(Illustration is of a painting by artist Tanya Craig Amberson.)
The 2014 Arlington Town Election is on April 5! A-DOG, a 501c3 nonprofit organization does not endorse candidates for election. However, we urge our Arlington members to be involved, to learn about the candidates and to vote. In addition, we encourage members interested in Town government to consider running to become a Town Meeting Member. Town Meeting is Arlington’s elected legislative body and its decisions have enormous influence on many issues, including those of concern to responsible dog owners. For example:
- Arlington has legal off-leash morning hours because of a very close vote in the 2010 Town Meeting to amend the Animal Control bylaws to allow off leash morning dog recreation. This success came after two consecutive years where off-leash hours was rejected in Town Meeting votes. A-DOG members who are also Town Meeting Members sponsored this successful vote and advocated for it at Town Meeting! After years of debate on this controversial topic, we believe that it was finally successful because A-DOG members became activity involved, including many becoming Town Meeting Members!
- Arlington has a fenced dog park at Thorndike Field because in 2003/2004 Town Meeting voted to amend the bylaws to allow such entities. Then, 2011 Town Meeting voted to appropriate $25,000 in capital funds to cover 10% of the cost of building the dog park (with the remaining 90% funded by the Stanton Foundation grant).
- At 2009 Town Meeting, there was a successful vote, suggested by a resident who was an active opponent of off leash recreation, to increase Arlington’s dog license fees and to institute a costly late fee (that was phased in and is now $50).
- At 2011 Town Meeting, based on a suggestion by another resident who’d had a bad experience with one dog jumping on her mother, there was a successful vote to increase the fines for illegal off-leash activity dramatically, eliminating an initial warning and setting fines for $75 to $200 per incident!
The ballot has already been finalized for the April 5 vote (link will be given below). So, it is too late to get your name on the ballot for this year. This would have required filing papers with signatures (10 to be a Town Meeting Member) in advance. However, if your precinct has a vacancy, you can still become a Town Meeting member this year through the write-in process.
First, ensure that you know your precinct number. Arlington has 21 precincts, determined by street address. Though difficult to read, there is a Precinct map on the Town website. Easier to read is the Precinct Street List made available as a pdf on the A-DOG website.
Once you’ve identified your precinct, check the Town Ballot 2014 available on the Town website and also, for your convenience, as a pdf on the A-DOG website. Scroll down to the Town Meeting Members ballots for all the precincts. If your precinct has “NO CANDIDATE FILED” that means a position open, and you can run as a write-in candidate!
Running as a write-in candidate is simple. Go to the polls on election day (or, if you won’t be in town, fill in an absentee ballot) and write your name and address in the empty spot under Town Meeting Member. Ask your friends, neighbors and family who are voters in your precinct to write in your name and address as well. If you have enough time, have stickers made with your name and address that you can hand out to voters to make it easier for them. The Town Clerk’s office will provide guidance on sticker sizes that will fit on the ballot. Whether or not you use stickers, be sure that your name is spelled in the same way that it appears on the voting registration. Several Town Meeting members joined Town Meeting for the first time this way, some with only one or two votes! But, to give yourself a better chance, try to recruit as many other voters to write you in as possible.
Of course, be sure that you are registered to vote and that you know where your polling place is. Again, the Town Clerk’s website or office is the best resource.
Learn about all the candidates for town wide office by reading their websites and watching the recent candidate debates on Arlington Cable (see ACMI Candidate Debate Videos). Do not be shy about contacting the candidates by email or phone to ask how they feel about issues that are important to you. You are their potential constituents! Besides Town Meeting, the other office that has significant impact on issues of direct concern to dog owners is the Board of Selectmen. This is the 5 person executive branch of our Town government. This year, there are three candidates running for two seats.
For more information, feel free to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions. But, most of all, get involved, VOTE and, if possible, try to get yourself elected by write-in to Town Meeting this year! Once you are elected, you will be able to notify the Clerk as to whether you will accept the appointment and will have plenty of time before Town Meeting begins, on April 28, to have your questions answered. A-DOG has quite a few Town Meeting Members already and we will be happy to help you get ready!
Town Meeting runs every spring, meeting at Town Hall on Monday and Wednesday nights (this year beginning April 28) until the business of the Town (as described in the Warrant, which acts as an agenda) is complete. This generally is only a few weeks. If there is a Special Town Meeting at another time during the year (this is relatively rare) Town Meeting Members will be asked to participate again.