between students and educators.

Morgan. Infrastructure improvements at the high school will help. I'm glad the school district has taken an age-appropriate approach to ALICE drills.

Question: What about the (long) wait lists for after-school programs?

Morgan. This is a tricky thing. We need to understand what programs are wait-listed, and how long these wait lists are. We need data.

Thielman. Our waiting lists are too long. We need to look at the data. Based on the outcome of an investigation, we could consider expanding after-school programs.

Question: How about the Minuteman school?

Thielman. We promote the Minuteman option to students in Arlington, and 120--130 students attend. It's a good educational program.

Morgan. I'm glad we supported the Minuteman rebuild, and we need to continue promoting it. I'm glad the choice is available.

Question: What's your ten-year view to relieve overcrowding?

Morgan. I'm comfortable with where we are in terms of infrastructure, and our ability to do well with the high school.

Thielman. We'll monitor enrollment growth. We may have to pivot quickly in the future.

Question: How will the consolidated municipal finance department affect the schools?

Thielman. The town and school work closely together. The school budget is still controlled by the school committee.

Morgan. The move towards a consolidated municipal finance department seems sensible. We still need collaboration between the town and school.

Question: Do we teach civics?

Morgan. Our third grade classes did a mock town meeting. We need to continue teaching civics.

Thielman. We do a good job with civics. The challenge is making room for everything in the curriculum.

Question: If you had $100,000 to spend, what would you do with it?

Thielman. I'd hire more teachers.

Morgan. I'd hire more building subs. $100,000 doesn't get you very far.

Question: Is there a subject you'd like to talk about?

Morgan. It's important to present a cogent sense of what we want our schools to look like.

Thielman. Working on a five-year plan and getting ready to have a thoughtful dialog on an override, and what it costs to maintain a great school.

Closing remarks.

Morgan. I'm really excited about the opportunity to serve, and about people who volunteer to improve our schools.

Thielman. We have very good schools. There's public support, good leadership, and a high-functioning school committee. We want to keep those things going.