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25 minutes reading time (4915 words)

15 letters supporting Christiana for moderator

Naomi Greenfield of Mountain Avenue, a former member of Precinct 15 Town Meeting and former cochair of the Arlington Human Rights Commission, submitted this letter.

letters

Fellow Arlington residents: This Saturday, April 2, is our town election, and I want to make sure you all go out and vote for Greg Christiana for town moderator.

The moderator is an incredibly important position and sets the tone of how Town Meeting is run. The pandemic has made virtual Town Meeting a necessity, but it has also shown us just how important tone, equity of voices and demeanor are to running a successful Town Meeting. Our town is in need of a change and Greg is the person for this job.

Greg’s priorities and plans focus on creating a welcoming atmosphere for all Town Meeting members regardless of tenure or background, creating transparency about who speaks and in what order, and making prompt and well-publicized appointments to committees. I have worked with Greg on many issues and causes and elections over the years, and his dedication and commitment are unwavering.

He is also a really nice guy who knows how to listen to others, be a voice of reason and get stuff done. He's exactly what we need in a town moderator.

I hope you will join me at the polls on April 2 to vote for Greg Christiana. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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This letter was published Friday, April 1, 2022.


Christa Kelleher of Medford Street, a Precinct 5 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter.

As someone who has served on Town Meeting for the past six years, I enthusiastically support Greg Christiana for town moderator. John Leone deserves credit for navigating the unpredictable and challenging context of the pandemic over the past two years and for his long-term public service in this important role.

However, Arlington needs a moderator who will ensure that Town Meeting is run and that appointments are made in a transparent and inclusive manner. I am confident that Greg Christiana, who has worked to get more residents involved in local government through his own civic leadership, will champion the principles of transparency and inclusion as town moderator.

Last year, I noted several vacancies on the five-member Town Meeting Procedures Committee and emailed the moderator to learn more about the process for filling them. It took multiple emails over several months before I received a response from the moderator, who explained that when a vacancy on the committee needed to be filled, he would reach out to Town Meeting members to “gauge interest” and then “based upon the experience of the Town Meeting members who respond,” he would make appointments. The quoted phrases are from moderator Leone’s email response to me.

The process seemed clear to me. What has not been so clear is how and why a fairly recent appointment to the committee was made without said outreach to Town Meeting membership. Currently composed of four men (and one vacant seat), the Town Meeting Procedures Committee does not seem to reflect the diversity of perspective, experience and background of Town Meeting members. While I may have missed an email about this, I don't believe that I did.

This appointment process indicates to me how critical it is to elect a town moderator who is committed to emphasizing transparency and inclusion in decision-making processes when determining appointments and leading Town Meeting. I encourage residents to support Greg Christiana in this Saturday’s town election.

Thank you for considering Greg Christiana for Town Moderator and for voting in Saturday's local election.


This letter was published Tuesday, March 29, 2022.


Diane Mahon of Howard Street, a Precinct 14 Town Meeting member and a longtime member of the Select Board, submitted this letter.

I’m voting for Greg Christiana for town moderator on April 2, and I encourage you to do the same. In my work with Greg, I’ve always found him to be calm, fair-minded, and encouraging. He has the right temperament for the work of moderating.

When Greg approaches a problem or project, he does careful research, requests and considers input, and maps a path for moving forward. I’ve been a Town Meeting member since 1995, and it’s clear to me that there is much to celebrate about Town Meeting, and there is also room for improvement. Our virtual Town Meeting season showed us new possibilities and challenges for Town Meeting that we need to take seriously.

I like Greg’s vision for Town Meeting and his eye toward the future. I believe Greg will encourage all members to speak when they want to, but will also find efficiencies so members’ time will be used wisely. His way of approaching problems, along with his strong technology background, will serve Town Meeting and Arlington well as we find new ways to meet and govern.


This letter was published Monday, March 28, 2022.


Adam MacNeill of Wellington Street, a Precinct 6 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter.

I support Greg Christiana for town moderator because I believe that Greg will improve the functionality and fairness in each and all of the position's roles. In my experience, there are four areas for which the town moderator holds sole or shared responsibility: running Town Meeting, appointing committee members, improving the Town Meeting process year to year, and engaging and communicating with the broader community. Through his work with the town, his energy and his character, Greg has shown me that he will increase efficiency, fairness and transparency in every aspect.

The most obvious of the town moderator's roles is in the name: moderating town meeting. As anyone who has moderated a debate or forum knows, doing this well requires patience and organization. While Town Meeting's very nature magnifies that requirement, I am confident that Greg will be able to manage debate smoothly and evenly.

Greg is already an expert discussion leader and committee organizer. I have seen Greg prioritize and successfully get group buy-in for ensuring that a variety of voices, reflecting both subject matter experts and diverse experiences and perspectives, are welcomed and empowered to speak. New-member empowerment, additional transparency and a more level approach to discussion management will improve both the quality and efficiency of Town Meeting. Electing Greg to Town Moderator will go a long way to actualizing these goals.

Compared to moderating Town Meeting, appointing committee members appears straightforward. However, reaching out to, connecting with, and vetting potential appointees in the timely manner necessary for smooth functioning is far from easy and requires a lot of legwork. Unfortunately, there is too often a significant lag between town moderator-appointed seats and seats appointed by other authorities, even to the same committee. Greg's dedication to civic engagement gives us a great opportunity to improve both our range of represented skill sets and knowledge and the efficiency of the nomination process.

The actual functioning of Town Meeting during Covid has presented huge logistical challenges. But it has also brought to light many opportunities for improvement moving forward. Based on what I have observed over the last few years, I believe that Greg is the candidate with the best attitude and aptitude for actualizing these opportunities, especially in the realm of hybrid and more accessible meetings.

Finally, in terms of community engagement, the record speaks for itself: Greg is already a town leader in this area and has been a major driver behind efforts to expand community participation in Arlington government. Entrusting him with the role of town moderator will improve both the position's transparency and efforts to enhance the general town populace's ability to understand and positively interact with Town Meeting.

I am voting for Greg Christiana for Town Moderator on Saturday, April 2, and I hope that you will join me.


This letter was published Monday, March 28, 2022.


Steve Revilak of Sunnyside Avenue, a Precinct 1 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter.

I'm writing to express my support for Greg Christiana in this year's town moderator race. I think Greg has some great ideas for making town meeting deliberations more substantive, bringing transparency to the moderator's role, and giving more town meeting members the opportunity to share their viewpoints. I hope you'll join me in voting for Greg on April 2.


This letter was published Monday, March 28, 2022.


Alex Bagnall of Wyman Street, a Precinct 7 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter.

I am writing to express my enthusiastic endorsement of Greg Christiana for the position of town moderator.

I have come to know Greg over the past few years through our work together on the Envision Arlington Standing Committee and the Civic Engagement Group. In that time I have been impressed with Greg's dedication to the town, drive to engage a greater cross section of the town in our processes, willingness to listen and understand different points of view and ability to have sometimes difficult conversations respectfully.

In the Civic Engagement Group, Greg has created an informal, low barrier to entry venue for residents both new and long-time to discuss civic engagement in town with a focus on how we can work together to find ways to make our sometimes confusing form of town government accessible to a more diverse swath of residents. There are no magic bullets for increasing diversity in our town meetings, board and committees. It is going to take continual work, reflection, and analysis of our structures, policies and customs to make progress toward those goals. I believe Greg is extremely well suited in both temperament and professional expertise to make that work an ongoing priority and to bring new voices into the process.

Please join me in voting for Greg Christiana on April 2.


This letter was published Monday, March 28, 2022.


Clarissa Rowe, a Precinct 4 Town Meeting member on Herbert Road and a former member of the Board of Selectmen, submitted this letter.

I'm voting for Greg Christiana for town moderator on April 2, and I hope you will join me.

Greg respects our wonderful form of local government and wants to make sure we attract, retain and encourage participation from Town Meeting members who are truly representative of our Arlington community.

In recent years, I’ve been thrilled to support participation in Town Meeting from a new generation of members who come from a diversity of backgrounds. I am deeply concerned about how many really excellent Town Meeting members decided not to run for reelection this year.

Greg is already working hard to understand what drove these decisions. He’s had conversations with many members-- those who are running again and those who are not. He has also spoken to moderators in other towns to gain an understanding of their practices and which practices might suit Arlington’s Town Meeting.

It’s time for us to examine Town Meeting closely, to think about what is working and what is not, and to thoughtfully address the issues we identify. This will require community engagement and creative problem solving. I have extensive experience working with Greg. I know he is up to the task and that his approaches will be well-reasoned.

This is an important election for Arlington. Please join me in voting for Greg Christiana for town moderator.


This letter was published Sunday, March 27, 2022.


Lenard Diggins, a Select Board member who lives on Windsor Street, submitted this letter.

 

Here are three words that I’ll use to make my case for Greg: Supportive, Resourceful and Rigorous.

Supportive: That’s the first word that comes mind. As an eager Town Meeting member, when I wanted to make another attempt at getting all of the precincts to hold precinct meetings, Greg, as a member of the Envision Arlington Standing Committee and keenly interested in civic engagement himself, was so supportive of the goal that I considered him an equal partner in the endeavor. To the extent that the initial effort of promoting precinct meetings was successful, it was because I was able to get abundant helpful advice and positive motivation from Greg. Even as I first started working with him, he has always been generous with his time and open to working with anyone.

Resourceful: Though gentle and at times unassuming, I quickly realized Greg’s resourcefulness. He’s an encyclopedia of useful knowledge, and what he doesn’t know, he can learn quickly. I was already impressed by Greg’s resourcefulness before this campaign for town moderator, and now that is even more so the case as some of us shift among the various roles as needed. Greg has a “can-do” attitude, and that applies to the ideas of others as well as his own. If you bring an idea to Greg, you can see his eyes light up with curiosity, and then his gaze gets more focused as he brings his knowledge and experiences to bear on transforming the idea into a reality.

Rigorous: Greg strives for excellence! Yes, perfection may be the goal, but he is pragmatic, and he realizes that attaining perfection often requires time and multiple iterations. Greg is also meticulous (while also keeping the big picture in mind) and highly organized. Following procedures and putting tracking systems in place come easily and naturally to Greg.

When you work with Greg, you want to elevate your game, and you will become better in your chosen role. That’s partly because you want to keep up with him, but it’s also due to his nurturing spirit and mentor-like behavior. The prospect of Greg as our town moderator makes me very excited and hopeful! With him as our town moderator, our town will be better, and we will all be prouder of our beloved form of government known as Town Meeting.


This letter was published Monday, March 21, 2022.


Pat Hanlon, a Precinct 5 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter.

I am writing to express my support for Greg Christiana as town moderator. I have been a member of Town Meeting, and active in town affairs in other ways, for the last five years. I have been impressed with Greg’s fairness and openness in every context in which we have worked together.

These qualities are becoming increasingly important as Town Meeting itself becomes more diverse and handles a broader and more diverse range of matters. To be sure, it is necessary to master the arcana of parliamentary procedure. But it is even more important manage the discussion in Town Meeting in an impartial way that makes everyone feel respected and listened to – a way that ultimately builds trust.

In recent years, Town Meeting has become much more democratic and transparent. Much of that has been caused by the rise of the precinct meeting in most, but not all, precincts, a movement in which Greg has played a leading role. Today, by the time the gavel comes down, there has already been a vigorous discussion of many of the matters that will come before the body. More members are becoming active participants.

Technology has had a major influence. A Zoom precinct meeting is easier to arrange than one that requires a physical space. Similarly, Zoom has greatly increased attendance at town meeting. We are unlikely ever to return completely to the traditional meeting in Town Hall. Virtual meetings are great enablers of participation. The rest of the world is working on reimagining Zoom with a human face, and we will not be untouched by that. Both increased democratization and increased reliance on technology have changed how town meeting is done. We need a moderator who is comfortable with change and willing to lean into the opportunities it presents.

As a retired lawyer, I somewhat ruefully reflect that the role of moderator will increasingly call upon the skills of computer engineers rather than those of my former profession.
Much of what is wrong in virtual meetings can (with time) be alleviated by a moderator who inhabits a virtual world and is alert to the opportunities it offers. We should not be aiming at a virtual equivalent of in-person meetings but at an innovative format that takes advantage of technology. At the same time, there needs to be accommodation for those who miss the pageantry, rhythms and sociability of the old sort of town meeting. Figuring out the right balance (with whatever tools state law provides) will be one of the main tasks of the next moderator.

A supporter of the current moderator has noted that a challenge to the reelection of a town moderator is almost unheard of in Arlington. That thought should give us pause. The incumbent is a likable, capable person who has many accomplishments to his credit. He has given it his best shot. And yet, it is clear that something has gone wrong. The level of disaffection in Town Meeting is worrisome.

We are at an inflection point. I am convinced that Greg is best equipped to take stock of where we are and to lead us into a new era, to go beyond merely adjusting to changed circumstances but to seize upon them and innovate from here.


This letter was published Monday, March 21, 2022.


Liz Exton of Washington Street, a Town Meeting and School Committee member, submitted this letter.

I am writing to enthusiastically endorse Greg Christiana for town moderator.

I met Greg when I was first elected to Town Meeting in 2019. I happened to sit next to him in Town Hall, and he became my mentor, helping me understand the systems and procedures of Town Meeting. He immediately made me feel welcome.

In my work as a public school teacher, I frequently think about civics and its relationship to diversity and belonging. In one of our recent conversations about participation in local government, Greg brought to mind an equity continuum that I’d learned about during an educator workshop. The continuum describes the process of moving from diversity, to belonging, to inclusion, toward the goal of equity.

We often hear these words, but it’s not always clear what we mean by them, so I want to relate them specifically to Town Meeting and Greg’s priorities as moderator.

Diversity: The diversity of Town Meeting has increased over the years with a greater representation of races, genders, ages and economic backgrounds, but that is just the first step.

Belonging: Belonging relates to the culture created to welcome people across differences. It includes the physical space, the written word, and the conversation. It’s important to request information from Town Meeting members about how they’d like to be addressed and the correct pronunciation of their names. Accessibility of the space (in-person or virtual) and other accommodations also help create a sense of belonging. These are priorities for Greg.

Inclusion: Inclusion is the concept of participation. Greg will ensure that diverse populations are involved in decision making. As moderator, Greg would solicit and listen to feedback from members on the operations of the meeting. ALL members need to feel comfortable speaking and participating at Town Meeting. Greg will collect and analyze data and work toward diverse representation of speakers and appointees to town committees.

Equity: True equity requires changing the structures of power and privilege so disparities of historically underrepresented groups are eliminated. That is ongoing work that requires discomfort and courageous conversations from all Town Meeting members, but I know Greg is committed to working toward equity.

The moderator establishes the tone for the meeting and influences the culture. I believe that with Greg’s leadership, we can make meaningful progress toward equity in our town government. Please join me in voting for Greg Christiana for town moderator on April 2.


This letter was published Sunday, March 20, 2022.


Alham Saadat of Magnolia Street, a Precinct 4 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter.

I enthusiastically support Greg Christiana for town moderator.

Greg and I met as part of the Build Arlington's Future campaign in 2019, which led efforts to ensure that our schools were prepared to meet the needs of all students in Arlington. I was immediately struck by Greg’s thoughtfulness in discussions and by his evidence-based approach to ensuring the success of that campaign. After I was elected to Town Meeting, I was again able to see Greg’s thoughtful, respectful and inclusive approach to discussions on a variety of issues.

I have been a Town Meeting member in Precinct 4 for three years and have not felt comfortable speaking a single time during the sessions. There are likely a number of reasons for this, but fear of public speaking is not one of them, as this is something that I do regularly in my career.

Equity work is a focus of my professional life, and I think it’s important for the town moderator to ask questions about why we don’t have a diversity of people on speaker lists. I’ve had great conversations with Greg about this issue. I know he values having a variety of voices and viewpoints heard and would use data to learn more about where we stand and to identify effective strategies for making Town Meeting more inclusive.

I believe Town Meeting is a meaningful way for members of our community to be involved in decisions that affect Arlington and its residents. Ensuring that we create and maintain a transparent moderating model that allows for inclusive discourse will be critical for sustaining a successful Town Meeting — one that represents all residents. I am confident that Greg has the right approaches and temperament to make this happen. Please join me in voting for Greg Christiana on April 2.


This letter was published Sunday, March 13, 2022.


Greg Dennis of Wheaton Road, a Precinct 1 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter.

I am writing to enthusiastically endorse Greg Christiana for moderator.

I’ve had the privilege of working with Greg in several different capacities over the years. We both served on the Steering Committee of the Arlington School Enrollment Parent Group and as leaders of the 2016 and 2019 Build Arlington’s Future campaigns to secure school funding. Today, we serve together on Town Meeting, and we have worked for the same company, both as software engineers, for more than a decade.

I know from these experiences that Greg possesses a temperament perfectly suited to make Town Meeting a welcoming and inclusive body. When controversial issues arise, Greg’s first priority is to make sure all sides are heard and all sides feel respected. When an argument gets heated, his first impulse is to deescalate. He doesn’t prejudge anyone nor hold grudges. He has his own strong convictions, to be sure, but when facilitating any discussion, above all else he is impartial. This is the foremost quality we should be looking for in a moderator.

As a veteran engineer, Greg will also bring an important set of professional skills to the moderator position. Town Meeting is an old institution, and while traditions are important, Greg understands that long-standing practices must be subject to continuous reexamination and occasional reform. At the same time, he knows that we should not innovate for innovation’s sake. To engineer a better Town Meeting, changes must have a clear rationale, preferably backed by data, and reached by way of a collaborative and transparent process.

For a welcoming, innovative, and transparent Town Meeting, please join me in voting for Greg Christiana for moderator on Saturday, April 2.


This letter was published Saturday, March 12, 2022.


This letter supporting Greg Christiana was submitted by Linda Hanson of Webster Street and Nora Mann of Wollaston Avenue:

We are writing to enthusiastically endorse the election of Greg Christiana as town moderator in the election on Saturday, April 2.

Town Meeting is democracy in action at its most fundamental level: Elected representatives from 21 precincts gathering annually to discuss and debate the business of the town. Town Meeting members vote on changes to town bylaws, pass resolutions and approve the town’s budget.

The town moderator’s role is to facilitate these important discussions and ensure open debate on all matters before Town Meeting. The town moderator chairs every session of Town Meeting and makes appointments to many town committees that shape policy, including the Human Rights Commission, the Finance Committee and Envision Arlington. We know that Greg will handle these important responsibilities with great thoughtfulness and skill.

Greg is running for town moderator because he values fair debate that reflects the diverse viewpoints of all of our town’s residents. As moderator, Greg will run Town Meeting in a transparent and inclusive fashion, working to ensure that everyone feels welcome.

Greg has served as a Town Meeting member since 2016, and his focus on strengthening civic participation in town has been unwavering. He has been a leader in the effort to encourage and support regular precinct meetings throughout town to enable residents the chance to discuss warrant articles with their meeting members before Town Meeting, and he has worked to make it easier for voters to learn about town meeting candidates.

Greg cares deeply about making sure everyone understands how to be involved in our democracy. Greg is the cochair of the Envision Arlington (formerly Vision 2020) Standing Committee, and this year launched the Civic Engagement Group, whose mission is for Arlington to be guided by the voices and preferences of the people of Arlington, with all the dimensions of our diversity well represented.

Democracy starts at home. We need a town moderator who is committed to the ideals of transparency, respect and inclusion. Please join us in voting for Greg Christiana for town moderator on April 2.


This letter was published Monday, March 7, 2022.


Jane Morgan of Brattle Street submitted this letter to the editor:

I am excited to support Greg Christiana for town moderator. I have known Greg both in and out of political life in Arlington since 2016.

Greg and I met as part of a grass-roots parent-advocacy group when Arlington’s schools were facing an enrollment crunch that was resulting in space issues across school levels. Greg’s contributions to positive dialogue, measurable outcomes and cross-sectional engagement was inspiring and productive. Out of that work, Greg volunteered to lead the 2016 Build Arlington’s Future campaign to add capacity at all school levels. He was also elected as a Town Meeting member and has served every year since.

Since that time, Greg has focused his efforts and energy on cultivating a positive political climate in Arlington where all voices are elevated and newcomers to Town Meeting and civic engagement are welcomed, supported and encouraged. He has worked on coordinating precinct meetings and candidate statements for people running for Town Meeting. Seeing a need, he founded the Civic Engagement Group within Envision Arlington.

Greg has the temperament and flexibility to be a productive and effective town moderator from day one. An experienced Town Meeting member, Greg has seen a lot of turnover in membership over the last six years and has had many conversations with members about their experience on Town Meeting. He’s been an engaged participant in both remote and in-person meetings and understands how to set a tone for the meeting that will encourage participation in the process while concurrently respecting the time of the membership.

He’s well positioned to be flexible and accommodating while also holding members to the high expectations that the voters deserve. Becoming a Town Meeting member is an important step for residents who are interested in further civic engagement. Arlington is a town with deeply competent staff that also depends on hard-working volunteers. People’s experience on Town Meeting can translate into future work on behalf of the town or can result in retreat from this work. We need to ensure that our Town Meeting continues to cultivate members who engage in the work of the meeting and are curious about additional opportunities.

I am confident that Greg will be an effective and productive Moderator and will be able to engage the community and the membership in the important work of Town Meeting. Please join me in voting for Greg Christiana on April 2.


This letter was published Tuesday, March 1, 2022.


This letter is from Barbara Thornton, a Precinct 16 Town Meeting member:

I write to enthusiastically support the candidacy of Greg Christiana for moderator in the Arlington election of Saturday, April 2.

I have been a Town Meeting member for a number of years. I actually dropped out of Town Meeting for a while because I could never get called on to speak and I assumed there must be some process to get recognized that I did not understand.

Last year, I proposed a warrant article that would model procedures in other nearby towns and would make the process of recognizing speakers more transparent. Even after hearing my rationale and why the article was needed, it was vehemently opposed by Mr. Leone, who wanted to retain the ability to call on people he wanted.

I first got to know Greg when we worked together, with the NAACP’s Zane Crute, to write a series of columns on police reform. I have found Greg to be passionate about the importance of democracy and civil governance in the lives of people. Logically then, it is not surprising to learn that he has a vision for how he would like to see the Town Moderator role. That vision would center our Town Meeting process on transparency, fairness and inclusion.

With Greg Christiana as Town Moderator, the people you elect to represent you from your precinct will be heard. Please cast your vote for Greg Christiana for town moderator.


 This letter was published Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

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