The Voice requested that all candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for the County Board submit answers to a series of questions. Ms. Merlene's responses follow. For more information on all the County Board candidates, please visit the Candidate Page https://arlingtondemocrats.org/vote/candidates/
Q: What is an important issue that you believe does not get enough attention? How will your past work inform your approach to that issue in the County Board?
Mental health. Mental health wellness is something that has unfortunately been a scapegoat for a number of policy issues being “unfixable”. From gun violence and suicide prevention, to long-term healthcare, to test taking for our kids -- a binding thread through many issues is mental health. Without the ability to change our national system, what is it that we are doing here and what are the opportunities for improvement?
In my work with the Civic Federation I met with numerous staff from the police, health and human services, the schools, and more to present clear recommendations for improvements the county could pursue including: 1) Include mental health beds as part of our Capital Improvement Plan; 2) Create a one-stop specifically for mental health to reduce barriers to getting help; 3) Have one comprehensive county plan that is not siloed in various departments.
Q: The COVID-19 health crisis continues to have unforeseen impacts on County revenues and expenditures. What thoughts do you have about how the County budget should be adjusted to respond to them?
With a professional background in supporting small businesses with government loans and tax credits plus community experience with the Economic Development Commission and Small Business Working Group I would bring an important perspective during this crisis.
Restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops, and small stores are the heart and soul of our community. Below are various ways I would help these sectors, and in turn our community, recover.
Unemployment Insurance, Shift Workers, and the Hungry
- Phone assistance to help residents file for unemployment using existing staff. State phone lines are overwhelmed and this would be a huge help for those most in need during this time.
- Regularly scheduled food and supply drives. Arlington successfully hosted one drive and should continue to host drives to benefit AFAC, local hospitals, and others in need.
Smart Economic Planning
- Streamline the procurement for projects and consider cost early in the design process.
Identify new revenue sources by empowering the Commissioner of Revenue and explore vacancy taxes to encourage lowering of rents to support small business
Q: What is one quality or experience that sets you apart from your fellow candidates? How will that quality or experience influence your perspective as a member of the County Board?
I grew up in Arlington. I went through Arlington schools and was in trailers in elementary, middle, and high school. I know the importance of the County using data from site plan review processes to inform our Capital Improvement Plans (CIP) so we don’t end up with crowded schools. My family bought their house when Arlington could still be considered affordable. I know the difficulty that many in the same position have with aging in place, and appreciate the balance between those that want to live in a neighborhood with trees and those like me that want to live near public transportation and in walking distance to shops. My family further has deep roots in Arlington that would make me a strong candidate for any potential general election competition