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 www.arlingtonma.gov/elections and candidate information on the League of Women Voters’ website, www.lwva.com. Please take the time to learn about the candidates and participate in shaping our town’s future.