First-time Select Board hopeful eyes improving inclusion, trust

Your Arlington

Originally Published by Your Arlington (yourarlington.com) onMarch 11, 2020.

Created: 11 March 2020 | Last Updated: 04 April 2020 | Written by various sources |

Michaiah Healy, Select Board candidate, 2020 photoHealy

Michaiah Healy aims to be part of town history. She is the first female candidate of color to seek a Select Board seat.

Two three-year seats are open for the April 4 election after Dan Dunn declined to seek reelection. Vying for them in addition to Healy are Diane Mahon and Lenard Diggins.

In general, why are you seeking this seat?

Arlington is a special place for me. It’s where I’ve spent most of my adult years and where my husband and I have chosen to raise our family. I care about how we govern, work and treat one another here.

I am running because I want to be a culturally accessible representative to residents who aren’t always represented in the hearing room or on committees — and because I believe I can help move forward dialogue and policies that support the issues affecting us all and especially, our most marginalized and disenfranchised residents.

What specific qualifications do you have that support your candidacy?

My leadership through Envision Arlington’s Diversity Task Group has allowed me to build relationships with a large cross section of town residents; with department leaders within the town and our schools; with APS parent groups; and with various commissioners. I have developed a reputation for being thoughtful and honest, and for working with others on different sides of controversial issues; most recently, I accepted an invitation to the stakeholders table, to interview candidates for the position of chief of police.

My work experience in the area of organizational health and development has enabled me to help with the issues we face in Arlington today — in particular, the need for building public trust and improving communication with town residents. I hope to go on applying my skills in that area in service to the town. My commitment to working collaboratively and to legitimizing the concerns of different parties to a conflict; and my ability to use new information in a search for common ground provides me with a unique skill set for Select Board at this point in time for Arlington.

Through my professional and civic-engagement work, I have developed a substantial professional network in federal, state and neighboring government municipalities. This will be an asset as the Select Board works with its regional partners — for instance, in addressing the impacts of storm-water and CSO discharge into Alewife Brook; or more generally, in deepening our understanding of the issues that concern us and finding precedents for new policies or programs we may want to create.

What are the key issues you see facing the Select Board?

In the coming year, zoning and economic growth, the development of affordable-housing units; greater public engagement; and continuing our work in the area of diversity, inclusion and equity, will be high priorities for the board.

How would you address all of them?

Empty storefronts are not very attractive, and yet Arlington is doing great work through capital projects to make Arlington stores more attractive and sidewalks more accessible to access local businesses. I think it is going to take a creative and collaborative effort — including work with the Arts Council, local artist and theater groups, and increasing grass-roots efforts to support local and small businesses along the transportation corridors in Arlington.

Affordable housing is a regional issue and as many have said, increasing supply won’t solve all our problems in Arlington. The HCA, Tenants Associations, AHA, ARFRR and Equitable Arlington have experience in grass-roots work with residents, and I’d like to see us explore the areas of rent control and improving tenants’ rights. I’d like us to learn more about how to increase the attractiveness for property owners in making more units affordable, and lifting property-owner restrictions to allow for more affordable-housing units or accessory dwelling units.

The Select Board in its fiscal 2019 annual goals has been working on enhancing its presence and public profile outside of chambers, monitoring its own effectiveness through increased reporting and improved communication with the public and updating its policy handbooks as to public-communication investigations and implementation of community engagement. I’d be excited to work with other members of the Select Board in developing the Citizens Academy mentioned in the board and town manager goals, which focuses on engaging residents in town government.

Because of the changing demographic in Arlington, the Select Board should look for opportunities to increase its public exposure and outreach, perhaps a monthly Saturday morning coffee hour, similar to the ones held by the AHRC, School Committee and our state delegation.

I would like to see a communications and social-media policy as part of the town’s code of conduct, so that incidents resulting from hateful speech and/or writings, like the one that has so stunned and harmed the community and Police Department for over a year now, will never happen again.

Community trust is earned through positive exposure and by placing regard for injured parties front and center in civic life. This year, the Arlington Fights Racism group has reached out to the town to co-sponsor community forums in that area within our town, and it will be important for the Select Board to meet residents in spaces where the latter feel comfortable, in order to carry the important work of rebuilding public trust within the community.

Earlier this year, the town manager enlisted the National League of Cities to begin training the board, department heads and other staff members in strategies for normalizing conversation about race and bias; measuring race and bias in the workplace and bringing about change where necessary. As the Select Board updates its policy handbooks, I would submit a proposal for including an annual cultural competency training for all Arlington’s elected and appointed officials, as part of their continuing education and professional development. I would be looking for other policy areas where we can promote equity in various forms.

What personal background can you provide?

My first introduction to Arlington occurred 15 years ago, when my husband proposed to me on an inlet of Spy Pond Park. After we married, we moved into a family friend’s home on Mott Street in East Arlington, where we lived until the owner sold the property. After a few years in Belmont, we chose to return to Arlington, where we’ve been renting for the past 7 1/2 years, to raise our twins and 3-year-old.

See Healy’s web presence, on Facebook >>  or here >>

ACMi profile >>


This news summary was published Wednesday, March 11. All candidates in the April election have been asked a similar set of questions. All responses received will be edited and published on YourArlington.com