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LETTER: Harrington's Rebuttal to Selectmen's Frustrations

Stephen Harrington, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 13, responds to Selectmen who recently criticized his decision to submit a petition for a Special Town Meeting on Arlington's seasonal ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

The following is a Letter to the Editor from Arlington resident Stephen Harrington, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 13. Harrington regarding Arlington's seasonal ban on gas-powered leaf blowers. His decision to submit the petition .

The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) is a private non-profit that has served, since 1972, the communities of Somerville, Medford and Arlington to  protect and restore the Mystic River by mobilizing volunteers. A laudable mission. Most of  MyRWA's funding comes from State and local grants of which 20 percent is given in compensation to the executive director, according to the most recent IRS filings available.

Since at least 2006, and possibly for more than 10 years, MyRWA has had office space in the Town owned Central School building directly behind .  This private group occupies 769 square feet of office space in that building that also rents space, for about $19 a square foot, to a variety of other private non-profits, such as the Arlington Housing Corp and the Schools for Children as well as several State agencies.

The Town of Arlington, through the Department of Community Planning and the Redevelopment Board, has allowed MyRWA to occupy that space, which arguably is worth $15,000 per year, for nothing, nada, zip. By the Town's own calculation, the lights, heating and other operating expenses exceed $5,000 per year for the office that MyRWA occupies, rent free.

The Planning Department and the Redevelopment Board have no authority to give away public resources ($150,000 over the past 10 years) to select, private groups. Recently, I directed the Town Manager to start collecting rents from MyRWA, although he only agreed to charge MyRWA the $5,000 or so per year operating expenses and not the $19/square foot market rate that other, also worthy, non-profits pay for rent. The free rent and give-away of public resources to the MyRWA is hardly an isolated case and the Town has an obligation to end this practice.

Compare this one example of the Town giving tens of thousands of dollars of public resources to privileged groups, while also complaining in the media and of the relatively small expense of citizens exercising their civil rights and calling for a Town Meeting or Special Election that our elected officials do not support. The $15,000 a year in rent that the Town must collect from this one group is enough to cover the cost of three Special Town Meetings, every year for the foreseeable future, that residents of Arlington should feel free to use to exercise their civil rights and have their grievances heard by our elected representatives.

Stephen Harrington
Town Meeting Member
Precinct 13

Cornelius Cob September 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM
"Before a man speaks it is always safe to assume that he is a fool. After he speaks, it is seldom necessary to assume it." H. L. Mencken
Tony September 12, 2012 at 02:42 PM
That's right - Arlington wastes our money on MyRWA rent, so you should be able to waste our money as well! That is a very convincing argument - here, please take another 100 bucks from me! :-) It also shows your political professionalism that you don't mention the 30k it cost to hold the special election. Facts only get in the way of the good fight for leafblowers... And I'm delighted to see, that you found a way to top your First Amendment rhetoric by now pointing your finger at something that really has nothing to do whatsoever with this whole matter.
Jared September 12, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Stephen, I appreciate you taking a stance against a bill which many of us do not agree with. However I have to agree that citing a separate instance of waste and trying to tie it to your previous issue is a stretch, and in poor taste. This waste of taxpayer money is another great issue, but stick to the facts of what you are trying to get accomplished, don't get distracted with other issues or you risk losing credibility.
marianne September 13, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Are we 7 years old? Next I expect to hear "I know you are, but what am I" or some equally rediculous childhood rant.
SteveM September 13, 2012 at 04:12 AM
That's all great information and all - but the town wasting money on something justifies wasting money on something else how? This is possibly the worst opinion piece - judged by the article containing relevant facts and information in support of the overall argument - i've ever seen on this site. I probably agree with your overall point. However, your argument is awful and, quite frankly, you should be ashamed to attach your name to this in a public forum. You have gained no credibility, and most likely lost a fair amount by posting this in the first place.
concerned September 20, 2012 at 01:46 AM
As a member of the Athletic Advisory committee, what have you done about the Friends of Arlington High School Hockey, Inc. and the fact that they have been collecting money under the guise of supporting arlington high school hockey. THe Inc. was dissolved in june and according to the attorney generals hotline and the IRS, they have never filed a tax return. Maybe,this is an issue you can attach yourself to and urge all parents to only support high school sports through parent booster clubs.
Stephen September 20, 2012 at 04:40 AM
There is so much wasted spending, money to special interests, money to political supporters, money to hire relatives and friends, that it is hard to focus on just one. Why don't you run with this problem and instead of merely being "concerned", become involved.

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