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Live from Arlington

I'm very excited to announce the launch of Live from Arlington. I'm headed to bed, so my commentary will have to come later. For now, I'll give you text of David Coletta's email:
As of this evening, http://www.livefromarlington.com, a new web site for news and information about Arlington, is now online. A few of us from the list decided to get this project started -- if it were a house, then you could say we've built a foundation and framing, and run a few wires and pipes -- but it's up to the users to finish construction and populate the house.

This new web site is for all Arlington residents, not just for those of us on this mailing list. But we are probably the people who are going to do a lot of the work. So come by, read what's there, and get a feel for the place. Then sign up for an account, so you can get email notifications of new stories, add your own news, post events to the calendar, start a discussion, etc.

Next, think of new things you want to see on the site and figure out what else the site needs. For example, a few volunteers have already stepped forward to monitor the Arlington list and cull the news and announcements for reposting on the web site. And there's plenty of other work that needs to be done to make Live From Arlington great. So if you're interested, click the "feedback" link on the front page and say what you want to do.

Live From Arlington,
Al Stevens
Brooks Harrelson
Dan Dunn
David Coletta
Jane Connor
Jerri Newman
Tom Scotto

Candidate's Night

I went to Candidate's Night tonight. I went for three reasons. First, my precinct (11) has a contested race, and I wanted to see who would be there and what they would say; second, I wanted to see if I could collect signatures for my run for state representative; and third, I wanted to hear the candidates for town-wide offices.

I was impressed with the number of candidates for Town Meeting that came, for all precincts. It was by far the most well-attended candidates night that I've seen. I talked to many of them, both in and out of my precinct.

The evening started with the three unopposed candidates giving 3 minute speeches. James Doherty, for Assessor, started and took his three minutes. Kevin F. Greeley, for Selectman, was very brief. John Worden, for Moderator, was pretty long winded. They had to flag him down after his three minutes (plus extra) had expired.

Then it came to question time, where each candidate had a minute to answer questions from the audience. Greeley got the hard ones. First, there was a question about how the selectman can manage the comptroller and measure the comptroller's effectiveness. His first answer was a throwaway "We do it as best we can" that got a few chuckles. He then went on to say that the board met with the comptroller at least once per year to evaluate, and of late had met "much more than that." His second question was about the O'Neill formula: he was asked if he thought it would be changed. He spent his minute talking about the history of the formula, acknowledging that the schools spent more, and finished with "we don't follow the formula exactly." I did not hear an answer to the question. His third question was about the raise recently given to the deputy town manager. He strongly defended the raise saying that she would have been due for a large raise even before she was acting town manager, that she'd done an excellent job and was being recognized for it, and that the department had eliminated the assistant position for a net savings in the department. The final question he took was about the town website. He acknowledged that there had been problems, and looked to others to help with the goals (note my next item below).

I must say, I was a bit disappointed. Greeley was asked some tough questions, and he dodged two of them. In particular, his answer to the O'Neill question lacked any sense of leadership. He either believes in it or he doesn't. He was asked, point-blank, and he declined to answer. He's running unopposed. He's going to win. The town is in significant financial pain, and the O'Neill formula is at the center. Why did he choose to dodge, rather than lead?

Worden's questions were less hard hitting, but provided more entertainment. He was asked, in light of his power of committee appointment, what his priorities would be for the coming term. He was confused by the question and finally answered "to be on time." I was amused.

Doherty's questions were less interesting. He was asked about affordable housing, and he answered that it wasn't something that his office could really affect. I agree with him.

Finally, Marian King and John Griffin spoke. Griffin spoke as the 15-year incumbent. King spoke as the tenant seeking to be the tenant's voice on the committee. I listed to a couple of questions about affordable housing, then I ducked out of the meeting. Frankly, the race doesn't interest me that much. Both candidates seem to think that by spending taxpayers money they can somehow overturn the market forces that determine rents; I think they are destined to fail. I understand the needs that they are trying to serve, but they are just pushing a rock up a hill. There are better ways to tackle affordable housing.

ISAC Subcommittee

On Wednesday night, the selectmen's sub-committee met for the third time. This meeting was different from the previous two for a couple of reasons. First, we'd made an effort to invite other people to our meeting. Second, it had a deadline: we had to recommend text to the Board of Selectmen for their hearing on Monday.

A bit of backtrack: There are three warrant articles for Town Meeting that affect IT. The Board of Selectmen created a subcommittee to decide how to handle all three. That committee is Selectmen Jack Hurd and Diane Mahon, Annie LaCourt, Comptroller Ruth Griffin, and myself. (Before I go any further: Annie deserves the credit for the work done here. She put two of the articles on the warrant and really pushed the agenda that this committee is looking at.) Here are the remaining steps:
  • Subcommittee makes a recommendation
  • Selectmen vote a recommendation on Monday
  • Town Meeting approves the recommendation
  • Committee members are sought, selected, and appointed
I was very happy with the turnout for the meeting. Besides the five committee members, there were town employees, current volunteers, and almost 20 people who were interested in the work of the group. The discussion was pretty interesting. We started by covering background, and then we got into the details of the recommendation. The discussion covered every part of the draft. A number of good points were raised and incorporated into the draft, and a number were deemed unnecessary. In the end, I think only one person hadn't spoken at some point in the night.

We decided to recommend a change in the bylaws to change the Data Processing Advisory Board into a Technology Advisory Committee. It will have eight town employees and seven "regular citizens," including a representative of the cable TV group. I'll post the draft when I get it. There is more detail there.

I'll be at the Selectmen's meeting on Monday, and of course I'll be at Town Meeting when the final is discussed. I think we're on the right track.

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Representative Scott Brown won the March 3 special election to replace State Senator Cheryl Jacques, and in today's Sunday Globe he reminded us all what he stands for: "He said his first task is to fight for the district's communities in the upcoming state budget negotiations, and he said he has arranged meetings with town administrators. 'The Number 1 priority is to get a better shake when it comes to state funding and see how we can do that,' Brown, 44, said."

He could have said he was going to correct the budget deficit. He could have said that he wanted to lower taxes so that his constituents had more financial freedom. He could have said he was going to eliminate regulations to help businesses add jobs. Instead, he said he was going to fight for as big of a slice of the pie as he could - even though that means that some other town will necessarily get a smaller piece. At least he admitted it, unlike many other elected officials.

"I'm off to the State House, folks. I'll bring back as much pork as I can."