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Renewal OK'd for energy program, called highly successful

Select Board logo
"I’m one of the 100-percent customers, which I’m proud of."

-- Dan Dunn

Arlington plans to renew its community choice aggregation (CCA) energy contract for the next three years.

The town’s goals are to maintain its savings over the length of the contract, increase the mix of renewables up to the best percentage the town manager finds feasible and sustain Arlington’s membership in the default rate. This decision was unanimously approved at the May 20 Select Board meeting.

CCA programs allow local governments to procure power from an alternative supplier while still receiving transmission and distribution service from their existing utility provider. By aggregating demand, communities gain leverage to negotiate better rates with competitive suppliers and choose greener power sources.

Program wildly successful

“We thought this would be successful at the outset, and it’s been successful beyond our wildest expectations, saving close to $2 1/2 million,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.

Philip Carr, New England regional director of Good Energy, said, “When we started this program, we didn’t expect Arlington’s default rate to beat the utility’s rate at every rate change, which is what it’s done, and we’re excited about that. The summer rate is going to be $10.83.”

“Of the originally eligible 18,500 accounts, we have an 88-percent enrollment rate of 16,147 accounts, which is excellent. These aggregation programs generally fade over time, yet Arlington’s has grown,” Carr added.

“Arlington has both a 50-percent option and a 100-percent option. “The 50-percent option is a good product to have, and I think more people will start enrolling in that. The town has 353 accounts enrolled in the 100 percent, which is quite high,” said Carr.

“From a renewable energy perspective, through November 2018 Arlington has used 9,000 Class 1 Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), the equivalent of eight megawatts of solar,” explained Carr.

“Arlington’s RECs supplier is the Green Energy Consumer’s Alliance, which takes title direct and signs contracts for new projects. By taking on that risk, and selling you those RECS, you can purchase from specific and identifiable projects, which is unique. Many towns and cities that do not have Green Energy Consumer’s Alliance can’t make claims that Arlington makes, and that’s a big deal,” said Carr.

Green Energy Consumer’s Alliance also has standards about what they believe is acceptable. For example, they use energy only from New England and won’t use any RECs that come from biomass, added Carr.

“Arlington’s contract expires at the end of the year, so now is a good time to go out to bid, and determine how much clean energy we want to include. May 29 is bid day, and we’re bidding now for December renewal. We can chose when to buy and how long to buy. Our biggest decision is to determine what additional percentage you want to have, finding the sweet spot between reflecting Arlington’s values and not go too far above the utility rate and lose money,” explained Carr.

“From a town perspective, they’re advising us that now is a good time to buy, based on what’s happening in the market. We want to make sure we’re locking in prudently, but without the risk of losing the program,” said Chapdelaine.

Select Vice Chair Dan Dunn said, “I’m been pleased with how the program has played out for the past two years. I’m one of the 100-percent customers, which I’m proud of.”

“The numbers speak for themselves. Obviously, we’re getting the message out, and people understand the concept of the program, said Select Chair Diane Mahon.

“They also provide good customer service,” said Chapdelaine.

Residents offer input

The Select Board made its decision after listening to several Arlington residents express support for community choice aggregation, and the need to increase renewable energy.

“These programs are great, but the bigger picture is a moral obligation to stand together to work for climate change,” said Tom Ehbrecht. “East Arlington is only a few feet above sea level, and even though protected by the Amelia Earhart Dam in Everett, storm surge got within 2 1/2 feet of going over that dam twice this year, and climate change will only get worse. And our fossil fuel use is still at 60 to 70 percent. My request is we use the CCA as a tool to get people to change their behavior.”

Amy Antczak, a member of Mothers out Front, said, “The U.N. has advised that we have only 11 years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. Today’s young people will grow up in a climate that’s altered by our choices that we make today. If we want to make sure our children have a livable climate, we need to take bold action now. I urge you to consider raising the default rate for renewable energy to the highest rate feasible. If we’re to reach the goal of being carbon neutral in the near future, this is the best way.”

Resident Roger Rosen said: “We cannot solve this crisis as individuals, we must act on a larger scale. Raising the CCA rate to the highest feasible rate is one of the most effect and important actions we can take as a town to become part of the solution to the climate crisis.”

Brucie Moulton, a member of Sustainable Arlington and Mothers out Front, said, “Our community choice aggregation is a cheap and easy option for fighting climate change at the local level, but we need to include an option for a better rate, and to include more renewable energy at the default level, if that’s an option.”

Amos Meeks, cochair of Sustainable Arlington, said “While saving money is good, the majority of residents are willing to pay more for more renewable electricity. Plus this would set an example for towns across the state.”

Before voting, board member Dunn said, "I agree with the logic of wanting the project to be financially viable, but don't have any idea of what the right number should be." He then made a motion, open for discussion, to match what the board eventually agreed to, "but with the mix of renewables up to 10 percent.

Small-cell wireless facility policy

The board voted unanimously to establish a baseline policy for small-cell wireless facilities, especially those attached to any town property. The Inspectional Services Department will be authorized to serve as the board’s designated agent, and to present proposed design guidelines to be promulgated later, with the maximum fees allowable.

In a draft memo to the board, Town Counsel Doug Heim wrote, “The goal of this policy and the application process shall be to ensure the safety, non-interference, and visual quality of the public right of way and the town generally, while also providing the benefits of improved cell service consistent with this Board’s grant of location practices.

“The FCC issued a rule that diminishes our local control over small-cell wireless facilities attached to utility and other poles that help provide 5G wireless. This rule diminished the local community’s ability to regulate small-cell wireless facilities in certain ways. They capped us at being able to assess only certain fees, and shortened the time for consideration of small-cell wireless facilities, which creates pressure on local decision makers and the opportunity to litigate with the FCC,” explained Heim.

“However, we can still regulate some things such as certain aesthetic aspects and assess some fees, yet we’re not allowed to engage in regulatory conduct that would be pre-emptive of small-cell wireless facilities. Verizon is allowing us time to develop regulations before they seek any small-cell wireless facilities, such as permits on town property,” added Heim.

Town Meeting member Jordan Weinstein asked whether the FCC, in the light of potential health hazards of 5G radio waves in close proximity to residential buildings, provides any leeway to use our Department of Public Health to provide regulations or investigate this.

Heim responded, “We can’t prohibit small-cell wireless based on a public health concern. However, we can require the utilities to submit certain information about the radio frequencies, and prohibit them from being within a certain radius of each other, and so regulate how many of them we have in a certain concentrated area.”

Redevelopment Board appointment

Architect Rachel Zsembery will join the Redevelopment Board, as unanimously approved by the board. Her term expires June 30, 2020. She fills the spot vacated earlier this year by Andrew West.

Zsembery wrote that she’s the vice president of Bergmeyer Associates Inc., a Boston-based architecture and interiors firm, overseeing architects and interior designers committed to balancing architectural design and commercial development with environment stewardship, economic viability and social equity, in a letter to Jennifer Raitt, director, Department of Planning and Community Development.

“I bring a long history of commercial, restaurant and retail development experience,” she wrote. “ I’ve worked across the country and met with quite a few redevelopment/zoning boards, and recently worked with the signage amendment to Arlington’s zoning bylaws, and am excited to join the Redevelopment Board.”

Dunn said, “You have great qualifications and we’re lucky to have you.”

Permits and licenses

Taxi operator permits

The board unanimously approved the following 2019 taxi operator permit renewals:

  • Arlington Transportation Co., 13 cabs (uses only four)
  • Arlington Veteran’s Taxi, two cabs
  • Boston Airport Express, one cab
  • Leo’s Taxi Service, one cab
  • Vernon Transpiration Service (VTS), one cab
Contractor/drainlayer licenses

The board unanimously approved the following contractor/drainlayer licenses:

  • Marchi Paving Inc., West Newton
  • StrongBack Systems, Billerica
Special requests

The Select Board unanimously approved:

  • Wine sales to the weekly Farmers’ Market, Pony Shack Cider, Inc., Boxborough; and
  • One-day beer and wine license, Robbins Memorial Town Hall, private event, June 7.

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Monday, May 27, 2019.





June festivals/events

The rainy season appears to be over (thankfully), and it’s time to celebrate the coming of summer. The board unanimously approved the following events:

Soap box derby

If driving motorless, improvised vehicles made from crates is your thing, stop by the annual Arlington Soap Box Derby on June 8 (rain date: June 9). The spectator area is at Robbins Farm Park.

“We’ve been doing this race for 11 years, and it’s grown into a nice community event,” said Joe Barr, race director.

Barr’s son, John, who participates in the race and went to last year’s world championships, said, “It’s fun for any kid, and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”

“Thank you for bringing this event to Arlington. Many people in the region are psyched that they’re coming to Arlington to participate,” said Mahon.

For more information about the race, contact Joe Barr, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

June is Pride Month

Next month, be on the lookout for special Town Hall decorations in honor of the town’s second annual Pride Month, as unanimously approved by the board.

Pride flags will adorn the façade, rainbow stripes painted on the crosswalk in front, and a night-time rainbow light displayed.

Bill Gardner, LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission member, said, “Last year’s Pride Month was a tremendous success. This year, we’re adding not only Pride Day on June 9, which 150 people attended last year, but the Porchfest event the day before, on June 8.”

“Thank you for supporting the LGBTQIA+ neighbors in our community, and helping us celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots,” the catalyst for the gay rights movement, Gardner added.

Mahon said, “We’re pleased with what you’ve turned into a community event, and I like seeing the Town Hall façade with all the rainbow colors. This has raised awareness in Arlington of what we say our commitments are when we talk about diversity and tolerance.”

Feast of the East

Come join the festivities on Saturday, June 15, from 12 to 4 p.m., at Arlington’s 21st annual Feast of the East, in Capitol Square (Mass. Ave. from Lake to Amsden streets).

The celebration features “food, music, and family entertainment for several blocks in East Arlington,” wrote Leslie Tolman, Feast of the East coordinator, in a memo to the board.

“It’s fabulous, and I hope everyone comes,” said Tolman.

Arlington Alive Summer Arts Block Party

The fun continues on Saturday, June 29, from 1 to 7 p.m., at the Arlington Alive Summer Arts Block Party, on Medford Street from Mass. Ave. to the Russell Common Lot entrance.

The party is “a 6-hour free street festival that showcases the vibrant business community of Arlington center. Learn about the rich cultural fabric of our community, visit our shops, and enjoy quality music and entertainment. (The performance schedule will be coordinated with the nearby beer garden happening that day),” Leland Stein, of the Arlington Center Merchants Group and Medford Street Merchants, the event sponsors, wrote in a memo to the board.

“It’s a great way to celebrate Arlington’s inclusion as a designated cultural district, and this community event will be exciting for our town and good for local businesses,” said Stein.

Townwide yard sale next spring

Save your stuff!

Arlington will hold a townwide yard sale next spring, in 2020, as unanimously approved by the board, giving people plenty of time to clean out their basements, attics and garages.

“I apologize that the date for the yard sale is not spring 2019 [as listed in the agenda], but spring 2020,” said Charlotte Milan, recycling coordinator.

“Any household that wants to participate is encouraged to register and pay the $10 fee to have their home and address listed in a map provided the day before the sale,” explained Milan.

In a memo to the board, Milan wrote, “the yard sale will promote the reuse, sharing, and redistribution of material goods among neighbors and within the town.” Milan proposes that the money raised be donated to the schools’ Green Teams.

“This idea was brought to me by Arlington residents and people in my department who think that a town-wide yard sale would be fun, build community spirit and be in line with other activities aimed at waste reduction,” added Milan.

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Sunday, May 26, 2019.

A senior on a 'fixed income' endorses 2 yes votes

real estate taxes 200

Let's be clear about two ballot questions town residents face June 11: I recommend yes votes on both.

I do not do this lightly. Since starting YourArlington.com in 2006, I have written only one other editorial endorsement -- favoring the Community Preservation Act in 2014.

Because I write about many town issues as a reporter, goals of fairness and impartiality keep me from taking sides on issues editorially. However, on the two votes in June, I must urge a choice.

Voting yes on both issues June 11 is the best path for Arlington’s future and our children’s education. Now is the time to approve a rebuilt public high school for the 21st century and support continuing town services.

Read more: A senior on a 'fixed income' endorses 2 yes votes

Long wait lists for after-school programs

The waiting lists for parents to enter their children into after-school programs continue to lengthen this year. 

School Committee logo

A report about enrollment in after-school programs for 2019-2020 from Chief Financial Officer Michael Mason, reveals that as of May 6, many of the programs already have lengthy waiting lists. Dallin’s program, the Afterschool Connection, lists an enrollment of 187 children with 59 on the waiting list.

The School Committee was told May 9 that several other programs report many students on their waiting lists: Peirce, 41; Thompson, 40; Hardy, 35; Brackett, 22; and Stratton, 21. Only four students are on the waiting list for after-school spots at the Bishop which had none wait-listed the year before. See memo and chart here >> 

Mason further broke down the after-school applicants by levels: 83 percent are in K-5 and the remaining 13 percent in the middle schools.

The chart, displaying the finances and enrollment for the after-school program, Mason said, was still a work in progress. The enumeration of children already enrolled in after-school programs has been impeded by lack of reporting, more specifically by the nondistrict-sponsored programs. In addition, data on the middle schools are either missing or fragmentary since the programs started enrollment later.

Paul Schlichtman advised that it is important to become partners with the private providers and work more closely together. He is the committee secretary, but chaired the meeting because Len Kardon was delayed and Jane Morgan, the vice chair, was absent.

“This is the first time we have had any data,” member Kirsi Allison-Ampe reminded the committee, despite some gaps.

Kardon and others on committee concurred that the chart was a valuable first step since last year, when many parents alerted the committee to the dearth of available day-care slots.

See links at the end of this summary to two 2018 YourArlington news reports about the lack of after-school slots last year.

Going forward, Kardon said, data that would be even more valuable “is what is the available space [for after-school programs].” This is necessary, he continued, “because any waitlist over 30 is a problem.”

What constitutes available space, however, turns out to be a complicated question. Customarily, it is up to school principals to report what would be considered surplus space and the ways of determining what is surplus vary considerably.

For instance, are classrooms surplus space? As a former teacher teacher, member Bill Hayner described how teachers were frequently upset by the condition of their classrooms after an after-school program has used them. He said that “some programs are excellent, most are not.”

Mason agreed to update his report, which would include, as much as can be determined, additional space in each school. The committee decided to meet in October to reframe the questions and include others for a new after-school program survey to better inform policy.

Racially troubling question on MCAS essay

Members also addressed a disturbing question on the 10-grade MCAS test and qualification barriers to recruiting out-of-state applicants for teaching positions.

As to MCAS, members passed unanimously, 5-0, the “Resolution to Hold Harmless 2019 10th-grade MCAS Due to Racially Troubling Question” and the “Resolution Pertaining Educator Diversity and Professional Licensure.” See both here >> 

A 10th-grade MCAS essay question asked the student to write an essay from the point of view of a racist woman appearing in Colson Whitehead’s novel, The Underground Railroad. Schlichtman asked committee members to sign on to a resolution, written by two members of Somerville School Committee about that essay question. The resolution asks the state Department of Secondary Education to exempt 10th-grade students from this test as a graduation requirement.

Hayner commented that in the past teachers were allowed to discuss questions after the exam and give feedback to the MCAS staff about test issues of clarity and relevance. Now restrictions forbid any discussion of test contents, so, he said, this is an example of what happens when teachers not being able to evaluate the test and give feedback.

Allison-Ampe reminded the committee that there was a question of a similar style among the test review questions, and she wanted parents to know there were concerns.

Schlichtman pointed out that students “traumatized [by the essay assignment] might not be able to perform on the rest of the test” and therefore the 10th-grade MCAS scores should not count for graduation.

Hayner inquired whether MCAS test results had ever been thrown out before. Schlichtman replied that not in Massachusetts, but in other states.

Hayner thought this resolution would “push MCAS to be accountable.” They should be informed that it was “causing consternation among students and having a negative effect.”

Committee member Jennifer Susse asked whether all students were asked to respond to this question. Schlichtman replied, “no,” that the essay question “was pulled halfway through testing.” He praised the commissioner of education, Jeffrey C. Riley, for pulling the question right away once it was reported and taking ownership of the problem.

The committee voted to support the resolution, 5-0, and send it to the state Department of Education and the governor.

Change of teacher licensure rules backed

Schlichtman introduced a resolution to change licensure requirements, which he described as a barrier to creating a more diverse teaching staff. As a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council, he reported on its discussion about excessive requirements for licensure, making it difficult to recruit teachers from out-of-state. This difficulty, he said, leads to a much smaller pool of minority candidates.

The current regulations, established by John Silber, a former chair of the Board of Education, were instituted in 1998. Under them, a provisional teacher, in addition to having a bachelor’s degree with appropriate courses, must pass a series of tests called MTEL, https://www.mtel.nesinc.com/ which stands for Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure.

They includes a writing sample, a reading subtest of 42 multiple-choice questions, a writing subtest of 35 multiple choice questions, seven short-answer correction items and two open-response assignments. Subject tests take another four hours, with as many as 100 multiple choice questions and two open-response assignments.

Schlichtman argued that the process of requiring all of these tests acts as a deterrent to out-of-state candidates who need to take fewer tests in other states and reducing the diversity of the applicant pool. Moreover, he said, there is no empirical evidence that the testing screens out unqualified teachers.

“Teachers are not involved in licensure,” Schlichtman said, as he lodged another criticism of the certification process. “Teacher licensure in Massachusetts is governed by those who are not teachers.”

In addition, Hayner reminded the committee that provisional teachers are evaluated during their first 90 days in the classroom and can be dismissed if found unqualified. Because of this process, he asserted, much of the teacher testing is unnecessary.

The committee voted to support the resolution, 5-0.

Science curriculum, tech plan

In other business, the committee heard an update on the new science standards curriculum by Science Coordinator Larry Weathers and Technology Plan by Assistant Superintendent Rod MacNeal, Chief Technology Officer David Good with Susan Bisson. See the presentations here >> 

The meeting was adjourned at 9:30.

June 2, 2018: After-school programs add slots for next year, but a broader solution remains

April 21, 2018: Parents seek answers to after-school child-care puzzle

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published  Friday, May 17, 2019.

Calendar test

Quote bar, red Gathering Monday at Town Hall
A solidarity gathering for the Center for Jewish Life of Arlington/Belmont, twice hit by suspicious fires this month, is set for 6 p.m. Monday, May 20, at Town Hall.

The host is the town's Human Rights Commission.

This gathering is in support and solidarity for the Jewish community and to empower each of us to take action against all acts of hate, bias and discrimination.

Quote bar, red

According to The New York Times, Terry’s music has “helped redefine Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz as a complex new idiom.” DownBeat Magazine praises his work as being “physical, cerebral and spiritual music, with a lot of stories to tell.”

The festival also continues to champion the vibrant jazz scene that flourishes beyond Boston’s city limits. An abundance of local talent will be on full display, including performances by Albino Mbie, Mimi Rabson, David Harris, Hilary Noble, Tino D'Agostino and special guest award-winning saxophonist Carla Marciano from Salerno Italy, making a special stop in Arlington while on a U.S. tour with her quartet.

Complete listing

For a complete list of all the artists involved this year, click here >> 

The festival, which receives organizing and production assistance from Arlington-based Morningside Music Studio, has this solid mission: to raise awareness and appreciation of jazz through the confluence of top performers, local rising ensembles and student groups, while also fostering a sense of community and an appreciation that Arlington and surrounding towns are indeed a cultural destination.

Further background

Since arriving in New York City in 1999, Cuban saxophonist, percussionist and composer Terry “has helped redefine Latin jazz as a complex new idiom,” The New York Times reports. Born into an illustrious musical family in Camaguey, Cuba, Terry is an internationally acclaimed composer, saxophonist, percussionist, bandleader, educator and cultural bearer of the Afro-Cuban tradition.

After immersing himself in European classics at Havana’s National School of Arts and Amadeo Roldan Conservatory he went on to perform with major figures in every realm of Cuban music, including celebrated nueva trova singer/guitarist Silvio Rodriguez, pianists Chucho Valdes and Frank Emilio, and Don Pancho y Los Terry, the band led by his father, violinist and shekere master Eladio “Don Pancho” Terry Gonzales.

From his earliest days in New York, Terry has been embraced by the jazz and contemporary music community, playing with Branford Marsalis, Rufus Reid, Dave Douglas, Steve Coleman, Roy Hargrove, Henry Threadgill, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Taj Mahal and the Eddie Palmieri Afro-Caribbean Sextet.

While best known as a blazing improviser, he’s rapidly gaining renown as a composer, bandleader and educator with a string of high-profile awards, appointments and commissions. In 2015, Terry received the Doris Duke Artist Award and was hired by Harvard University as director of jazz ensembles and senior lecturer on music.

Who's behind festival

The nonprofit annual Arlington Jazz Festival is coordinated with assistance from Morningside Music Studio, directed by Dan Fox, an Arlington resident, who is a multi-instrumentalist and music educator. He established Morningside Music Studio 12 years ago to provide area students of all ages and musical abilities the opportunity to play in weekly ensembles and in recital concerts open to the public.

In other words, he offers wholehearted encouragement to “keep the groove in your life.” The Arlington Jazz Festival, also established by Fox, is supported in part by a grant from the Arlington Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

April is observed nationally as Jazz Appreciation Month, and since 2012, International Jazz Day has fallen on April 30. The festival coincides with the celebration of Jazz Week in Boston and surrounding areas. 

April 2019: Patitucci headlined 7th Arlington Jazz Festival

This announcement was published Thursday, March 21, 2019.

SERIOUS, GRAND: Arlington doctor wins story competition

robin sons 300 4719 Dr. Robin Schoenthaler and her sons. WHO's WHO?

Your voice tells your story, if you let it, and so it is with Dr. Robin Schoenthaler.

Speaking in a breathy rush -- responsive, like water bubbling in spring, the sound of courage overcoming fear -- the Arlington doctor won the Moth storySLAM before an estimated 1,100 people, including a crowd from town, at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

Her five-minute, true tale of loss leavened with humor was judged best among 10 speakers on March 26.

"I never thought I'd win," she said in an March 31 telephone interview. Why? Because of the competition and a the darkness of her story.

She called participating in the story-telling challenge in front of many she knew "life-enhancing ... so exciting." She said she was "completely high for days."

The tide of response and applause has stayed with her, she said, because she "got to say Ryan's name three times in front of everyone." Ryan was her son who died in June 1994, nine days after his birth.

Cycling in Thailand

Her winning story, told in the ornate, 1903 Beaux-Arts Boston theater, focuses on a cycling trip in Thailand six months after her loss.

Many stories that night were lighter in theme, a number touched with humor. So was hers.

"Using the bike tour as a backdrop to process major grief," she said the story's shape ricocheted between dying and surviving.

How did she blunt the serious edges? With the wit implicit in the reality that she was not a cyclist.

She booked the trip as a salve to her spirit, but, she realized, laughing, "they expected me to ride a bike." Indeed, they did, and so she pedaled on.

Losing a holiday

Another theme added irony: For her, the trip "obliterated Christmas."

Her flight out of Logan left for Thailand on Dec. 24. Crossing the International Dateline, she arrived Dec. 26. She "missed" Dec. 25.

For those with grief, fresh or aging, holidays are "brutal," she said, so skipping over Christmas served as kind of relief. [I AM GUESSING ON THIS. WAS IT TRUE?]

The Moth has been with us since 1997, since novelist George Dawes Green sought to recreate sultry summer evenings in his native Georgia. There, moths were attracted to the light on the porch, where he and friends would gather to tell true tales. Begun in New York, the stories have branched out nationwide.

No doubt those tales took longer than five minutes, the limit for Moth competition. And as was likely true about the original living-room gatherings, the teller has no notes.

An author of essays for about a decade -- read one here about her son, Ryan -- Schoenthaler turned to story-telling the last few years, beginning casually in Moth events. Her practice as a physician provides grist for many narrative directions.

Significant prep

Using your voice to tell a story is "a totally different craft" than essay writing, she said, but each requires significant preparation.

Your tale is not extemporaneous; it must be true, personal, have movement, crafted in advance and roughly committed to memory. Schoenthaler's matured in 11 drafts.

At the Cutler Majestic, all competitors had won  Moth StorySLAMS -- walk-in live, story-telling events designed around a theme. Schoenthaler had participated in a number of these slams, sometimes on stage with semiprofessional story tellers, sometimes with fun people who like to spin out a yarn.

She won a StorySLam at  ONCE, a Somerville nightclub, last May, when she told a story on the theme “Falls.” This qualified her for the championship with the nine other StorySLAM winners. 

She won the Moth grand slam March 26, against those she considers "semipros, often funny, gifted."

The judges are the members of the audience; she called the process "arbitrary."

Familiar faces

"A huge part of the night was the fact that Arlington poured out in support, as did my co-workers from Emerson Hospital and MGH," she said. "The audience support was just fantastic. But the best part of it was that both my sons were there.”

In the audience were Cooper, 19, studying finance at Northeastern, and Kenzie, 23, majoring in biology at Leslie.

These "fans" were shouting, she said.

A 1987 UCLA Medical School graduate, in her native California, she has been a physician 30-plus years. Among other duties, she cares for cancer patients at Emerson. Look into an earlier essay, and you will find out lessons she has learned  

Writing by Dr. Robin Schoenthaler 

This news feature was published Monday, April 9, 2019.

First 5-year school budget plan explained to committee

The first five-year plan for the school budget was rolled out on March 28 at the School Committee by the chair of the School Committee budget subcommittee, Len Kardon. 

School Committee logo

As part of the town long-ranging planning effort, the roadmap encompasses budget increases to meet increasing enrollment, to close the achievement gap, ensure safe and supportive schools, and make improvements in staff recruitment, retrenchment and training.

Kardon laid out the various parts of the budget and their specific yearly targeted increases. First, he said, the plan sees the general-education budget increase by 3.5 percent a year, while the operating budget would rise by 3.25 percent a year. Special-education costs, which could vary between 6 to 8 percent a year, are now budgeted at a flat 7 percent a year for the five years.

Second, Kardon addressed enrollment growth, which has challenged the school department to meet the needs of the increasing student population since 2014. At the March 25 Select Board meeting, he said the school system could expect to have an additional 600 students over the next five years. As he explained to the School Committee, it would be important to increase the enrollment-growth factor. WHICH IS WHAT? The goal, he explained, is to keep class sizes to 25 and under except for the high school where core classes would be below 27 and science classes below 25.

Third, Kardon proposed that to close the achievement gap, funds need to increase to improve instruction. For special attention, in terms of the budget, was the achievement gap for high-needs students (current or former English language learners, special-education students and those students who are economically disadvantaged).

Other initiatives include restructuring elementary specialist staffing, implementing math intervention models for the elementary schools, and expanding and improving special-education programming. For all of these additions, the plan budgets $2.5 million.

A fourth addition to the budget would be $0.4 million for safe and supportive schools. This would pay for additional social workers and a lead counselor for the high school plus restoring part-time administrative assistants to all the elementary schools.

Finally, Kardon proposed a “bucket” for an additional $1.3 million to attract, retain and develop talented staff.

A priority was increasing salaries so the Arlington could successful compete with the other 12 school systems against which the district is measured.

See documents supporting this discussion as well as Kardon's plan >> 

Bodie announced that a community forum about the fiscal 2020 school budget is set for the Gibbs School on Wednesday, April 10

Two new positions approved

Not waiting until budget increases are approved, Robert Spiegel, director of human resources, proposed two newly created positions for next year, so hiring could start now: a librarian with a strong background in technology and a full-time elementary science coach.

Committee members asked about the necessary certification for the librarian with technology skills. Would the applicant have to be certified in both? Spiegel said the applicant should be certified as an librarian and, in addition, show considerable knowledge in the field of technology. The committee voted unanimously to approve these positions.

There were no supporting documents under the committee's agenda for this item.

AHS rebuild update

In other business, committee member Jeff Thielman, Principal Matt Janger and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine gave presentation about the high school rebuild project. The final cost remains at $291.4 million.

On April 10, the state School Building Authority, the agency that approves the project and the town share of its funds, will decide whether the project moves on and the percentage of costs that the state will absorb. Chapdelaine estimates that it will be around 30 percent.

Here is a link to the presentation >> 

In addition, the Chief Financial Officer Michael Mason presented the February budget report, and Superintendent Kathy Bodie informed the committee about measures that have and will be taken concerning the needles found on the playground during an after-school program at Gibbs two days earlier.

Bodie's measures included having the school personal comb the area to see whether other needles could be found, have teachers instruct students never to touch needles but to report them to an adult, and sending home a note to parents on how to instruct their children. 

She stressed the needles never should be picked and once spotted, the police should be called immediately.  She added that needles are found in Arlington public parks frequently. 

She also said that the number of fee-paying foreign students has declined because of concerns with school shootings and the political climate. 

The committee then adjourned for an executive session to discuss the superintendent’s salary.


The schools' 5-year budget plan


March 28, 2019: Select Board takes steps toward June votes, outlining goals

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

Proposed zoning changes spark debate over livability, affordability

Arlington zoning map, 2017

The Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB) on March 27 adopted an amended version of controversial zoning changes following three well-attended hearings. The move sends the changes to Town Meeting, which will vote on the proposals at its annual meeting, beginning April 22.

A citizens' group, Arlington Residents for Responsible Redevelopment, has been questioning the proposals since December, and residents weighing in at a March 11 public hearing opposed the changes – as then proposed – by a 2-to-1 margin.

“Be the gatekeepers and say no,” John Worden, a former longtime Town Meeting moderator, urged the Redevelopment Board on March 11. “It’s too quick, it’s too soon, it’s too high, it’s too wide. It does all the things to detract from this town that we love.”

The hearing, which drew about 80 people, including about a dozen Town Meeting members, focused on Articles 6, 7, 8 and 9 (see sidebar below, "Summary of proposed changes"). Hearings on March 18 and 25 dealt with other “density” articles. YourArlington will publish a separate report about the March 27 changes.

Read more: Proposed zoning changes spark debate over livability, affordability

'Me and My Girl' at AHS opening Friday

Me and My Girl dances into AHS. / Carla DeFord photo

“Me and My Girl,” a musical smashup between British low life and aristocracy, dances across the Lowe Auditorium stage at Arlington High School (AHS) on April 5, 6, and 7.

For the full story plus numerous photos, all by Carla DeFord, click here >>

The show tunefully follows an itinerant fruit seller and pickpocket who discovers he is heir to the Earl of Hareford. His aunt aims to transform him into an aristocrat, but her efforts are blunted because the Cockney hero won’t forsake his love, the girl of the title. The production features more than a dozen hummable tunes with a variety of dance numbers. 

Senior Ben Horsburgh, who plays the lead, Bill Snibson, is well known to AHS audiences, having appeared in “Hello Dolly!,” “Crazy for You” and “Wonderful Town.” Violet de Besche, who plays his girl, Sally Smith, is a transfer student in her first year at AHS.

“Me and My Girl” will be performed on Friday, April 5, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 6, 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 7, 2 p.m. Tickets $15 for adults and $10 for students, are available through cast members, at the AHS main office, by calling 781-316-3589, at the door and online >>

This news announcement was published Sunday, March 31, 2019.

Select Board takes steps toward June votes, outlining goals

Select Board logo “... giving examples is a great idea.”
-- Adam Chapdelaine

The Select Board on Monday, March 25, took steps toward holding votes in June by unanimously approving a draft of fiscal 2020 override commitments, but asked that some of the language be clarified.

Board member Joseph Curro Jr., who drafted the goals, said they “exercise fiscal discipline and provide quality municipal services.”

Specifically, they “provide no Proposition 2½ overrides for at least four years, increase the education budget by 3.5 percent annually, increase the government operating budget by 3.25 percent annually, continue to fund special education at 7 percent per year, minimize the impact on taxpayers, especially seniors and those with income challenges, and maintain our financial reserves at 5 percent or better.” See document >>

Read more: Select Board takes steps toward June votes, outlining goals

Town eyes adding 2 electric-vehicle charging stations

Select Board logo “Eversource is willing to give us two free charging stations because we do so much work for them.”
-- Ken Pruitt, town energy manager

Thinking about buying a new car? Perhaps it’s time to go electric.

Arlington may install two more Eversource electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations, to help reach the town’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. The Select Board unanimously approved a grant application on Monday, March 28 for this installation.

The town has only two charging station, near the Center. The proposed locations are in the Center and the Heights.

Ken Pruitt, Arlington’s energy manager, said, “Eversource is willing to give us two free charging stations because we do so much work for them, and will designate a number of parking spaces as charging spots.”

“The town has been a leader in promoting clean energy and electric vehicles. We want to promote electric vehicles not just for our employees but for residents as well. Chargers benefit residents who don’t have them at their own homes, and benefit businesses by attracting EV drivers to park in a business district,” added Pruitt. Read about his presentation >> 

Select Board member Clarissa Rowe, at her last board meeting before April 6’s election, said, “It’s the way of the future, and it’s great.”

Member John Hurd concurred: “[T]here’s a demand for it.”

Electric bicycles might roll in

The board voted unanimously to endorse legislation for low-powered, pedal-assist electric bicycles.

The town already has a contract with LimeBike, and this legislation seeks to expand that contract. LimeBike has electric bikes.

Electric bicycles are classified into three groups. “Class 1 and 2” bicycle motors can go up to only 20 mph, “Class 3” bicycles motors can reach 28 mph. Only Classes 1 and 2 would be permitted on the Minuteman Bikeway, explained Chris Tonkin, Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee chairman.

Read the supporting documents >> 

The board had mixed feelings about electric bikes.

Hurd said, “I’ve been on assisted bikes, and think they’re great. These e-bikes just give a little boost, and don’t ago anywhere near as fast as some people go on the bike path.”

However, Rowe said, “I see the bikes as adding more confusion and congestion to the bike path. I suggest we have a six-month trial period to see how many accidents we have, especially given the March 24 bike accident tragedy.”

She was referring to the death of Cary Coovert, 71, of Arlington

Heights crosswalk to be improved

Safety will increase, using visibility improvements, at the crosswalk near Trader Joe’s and Starbucks, as unanimously approved by the board.

Daniel Amstutz, Arlington’s senior transportation planner, in a memo to Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, wrote that so far this year, three pedestrian crashes have occurred at this crosswalk. “The crosswalk is uncontrolled, meaning there are no traffic-control devices, such as a stop sign or traffic signal, to designate the right of way for pedestrians versus automobile drivers.”

Rowe said, “One of the things I do professionally is design parking lots, and the lot at Trader Joe’s is one of the worst-designed parking lots in the entire world.”

“The parking lot is well lit, but then you go into a darker space near the crosswalk,” said Select Board Chair Dan Dunn.

In his memo, Amstutz recommends that parking be restricted near the crosswalk on both sides to improve visibility, the street lighting be updated and the warning signage adjusted. Read his memo >> 

Town supports safe routes to schools

The board unanimously approved a Safe Routes to Schools grant provided by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Dunn, in a letter to David Mohler, executive director, Massachusetts Office of Transportation Planning, wrote, “This project will fill a critical infrastructure gap for residents walking in the neighborhood and children and parents traveling to and from the Stratton elementary school.” Read the letter >> 

Board member Joseph Curro Jr. said, “This is the path we’ve walked on to Stratton School, and I’m glad it’s being addressed. This is sorely needed, and the grant is a great piece of work.”

Unwanted library art prints to be deaccessed

Robbins Library used to have a split personality. Is it an art gallery or a library?

“We’re a library, and library space is very precious. I see this deaccession as fulfilling the library’s mission in the present day,” said Andrea Nicolay, Arlington’s director of libraries.

“In 1910, town resident and patron Winfield Robbins amassed a collection of 150,000 art prints during his travels to Europe, most of which he purchased indiscriminately in bulk, and at the time of his death left as a gift to the town to be held in the Robbins library,” the Robbins Library Board of Trustees wrote in a letter to the Select Board. However, “these prints have been consistently declining in value and are of minimal interest to collectors and the public.”

Childs Gallery of Boston described the collection as “$1.3 million dollars of worthless art,” and it takes up a full floor. The only way to access this fund is to deaccess these prints, explained Town Counsel Doug Heim. "Deaccess" means to dispose of by selling.

Because the print collection was a gift to the town, not the library board of trustees, the town has the ability to determine its fate.

The Select Board voted unanimously to allow Robbins Library to deaccess this art, per warrant article 39, Authorization to Deaccess Town Property -- Library Arts Prints.

Robbins Library parking costs to stay the same

Parking fees at Robbins Library, currently $1 an hour, will remain unchanged, per a unanimous vote of no action on Town Meeting Article 40, Robbins Library Parking Costs.

“Library trustees don’t want to examine how parking is functioning now,” said Andrew Fisher, a Friends of Robbins Library member.

“The trustees are happy with the value of the system’s turnover, and are not interested in making drastic changes, although they did express frustration with not providing 15 free minutes in the back lot,” Fisher added.

Tax relief recommended for seniors

The board unanimously agreed to develop more tax relief for the town’s seniors, per Article 38, Set Senior Tax Deferral Limit, and to support Article 43, Means-Tested Senior Tax Relief. For the measures to be approved, Town Meeting must concur.

“This is a really big deal because it takes a very flat tax and makes it a little progressive, which is what Massachusetts struggles with. I’m happy to support it, said Dunn.

CDBG application endorsed

Article 51, Endorsement of CDBG Application, was unanimously endorsed (6-0, including Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine), and will now move to Town Meeting for a final vote.

In a report to Town Meeting, the Community Development Block Grant subcommittee wrote that the town expects to receive $1,100,241 in new grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, $11,114 less than last year’s allocation, based upon a 1-percent reduction.

However, the town anticipates new program income and reprogrammed prior year’s CDBG funds, bringing total allocations to $1,360,241.

CDBG received 27 requests this year, says Julie Wayman, Arlington’s CDBG administrator. These include Arlington High School athletic scholarships, Boys & Girls Club, Commission on Disability, Conservation Commission, Council on Aging, Department of Planning and Community Development, Envision Arlington, Fidelity House, Food Link, Housing Authority, Recreation Department and Youth Counseling Center.

Read the report to Town Meeting >> 

Eat ice cream, support cancer research

Arlington High School’s Scoops Club is holding an ice cream fund-raiser for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, as unanimously approved by the board.

The public is invited, May 18 (rain date May 19), 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Jefferson Cutter House lawn. Sagar Rastogi, representing the Scoops Club, said, “We’ve had fun at this event for the past 4 years.”

Special one-day beer-and-wine license

The board unanimously approved a special one-day beer-and-wine license for a private event, March 31, at the Whittemore-Robbins House.

New election workers

The board unanimously approved three new election workers:

  • Camilla Hasse, Pct. 20
  • Robert Largenton, Pct. 13
  • Marilyn Scribner, Pct. 10

They will assist with Arlington’s April 6 townwide election. 

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Sunday, March 31, 2019

Select Board to vote on debt ballot questions Wednesday

SelectBoard 4819 300 41019 Select Board, from left: John Hurd, Diane Mahon, Joseph Curro, Dan Dunn and Stephen DeCourcey. / Susan Gilbert photo
“I want to thank all the voters of Arlington for electing me. Serving the town is a family tradition: My father was a Town Meeting member and my mother a PTO member. I look forward to serving the town for the next three years.”  -- Stephen DeCourcey

The Select Board plans to decide Wednesday, April 17, whether to include Arlington’s override and debt questions on the June 11 townwide ballot, now that the state has reported the expected amount of its grants.

“We’re not looking for a vote tonight, just a discussion,” Vice Chair Dan Dunn said April 8, but no discussion followed.

One of the issues to be discussed before an April 17 vote is the cost of a new high school at an expected total of $290.8 million. Two days after the Select Board met, the state School Building Authority announced it would provide a grant of as much as $83,472,654as much as $83,472,654

If you subtract the amount of the grant, that reduces the total to about $207.3 million.

AHS advances

Jeff Thielman, a member of School Committee and Town Meeting, presented the high school building project to the Select Board, which members had to approve, so it move forward.  He did so in advance of the April 10 vote by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Read the full presentation >>

“We need a new high school because it’s almost at capacity, and will be past capacity in a few years. The school is on warning (from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges) because the facilities are not adequate for the 21st century. Much of the building needs serious repairs; the last renovation was done 38 years ago, and we’re excited about possibilities available with this new school, which will be finished in 2024,” Thielman said.

School Principal Matt Janger said, “When I came here six years ago, it was clear we needed a new school. At the time, we had 1,200 students. Now it’s 1,380, and will be 1,755 by the time the building is completed. We want a building that’s flexible, balanced and serves the needs of all students.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine addressed the cost issues. “It’s quite expensive to build because we’re in the midst of a real estate boom in the Boston area, causing a 4-percent annual increase in construction costs. Plus there’s contamination in many parts of the site that needs to be removed. Unlike other schools, we have additional spaces for education-related activities. $291 million is a lot of money, but not out of line with other local schools, such as Waltham and Somerville.”

“We’re budgeting and planning for cost overruns, even we don’t expect them, but would buffer against that. If a debt exclusion is needed, it would have to go to the voters,” Chapdelaine added.

Board Chair Diane Mahon wants to make sure there’s sufficient parking, given staffing increases.

“There’ll be the same number of parking spaces, 227, but 35 employees will move to another location.” Chapdelaine said.

Unanimous approval

The board unanimously approved the project.

Select Board member Joseph Curro Jr. said, “I can’t thank the building committee and everyone else involved in this process enough. It's been a herculean effort to balance the educational vision with a fiscally responsible program with all the competing demands from the public and other stakeholders. Every one of us on the board has friends and family who are former, current and future high school students."

DeCourcey said, “The committee has done an outstanding job. We’ve desperately needed a new building.”

Select Board John Hurd said, “We’ve a great design that reflects the public input.”

“I’m also impressed that this plan minimizes disruption to students and staff while the new building is being constructed,” Curro added.

The Select Board welcomed its newest member, Steve DeCourcey, two days after he was elected, at the Monday, April 8, meeting.

Diane Mahon is the new chair, and Dan Dunn the vice chair, as unanimously approved by the board.

Town manager gets excellent evaluation

Once again, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine received an outstanding review as part of his annual evaluation. Read the entire memo >>

On a scale of 1 to 5 (where 5 is exceptional), Chapdelaine’s overall score was 4.73, “which is a very strong review,” Dunn said.

“Overall, we felt you’re the perfect 5, but if we give all 5’s in every category, it would dull everything,” explained Mahon.

The town manager is evaluated on eight criteria, and received the following scores: financial management (4.9), planning and organization (4.9), professionalism (4.8), community leadership (4.8), personal characteristics (4.71), public relations/communication (4.58), board support/relations (4.55) and organizational leadership/personnel management (4.44).

Overall, financial management is Chapdelaine’s area of strength, yet he needs to delegate more.

Chapdelaine, thanking the board for going through this process, said, “It’s helpful to receive positive feedback, yet critical feedback is helpful as well so I can see where I need to continue to focus and improve, and it gives me good guidance for what the board is looking for.” 

Board approves numerous warrant articles

The board unanimously approved the following articles (with DeCourcey abstaining), which go to Town Meeting for vote (read background memos here and here):

  • Article 27  Bylaw Amendment/Town Meeting Speaking Times
  • Article 28  Bylaw Amendment/Recycling Committee Membership and Mission
  • Article 29  Bylaw Amendment/Regulation of Polystyrene 
  • Article 30  Bylaw Amendment/Waterline Replacement
  • Article 31  Bylaw Amendment/Rename Community Preservation Committee
  • Article 32  Bylaw Amendment/Tree Protection and Preservation 
  • Article 33  Bylaw Amendment/Notice of Demolition 
  • Article 34  Bylaw Amendment/Regulation of Outdoor Lighting – Dark Skies Bylaw
  • Article 35  Bylaw Amendment/Short-Term Rental Regulations
  • Article 36  Bylaw Amendment/Election Modernization Study Group
  • Article 37  Vote/Remove Police Chief from Civil Service
  • Article 38  Vote/Set Senior Tax Deferral Limit
  • Article 39  Vote/Authorization to Deaccession Town Property–Library Art Prints
  • Article 40  Vote/Robbins Library Parking Costs
  • Article 41  Vote/Arlington Redevelopment Board Membership and Terms
  • Article 42  Home Rule Legislation/Town Treasurer 
  • Article 43  Home Rule Legislation/Means-Tested Senior Tax Relief
  • Article 44  Home Rule Legislation/CPA Surcharge Exemption for Senior Homeowners
  • Article 45  Extending Local Voting Rights to All Legal Permanent Arlington Residents
  • Article 46  Acceptance of Legislation/Establishment of a Commission on Disabilities Fund
  • Article 47  Acceptance of Legislation/ PEG Access Fund 
  • Article 50  Local Option/Short-Term Rental Impact Fees
  • Article 51  Endorsement of CDBG Application
  • Article 52  Revolving Funds
  • Article 53  Endorsement of Parking Benefit District Expenditures
  • Article 78  Resolution/Indigenous Peoples’ Day
  • Article 79  Resolution/Overnight Parking Exemption Program for Medical and Financial Hardships

The board voted no action on Article 26, Bylaw Amendment/Billboards and Signs, so they can review it further. 

“It has more questions than answers that need to be addressed,” said Select Board member John Hurd. 

New frozen custard shop

Loosen your belts – Abbott’s Frozen Custard is coming. The shop, at 311 Broadway, plans to open this Saturday, April 13, in time for Arlington’s annual Patriots Day festivities, as unanimously approved by the board.

The hours will likely be noon to 9 or 10 p.m., with the decision made final once they move in, said owner Jason Denoncourt.

Curro said, “Thank you for choosing Arlington. My children and I are thrilled you’re coming here.”

Arts around town

Chairful Where You Sit June 8

Save the date: Arlington Public Art will host its seventh annual fund-raising and community public event on Saturday, June 8 at Uncle Sam Plaza, as unanimously approved by the board.

“Our intention is to combine Chairful Where You Sit with other popular town events, such as Porchfest and the beer garden,” said Adria Arch, Arlington Public Art chair.

Commission for Arts and Culture Annual Report

Arlington’s Commission for Arts and Culture (ACAC) presented its 2018 annual report, which the board unanimously received. Read the 2018 report >>

ACAC promotes and develops programs that integrate arts and culture into daily life, expands creative opportunities and fosters a vibrant, sustainable arts scene to engage a diverse range of artists, residents, businesses and visitors, as stated in its annual report.

“It’s been a very significant year for us. We’re now the umbrella organization for Arlington arts and culture, and have completed our website, artsarlington.org,” said Adria Arch, ACAC cochair.

The website covers news and announcements, the cultural district, public art, grants and resources, a comprehensive listing of Arlington’s arts and culture assets, an interactive map and the cultural calendar powered by Arts Boston, according to the annual report. The site has been operating since September.

Curro thanked Arch for her work strengthening the town’s arts and culture. “I appreciate the partnerships and fund-raising grants that you’ve pulled in from a diverse set of sources, and am happy it’s being run through Arts Boston, which opens up a much larger portal.

Mahon said, “The Select Board is impressed by the breadth of experience on both the core committee and action committees. We have a better chance of success with the great infrastructure you’ve set up.”

Other news

LGBTQIA  Rainbow Commission

Mel Goldsipe, Arlington’s Rainbow Commission chair, was unanimously reappointed to the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission (term expires Jan. 31, 2022).

“Our first year was really successful. More than 150 people attended our first pride picnic, we sponsored a table at Town Day and developed fruitful partnerships with the public schools,” said Goldsipe.

Special one-day all-alcohol licenses

The board unanimously approved the following special one-day all-alcohol licenses:

  • Robbins Library Reading Room, private event, May 4
  • Fidelity House, annual fund-raiser, May 18
New election workers

The board unanimously approved the following new election workers:

  • P. J. Gardner, Pct. 1
  • Karen Meehan, Pct. 10
  • Joseph Murphy, Pct. 9
  • Alex Wilson, Pct. 11

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Friday, April 12, 2019.


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