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NO-SHOWS: The public needs to hear from all candidates

Filmmaker Woody Allen once said: "Showing up is 80 percent of life." A majority of Arlington public officials abide by that sentiment. A few don't.arlington map vote

As the town's political season lurches predictably toward the April election, let's consider some no-shows in this process.

Of course, town voters have a poor record of showing up -- an average of 21.6 percent turn out to vote in town elections over 19 years. See the chart here >> 

But consider some who fall below the radar -- those who fail to show up to candidates' night, the annual review of opinions presented by the League of Women Voters of Arlington and Envision Arlington, or decide not to respond to the annual voters' guide.

The hopefuls seeking positions on key town boards always show, or comment for the guide. Many of those down the ballot don't.

Some examples:

-- The last time a candidate for the Housing Authority appeared at candidates' night was nine years ago, in 2010. That was Teresa Walsh. That year, James Doherty, running unopposed for assessor, was invited but chose not to attend

-- The last time a candidate for the Board of Assessors showed up for the Town Hall event was 2015. Attending were Kevin Feeley, the longtime board member, and challenger Stephen Harrington. Not present were two unopposed candidates -- Robert Greeley, who then sought to fill Doherty's term for assessor, and Joseph S. Daly, who sought to fill a five-year term on the Housing Authority following a resignation.

To be fair, Mary Winstanley O'Connor, a member of that board, says she is always available, but sometimes gives up her time to major candidates.

Through recent years

Now for little trip back through recent history. Return to 2011, the year voters faced a $6.5 million override.

At the LWV's candidates' night that year, O'Connor, unopposed for assessor, relinquished all of her timeO'Connor, unopposed for assessor, relinquished all of her time to other hopefuls. Those seeking major offices supported the override, which passed.

The moderator that night made no mention of Nicholas C. Mitropoulos, unopposed for Housing Authority, who did not respond to the LWV's request for a statement for its guide. 

In 2012, finances were the focus on candidates' night. The assessor race was contested, as Marty Thrope faced Feeley, and both candidates attended. But Daniel Brosnan, unopposed for a seat on the Housing Authority, did not show. 

At the LWV event in 2013, when Maria Romano jousted with Kevin Greeley, Richard Murray and M. Bridgett James, candidates for seats on the Housing Authority, did not show up, citing prior commitments

In 2014, treasurer candidates Steve Gilligan and Julie Dunn marked the evening. Housing Authority candidate James Brosnan Jr. did not attend. O'Connor yielded her time, LWV records show.

Unopposed and absent

At the 2016 event, Romano and Greeley faced off again, as did other candidates for main offices. Two unopposed incumbents were not present -- Robert Greeley, seeking reelection to a three-year seat on the Board of Assessors, and Nick Mitropoulos, seeking a five-year Housing Authority seat. Kevin Greeley said his brother was in Florida playing golf

In 2017, no major candidate faced opposition, but that did not prevent most candidates for major office from showing up. Two of them did not. Seeking reelection but not on stage were O'Connor and Town Clerk Stephanie Lucarelli. The former said she was prepared to speak, but because of a mix-up, she was in the audience. Lucarelli wrote that that an injury prevented her from attending. 

Last year, Feeley did not attend the LWV event. He did not respond to requests to answer questions for the voters' guide or from YourArlington. See sidebar >> 

The trend continues this year. When candidates' night is held Wednesday, March. 27, not expected to be present are Gaar Talanian, Housing Authority hopeful, and Bob Greeley, assessor candidate. Neither responded to queries for statement for the voters' guide.

Public candidates can't ignore public

In my view, if you are a candidate for public office, you have to make yourself available to the public.

You can't seek residents' votes and then ignore those voters.

Otherwise, a potential voter might think: "Well, why should I vote?"


April 1, 2018: Candidates' Night, rarely a debate, informs -- and lets voters decide


This opinion column was published Tuesday, March 26, 2019. It is based on records compiled by the League of Women Voters and YourArlington.com news summaries since 2010.

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