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Susse calls housing her focus in Select Board run

Virtual kickoff at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21

Jennifer Susse, 2020Susse

UPDATED, Jan. 26: Jennifer Susse, who served two terms on the School Committee, is among three potential candidates for two seats on the Select Board in the April town election.

The first to take out papers for the board Dec. 16, she has told the public one reason she is running -- to improve housing in town.

“Housing is at the intersection of everything that I care about -- educational inequity, racial justice, the environmental crisis and transportation issues,” she wrote in comments provided to YourArlington.

“The housing-affordability crisis is 80 years in the making, and it won’t be solved overnight, but that is not an excuse for doing nothing. Like many, I have recently read the book The Color of Law, which talks about the different restrictions that were put on people of color that kept them from moving into communities like Arlington.

'Moral obligation'

“In my opinion we have a moral obligation to work to address these past wrongs. Arlington has been a leader on so many issues -- including on fiscal oversight and on our environmental goals. We can be a leader and an inspiration for zoning reform as well.”  

She believes that officials should not wait to address the issue.

“We don’t have the option to stay still. The question we need to ask is whether we want to maintain our current trends or work to control the direction of any changes.

“Currently, we are losing natural affordability, and we are losing economic and generational diversity, including those under 35 and over 65. Our problems aren’t caused by developers. In East Arlington today a 1,500-square-foot house sells for north of $800,000. Even if we could prevent smaller houses from being torn down, we would not keep Arlington affordable. We need to think about what we want the fabric of our community to look like.”

She writes that the Redevelopment Board and Town Meeting “ultimately decide the fate of zoning changes in Arlington, the Select Board is an important political body in town. With the benefit of their soap box, they can be more vocal about their support both for affordable housing and greater housing diversity. I would like to be part of that conversation.”

'Passionate advocate'

She noted that, when she was a School Committee member, she was known for being a “passionate advocate for the messy process of political advocacy and engagement.” She added: “It is important to get people in the same room, perhaps by Zoom, to express their thoughts and concerns and to listen respectfully to people that they disagree with. Hearing from those we disagree with can show us that the issues are more complex than we realize. It can help develop compassion for other perspectives, which we all need, and it can encourage new ideas.”

As to her Select Board run, she wrote that “it was always in the back of my mind ... [as] something that I would do eventually.” By the end of her tenure on the School Committee, she found she was increasingly interested in non-school-related issues, such as the environment and housing.

“This year seems like the right time to run, because with Joe Curro electing not to run for reelection, we are losing the one Select Board member with School Committee experience, which I think is important to have on the board.”  

A board seat opened up on Nov. 30, when Joseph A. Curro Jr., a member of the Select Board since 2012, announced that he would not to seek reelection, citing family and professional reasons. 

Hurd, Helmuth

Select Board Chair John V. Hurd, whose term expires in April, has taken out papers and announced for reelection at the Dec. 21 board meeting. Eric Helmuth, a Precinct 12 Town Meeting member, took out papers Dec. 16 for his first run for the Select Board.

Last January, with then-newcomer Liz Exton taking out papers, Susse announced she was not seeking reelection to a third three-year term the School Committee. Exton subsequently won the seat.

Asked at the time why she was stepping down, Susse called committee membership "enormously valuable," but "exhausting."

She said her interests have veered in other directions -- toward the environment, voting as well as housing and zoning issues. She is involved with the Arlington chapter of Mothers Out Front and Town Meeting's election modernization committee, which she may have to leave when her School Committee term ends.

Last year, she helped the campaign to elect Len Diggins to the Select Board.

Asked at the time about the positive initiatives in which she has been involved during her time on the committeed since 2014, she cited communication efforts, both publicly and privately, and work to address rising enrollment.

The former philosophy professor came to town in 2008. She works part time doing accounts/bookkeeping for Janet Peluso, daughter of Town Meeting member Ted Peluso.

In the 2017 town election, Susse topped the three winners, with 1,984 votes, followed by Bill Hayner (1,955) and Paul Schlichtman (1,902).

In 2014, she placed first, with 3,646 votes, followed by Hayner (3,131), Schlichtman (3,102) and Michael Buckley (2,268).


Jennifer Susse for Select Board

Jan. 23, 2020: Susse decides not to seek reelection to School Committee

 


This news summary was published Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, and updated to add info from the town clerk's link on the town website, and on Dec. 17, to change photo, as well as Jan. 3, to focus on housing. Updated Jan. 23, to add kickoff notice, and Jan. 26, to add campaign website.

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