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Candidates' night: Mass. Ave. Corridor positions hold firm

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Avoid 'Washington-style politics,' Doherty says

Candidates' night 2013 offered a dose of the expected -- the selectmen candidates remained on opposite sides about the Mass. Ave. Corridor project -- and the unexpected -- an unopposed candidate weighed in with a call for campaign fair play.

"Please stop the dirty, Washington-style politics," said Jim Doherty, a candidate for assessor. "Be a man for others."

After the expected thank you to the public and his family, Doherty decried the "ugly" turn local politics has taken. He said he had been threatened outside Town Hall and that Kevin Greeley, seeking reelection to the Board of Selectmen, had been the target of reports. He asked the accuser to "come out of the shadows."

Asked the next day the name of the person to whom he was referring, Doherty declined to do so. "I would prefer not to stoop to his level," he wrote in an email. "I do understand you need to ask. I put some hints ... so he would know who I was referring to."

Doherty appeared to be referring to two reports about Greeley that came from anonymous sources. In December, the anonymously managed reported incorrectly that Greeley's company had benefited from the Symmes project.
In January, the same site reported correctly that Greeley owed more than $180,000 in back taxes, but did not ask the selectman for his explanation of the matter.

From there, the smaller-than-usual Town Hall gathering of about 75 people heard these main points during the forum on Thursday, March 21, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Vision 2020:

* Mass. Ave.: The selectmen candidates stuck to their scripts. Greeley continued express strong support for the Corridor project, urging a no vote on the April 6 ballot question. Romano urged voters to choose "the right plan" -- that is, the one proposed by the East Arlington Concerned Citizens Committee (EACCC) in 2009, which would retain four lanes.

* School issues: Minuteman stood out. The overall thrust of the comments: Look at all funding alternatives. No one suggested Arlington pull out of the 17-community agreement that funds the Lexington technical school.

The following offers details behind this general summary. Moderator Margaret Coppe of the Lexington LWV asked questions. Not all queries are summarized; see the full forum on ACMi rebroadcasts. See the schedule below:

Selected questions for selectmen candidates

Should the town treasurer, now elected, be appointed?

Maria Romano, 2011Romano

Romano: Elections should continue for the position, "to show respect for voters."

Kevin GreeleyGreeley

Greeley: The treasurer should be appointed. He said 60 of 65 communities having more than 30,000 people have moved to an appointed treasurer. He noted that the office of Steve Gilligan has a separate website and software from other town departments.

Should the town continue to participate in Minuteman?

Greeley: He supports the school's mission but wants to look at all options, including alternative configurations of communities that pay for the school. He said the cost to pay for a Minuteman student is three times that of a student at Arlington High.

Romano: Referring to Greeley's selectmen tenure since 1989 as the "second millennium," she said, "I'm not comfortable with the Minuteman assessment." She said that by altering the agreement much earlier, Arlington "could have avoided two overrides."

She praised the school for providing essential services that aid those seeking careers in trades.

Do you support the Mass. Ave. Corridor project?

Romano: "I support the right plan." She said the EACCC gave the town an alternative plan four years ago, but "they never looked at it."

She said removing a travel will result in more idling cars, which "is not clean and not green."

She said the town could have gotten federal and state funds with the group's 2009 plan.

Greeley: "Back in the second millennium," he said with a smile, he did read the plans for changes to the Corridor. He said studies support the changed lane configurations proposed. He called the design "excellent."

In the light of a number of Open Meeting Law complaints in recent years, what will you do to increase transparency?

Greeley said he supports paying for training about such issues and agrees with improving transparency. He also noted that he wished "some private individuals would spend less time suing" the town," an apparent reference to former Redevelopment Board member Chris Loreti, who was present.

Romano: "We need to reevaluate the process ...." She said the town needs to look at time wasted and money lost when projects take so long. She claimed there was a lack of outreach in the first six years of the Corridor project.

"I want to change the tone" of the debate in town, she said, adding she is saddened and angry when residents are treated with disrespect.

Has the Symmes project worked out well for Arlington? Why?

Romano said the process was "not an example" of progress. "Don't make a promise you can't keep," she said. The town could have "had rent from a satellite clinic," referring to a possibility from Mt. Auburn Hospital. "Why couldn't we do that? We lost $30 million when all is said and done," she said.

Greeley said that, eventually, the project will be a success. [Begun with a 2001 Town Meeting vote, the largest construction project in town history is now rising at the former Symmes Hospital site.]  

"We now have a very good project" following many years of delays, he said He cited $1 million in construction fees and $1 million in rents to come. He said the numbers are "far from $30 million."

Selected questions for School Committee candidates

Should Arlington withdraw from Minuteman?

Judson Pierce, 2013Pierce

Judson Pierce, seeking reelection to a three-year seat, said, "I don't agree with turning kids away," but added he has issues with price tag on renovating the school.

Kirsi Allison-Ampe, 2013Allison-Ampe

Paul Schlichtman (whose name was misspelled on the placard in front of him) seeks a one-year seat. "The governance structure is broken," he said. Arlington provides more than one-third of the funding, he said. He noted that when he was the Arlington rep to the Minuteman board in the late 1990s, Dover sent one student to the school.

Citing the good value from a Minuteman education, he said Arlington is "in a position of leverage."

Kirsi Allison-Ampe, seeking reelection to a three-year seat, said she agreed with Greeley: Arlington needs to explore all avenues.

Michael Buckley, seeking election for the first time, offered his "unique perspective," as a teacher and chair of social studies at Minuteman. "The question is: What is coming out" [of the school]? He noted that 50 percent of students are special needs, but that Minuteman provides "invaluable service ... [it's] a needed school."

Is the school-age population increasing? How would you provide extra seats for them?

Paul Schlichtman, 2013Schlichtman

Schlichtman: "I know it's expanding" -- from 3,700 students when he was first on the committee, in 2001, to 4,900 now.

Michael J. Buckley, 2013Buckley

The district needs to add capacity at Ottoson, he said, noting the aim to renovate Arlington High. "We can't do both at once," he said and called this a "difficult choice ... stayed tuned."

Allison-Ampe said, "We have been adding a whole classroom of students every year" during her three years on the committee, referring to population expansion.

Buckley: "How is quality of education affected by class size? This question troubles me most."

Pierce: Class size was "the reason I ran" three years ago. He cited progress -- the rebuilding of the Thompson School, signed union contracts, balanced budgets and new labor counsel.

Unknowns remain, he said: The impacts of projects at the former Brigham and Symmes sites. Arlington High is "not worthy of our students," he added.

Other candidates

John Leone, who is unopposed for Town Meeting moderator, was brief and added humor: "I'm learning ... I like to run a tight ship."

For that, he said, "I have been called a few things."

Asked what procedures he would change, e responded without hesitation: "Move the question," drawing some laughs.

With some tongue in cheek, he suggested a rule to choose a different person who moves the question. [Under Town Meeting procedure, a member moves a question to end debate on an issue.]

Richard Murray and M. Bridgett James, candidates for seats on the Housing Authority, did not show up, citing prior commitments.

Among those in the audience was A. Matthew Pallett, a write-in candidate who is challenging Schlichtman.


ACMi rebroadcast schedule

Candidates' Night was shown on ACMi's Public Channel (RCN 3, Comcast 8, Verizon 31). Replays are on the Government Channel (RCN 15, Comcast 22, Verizon 26) from Friday, March 22, to Saturday, April 6, on Sundays at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., Tuesdays at 6 p.m., Thursdays at 8 a.m., Fridays at 9 p.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m.
The League of Women Voters of Arlington and Vision 2020 again sponsored candidates' night, held Thursday, March 21. See the LWV's voters' guide here >>

Candidate debates on ACMi, cable TV:


School Committee:
Schedule: from Monday, March 18, until Saturday, April 6, on Sundays at 8 p.m., Tuesdays at 5 p.m., Wednesdays, at 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m.
Candidates’ video profiles recorded at ACMi and airing unedited on the Government Channel through Friday, April 5, on Sundays 9 p.m., Mondays 5 p.m., Wednesdays noon and 5 p.m., Thursdays 11 a.m. and Fridays 5 p.m.
Election returns: Live from Town Hall, Saturday, April 6, on the Government Channel at 8 p.m.


Town election information

This story was published March 23, 2013.

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