To further Thrive, E. Arlington owner aims to widen smile to nation

Derek Fleming with smoothie and educational cards Derek Fleming with irrepressible smile and smoothie. Behind him are bits of eating education. / Bob Sprahgue photo

Derek Fleming, who owns Thrive Café, wants the juice bar-cum-restaurant at 169 Mass. Ave., East Arlington, "to be the friendliest place in town."

The 30-year-old [CHECK] has much wider goals, but let's focus first on his broad smile. It signals a way he aims to undo what he calls an "overarching stereotype" -- that only earthy-crunchy folks frequent juice bars.

Au contraire! He said his customers include "big, burly landscapers" as well as a lot of trades people -- electricians, plumbers. After these customers expressed initial doubts about his menu, he told some to consider the falafel salad: "I think you'll like it."

They did and said they would return, he said.

Fleming smiled again. "It's not double cheeseburgers," he said.

On a recent afternoon interview near a front window, warmed by sun, Fleming spelled out how Thrive's "concept is working for the town," since he opened in May 2018. He called his menu what "the area really needed."

In the past 19 months, he has expanded his menu, so that it is "no longer just drinks and smoothies." The latter, he said, are seasonal, but juice is not.

Caribbean kale Caribbean kale advertised on front counter.

Thrive now has tacos on Tuesday, heroes on Thursday, all following his healthy aims. Coming in October, he said, are soups from scratch five days a week. [CHECK]

Soups include black bean, tomato basil and poblano corn chowder. Fleming called the latter's smokey essence a fave. [I DO NOT SEE ON MENU -- ARE THESE COMING?]

To give you a further taste, consider his tikka masala and vegan chili. See the menu >> 

Other changes include a small TV-like screen on the counter showing rotating images Thrive products. On the wall are cards aimed at educating the consumer. One briefly explains turmeric, an Indian perennial herb of the ginger family.

"Flavor is the main driver in what we eat," he said.

In June, Fleming began a monthly newsletter (sign up for it in the store), and it has more than 500 subscribers.

He has initiated a rewards program. [PLEASE EXPLAIN DETAILS BRIEFLY]


Wider impact

The green-tree logo continues to identify Thrive Café, as it has since it opened, but its branches are trying to extend beyond the logo's constricting circle, to far-away places, in the West and South.

Fleming has established a organization spanning the U.S. representing his industry -- the National Juice Bar Association. He said he began it "as a place for juice bar owners like myself to connect, share our knowledge, our struggles and our successes.

"We are not a fad. We are a thriving segment in the restaurant industry and we are here to stay. We have a goal of pulling our industry together in a way never seen before, in a way that everyone benefits." [I TOOK FROM THE WEBSITE -- WANT TO REWORD?]

That juice spreads out across America -- to an estimated 6,000 locations. [CHECK] Fewer than 1,000 in the U.S. are independently owned. [CHECK]

Progress to date in gaining members has been a "trickle." Fleming's fledgling organization represents only 12 so far. He's looking for more -- 25 or 30 to get momentum going.

All current members are out of state -- in California, Texas, Mississippi and Florida.

His goals for the national group are to connect independent juice bars to give them a broader platform to improve the industry as a whole.

He also seeks ways to have juice bars viewed as restaurants.


quote Thrive Cafe,  169 Mass. Ave., Arlington | 781-777-1561 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Summer hours end Sept. 30; here are fall hours: 

M-F (8-5), Sat (9-5), Sun (10-4).


Joining the NJBA gets member a snazzy window decal telling all that you're part of something national, which will help spread the news about how amazing juice and smoothie bars are. Attract additional followers from your posts being shared by a national company. Gain more traction online and be easier to find by adding a web touch point with your profile on The NJBA website. Connect with our brand sponsors and our approved vendors to find new, healthy and delicious food to sell at your check out counter. Join us on our mission to connect the country's juice and smoothie bars and join the fun in competing in our monthly social media contests. We aim to please so never hesitate to make a suggestion for something you would like to see us do or a benefit you would like to see us add. We might be just starting out, but we know we can provide much needed resources to an amazing industry.

To inquire about membership, click here >> 

With all that going on, Fleming has a wife, behind Thrive's social media, and a daughter, Adalyne, now 4 months old, born May 3, a day after the store's anniversary. 

May 16, 2018: SMOOTHIE: E. Arlington's Thrive aims to plant healthy fare

This business-news feature was published Monday, Sept. 23, 2019.

School enrollment increases, and 2 modular classrooms viewed as possible

An early and incomplete account shows that Arlington public school enrollment has increased, and the administration is responding with a placeholder budget item for two modular classrooms.

School Committee logo

At the first School Committee meeting for 2019-20, held Thursday, Sept. 12, members also established a committee to search for a new superintendent.

As to enrollment, Superintendent Kathy Bodie announced that the figures for the first day of school revealed a total of 5,989 students, an increase of 146 students from last year. The official count for enrollment will take place Oct. 1 and be verified by the state later in November. See the details in this chart >> 

Most of the increases in school enrollment were in the elementary school classes. Bodie reported that all classes in the high school totaled under 400, in the middle schools more than 400 and all but one elementary school totaled more than 500, with the first grade totaling close to 600.

Bodie: 'Big changes'

“These are big changes,” Bodie commented. She said the school department, for this report, has been “not as successful at balancing classes” and had to hire additional teaching assistants for “a couple of large classes.”

Committee member Bill Hayner asked whether “there was any relief” for the “very crowded” fourth grade at the Hardy Elementary School. He answering his own question, responding that the school had just added six classrooms, which were full, and admitted he didn’t know the solution.

Member Jane Morgan reported that the enrollment chart by grade was not “not useful” to her, because it did not count elementary special-education students in structured learning classes in the Brackett, Stratton and Dallin.

Bodie explained that although the students were in the classrooms for much of the day, the teacher of record was not the classroom teacher, so they were not counted as being a member of the class. She promised to produce a more accurate chart soon.

Member Kirsi Allison-Ampe also wanted the report to include the full number in the classroom, as parents were confused.

Chief financial officer Michael Mason, in his financial report given later in the evening, announced he was going to put a placeholder for two modular classrooms for the Bishop in his report to the Capital Planning Committee as a “pro-active” measure.

Bodie has forecast an increase in enrollment at the Bishop, which would require at least one new classroom, unless they used the art or music rooms. This generated among the committee members requests for a wider discussion about enrollment and a space analysis with, perhaps, a reworking of the buffer zones.

While 146 additional students is a larger number than was predicted in the five-year School Committee financial plan, Chair Len Kardon told YourArlington that the growth factor in the budget is determined by the actual number of the increase, not the estimated one. 

He wrote: "The number predicted in the budget documents was growth of 133 students, so 146 is not that far off.  Please note that our funding next year is adjusted for the number of students we actually grow by.  So if 145 ends up being the number after enrollment is certified by the state, our FY2021 budget will be increased by about $86,000 (that is the 12 extra students ... times the enrollment growth factor of $7,166)." IS THIS CLEAR?

Staff hiring: 3 administrators, 71 teachers

Rob Spiegel, human-resources director, had a busy summer hiring for new and replacement positions in the school district. He reported hiring three new administers, director of science for K-12, a Bishop assistant principal and an athletics director. Seventy-one new teachers, team chairs and specialists joined the district this fall, with 20 of them assuming new positions (some are partial full-time equivalents). Fifty-one of them replaced teachers who retired, resigned, moved to another position or are on leave.

See the details in this report >> 

Committee members asked why teachers had left. Spiegel enumerated four reasons most frequently mentioned: moving away from area, commuting time, professional move within education that might include better salaries and professional move outside of education.

Hayner asked out how many may have been asked to leave, but Spiegel would not divulge that information. He did inform the committee the district does have an evaluation system and works with the union.

Kardon noted that there seemed to be a large group within special education who left. He asked Spiegel to collect data on the special-education employees and reason that they left. He would like these data before the budget process begins, to see whether additional training or higher compensation would help retain special-education staff.

Spiegel added to his report that many of the new-teacher hires have been already working in the Arlington school system as teaching assistants or substitutes. He also said that after-school programs have expanded at the Peirce school, and some vacancies for staff in these programs remain.

Human Rights Commission appointee

Chris DiMeo appeared before the committee as the leading applicant for membership to the Human Rights Commission. He cited his lifelong activities in the service of human rights and his personal background as a member of a same-sex marriage with an adopted African-American child.

The committee unanimously voted to approve him and later in the meeting to approve the reappointment of Christine Carney, Sharon Grossman and Nick Milton to the Human Rights Commission and Anna Watson to the Rainbow Coalition.

Superintendent search

In advance of the actual search for a new superintendent -- Bodie is retiring in two years -- members unanimously voted to approve a committee to design the process for the search. This committee would write a request for proposals for a consultant to guide the search and decide on ways to facilitate community input.

Hayner asked for an early date to report back to the School Committee. It was decided that the report would be submitted in March.

Member Paul Schlichtman was voted chair of the committee, and Jennifer Susse and Kirsi Allison-Ampe as members of the committee.

In other business, the committee heard the monthly financial report from CFO Mason, the superintendent’s report about the new high school and the summer professional-development report by Assistant Superintendent Roderick MacNeal Jr.  

The committee also unanimously voted to appoint Bodie as a voting member of the EDCO Collaborative Board.

No executive session was held, and the meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

Feb. 22, 2019: FY '20 prelim budget up 6%; enrollment tops Bodie's funded priorities

June 19, 2019: Bodie accepts new contract after 4-3 vote, to retire in 2 years

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019.

Center's new CBD store touts health without high

Bryan Mason at Your CBD Store Stefanie Gable and Bryan Mason at Your CBD Store.

With a medical-marijuana outlet on Water Street, and two recreational-marijuana shops to open in Arlington sometime in 2020, a long-empty storefront in Arlington Center selling related -- but very different -- products has come to town.

Your CBD Store, at 460 Mass. Ave., offers what the name says – CBD, or cannabidiol. That is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). As the Harvard article notes, “While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant ….[B]y itself it does not cause a “high.” 

But let's have the franchise owner, Bryan Mason, explain what the storefront empty since 2013 what he sells.

“Our products are from a company known as SunMed, which is based out of Colorado. We are proud to say that this 'soil-to-oil' company owns their own hemp farms and oversees production from the seeds planted to the products on our shelves.”

Retains beneficial cannibinoids

The 39-year-old explained in an email why he calls SunMed products. “[M]ost companies extract the CBD as an isolate, but our products instead extract just the trace amounts of THC, while retaining all of the other beneficial cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, and CBC as well as flavonoids, terpenes and essential amino acids.

He noted that SunMed products are made from the highest-quality industrial hemp and contain zero percent of the high-inducing THC compound. He said the company’s process for extraction  results in a product that is rich in concentrated cannabinoids. Following the removal of THC, SunMed introduces a proprietary blend of plant-based terpenes known to increase the efficiency of the product.

“Our goal is to provide the community with a safe-quality and consistent products they can use daily to help with symptoms, ranging from arthritic pain to stress and insomnia.”

He said his shop is selling predominantly topical pain-relief creams as well as tinctures and water-soluble drops.

“CBD products work with your bodies preexisting endocannibinoid system to decrease inflammation, increase serotonin levels (the calming hormone) and boost our immune system.

“Our top seller is the 500mg Topical Relief Cream voted number one in the US CBD Expo this year. It has a wonderful, soothing scent, nongreasy texture and can provide point-specific pain relief within minutes.

“Our other top seller is the 500mg sublingual tinctures (slower onset but longer acting relief) and 300mg water-soluble drops (fast-acting relief). We offer a range of additional products like face serums, body lotions, bath bombs and more.  Costumers can come in and speak to staff about what may work best for them as each individuals needs will determine their best options.”

Owner's background

Asked about his background, Mason wrote that he has been employed for more than 10 years with a large telecommunication company, “but always felt a calling to help others and pursue entrepreneurial interests.”

Over the years while working full time, he has worked as an EMT, massage therapist, volunteered as firefighter, volunteered for a pediatric oncology organization, sold real estate on the side and is enrolled at UMass./Lowell pursuing degree in psychology.

Recently, because of his own back pain and his girlfriend's shoulder injuries, he wrote that CBD was used regularly at home and he felt this was his way to combine his desire to help others while becoming a business owner.

He searched for the perfect shop location for months, he wrote, “because I had this mental list the location needed to fulfill and something was always lacking. As soon as I drove through Arlington, each item on that list was checked off, and I found the store front, and it all clicked.

“As a history enthusiast, I love that Arlington Center offers the latest trends, a diverse demographic, while peppering in the amazing historical sites and the Minuteman Bikeway right through it all.”

He was was raised in Wilmington and lives in Reading.

Many misconceptions

He make clear that the community “certainly is curious about CBD, with many misconceptions, but the shop has already had dozens of visitors just looking to expand their understanding of the product.

“As always, there is going to be skepticism, but we encourage those people to come in and ask questions and allow use to explain the science behind our products and goals show them we aren't a bogus store selling 'snake oil'."

His team looks forward helping the public. Besides Mason, they are his girlfriend, Stefanie Gable, full-time BSN-RN, handling marketing and customer service part time; and his mother, Donna Mason, finance and customer service.

The shop opened Sept. 1, and plans for a grand opening – with give-aways, raffles, Q&A and photo-ops – is set for Saturday, Oct. 13.

The 460 Mass. Ave. location, next to Tango, was formerly United Shoe Repair.

Contact Your CBD Store at (781) 400-8888.

Facebook >>

June 5, 2019: Community hears aims for Heights marijuana store

Aug. 22, 2014: Vacant -- but waiting to be occupied with your ideas

This business news feature was published Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.

Here comes Emerald Ash Borer, and what town is doing about it

Ash tree, 140 Warren St. / Jo Anne Preston photo Ash tree, 140 Warren St., treated recently against borer. / Jo Anne Preston photo

While Arlington residents have been enjoying the dog days of summer, a bright metallic green beetle, smaller than a dime, has been moving East to prey on the town’s ash trees.

Originating in Central Asia, this invasive insect, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), was accidentally transported to southeast Michigan in 2002, and has already destroyed many thousands of ash trees in the Midwest. Moving quickly, it has infested the Berkshires and has been recently found in traps in Lexington, Somerville and Cambridge.

Because the insect, once established in an ash tree will kill it in short order, Arlington Tree Warden Tim Lecuivre, working with Director of Public Works Michael Rademacher, has developed a treatment plan, which will be employed in town next spring.

As for ash trees on private property, Lecuivre strongly recommends that owners consult an arborist immediately to assess treatment possibilities. He notes that tree removal will cost much more than the treatment for EAB does. 

The tree warden estimates removing a medium-size ash would cost more than $1,000, while an ash tree of the same size treated privately could cost from $150 to $200. The evaluation and cost estimate by a tree service is free.  

Why is the beetle so lethal?

Outside its natural range, where its spread is limited by resistant trees and predators, the EAB can spread unimpeded. Already, it has killed tens of millions of ash trees throughout North America. Once it enters an area, it will destroy all ash trees within 10 years. And it spreads rapidly, advancing up to 50 miles in a year, according to the state DCR Forest Health Program. 

[["Although the beetle travels quickly thorough the air, a main source of transmission is the transportation of wood products by humans, most specifically firewood."]] SAYS WHO?

Emerald Ash Borer

Moreover, ash trees in more densely populated areas, like all trees, have less resistance because of compacted soil, lack of watering, heat islands, pollution and road salt.

Tree fatalities are caused by larvae feeding on the inner bark, interrupting the flow of nutrients and water. Once the tree is girdled -- no longer able to transport sufficient water and nutrients to the tree -- it cannot be saved.

In addition, the EAB reproduces at a rapid rate. The females can lay eggs in the bark crevices in the spring, which hatch two weeks later. One female can lay from 40 to 70 eggs in her six-week life cycle.

With no natural predators or any ash-tree resilience, the tree dies from the top down, and the destruction inside the tree is usually undetected until the tree is mostly destroyed. One method of detection, which is difficult but possible, is to look for very small D-shaped exit holes made by the new adults.

Arlington’s treatment plan: botanical injectable insecticide

Arlington has chosen to use a systemic insecticide formulated with azadirachtin, an extract of neem tree seeds. Proven to be effective, it has the added advantage of not polluting ground water or hurting pollinators. It is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency as a bioinsecticide. Its trade name is TreeAZin, and it was developed by Bioforest in collaboration with the Canadian Forest Service. Learn more about it here >> 

There are four approaches to apply insecticides to Ash trees: soil application, trunk injections, trunk sprays and protective cover sprays. Arlington chose to use trunk injections.

Although more expensive, this method allows the insecticide to more effectively move up the tree and kill the EAB. Moreover, it safeguards any pollinators since it remains within the tree. The lower trunk is injected through multiple small holes, and the the insecticide moves up through the tree. The best time for application is in the morning from early spring to Labor Day.

Which ash trees to treat? The town plans to treat all of the ash trees that are evaluated as in good or fair condition. That means 882 Ash trees out of the 960 public ash trees will be treated. The remaining trees are deemed to be too young or in too poor condition to benefit from treatment, Lecuivre said. 

[["Without treatment, it is most likely that Arlington will lose all the ash trees on private land.  Although the exact number of privately owned ash Trees is not known, it could be equal to the number are owned by the town.  That would have devastating impact on Arlington's already diminishing tree canopy."]] SAYS WHO?

Next spring's treatment of the public ash trees here is to begin with Pleasant Street, moving south and east. This area is closer to the discovery of the EAB in Cambridge and Somerville. It also has a significantly higher number of public ash trees.

In the spring of 2021, the rest of Arlington's public ash trees are to be inoculated. The insecticide is effective for at least two years, so alternating years is part of the plan. It is the same plan adopted by Somerville and Cambridge.

To track the presence of the EAB in Arlington, the tree warden will install two prism traps with attractants. These traps will allow him to adjust the treatment plan according how many EABs are found and where they are found in Arlington.

Importance of homeowners treating ash trees

The economic impact alone should convince homeowners to treat ash trees on their properties. If an ash tree on a property is infected with EAB, it will have to be taken down since the tree will die within a year or two. 

Studies shows that it costs far less money to hire an arborist to inject the tree with an insecticide than to remove the tree.

Most tree companies have a certified arborist on staff who would be glad to come and evaluate your tree for treatment. The town will need the fall and winter to organize thee townwide inoculation program that to begin next spring.  Private owners of ash trees, however, could have their trees treated now before the deadline of Labor Day for effective treatment.

Future of ash tree treatments

When the Emerald Ash Borer first appeared, conservationists had no treatments available.  In the last five years, scientists have develop some effective inoculations, such as the botanical TreeAZin.

Now, they are experimenting with a nonstinging parasitic wasp that targets the Emerald Ash Borer and has shown strong results. This summer, these wasps have been introduced into northern Maine forests and will be  studied for effectiveness, spread, and overwintering. The success of these wasps may lead to the elimination of inoculating individual trees in the future.  

Why not just cut all the ash trees down? Tim Lecuivre told YourArlington that the ash is the perfect tree for Arlington, as it is drought-tolerant, manage poor urban air quality, deal well with street salt and have a beautiful large leaf canopy, which gives shade to both homes and streets.

From the conversation with Lecuivre, it was clear that the town's more than 900 public ash trees have served Arlington well throughout the years, removing atmospheric carbon and cooling neighborhoods. Treating them for the EAB will allow them to continue to serve Arlington.

For more information, residents should visit the Tree Committee table at Town Day on Saturday, Sept. 14. They will have a map of all the public Ash trees in Arlington and information on the EAB treatment plan.

This viewpoint was published Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. 

Last spring's articles filed 2 months late

Town Meeting logo

The articles from last spring's Town Meetings have gone to the attorney general for approval more than two months after the deadline described under state law, and the town has requested an expedited review.

Town Clerk Stephanie Lucarelli said in a phone conversation Thursday, Aug. 15, that the articles would be submitted the next day. Town Counsel has confirmed that they were.

The clerk said that the press of work, which included a special election in June, and the lack of help led to the delay.

Under state law, a clerk has 30 days to submit Town Meeting articles to the state after a Town Meeting ends. Arlington's annual meeting ended Wednesday, May 15, and considered 79 articles. Its Special Town Meeting, held earlier, considered six articles.

According to form the town counsel's office, 16 total bylaws were submitted to the state -- eight general ones (articles 26, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35) and eight for zoning (14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 24).

Town Counsel Doug Heim said state law includes no penalty for missing a deadline to submit articles.

The delay came to light when a Town Meeting member inquired about the state of the tree-protection bylaw (Article 32), which was adopted, 203-1. The member, Jo Anne Preston, was concerned about protecting trees this fall. She said she had not received a clear response from the clerk about the delay. That led to inquire with the state, which told her that the town's articles had not been filed.

In a typical year, Town Meeting articles are sent to the state in June, and the attorney general's office approves them, or says what must happen next, by sometime in September. Under state law, that office has 90 days to decide.

With a delay of more than two months, what may happen next?

In response to a YourArlington inquiry, Heim wrote Monday, Aug. 19: "I've respectfully requested the AG's Office consider whether any means of an expedited review can be achieved, highlighting particular concern for the Tree Protection Bylaw amendments.

"They have the right to take 90 days to review them, which is the chief and understandable concern. At this point, it looks promising that they will graciously do what they can to prioritize a review and approval of Town Bylaw amendments."

In a follow-up, Heim wrote Aug. 21 that the Municipal Law Unit has agreed to do what it can to expedite review. That includes reviewing town bylaws before the zoning bylaws.

"For some complicated reasons, zoning bylaws are deemed to be in effect from the date of their original notice if they are passed by Town Meeting, so review of zoning bylaws, while important because they could theoretically be invalidated, we can under circumstances such as these prioritize Town Bylaw review and approval.

The law unit cannot provide a more specific time frame, "but they've been very receptive and responsive to concerns about getting town bylaws approved."

Further, he noted, there is no established mechanism to let town officials know that articles are filed late. The state law unit encourages clerks to submit bylaws for approval online, so if the town counsel's office is copied on submissions, "then we know when they're made," he wrote.

2019 Town Meeting, session 8, other links

This news summary was published Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019.

Restorative-justice supporter views use in officer's case

Michael Rich, a Waltham attorney and former Arlington resident who maintains strong ties to the town and has a long experience with restorative justice, agreed to respond to questions from YourArlington about the case of Lt. Rick Pedrini.

Restorative justice graphic

Q: Overall, do you agree or disagree with the direction town officials are taking in the Pedrini matter? Please explain.

I was pleased that the Town decided to use a Restorative Justice process with Lt. Pedrini when it was announced. I was disappointed with Lt. Pedrini's apology letter.

Former Chief Ryan's correspondence with the Town Manager, which was recently made public, caused me to question whether an appropriate screening process was used in deciding whether to move forward with RJ with Lt. Pedrini. Having gone through the RJ process, I do not believe that the terms of Lt. Pedrini's reinstatement and return to active duty should be reconsidered unless he does not meet all the terms the Circle decided upon.

Q: Do you think that the steps outlined in the manager's Aug. 8 letter address sufficiently the aims of the citizen petition? Explain.

Since the manager's letter did not lay out all the terms of Lt. Pedrini's reinstatement or even mention the petition's demand for the formation of a citizen review board, which was one of the suggestions of attorney Sophia Hall at the [May] meeting at Calvary, it does not really address the demands.

With the steps the town has taken and proposes to take, I think the town should be applauded for trying to root out attitudes like those expressed in Lt. Pedrini's articles in the Sentinel.

Though the town is not planning to create a citizen review board, the announcements about retaining an outside consultant, bias training and additional steps to ensure an ongoing commitment to community policing practices, continuing the move toward progressive policies, and encouraging appropriate interactions with marginalized populations will help ensure more positive interactions in the future.

I do not think that the town should act on the citizen petition's request for imposition of additional sanctions on Lt. Pedrini. As long as his full compliance with the terms of the RJ agreement is enforced, I think the town also needs to comply.

Q: Based on your understanding of restorative justice, should it have been used in the Pedrini matter? Explain and give some context about how long you have been involved in RJ and with what organizations.

Before I saw the Ryan-Chapledaine correspondence [as reported by Laura Kiesel], I thought RJ was appropriate for the Pedrini matter.

As you may recall, I commented on's opinion piece about the Calvary Church gathering (or about Laura Kiesel's article) disputing attorney Hall's assertion that RJ should never be used in police-misconduct cases. The reason for those comments was my continued belief that RJ can be appropriate for the full range of criminal conduct, civil wrongs, community conflicts and interpersonal relationships.

I first learned about RJ at a 1998 conference put on by the Boston Theological Institute and Suffolk University Center for Restorative Justice, which brought in RJ practitioners, victims and homicide survivors from across the U.S. and Canada. Shortly after the conference, I became a member of the Restorative Justice Task Team of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ (MACUCC).

We sought out training from Jaime Bissonnette, a Native American justice worker with the AFSC, professor Tom Porter of the BU School of Theology and others. And I began my informal study of RJ principles and practices, voraciously reading RJ materials and attending RJ conferences around greater Boston.

A few years later, I became chairperson of the MACUCC RJ Task Team, continued my self-education and, in conjunction with Communities for Restorative Justice, put on "A Day of Restorative Justice" in June 2012, bringing professor Howard Zehr and about a dozen RJ practitioners from Massachusetts. I worked on the 2018 MA RJ Act as a member of the RJ Coalition of Mass. and am now a member of the RJCMA Steering Committee.

Having read that Chief Ryan did not believe that Lt. Pedrini expressed adequate contrition to be a good candidate for RJ and that Lt. Pedrini was still engaged with some of the organizations where he expressed and found support for his biased, unprofessional views, I now think his case was not appropriate for RJ. But having agreed to it, the Town cannot now back out.

Q: Do you believe that those who were harmed by the officer's words have been sufficiently involved in the RJ process to date? Explain.

I'm not sure. While there are certainly people who have been harmed who believe they were not provided an adequate opportunity to have their harms addressed, RJ must be a representative process when there are multiple people harmed. Any other treatment of the Pedrini matter (for example, as a personnel action, a criminal case or a civil action) would not have given those indirectly affected by Pedrini's writings even the level of involvement that the C4RJ process did.

Q: Do you believe, based on Laura Kiesel's reporting, that Pedrini's apology was written for him? Explain your response?

I haven't studied Lt. Pedrini's body of writing sufficiently to know whether the apology was his own writing or not. I am sure he had some type of legal adviser (lawyer, union rep) assist in writing.

Whether his apology was written for him is less important than whether the apology was sincere. It is also significant that the apology did not address all of the harms he caused or apologize to all the constituencies of people affected. 

Reports by Laura Kiesel: June and August 

Citizen petition

Opinion, June 26, 2019: What further should the town do after officer's harsh comments?

May 29, 2019: Forum on racism turns to restorative justice, Lt. Pedrini

May 1, 2019: Rights group withdrew from restorative justice for Pedrini after protest 

This viewpoint was published Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. 

Along the bikeway, a room of our own

freedom baird 350 63019

Perhaps you baby your backyard as if it were a putting green, making sure your grass is thick but clipped like a crew cut.

Freedom Baird doesn't. For the North Cambridge artist, grass grows inside her "home" — that 10- by-10-foot, temporary installation beside the Minuteman Bikeway near Spy Pond.

To weed and trim the grass, she goes inside, gets down on the cramped ground and uses scissors.

"Room to Grow," an Arlington Public Art project, aims to address the "culture of disposibility," Baird said in an interview at the site on a brilliant recent morning as bikeway activity buzzed by and bees buzzed in.

Asked about the installation's aims, she spoke slowly, carefully: "I'm always trying ... to call attention to the connection between humans and nature." In schools, science museums and movies they are presented to us as "separate — but they're really not. I'm alsoalways thinking about materials .... all used here have their origins in nature."

Using found, discarded objects

The artist gave herself a week to find the objects for her project in her neighborhood, as a way of paying attention to how much furniture was discarded the last weekend of May. "I found so much furniture put out for trash in my North Cambridge neighborhood that I could've furnished several rooms."

All were left on the curb, except for the lamp (free online), the chair (paid $5) and the picture frame ($1 at a yard sale).

Quote bar, red 'Room to Grow' pairs plants, furniture
Boltonia aster, boltonia asteroides Attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects Bed
Pink turtlehead, chelone lyonii  Pollinator with interesting flowers Lamp
Willow-leaved sunflower, helianthus salicifolius  A native sunflower with drooping, willow-like leaves Night table
Little bluestem, schizachyrium scoparium  A native grass with a beautiful blue-purple hue
Culver's root, veronicastrum virginicum  Slender racemes of flowers, attracts butterflies

Window frame
Joe Pye Weed, eupatorium maculatum  Upright spreading habit, plumes of scented flowers

Picture frame
Virginia virgin's bower, clematis virginia 
Sprawling and climbing, white four-sepaled flowers

Quote bar, red

The queen-sized, oak bed frame needed to be cut down to twin size to fit in the 10-by-10 space. "An oak tree grew," she said, and from its wood a bed was fashioned. Now, under her artistic real-world vision, pink turtleheads (chelone lyonii) poke through the empty frame. "Hot pink," she said.

One who sleeps here doth perchance to dream pink blooms.


Why do this? "I wish we'd be more aware of where objects come from," she said.

Not just the bed. She made all of her found objects "skeletal," and plants rear their bright heads through them all. Consider the accompanying list.

She traces the "culture of disposability" to post-World War II, citing Jeffrey Meikle's book American Plastics: A Cultural History

Meikle describes a moment when plastics manufacturers realized that the postwar boom was eventually going to wane. At a pivotal meeting, J. W. McCoy, a vice president of DuPont told his colleagues they must “see to it that Americans are never satisfied.”  So they devised ways to teach consumers to throw away perfectly good cups, spoons and other consumer goods.

In response to this, Baird said she began thinking of simple rooms and shelters, asking, "What is enough?" The pinched quadrant, encircled by garden-fence wire, reminds one of the size space of the "hut" that Thoreau lived in from 1845 to '47 near Walden Pond.

One of Baird's visual references for the space is a painting called "Van Gogh's Bedroom." An image of the painting at the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, where she saw it in the late 1908s, is here >>

It is likely that neither Thoreau nor Van Gogh had the purple splash of joe Pye Weed gracing a window, as Baird does. As she spoke, a honey bee alighted on a small bloom. "Oh, it's pollinating," she erupted.

A cousin's advice

Her advice about native plants came from an expert, Judy Otto of Lexington, her cousin. Otto is a longtime member and handbook author of the Victory Gardens, part of the 70-acre Rock Meadow Conservation Area off Mill Street in Belmont. 

"Room to Grow," between Spy Pond Park and Linwood, backs against some Wyman Street neighbors and has helped Baird meet them. One is Suzanne, a beekeeper; another is Bob, who invited her to fill watering cans from his backyard spigot.

Her art draws more than neighbors. Freedom has been meeting the public at the site Sunday most afternoons since July 7 from 3 to 6.

Each visitor views the installation from his or her perspective. One cyclist rode by, asking, "Is it for rent?"

Another shouted: "I love what you're doing." 

Some appreciate the colors of the furniture and plants; some like to see art in a public space.

A child passed by: "What is she doing? .... Can I go inside?"

Another view

One commenter called the art distracting to someone who just wants to walk the bikeway and enjoy nature.

Baird saw this as an opportunity for an exchange. She replied that public art brings it to those who do not have the chance or wherewithal to go to museums or galleries, for whatever reason.

The questioner told her she thought the response made sense.

"This is part of the work," Baird said, "having the conversation."

Another visitor said the room reminded her of the old single-room-occupancy units where poor people and vagrants lived in the first half of the 20th century. For Baird, this is exactly the point of the installation, to raise questions in the visitor’s mind about how much space is enough. How many material possessions are enough? How much carving resources out of nature to meet human needs is enough?

Baird aims to avoid what she has built as "looking too pretty." She also does not want the viewer to be able to solve what the installation is too quickly — a strategy to keep the public engaged.

'Like bones'

She balances beauty with something that makes it look "unsettling." Whether it does is up to the viewer. Thus, the pale, weathered paint adds something "ghostly ... like bones."

Inevitably, a journalist — who forgets that poet Walt Whitman began as a newspaper editor — has to ask, "Why is this art?"

Her whimsy chides the question: "It's an excuse to be outside." More seriously, she says, it's "propaganda," to convey a message and spur conversations.

Discussions about what? "Sustainability," she said, and how we acquire, use and value the objects and materials we have.

“If we can train ourselves to consider the journey that any object takes as it goes from its sources in nature — living plants, seams of metal in a mine, drops of crude oil deep underground — into our hands, maybe that will help us value each object more, and throw away less.”

Baird will continue to be at her site on these Sundays from 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 18, Aug. 25, Sept. 8 and Sept. 22. That last day, the artist and Arlington Public Art will celebrate project completion with a community potluck and closing reception at the site from 4 to 6 p.m.

The artist, raised in New York City and educated at MIT and MassArt, has two 15-year-olds. Against a tree leaned her bike. She got on it and rode back to other rooms she calls home.

Learn more about Freedom Baird
Oct. 3, 2018: Minuteman Bike Day: Let the words roll on ...
Oct. 1, 2018: What's behind new 'housing' near bikeway, Spy Pond?
Oct. 1, 2017: Now here's a yarn: Ripples of peace to flow out on bikeway

This news feature was published Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019.

Resident recalls part he played in putting astronauts on Moon

Ron Rosenbaum, retired aerospace engineer. / Bob Sprague photo Ron Rosenbaum, retired aerospace engineer, with his Apollo 11 connections / Bob Sprague photo

All these years later, it plays like a childhood dream -- landing your first job out of college as an engineer who will help put men on the Moon.

But that's what happened to Ron Rosenbaum of Arlington.

INSIDE ARLINGTON:  Among our many-faceted residents

In an interview, the retiree, who these days is grounded on Earth in his garden near Spy Pond, looked back to the 1960s, surveying the highs and lows of his work at Grumman Aerospace on what was at first called the Lunar Excursion Module.

"I was always fascinated by airplanes," he said in his basement office marked by a large photo showing the three Apollo 11 astronauts and the spacecraft that carried them to the lunar surface on July 19, 1969. Included are the signatures of many from the large team of Grumman engineers involved.

jump line here

Also on the wall is a banner from Penn State. In short order in September 1965, he received a degree in aerospace engineering, married and got a job at Grumman in Bethpage, L.I.

A national effort

The Moon challenge that President Kennedy announced in 1961 at the height of the Cold War swept up a number of military-industrial corporations in the mission that resulted in the stunning U.S. achievement eight years later. Rosenbaum's role was no doubt like that of thousands of engineers, many from Massachusetts, as The Boston Globe reports

Yet the personal story of a town resident is well worth telling, told via the specifics of a builder, which give shape to what poets only imagine.

"What was really exciting," he said, "was the problem to be solved." The attitude from Grumman management at the time was: "You can do anything to solve the problem."

That simple expression of freedom let minds loose -- but within project boundaries. Learning what those confines were involved a rookie engineer's basic training.

With a quick smile widening below his mustache, Rosenbaum recalled his initial assignment, to work on the design of the cabin area of the lunar module's ascent stage. He was paired with an experienced designer, whose name he remembers.

How design occurred then

In 1965, computer-aided design was a distant dream. With straight-edges and triangles, he applied grease pencil to Mylar, and made his calculations with a slide rule.

Beginning to draw a design the way he was taught in college, with fine lines, his group leader came by, snatched his pencil and broke it. That's "not the way we do it," he was told.

The right way? "You have to make the lines bold enough so that the drawing can be reproduced clearly." Drawings of sheet-metal parts had to be capable of being photographically transferred to metal to make routing templates and forming tools, he learned.

The cabin of the lunar module was cramped -- 7.5 feet high, 14 feet wide -- and about 200 engineers worked on every aspect. Rosenbaum worked on the structure around the front windows and prepared installation drawings and procedures for the inertial measuring unit and rendezvous radar.

An analyst checked his stress calculations, which had its own stress. Then the group project engineer  would silently scrutinize the design, "pointing to the very thing I didn't want to talk about: 'Why did you do that?'"

A tense question, but a good one in the overall process.

Long work hours

Astronaut descends from lunar module Astronaut descends from lunar module. / NASA photo

Work hours were long then -- 48- to 56-hour weeks, six days. A one-day break from the grind occurred On Nov. 8, 1965, when a power failure led to the East Coast blackout

The Brooklyn native walked home that day; others didn't, he said: They used lights from cars to illuminate a cavernous work area.

A key focus on developing the lunar module was making sure it was as light as possible. It had a maximum control weight, and achieving it resulted in many redesigns to get weight out.

Materials were always an issue, and that was true of reflective coating used for micrometeorite protection on the lunar module's exterior.

One came from a surprising source, not far away, in the theatrical world of Manhattan, where a highly reflective aluminum material used in set designs. Grumman bought up a bunch "before anyone figured out why." 


Simple solution

Then there is the apocryphal story of the ladder.

Working with a full-size mock-up of the lunar module, engineers were trying to figure out the best way for an astronaut to exit the craft. Complications included not knowing where landing would occur, so to account for the vagaries of the Moon's surface, the length of the module's legs could vary. Those involved worked on many solutions to figure out how to get the astronauts from the door to the ground.

On the day an astronaut showed up, with no concluding plan in place. He asked: "Where the ladder?"


Moral? Rosenbaum said, "Look for a simple solution."

In 1966-69, Rosenbaum moved away from the module and worked on other defense projects at Grumman -- the C-2A twin-engine turboprop, the EA-6B Prowler, the F-14 Tomcat.


Final thoughts

In January 1967, the deaths of three astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire shook NASA, stoking fears that it would kill the program. "Engineers worked to show our space program at its best," he said with pride, adding the lurking fear: "We worked hard to minimize risk, but going to the Moon was a high-risk endeavor, and we always recognized that with a major failure someone could die."

Some of that pride emanates as he responded to the photo quality in the three-part PBS series "Chasing the Moon." The grainy shots were those beamed back to Earth and had to be low bandwidth. The best shots were stills taken with their Hasselblad cameras and developed later.

Of the July 21, 1969, walk on the Moon, the clear picture Ron remembers is the one he saw on his TV at home after he had been laid off.

That illustrates the ups-and-downs of the industry in which he worked. That should not be the last word here. Consider this:

The structure he designed and the equipment installation drawings he made were used on all of the lunar modules that were built, starting from test article 3 (LTA 3) through the lunar module that flew on Apollo 17, the last mission.

"As I look back at my 45-year career in various aerospace and defense companies I worked for," he said, "the LEM program stands out as not only my earliest design program, but the most satisfying and exciting."

Boston Globe, July 13, 2019: How Massachusetts made the Apollo 11 moon landing possible

Globe, July 16, 2019: Photos

This news feature was published Wednesday, July 17, 2019.



Town's ties to deep-space project that turns 20

Lie back on soft grass in a place with little city-lights pollution -- near New Hampshire's White Mountains? -- and drink in the summer's night sky.

Formans Christine Jones and William Forman at home. On screen is Chandra's X-ray image of the hot gas surrounding galaxy M87, at the center of the Virgo cluster.

What do you see? The Big Dipper ladles pinpoints of light. A trio of stars studding Orion's belt beckons.

Squinting, you see the Milky Way, the hazy band of fiery spheres that embrace us.

Chandra sees far more -- back toward the beginning of our universe.

The X-ray telescope has advantages over ordinary vision. The NASA project hosted at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics circles the Earth in a highly elliptical orbit with a maximum distance of about 85,000 miles in space, giving scientists a clearer view of exploded stars, clusters of galaxies and black holes.

Those who study what Chandra sees are town residents William Forman and Christine Jones, part of a team of 160 that includes a number who live in town. 

Read more: Town's ties to deep-space project that turns 20

What further should the town do after officer's harsh comments?

Issues surrounding Lt. Richard Pedrini face continued public questioning. He returned to desk duty in April following a 5 1/2-month paid suspension for harsh published comments: Lt. Richard Pedrini, MPA photo Lt. Richard Pedrini, MPA photo

  • On June 12, an Arlington writer published a lengthy report about some of the officer's history, including 204 pages of documents from a public-records request.
  • After that, a petition was posted on social media, asking the town manager and acting chief to develop a plan for repairing community trust by Nov. 1.

The following is an attempt to answer the question: Should you sign the petition?

First, some background.

Cars collide, an argument turns violent, a thief gains entry, your aging dad is scammed -- and local police take action on each to protect the public.

These unwelcome events, which spur fear, are among the range of cases that Arlington officers address. Our uniformed representatives of the law respond, gather facts and make judgments about whether to bring charges.

Read more: What further should the town do after officer's harsh comments?

8:30 school start time in 2020 referred to subcommittee

Differences emerged among School Committee members and principals and among committee members themselves as those involved discussed changing the school start time in 2020-21.

School Committee logo

The high school, Ottoson and Gibbs principals agreed with committee members that a new start time of 8:30 a.m. for middle and high school students beginning in September 2020 would benefit for both teaching and learning. They disagreed about who would be responsible for the all the aspects of the roll-out.

Finally, at the June 13 meeting, the committee voted unanimously that the communication subcommittee would handle consideration of the various challenges, collect data, send announcements and finally organize public meetings. Negotiating with the teachers’ union would be the responsibility of the entire committee. Despite some challenges, the start time is expected to be 8:30 for the middle schools and high school as of September 2020.

The committee also considered a new appointee to the Human Rights Commission, the school calendar, results of the override, a report from special education and revisions to the budget.

For start time, challenges remain

At an April [March?] meeting, School Committee members voted to approve a September 2020 start time for both middle schools and high schools unless the three principals found significant obstacles.  The principals of the Gibbs, Ottoson and high school reported back at the June 13 meeting to address the 8:30 start time.

The middle school principals reported first. Brian Meringer, principal of Ottoson, said both principals “see the benefits” for students in term of increasing sleep time. A second benefit for the Gibbs, reported by Principal Kristin DeFrancisco, is that all four school buses will be able to arrive at that same time because the elementary school and Gibbs starting schedules will be different.

However, DeFrancisco continued, when she “started digging a little bit,” other logistical issues came to light. She named four:

  • Some working parents need to drop off their children as early as 7 a.m., and now there will be an additional 30 minutes with no supervision or shelter;
  • Many teachers must drive long distances, and if they left later, they would encounter significant rush-hour traffic;
  • The Metco students at Gibbs ride the elementary school bus and would arrive very early; and
  • The current teachers’ contract says that afternoon school teachers’ meeting cannot contractually begin after 2:45 p.m.

DeFrancisco asked that a subcommittee of the School Committee be formed to address all of these issues.

Read documents related to this issue, including bus schedules >> 

Matt Janger, principal of Arlington High School, reported the same concerns but said with challenges are opportunities. He emphasized that the extra time sleep time will have a positive effect on student learning. Moreover, athletic schedules will not be much of a problem because many schools in the league have already switched over to the later start time.

Janger said the high school staff “has been thinking about it for three years and has worked out many of the major issues.” However, he continued, “the remaining issues are the ones that impact our goal of positively impacting our students’ sleep time and learning.”

Most important, Janger argued, was setting up a process to resolve the remaining issues. One big issue was to “keep the teachers’ [IN?] school from 8 to 3:30.” One possibility would be to have a shortened school day, but Meringer said this could be problematic for Ottoson.

What has to be decided, he opined, is the process -– “Who is to talk with whom, who is gathering information and where are the decisions going to be made?”

Committee member Jennifer Susse responded, “I am confused by the presentations.” She said. “I thought we would get more information.”

Committee member Paul Schlichtman also expressed concern with the presentations. He reminded the principals that last winter the committee decided to move to a September 2020 start date and the principals were to report in June how they could arrange their schooling to allow for the early start time.

Janger corrected Schlichtman on the date of the previous discussion which was in April. [THE VOTE WAS in MARCH] He also made clear that there were important considerations that the principals had no control over, such as the Metco bus schedule, times other organizations use the school building and negotiations with the teachers’ union.

Finally, the committee voted unanimously for an 8:30 start time beginning in September 2020 and the implementation for the start time will be referred to the community relations subcommittee. The School Committee as a whole would participate in any renegotiation of the Arlington Education Association contract.

In other business, the committee appointed Kathleen Rogers to the Arlington Human Rights Commission, heard the LABBB Inclusion Report and Special Education Update from Alison Elmer, and discussed the fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2020 budget revisions

Following these business items, the committee went into executive session to discuss security personnel, the contract for the paraprofessional union and Superintendent Kathleen Bodie’s contract.

At 10:30 the committee voted to accept the AEA paraprofessional and Bodie’s contract before adjourning.

March 20, 2019: Vote backs 8:30 a.m. start for middle, high schools in 2020

June 19, 2019: Bodie accepts new contract after 4-3 vote, to retire in 2 years

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Wednesday, June 19, 2019.


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