A special election: AHS rebuild, override OK'd with strong support

Unofficial results for 21 precincts | How did yours vote?

UPDATED, June 14: Arlington voters endorsed ballot questions to support spending to rebuild the 105-year-old Arlington High School as well as a $5.5 million override to continue town services.

Thielman, others at Elks, June 11, 2019Jeff Thielman speaks at Elks. / Marjorie Howard photo

In a special town election Tuesday, June 11, the first report of unofficial results showed backing for the AHS project at 9,761 for and 2,930 against, or 76.9 percent in favor.

The override was closer, at 8,655 for and 4,029 against, or 68.2 in favor.  All precincts voted in favor of both questions. 

Turnout strong

Voters reporting from some of the town's 21 precincts during the day appeared to indicate a strong turnout. For example, at 7:30 p.m., Precinct 18 had recorded 737 votes.

Turnout based on unofficial results was 41 percent. In the last special election,  in 2016, the turnout was 31.4 percent. In 2011 override, the turnout was 46.6 percent.

At Build Arlington's Future campaign gathering at the Elks, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie praised the organization of all involved. An estimated 100 people listened.

"This was a huge vote of confidence for the schools," she said. "You did an amazing job.

Chart by Paul Schlichtman

"Both votes are a milestone for what we're going to be able to do over the next years. It's a night to celebrate."

Morgan added: "We did everything we could ... many people had never been involved in campaigns before. It was an extraordinary effort."

She said 7,185 people were identified to come out and vote.

Build Arlington's Future, the only established ballot-question committee for the campaign until the final weeks, raised $25,140 from more than 125 donors. That is believed to be a record for an Arlington ballot committee.


The major opposition did not establish an official fund-raising committee. From last summer until April, an opposition group led by Carl Wagner was vocal about wanting the AHS rebuild process to start over. Wagner,  who started Save Our Historic Arlington High School (SOHAHS) last summer, became less visible on social media, as longtime Town Meeting member Patricia Worden continued the begin-again theme.

In the days before the election, Sean Harrington, a town Republican, urged voters on Facebook groups to oppose Question 2, citing the 8-7 Finance Committee vote supporting the override.

A campaign-finance report from the Affordable Arlington Committee was filed June 3. It was posted to the town website on June 13 >> 

The clerk's office did not tell YourArlington that another ballot committee had filed until June 12. A document provided by the clerk's office June 14 shows the paperwork was signed May 9 and recorded at Town Hall on May 13. No public announcement of the group followed; only posts to Facebook groups, rasing issues with Question 2.

Jeff Thielman, building committee chairman, thanked key volunteers, whose names drew cheers. They included School Committee member Jane Morgan, who gave up her life to the campaign for two months; Kate Leary, Amy Speare and Kirsi Allison-Ampe of the School Committee.

Construction manager to be hired

Now that voters have supported the rebuild, the next key step for the bulding committee is to choose a construction company for the project, expected in the next few weeks. The rebuild the school starting in 2020 and hire subcontractors.

Matt Janger, principal of the high school since 2013, was elated. He applauded voters for the gift they have given Arlington students. "Now I know what I'll be doing for the next six years," he said, smiling.

The results were known quickly. By 8:10 p.m., all but five precincts had been reported, and the trend was clear -- both questions would pass.

At 8:20, 8, 16 and 18 remained. At 8:38 p.m., Precinct 16 results finally came in, and a cheer went up at the Elks.

Voters approve debt exclusion for AHS (town website)
Voters approve operational override (town website)
Read the ballot questions, polling locations, special election warrant here >>
Build Arlington Future finance report >>
Read a news report about the opposition to Question 1 >>
See information from the AHS Building Committee >>

At its April 17 meeting, the Select Board voted to approve the language and order for two ballot questions -- a debt exclusion of $290.8 million for a rebuilt Arlington High School and an override of $5.5 million for town operating expenses. 

This news announcement was published Tuesday, May 21, 2019, and updated June 14. Marjorie Howard contributed to this report.

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