So what do the election results mean?
Hello EALS members and supporters of A Better Mass Ave
Yesterday was quite a day. Turnout was up significantly (29% overall) due, in all likelihood, to the non-binding referendum about traffic lanes on Mass Ave. We are delighted that Kevin Greeley—running on a platform that strongly supported the current 3-lane plan—easily won re-election. He defeated Maria Romano, who made opposition to the Mass Ave plan a core part of her platform, by a 58%-42% margin. We are also pleased to note that Kevin’s votes out numbered Ms. Romano’s by 57 votes in East Arlington.
While clearly a defeat to Question 1 was what we’ve been working towards this spring, it was not to be. The question about retaining 4 traffic lanes on Mass Ave won by a margin of roughly 51%-49%. We came within 237 votes of defeating a referendum that was an overly-simplistic question whether voters preferred 4 lanes without any mention of the trade-offs to pedestrian and bicycle safety, enhancements to Capitol Square, the inability to meet state design standards and, of course, the risk of losing the $6.8m in federal and state funding. Take heart folks, some take-aways from yesterday are that we:
- dispelled the notion that “the 98% majority want 4 lanes.” (Direct quote from YES campaign literature and from Eric Berger’s spoken words).
- rejected the notion that there is a decision message in this vote. Clearly the Town is nearly evenly split on the project, including the neighborhoods that directly abut Mass Ave.
- know through anecdotal evidence that some people were confused by the wording of the ballot. Despite our efforts, we believe that some people who support the project voted “yes” without carefully understanding what the referendum asked.
- look at the Selectmen’s race as a proxy. While both candidates’ position on Mass Ave was crystal clear and central to their campaigns, Kevin Greeley easily defeated his opponent in 17 out of 21 Precincts.
Another clear positive from this election was the enormous support from over 80 election-week volunteers across Arlington with the shared vision of a stronger community tied together with a more livable East Arlington. Our livable streets community is not weaker after this election, but stronger.
Rest assured, EALS Coalition and others will continue to work our tails off to ensure that the corridor plan moves forward to final design and out to bid before the September deadline. Beyond September, the federal/state funding allocation could be removed from the state’s TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) funding cycle, putting us at the back of the long line of towns and cities wanting federal and state aid for road projects.
We are confident that MassDOT and the Federal Highway Administration are not going to put any further roadblocks to the plan because 237 more Arlingtonians voted “yes” to a simplistic and vague ballot question. As a non-binding referendum, it simply provides a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen. We foresee no indication of any weakening of support from the unanimous Board.
While opponents to the Mass Ave plan have surely taken heart to yesterday’s results, in the end, there is no doubt we will have A Better Mass Ave in the near future.
Thanks again to everyone,
-Phil and Chad
PS – EALS next monthly meeting will be Wednesday April 10 at 7:30 at the Fox Library. Clearly, we intend to further analyze election results and will discuss next steps to moving the project forward.