3 selectmen hopefuls comment on parking, planning, development

The three candidates for the Board of Selectmen seeking two three-year seats are incumbents Diane Mahon and Dan Dunn as well as second-time hopeful Robert Tosi Jr. Here are their answers to four questions asked at Candidates' Night on Thursday, March 20, covering parking, master planning, real estate development and diversity:

Diane MahonMahonIn opening statements, Mahon cited 15 years of political success, bolstered by shared responsibility, respect and caring.

Dunn said he was elected in 2011 when the town faced a "terrible" budget deficit. He said he helped fulfill a plan to address that crisis in ways that have been more successful than expected.

Tosi, who made clear he is "seeking to be your voice," recalled when he was sixth-grader at the Locke who was part of a protest to keep the school open. He said he aims to 'Serve as a bridge" between lifelong residents and newer citizens.

No. 1: What do you think about having parking meters in Arlington Center?

Dan DunnDunn"That's a really good question," Dunn said, smiling and spurring restrained laughter from the audience.

He said he didn't know how much of the past three years would be spent addressing parking issues.

"All [drivers] compete for the same spaces," he said. "We need to restructure parking in Center," noting that a consultant's recommendations are expected to be presented at the April 7 selectmen's meeting.

"We need incentivize parking," Tosi said. "Meters are not revenue-generating sources but should aim to aid businesses."

Mahon, a member of the selectmen's parking subcommittee, said that about 12 years ago, working with then-Senator Bob Havern, she started a process to get funding aimed at increasing available parking at a historic site. [She has been asked to identify it.]

No. 2: What is your view of the town's master-planning process?

Robert Tosi Jr.TosiTosi said he has attended a number of the meetings since the public process began in October 2012 and lauded public involvement and inclusion. An issue that the plan should address is the lack of public meeting spaces for town groups.

Mahon also said she has been impressed by the number of people who have attended planning sessions. She did not point to an issue that the process should address.

"You get there [to a goal] because you plan," Dunn said of the process. You don't get success by mistake."

No. 3: Should the town promote more real estate development to lower property taxes?

"Yes, yes, yes," Mahon said. She said she welcomed what she called "scary ideas" aimed at improving business. She cited creating an industrial zone in the area near Gold's gym and capitalizing on historic events.

Dunn addressed the economic impact of a master plan. He said the last two tax overrides were spurred by the town's structural deficit.

He said the town needs to encourage business, but "we cannot build our way out of a deficit. Two Symmes [projects] a year won’t do it.”

Tosi said: "Of course, we should encourage seeking zoning changes to promote business." He said that "lot of things are going on to encourage that .... We have great resources .... They need to be promoted."

No. 4: How would you encourage diversity on town committees?

"Make sure all who want to help feel welcome," Dunn said. "Put out honey, not vinegar .... The town is who it is because of volunteers."

Tosi acknowledged needing to welcome all, and he provided a specific suggestion -- a volunteer fair. He noted the role of Town Day, but thought an added event would encourage diverse participation.

"It begins with respect," Mahon said. "Encourage people get unto the process." She said she had formed 13 neighborhood groups.

In closing, Tosi said, "People feel their issues are not given proper attention." He cited no examples. He noted his decades of volunteer service.

Dunn emphasized his role leadership role as chairman of the selectmen and the continuing budget challenges. "There is no easy answer," he said.

Mahon thanked her family, who has made her service possible. She named family members and noted a grandchild. "'You can't possibly be that old'," she said she was told. She is a 1980 graduate of Arlington High School.

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This story was published Sunday, March 23, 2014.