Close Mass Ave vote means project likely to go forward

“Yes” votes for Arlington’s oddly-worded advisory question on Mass. Ave. edged out “no” by 4,334-4,097, according to unofficial results from the Town.

The same electorate also returned Kevin Greeley, running on a pro–Mass. Ave. platform, to the Board of Selectmen over Mass. Ave. opponent Maria Romano by a more-decisive 4,626–3,355.

The narrow 51–49% referendum result probably clears the project to move forward in the coming months.

For a binding vote or election, even the narrowest majority has the force of law. Binding referendums are subject to legal and constitutional review and appear with pro and con statements printed on the ballot.

For a nonbinding vote, which need not be unbiased or well written, close votes invite interpretation by officials, especially when the wording is unclear or subject to multiple meanings.

In the case of Question 1, proponents deliberately courted ambiguity as a way to win votes, even to the point of refusing to say beforehand what they thought the results of a win for their question should be.

That, and the fact that the Board of Selectmen is unchanged, probably means the project will proceed.

The Selectmen unanimously support the Mass. Ave. project.

But we’ll see.


8 comments so far

  1. Douglass Davidoff on

    The chief proponent of stopping the Mass Ave Corridor Rehabilitation, Eric Berger, claimed to speak for the 98%. By that standard, he lost his own non-binding referendum — badly.

    He also lost on a far more important point, failing to elect compatriot Maria Romano to the Select Board on her fourth candidacy.

    I do worry that the Federal Highway Administration will read too much into yesterday’s election results. It’s important for the FHwA executives in Massachusetts toi consider that it’s remarkable that half the town’s voters are so in touch with this issue that faced with a seductively worded question, they nonetheless stuck to the counter-intuitive side and voted with utter conviction for change.

    It’s appropriate to consider this election’s outcome in April, the month of Patriot’s Day. The Massachusetts Avenue right-of-way is famous as the course of the British regulars as well as the route for the messengers Paul Revere and William Dawes, riding to warn of the British inland incursion. It astonishes me that many members of the agrarian community in the Boston and Cambridge hinterlands in 1775 came together in radical spirit to challenge the status quo and fight for something better, organizing to challenge any British assault on the weapons cache at Concord. This awareness of the benefits of change is alive in the split vote the town experienced on Saturday. Nonetheless, while many people in 1775 were supporters of the revolutionary cause, others were supporters of the colonial status quo (“Tories”) and another group, as always on political matters, simply had no strong opinion. A non-binding vote on Revolution in 1775’s Menotomy Village might well have produced yes/no percentages and turnout rates similar to yesterday’s vote. Such is public opinion.

    The Berger-Romano-Mark Kaeppelein troika speak of protecting “historic” Massachusetts Avenue, but never seem to explain exactly how it was that William Dawes, who rode the length of today’s Mass Ave some 238 years ago this month, experienced and benefited from a four-lane motor carriageway through Menotomy Village during his ride, nor how in the present day a preference for automobiles would accommodate a messenger on horseback urgently riding at full galloping speed with no regard for motorists when it does not even accommodate people on bicycles riding within the speed limit. Theirs is a weird view of history!

    Continuing in this admittedly fantasy history, it’s easy to see that American independence might have been endangered by the Berger-Romano-Kaeppelein vision of Mass Ave. They would have had Menotomy Village residents — 98 percent of them, at the very least! — turn Dawes aside at Alewife Brook or have the villagers surround Dawes and jeer at him until he agreed to dismount and walk through the village or trot compliantly in concert with other riders on the road. With this kind of delay, the British would have easily taken the weapons cache at Concord and the Revolution’s flashpoint would have waited for another time. But at least unruly people on horseback would have been barred from Mass Ave!

    For a map of the paths of Revere, Dawes, and the British, showing Dawes entering Menotomy at Alewife Brook:

    • Adam Auster on

      Indeed “No” got 742 more votes than Maria Romano did.

    • Dan White on

      Awesome revisionist history there!

  2. Lucy Smith on

    Please, just make it stop. Fix that shoddy stretch of road and sidewalk and move on.

  3. GRD on

    There’s some tough math for the anti-Mass Ave folks, too:

    Greeley received 4626 votes. Assume that all NO on Q1 voted for Greeley. This leaves 529 Greeley voters. Assume that all blanks on Q1 voted for Greeley, too. This leaves 341 Greeley voters. These two assumptions minimize the number of Greeley voters who also voted YES on Q1.

    But at least 341 voters voted this way, and the total margin of victory for Q1 was 237. Who would vote for Greeley and vote YES on Q1!? It’s a contradiction. Either they couldn’t tell Greeley and Romano apart, which is very unlikely, or they were confused about Q1.

    • Adam Auster on

      I have a slightly different take, GRD, which is that it is perfectly consistent to vote for “four lanes” and still want the project to proceed.

      In other words its not a vote on what to do, just on what people would like were it possible.

      That is the reason the Selectmen will probably go ahead. Imagine the uproar if they passed on $6.8 million in highway aid!

  4. ewhite37 on

    I know many who voted for Greeley and Yes on 1. The question is, if Romano is truly a one issue voter and got over 40% of the vote, how much is Greeley’s support being lost do to forcing this one issue upon a neighborhood that does not want it? 14 of the 21 precinct don’t want it. Over 50% of the voters don’t want it. The project fans have pushed long and hard yet it failed. Again. All despite out of town cycling groups working for it, blogs for it, all the selectmen pushing to get the money for it, local residents being told at the initial meeting the Board did not want to hear them say they didn’t want it, etc., etc., etc. This should be a dead proposal but it shows how hard people will fight to get perceived ‘free’ dollars. A sad situation that is dividing the town by pitting those who want the cash to fix up the Center against those in East Arlington who will be the most adversely affected.

    • Adam Auster on

      “Over 50% of the voters don’t want it.”

      That’s a stretch, EW, since “wanting it” wasn’t on the ballot.

      Seems to me the more honest claim is that a majority would prefer 4 lanes if possible (and even that is debatable).

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