Veteran Select Board member Diane Mahon, whose cheer-leading expertise extends beyond the girls she has guided to the town itself, seeks another term.
In office since 1999, after rising to prominence by supporting the rebuild of the town's neighborhood schools, she faces opposition from two first-timers, Michaiah Healy and Len Diggins. A candidate for an election now to be held in June, she was asked basic questions.
In general, why are you seeking this seat?
I have a deep desire to commit myself to public service in Arlington. Just as important is my service as a Town Meeting member from Precinct 14. For me, there is no elected position more important in our democracy than the position of Town Meeting member and being a member of the Select Board, and it has been a privilege that I do not take for granted for me to have served Arlington in both of these elected positions.
What are the key issues you see facing the Select Board?
As the current chair and member of the Select Board, I have had the honor of serving the residents and town employees for close to 21 years. I love Arlington, and I wish to continue to work with you as we face significant challenge as a community. When then-school and -town officials announced plans in the mid-1990s to close Brackett and Peirce elementary schools, as Brackett PTO and Townwide PTO president, I organized a grass-roots movement and founded "Friends of Neighborhood Schools" to keep all seven elementary schools open. Thanks to the efforts of many residents, we were successful in reversing the earlier town decision to close the schools.
Since then, I have dedicated myself to working with different neighborhood groups around issues that are important to them and am proud that Arlington was and continues to be a town that welcomes new ideas and solutions to the concerns that come before all of us. I’ve served on many committees in the town relating to the schools and town functions. Some are the Town Bylaw Recodification Committee, which gave me an in-depth understanding of our Town Manager Act and town bylaws, which I use in my role as a member of the Select Board.
I’ve served as cochair and/or worked on every debt exclusion and override since 1997. I helped establish our PEG Access Committee, which provides our residents with cable-TV access to view our town government at work. I’ve been an active member of the coalition opposing the Mugar project in East Arlington and have dedicated myself to protect the residents of our town against many earlier Oaktree 40B proposals, which will negatively affect Arlington with the expected environmental, traffic, public safety and school concerns, to name a few.
As a member of the Select Board, I will continue to work with the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to promptly and properly respond to the permit application to develop 219 units of housing on the Mugar wetlands. The Select Board will play the primary role of supporting the work of the ZBA and other town committees; however, to date, I have joined my colleagues to make it clear that we have deep concerns about all the negative impacts of this proposal.
How would you address them?
Many challenges face the Select Board over the next several years and beyond. First and foremost, the board will need to work with the town manager, the Finance Committee and Town Meeting to maintain the commitments of the override plan. The board will need to lead in regard to maintaining the fiscal prudence in order to maximize the length of the town's long-range plan. Another challenge is the housing affordability crisis facing Arlington. The Select Board needs to work with the community, the Redevelopment Board and Town Meeting to explore ways to ease the burden of housing costs in order to maintain the socioeconomic diversity of Arlington.
The board will continue to face the challenges of adapting to the transportation needs of the 21st century. Many great strides have been taken, but the board will need to work with the Transportation Advisory Committee, MassDOT and the MBTA as changes and upgrades to the town’s transportation system are considered and discussed.
One of the longstanding goals in Arlington has been a focus on increasing the commercial/industrial tax base in town. I have long advocated for the town manager and Planning Department to look at Arlington’s industrial zones and what businesses we could attract. An effort is underway, led by the Department of Planning & Community Development, to determine the best strategies to attract new businesses to Arlington and grow our business tax base. I look forward to the results of this study and implementing after public discussion endeavors to this end.
Finally, the Select Board has and will face the challenge of modeling civil discourse in our discussions with our residents and groups that appear before us. Many residents are passionate about many issues, and I want to serve on the board to continue to be a leader in modeling positive engagement and civil discourse, as we all work toward making Arlington a better place. As chair, working with the town manager, I have implemented the hiring of a consultant to work with all town officials and employees on how to communicate effectively around the issues raised of the Lt. Pedrini issue. I am currently working with our police chief and town manager to address the warrant article regarding citizen participation and/or interaction with our Police Department.
What personal background can you provide?
Born at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, she moved to Arlington when she was 7 years old, attending public schools and college courses. She is now 57. Her husband and she have three children who also attended Arlington public schools, and three grandchildren. “Unfortunately, at present, they cannot afford to purchase a home and raise their children here and have the opportunity to attend Arlington schools,” she wrote.
Some electoral history
Here is a snapshot of Mahon's successes in town elections:
Unopposed in 2017, she topped ticket, with 2,084 votes, while Dan Dunn received 2,019.
In 2014, she drew opposition from Robert L. Tosi Jr., who ran a strong campaign, but was edged out by Mahon, 3,121, to 3,088. Dunn got the other three-year seat, with 3,226 votes.
In 2011, an override year, Mahon received the most votes for Select Board, 4,485. In his first run, Dunn got 4,247 and Maria A. Romano lost the run for two seats, with 3,065.
Back in 2002, Mahon was tops, with 4,340. Charley Lyons won the other seat, with 3,019, and Jeffrey Anderson got 1,650.
She first ran in 1997, when there Kathleen Dias was seeking reelection among eight candidates, and came in third. She was successfully elected in 1999.
This news summary was published Wednesday, March 25, 2020. All candidates in the election to be held in June have been asked a similar set of questions. All responses received are edited and published.
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