Vote H&H for Arlington Select Board – Saturday, April 10

In our system of town government, the Select Board is unlike municipal boards elsewhere in the nation. It is an administrative board, an executive board, one that has no legislative function but acts as if it is a board of fractional mayors.

Historically, town meetings made decisions, and they selected some men (it was the 18th century) to oversee the daily business for the town, hence the name Board of Selectmen. In 1920, when Arlington was home to 18,665 residents, we couldn’t fit every registered voter into town hall, so our legislative function moved to a 252 member Representative Town Meeting. The task of running a town became too great for a part-time board, and Arlington delegated the day-to-day operations in the hands of a Town Manager in 1953.

The Select Board’s role is to lead the town where it wants to go. Its role is to present explanations and commentary to Town Meeting, and help our citizen legislature to make the best possible decisions for the town. It requires members to work together in concert, sharing the responsibilities of leading the town. We have a five member board, instead of one mayor, in order to bring different experiences and different constituencies to the table.

I know and like all three candidates for the Select Board, and we are fortunate we can’t make a bad choice, but I am convinced the H and H team of Helmuth and Hurd is the best choice for Arlington in this month’s annual town election.

Eric Helmuth has the heart and soul of an excellent local official. He embodies the ethic of helping to lead the town where it wants to go, as he led the effort to bring electronic voting to Town Meeting. He brought folks together to amend our bylaws to permit the use of electronic voting, and worked tirelessly to bring the necessary technology to Town Hall. This is not a trivial achievement; it makes all 252 Town Meeting Members responsive and accountable to voters. Voters can now study the votes of their representatives and make judgments based on their record, which leads to better decisions.

John Hurd is an attorney, with a small practice in Arlington Center. He looks at himself as a small business owner, and has worked to make our business districts viable. He has worked on traffic and parking issues in my Arlington Center neighborhood, building consensus for thoughtful policy that supports a thriving community. He is a Dallin School parent, with a commitment to our schools that included his leadership in funding a new Arlington High School. While he is a young parent, his family has a long record of service to Arlington, which gives him tremendous credibility communicating with long-time residents who made Arlington the welcoming place we have come to love.

Meanwhile, the school committee race is uncontested, but Jane Morgan and Jeff Thielman are good friends and outstanding colleagues. They have earned your vote of confidence.

Local elections have the most influence on our day-to-day lives. Election day is Saturday, April 10. You can find voting information at and candidate information on the League of Women Voters’ website, Please take the time to learn about the candidates and participate in shaping our town’s future.

Arlington town election results – April, 2019

Here are some maps to illustrate the 2019 annual town election.

Town Meeting Scorecard 2015

Article Title Action Recorded Vote Date
1 Annual Town Election Voted 2697 cards cast 28-Mar
2 State of the Town Received 27-Apr
3 Reports of Committees Received 11-May
4 Measurer of Wood & Bark Voted Voice Vote 27-Apr
5 Assistant Town Moderator Voted Voice Vote 27-Apr
6 Documented Zoning Reviews No Action 147-45-6 27-Apr
7 Posted Event Notices Voted 171-35-1 4-May
8 Limiting Speaking Time Voted 104-95-6 27-Apr
9 Human Rights Commission No Action Voice Vote 27-Apr
10 Mount Gilboa Historic Voted Unanimous 27-Apr
11 Community Preservation Committee Voted 159-48-2 29-Apr
12 Revision of 2020 Committee Voted 178-2-7 4-May
13 Disposition of 1207 Mass. Ave. Voted 184-11-0 4-May
14 Disposition of 13-383 Cliffe Ave. No Action Voice Vote 4-May
15 Home Rule – Assessor Change Voted 116-76-2 4-May
16 Complete Streets Voted 157-33-0 4-May
17 Local Option Taxes No Action Voice Vote 6-May
18 Endorsement of CDBG Voted 190-14-2 6-May
19 Revolving Finds Voted 199-4-2 6-May
20 Collective Bargaining Voted Unanimous 11-May
21 Positions Reclassification Voted 199-0-3 6-May
22 Town Budgets Voted 192-4-1 11-May
23 Revaluation of Real Property Voted Unanimous 11-May
24 Capital Budget Voted 188-2-1 29-Apr
25 Rescind Borrowing Authority Voted 187-2-1 29-Apr
26 Financing Sewerage Voted 189-0-2 29-Apr
27 Financing Water Voted 190-1-2 29-Apr
28 Appropriation Mintueman Voted 156-16-2 4-May
29 Appropriation Committees Voted Unanimous 11-May
30 Appropriation Town Celebrations Voted Unanimous 11-May
31 Appropriation Miscelanious Voted Unanimous 11-May
32 Appropriation Public Art Voted 130-62-3 11-May
33 Appropriation Human Rights Voted 161-24-7 11-May
34 Appropriation Water Bodies Voted Unanimous 11-May
35 Appropriaiton Barber Service Voted Unanimous 11-May
36 Appropriaiton Scenic Byway Voted Voice Vote 11-May
37 Appropriation Pension Adjustment Voted Unanimous 11-May
38 Appropriation OPEB Trust Fund Voted Unanimous 11-May
39 Acceptance of Survivor Benefits Voted Unanimous 11-May
40 Appropriation Long Term Stabilization Voted Unanimous 11-May
41 Appropriation Overlay Reserve Voted Unanimous 11-May
42 Transfer of Funds – Cemetery Voted Voice Vote 11-May
43 Use of Free Cash Voted Unanimous 11-May
44 Appropriation Fiscal Stability Voted Unanimous 11-May
45 Resolution – TMM Removal Voted 107-79-5 11-May
46 Resolution – Master Plan Endorsement Voted 136-41-3  11-May

Community Preservation Act in Arlington

This week’s little drama seems to be revolving around the appearance of the Community Preservation Act ballot question on the October 9 School Committee agenda, followed by the removal of the agenda item.

Let’s set the context. On May 7, after a debate that extended over two nights, Arlington Town Meeting voted 128-77 to place acceptance of the Community Preservation Act on the November ballot.  Four school committee members (myself included) are Town Meeting Members, and three of us voted to support acceptance of the Community Preservation Act.

  • Bill Hayner (Precinct 2) NO
  • Jennifer Susse (Precinct 3) YES
  • Paul Schlichtman (Precinct 9) YES
  • Jeffrey Thielman (Precinct 12) YES

As the election approaches, the three school committee members who are not members of our Representative Town Meeting (Cindy Starks, Judson Pierce, and Kirsi Allison-Ampe) have declared their support for the Community Preservation Act. The YES website now lists six school committee members as supporters, while Mr. Hayner is the chair of the Vote No committee.

It’s no surprise that members of the school committee, who are well informed on town issues, have taken the time to study the issue and have stated public positions on the November ballot question.

When the preliminary agenda for the October 9 school committee meeting was released, Mr. Hayner (as chair of the school committee) called for presentations about the Community Preservation Act. Joe Curro was scheduled to make the presentation for the YES campaign, while Charlie Foskett was scheduled to make the presentation for the NO campaign. Both of these respected gentlemen have already debated the issue on the floor of Town Meeting (see Dan Dunn’s notes for Session 3, Article 22, of the 2014 annual town meeting), and their learned opinions weighed heavily on the individual decisions we made at that time.

The October 9 meeting already had a crowded agenda, and we were coming in a half-hour early for an executive session. Several of my colleagues and I told Mr. Hayner that we didn’t want the Community Preservation Act presentation added to an already packed agenda.

Arlington Town Counsel Douglas Heim wrote that “a School Committee vote to support or oppose adoption of the CPA is permitted, but is in substance an endorsement rather than a decision or policy within the Committee’s jurisdiction to carry out itself or request the Superintendent implement.” With the Community Preservation Act on the agenda, the committee could have taken a vote to endorse a YES or NO vote on the ballot question. Still, I don’t think it’s a very good idea. The task before the school committee is to make decisions about the future of the school system. not to opine about ballot questions where the policy decisions rest with the Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting.

If the school committee as a government body can, but probably shouldn’t, endorse a ballot question with no direct impact on the schools, then why conduct a debate in the middle of our meeting? A televised debate on the topic is a good idea, but it’s not the job of the school committee to stage it in the midst of our meeting. This is something best left to ACMi or the League of Women Voters, although the League has declared its support for adoption of the Community Preservation Act and urges a YES vote in November.

Which brings us back where we started when this little drama came to light. In stating the ground rules, Town Counsel wrote that: “a School Committee Member, like a Selectman or other elected Town official, may take a position on a ballot question as a school committee member in a variety of formats, including being listed as a supporter by a Ballot Question Committee. However, permit me to note that care should be exercised not to conflate a member’s support for the committee’s support as a body or to use any public resources in advocating a position on a ballot question.”

Mr. Hayner is chair of the NO committee, and he has every right to stand in the public square and make his best argument against the ballot question. The other six members have every right to list themselves as supporters of the ballot question, and have a right to be identified as elected officials when they make that individual endorsement. The school committee, as a body, has not taken a vote on a ballot question that has no direct impact on the schools, nor have we been going around the town stating that the school committee supports the ballot question. It has certainly been noted that six individual members of the committee have endorsed the question, but that’s about it.

As for the school committee agenda, the chair has the responsibility to work with the superintendent to present an agenda to the committee before each meeting. The committee members have a right to respond to a proposed agenda, and request that items be added or deleted from the agenda. If the agenda does not reflect the wishes of the majority of the committee, under Robert’s Rules of Order, the committee has a right to vote to remove an agenda item. After hearing from several committee members, the Community Preservation Act was removed from the final agenda.

Charlie Foskett and Stephen Harrington also made a brief statement in the public participation section of the meeting, as is their right.

Even though it seemed to be a bit of a drama, everything worked the way it was supposed to work.


I am voting YES in November because I believe the small property tax surcharge will lead to spending that makes Arlington a more attractive community, a better place to live, and it will enhance my property values far beyond the cost of the surcharge. That’s why I voted to place the question on the ballot as a Town Meeting Member, and that’s why I will vote YES in November.



Birds are chirping for enchiladas!

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and this is going to be one of the most beautiful days of the year. It’s a wonderful day for enchiladas!

Enchiladas? Don’t the birds normally sing on election day? Well, yes, but in many ways today’s primary election is the whole enchilada.  In most of Arlington, the Democratic primary is the election, as there is no Republican candidate on the ballot for our Representative in Congress, (Governor’s) Councillor, Senator in General Court, and District Attorney. Senator Donnelly is unopposed in the primary, but the remaining races will be decided this evening.

Even where there is an opponent, most pundits, birds, and cats all agree that the only really competitive race in November will be the election for governor. That’s why the birds are singing for the voters of Arlington who will be making their choices today.

The birds are also singing for Martha Coakley, a former Arlington resident who has been very responsive to local governments in her role as Middlesex DA and Attorney General. They like her collaborative style and willingness to listen.

They also sing for Katherine Clark, who was recently elected to Congress to fill the unexpired term of Ed Markey. Not many folks are aware she has a primary opponent, but she needs to win the Democratic primary to continue as our representative.

There is a lot to like about both candidates for Attorney General, but the birds sing with pride for Mike Lake (Lt. Gov.), Tom Conroy (Treasurer), Charlie Shapiro (Governor’s Councillor), and Michael Sullivan (District Attorney).

That said, the birds are really singing for Arlington, with the hope that Arlington will once again be one of the top voting municipalites in a primary election. The birds are singing for you if you visit your friendly poll workers and thank them for making democracy work in Arlington.

So get out there and vote! Polls are open until 8:00 p.m.

Thank you, Arlington

The voters of Arlington elected three school committee members today. I am pleased to have won re-election, and grateful to the voters of Arlington for their support.

Congratulations to Jennifer Susse, who will join us on the committee, and to Bill Hayner who was also re-elected. I am thrilled with the outcome and look forward to working with my colleagues.

School Committee – April 5, 2104: elect 3
Jennifer Susse 3646
Michael Buckley 2268
Paul Schlichtman (i) 3102
Bill Hayner (i) 3131
Write-In 17
Blanks 6154

The results are even more significant when you consider that my campaign raised and spent no money in this election cycle. We didn’t flood mailboxes with postcards, and we didn’t fill lawns with lawn signs. I thought, in this cycle, spending money on children was more important than spending on campaign materials. The voters proved me right.

I am still looking for contributions for the children of my school in Lowell. Please consider sending a contribution to support the children of the Rogers Early Learning Center. Your check, payable to the Lowell K-8 Activity Fund, will make a difference for the Rogers ELC students. Send your check to:
Paul Schlichtman, Principal
Rogers Early Learning Center
43 Highland Street
Lowell, MA 01852

LWV – Vision 2020 candidates night

The League of Women Voters – Vision 2020 candidate debate is available on ACMi Video on Demand! Please take the time to watch it!

Here’s the text of my statements and answers at candidates night:

Opening statement (approximately 0:59):

Thank you, Margaret. Thanks to the League of Women Voters and Vision 2020 for hosting us, and thank you to ACMi TV for bringing this to the living rooms of everybody in Arlington and beyond on cable. I have 31 years in education, as both a teacher, a central office administrator, and a principal. I’ve been involved in Arlington town government since 1993 when I joined Town Meeting, and I’ve been involved ever since. I was appointed to the Minuteman School Committee in 1997, and elected to the Arlington School Committee in 2001 and 2004. I thought I was done in 2007, until Joe Curro became a selectman and I was asked to come onto the committee and fill his vacancy. And now I’m here looking to be re-elected to a three year term. One of the reasons for that, I serve with really remarkable people, and it’s an honor to serve with my six colleagues. And that’s really the prime reason why i want to be re-elected to the school committee, because it’s an honor to serve and solve problems with these folks.
We keep getting better. We’re into continuous improvement Our schools get better every year.
One thing I want you to know is that you’re not going to get a postcard from me this year. I did a calculation last year when I ran for the one year term, and the cost of a postcard to the good voters in Arlington is about the same cost as a field trip for my students in Lowell. I’d rather spend the money on a field trip. And we took our kids from the Rogers Early Learning Center in Lowell to the New England Aquarium last week. Kids went to Boston for the first time. They went to the Imax theater, and it was their first trip to a theater. This was amazing. This is important work we do as educators. That’s who I am. I’m an educator who is involved in public policy and interested in working with you for another three years. Thank you.
Contributions to support the children of the Rogers Early Learning Center would be gratefully accepted. Your check, payable to the Lowell K-8 Activity Fund, will make a difference for the Rogers ELC students. Send your check to:
Paul Schlichtman, Principal
Rogers Early Learning Center
43 Highland Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Question 1 (approximately 1:04): “How would you prioritize the future rebuilding or renovation of Arlington High School and the Minuteman Regional High School?”
Let’s be frank.  Right now, our Minuteman assessment has gone up 61 percent over the past three years, that’s because our share of the school has gone up. We’re now about 38%. The cost to rebuild Minuteman is proportional to our member enrollment. We cannot afford to pay for 40% of Minuteman. We need structural change in the regional agreement at Minuteman in order to be able to afford the reconstruction of that school along with the high school in Arlington, which desperately needs to be rebuilt. So, our priority needs to be pushing forward on Arlington High School and negotiating a new regional agreement with Minuteman that puts our vote at a reasonable share based on our enrollment and our cost. The Minuteman School Committee recently voted to change the regional agreement proposal to us to weaken Arlington’s vote, and if the other towns want us to have a smaller share of the vote, the way to do that: increase their enrollment in the school.
Question 2 (approximately 1:07) What are your top three improvements or goals, small or large, for the Arlington school system?
That’s an easy one. The first, second, and probably third really needs to be in terms of the process of renovating and rebuilding Arlington High School. That said, the other things we really need to do is, we really need to manage our resources well, watch for the increases of enrollment, be proactive in terms of accommodating the increases we are seeing. We’re now over 5000 students. Our enrollment’s increased more than 10% over the past few years, so we have to watch that enrollment increase. And maintaing and improving our quality by maintaining our commitment to continuous improvement within the school system.
Question 3 (approximately 1:13) Would you support a policy that unequivocally funds and sustains the ACE programs at all levels in our schools?
I’m a former gifted coordinator in a past life, so I have a little perspective in this from reality.  In the last decade, in my prior school committee service, we found that 50% of the students at the Ottoson were in the ACE program. And that might be good on one level, but on another level you look at that as that could be a problem with rigor in the schools. I will tell you that we have a limited budget, we have to prioritize, so there’s no such thing as an unequivocal support for one program. We have to look at our priorities. We have to look at our needs. We have to look for the most efficient and best way to advance the needs of our students. We have to look for solutions to our problems, and not accept solutions in search of a problem. So, how do we best educate our kids? We will do it as effectively as we can with technology, with best practices, I’m not going to time myself to any one program.
Question 4 (approximately 1:16): Are you in favor of maintaining the METCO program?
Yes. When I worked in Boston I met many METCO grads and they are all remarkable people. I think its an important program but there’s a real underlying problem in the way the state deals with it. We’re spending 13, 14, 15 thousand dollars on students leaving Boston to charter schools, while we’re getting only a couple of thousand for the METCO students. School choice is at $5000. There’s no equity between the myriad ways to move inter-district within the state. The problems with METCO are a state problem. It needs to be solved, along with the issues of charter school funding and school choice, and other equity issues in terms of inter-district choice.
Question 5 (approximately 1:19): How will you help support our school libraries especially with regard to incorporating new technology?
I think one of the critical issues here is we’ve have had to make some very difficult choices. Back in 2004, when Governor Romney proposed the budget that was enacted that cut our local aid by 20%, that’s when we laid off our elementary librarians. We have not recovered from that damage. There are some trends in education where, in elementary schools, we want to put books in classrooms so all the money out of Arlington’s public budget is going to classroom libraries and not putting books in the libraries, and we’ve been relying on volunteer funds to fund the library. Yes, we need more technology. Yes, it needs to be in our capital plan. Yes, as we move the nature of education, flipping classrooms based on technology, we need the technology to be available in the classroom. And we need to find innovative ways to both fund this and to use this to educate our kids.
Closing statement (approximately 1:23):
Thank you, and it’s a pleasure to go after Mr. Hayner this time and agree with him. One of the reasons why we can agree is, on a regular basis, we come to the public and we talk about the issues of the town. We don’t always agree in the school committee room, but we debate and discuss with respect. I think you can be proud of this school committee. I feel proud to be with these folks on a regular basis. We work hard. We do it well. We try our best to come with reasonable solutions and to advance public education in the Town of Arlington. I would appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve. I want to thank the League of Women Voters, Vision 2020, ACMi TV, and the voters and you who have come out to watch this debate and to become educated about the election. The election is on Saturday, April 5th. I ask for your vote. Thank you very much.