QUERIES FOR HOPEFULS: What basic challenges does Arlington face? How would you address each? Potential candidates for majors offices in the April Town Election answer.
Eyes enrollment, fiscal discipline, affordable housing
Curro: ‘Too many squeezed by cost of living.’
With a decade of experience in key Arlington positions, Joseph Curro Jr. looks forward to serving again on the Board of Selectmen.
He is an official who tries to paint with a broader brush by providing a brief, illustrative story about Arlington at the beginning of meetings he chairs. In this case, asked the three most basic challenges facing the town, he ticks them off with no introduction:
1. School enrollment and facilities pressures;
2. Maintenance of fiscal discipline, financial stability and high service levels; and
3. Housing affordability and economic security.
The incumbent tells how he has addressed each of these challenges, a guide to his aims going forward in his owns words:
Work remains on overcrowding
1. As Arlington’s school enrollment has grown and our high school building has aged, we face significant problems with overcrowding and providing environments to support our educational mission. We have had many successes, but our work is not done.
As a member of the School Enrollment Task Force, I worked with other town and school officials to analyze demographic projections, consider options and to make recommendations to address the skyrocketing student enrollment at all levels of our school system. Our work helped to lay the groundwork for the current and recent projects to expand capacity at Thompson and Hardy, to bring the Gibbs back online as a sixth-grade school, and to initiate a feasibility study for a rebuild of Arlington High School. I supported a proposal to use Community Preservation Act funds to redesign the Hardy playground in parallel with building construction to meet the needs of an expanded school population.
I have worked for many as eight years with the Long-Range Planning Committee to adjust our formulas to increase our school operating budgets, in line with growth in student numbers. I actively supported the renegotiation of the Minuteman Regional Technical High School District agreement to give Arlington a greater voice in Minuteman affairs, a prerequisite for the current project to replace that aging facility.
As a selectman, former School Committee member and past Stratton parent, I was particularly proud to participate in the December ribbon-cutting for the renovated Stratton Elementary School, the capstone event of the nearly two-decade project to rebuild or renovate all seven of our elementary schools.
Once there is an approved design for Arlington High School, we will need to return to the voters to win their support to fund the reconstruction of the building. The Board of Selectmen will decide on the timing of a ballot question, and I intend to be a strong advocate for this long-overdue project.
‘Contiunue to map out scenarios’
2. Arlington’s Long-Range Financial Plan successfully extended an override estimated to last three years to as many as nine. I have been at the table for the past decade, working with stakeholders and policymakers, continually revising estimates, projections and assumptions to reflect our changing fiscal situation and service needs. We must continue to map out scenarios to maintain ongoing stability of municipal finances and work to build strong taxpayer and voter support for new revenue measures to finance core town and school services.
Even as we work locally, it is important that we maintain a strong voice with the commonwealth, upon which we rely for vital aid. I will continue to participate in regular discussions with our legislative delegation, particularly through regular meetings of the Budget and Revenue Task Force and to engage in activities of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the statewide voice of cities and towns. I will continue to advocate for tight coordination between our several financial departments and officials and to support fiscal transparency through the Arlington Visual Budget, Open Checkbook and other mechanisms.
Housing, support efforts
3. Far too many people have been squeezed by an increasing cost of living. This is nowhere more evident than in our rapidly rising housing costs. Between 1994 and 2014, the median cost of a single-family home or a condominium roughly doubled, and about a third of Arlington households are cost-burdened.
I have been proud to support efforts to expand our affordable housing stock by using such tools as Community Development Block Grants and the Community Preservation Act. As a member of the Board of Selectmen, I voted in 2016 to endorse a Housing Production Plan and to join the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, which is tackling the housing problem on a regional basis. I have supported efforts to improve residents’ mobility via all means of transportation, a vital step toward enabling the creation of housing with less costly investment in parking infrastructure.
I argued successfully for the passage by Town Meeting of tax-relief measures for seniors and veterans. I have been a strong proponent for phasing out the water-and-sewer debt shift to property tax bills, a step that would lower relative cost burdens for many smaller households, and I was a leading advocate of Community Choice Aggregation, which has provided green electricity options at a lower cost than Eversource’s standard rates.
For those residents trying to make ends meet, I have actively participated in Arlington’s network of initiatives around food security, including Arlington EATS, Arlington Food Pantry, Food Link, NEAT Community Dinners, Meals on Wheels and efforts to close the SNAP Gap.
If reelected, I will continue to take actions to strengthen our social safety net and to maximize available opportunities to provide tax relief and housing assistance to residents and families in need.
Background to pursue aims
Asked what expertise he offers that reflects how he would address these issues, he responded:
“I have served for a decade in townwide elected office, including four years on the School Committee and six years on the Board of Selectmen. I have also held appointed roles on the Human Rights Commission and Symmes Neighborhood Advisory Committee, and I have represented Precinct 15 for most of the last two decades in Town Meeting.
“I bring a long record of dedicated civic service, past work experience in state and federal government, and a professional background spanning the fields of human services, state government, business, information technology, medical publishing, education and management.
“My graduate degree in international economics and finance prepares me to exercise fiscal oversight, and my extensive time spent abroad and working with individuals of different backgrounds provides me with the necessary experience to effectively serve a diverse constituency.
Cites listening to others
Asked why he wants to run and who he is, he outlined the following:
“I pride myself on showing up, listening to others and taking informed and compassionate actions and decisions. I want to continue supporting Arlington’s excellent professional staff and to provide a voice for residents and community organizations that are doing so much of the hard work in our town.
“Arlington has been nationally recognized as a great place to raise a family. Our excellent location, high-performing schools and vibrant community spirit have contributed to our growth. Arlington is broadly acknowledged for our stable, effective and professional governance, and I feel privileged to play a modest role in that.
“As a father, husband, taxpayer, homeowner, management professional and volunteer in local causes, organizations and community events, I bring many perspectives, which assist me in deliberations around important matters of town business. I have a strong work ethic, and — if reelected — I promise to continue to work hard and to execute my role with honesty and fairness.
“On April 7, I respectfully request of each Arlington voter one of their two votes for selectman.”
To date, three people have taken out papers for the Board of Selectmen — Curro, John Hurd and Michael Ruderman. Incumbent Steve Byrne resigned in December.
Campaign websites: Joe Curro for Board of Selectmen coming) and Facebook
This news summary was published Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.