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Town Meeting ’19 – Session 2

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Moderator John Leone called the meeting to the order shortly after 8pm.

Eric Helmuth played a brisk rendition of the National Anthem and the room sang along.  Unfortunately, I think you had to be in the front of the room to see the exceptional socks that he was showing off as he pumped the piano pedals.  Perhaps ACMI’s cameras captured them?

The moderator swore in a couple re-elected members who were not sworn in during last session.

The Moderator urged the body to disregard unsigned materials that are distributed to members. “If it’s not signed, throw it away.”

Select Board Chair Diane Mahon moved that we will come back on Monday 29th for our next session.

Announcements

  • Steve DeCourcey – Arlington High School tennis team is doing a bake sale in the hall. They are off to a 12-2 start this year.
  • James O’Conor – Do your precinct meeting during the break tonight.
    Jennifer Susse – Build Arlington’s Future campaign is having a kickoff event on Sunday, 3-5, at the Elks Club
  • Peter Fiore – He handed over his mother’s Measurer of Wood and Bark ceremonial tools to Mr. Worden. He passed along her comments that it was appropriate for a younger man to take it up, and someone with less Town Meeting experience than her.
  • Len Diggins announced the ACMI open house on May 2nd Thursday 7pm.

We tested the voting clickers: Toy Story was the first CGI movie, True or False 112-89-11

Paul Schlichtman complained the names on the screen weren’t the full names and there was some ambiguity on how votes were being recorded and displayed. The moderator instructed him to speak with the electronic voting team.

Article 3 – Reports

  • Charlie Foskett provided the report of the Capital Planning Committee.
  • Allen Reedy gave the report of the Permanent Town Building Committee. He announced the on-time and under-budget completion of renovations at Gibbs and Hardy. A woman up in the gallery audience started watching/listening to the Red Sox. The moderator asked her to stop, and her reaction was to run to the back of the room – but not out of it. It was actually kinda funny to watch. He explained that next up for construction are the DPW building and Central School.
  • Juli Brazile Chair of Envision Arlington. She talked about the education efforts of the committee, and the updates to the town survey.

Consent Agenda – Majority Votes

The moderator read the consent agenda. Several articles (10, 43, 64, and 65) were held (removed) from the consent agenda. We approved:

Article 12 Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Corner Lot Requirements
Article 13 Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Apartment Building Parking Requirements
Article 23 Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Publication of Supporting Docs – Zoning Board of Appeals
Article 25 Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Driveway Slope
Article 31 Bylaw Amendment/Rename Community Preservation Committee
Article 42 Home Rule Legislation/Town Treasurer
Article 46 Acceptance of Legislation/Establishment of a Commission on Disabilities Fund
Article 49 Acceptance/Local Option Taxes
Article 55 Positions Reclassification
Article 66 Appropriation/Miscellaneous
Article 67 Appropriation/Water Bodies Fund
Article 69 Appropriation/Harry Barber Community Service Program
Article 70 Appropriation/Pension Adjustment For Former 25 Year/Accidental Disability Employees
Article 71 Appropriation/Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund
Article 73 Transfer of Funds/Cemetery
Article 74 Use of Free Cash
Article 78 Resolution/Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Article 79 Resolution/Overnight Parking Exemption Program For Medical and Financial Hardships

They were approved 201-8.

Consent Agenda – 2/3 votes

60, 72 and 77 were held. We approved:

Article 59 Rescind or Reappropriate Borrowing Authorizations from Prior Years
Article 61 Appropriation/Financing of Construction or Reconstruction of Sewers and Sewerage Facilities
Article 62 Appropriation/Financing of Construction or Reconstruction of Water Mains and Water Facilities
Article 76 Appropriation/Long Term Stabilization Fund

They were approved 213-4-1

Article 16, continued

Moderator called on Arlington Redevelopment Board Chair Andrew Bunnell. He said the ARB still believes in the articles, but the ARB heard Town Meeting Members who wanted more information and input. They changed their recommended to no action so more work can be done.

John Gersh’s substitute motion was still “live” and it was debated. Steve Revilak asked why inclusionary zoning wasn’t adding more units. Director of Planning Jenny Raitt said that it was because there were very few developments of the size to trigger the bylaw. Ted Paluso talked about the need for change in the town’s zoning laws, and said the town was the best he’d lived in. Daniel Jalkut moved to terminate debate. 164-55. We voted on Gersh’s substitute motion, and it failed 90-123-3. No action  208-10-1.

Article 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11
All voted no action on voice vote.

We took the next zoning articles off the table.

There were then a series of confused people about what was and wasn’t on the consent agenda, or the table, or moved, or not moved.  I think that the consent agenda is a good thing, but it does require people to do some homework beforehand, and not everyone did it. I’m also pretty confident that we did the right thing.  Every important article is getting debate.

Article 10
No action on voice vote

Article 14 Parking

ARB Chair Bunnel explained that this is to reduce the parking requirements for R7. The program has been working for the town. This vote aligns R7 with the R5 and R6 – the parking program for them. Marian King is concerned that parking won’t be available for low-income residents, who actually often need cars more to get to their jobs/caregivers. Daniel Jalkut is in favor. Andrew Fischer had questions about how many spaces were affected. Gordon Jamieson made the point that this is affecting only a small part of the town – Jenny Raitt noted it’s only 3 parcels in town in R7. This was a really key point.  I’m surprised it wasn’t in the ARB report.  He is in favor. John Deyst moved the question. Terminated debate on voice vote. Approved 181-34-2

Article 15 Accessory Dwelling Units

ARB Chair Bunnell said that this was in response to the Master Plan. The goal is to produce low-income and senior housing. It only applies to buildings that have already been built. He outlined a number of the other restrictions and limits on accessory units. Diane Mahon (as Town Meeting member, not Select Board) asked how how many houses were affected. She was concerned about how many permits might be issued and the workload, and got answers to several questions. Michael Ruderman noted that previous versions of this have been voted down. He asked about what happens if someone does this without getting the permit – up to $1000 a day fine. Michael Quinn is generally in favor of the idea. He noted that the residential study group was unanimously opposed to for the March 15 version, but then the ARB approved a different version. He doesn’t understand what’s in this article and is opposed to it until he understands it better. He wants a better process, for no action to be voted, and to come back with a future.

We took a break from 9:30-9:44.  We did precinct meetings during the break.  The meeting was slow to come back to order – lots of chatter.

Christian Klein noted that R0 and R1 are most of the town – this article could really increase affordable housing. He asked about public safety. Fire Chief Jefferson expressed concern about how the units will get new addresses, but there was apparently a proposed solution. He was also somewhat concerned about how the layout of houses might change and become harder to understand. Jefferson thought the fire department could handle the change. In answer to a question, Inspectional Services Chief Byrne said that it is a significant undertaking to get one of these units to code. Elizabeth Pyle, member of the Residential Study Group, noted that the RSG asked for a full year delay. They were concerned that there would be short-term rental abuse, and the enforcement mechanism isn’t strong enough. The group was also concerned about the definition of owner-occupied, the size of lots, and parking pressure. There was at least one more point she made that I didn’t jot down fast enough. Mr. Byrne spoke to say that he believes it is enforceable. A speaker was concerned that it was too restrictive. Patrick Hanlon is on the RSG, he thinks the problems have been largely resolved, including the short-term rental bylaw to be considered later in Town Meeting. He is in favor of this version of the bylaw. Gordon Jamieson asked several questions about the details of the article. John Worden thinks this change will change R0 and R1 too much. Paul Schlichtman is concerned about illegal AirBnB use under this proposed bylaw. He thinks we should let the new AirBnB regs be tested for a while first. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. It was terminated on voice vote. The vote was 137-82 – the vote failed because it wasn’t 2/3 vote. With 219 voters, it needed 146 in favor, and failed by 9 votes. 219 is pretty high attendance compared to some of the votes we were taking a few years ago.

Article 17 Sign Bylaw

ARB Chair Andrew Bunnell the proposed sign bylaw would put Arlington’s sign bylaw into compliance with state law. He pointed out several problems with the current bylaw. Paul Schlichtman had questions about some of the terminology. Christian Klein had two changes. Bill Berkowitz had a couple questions. John Worden had a complaint about a sign on Mass Ave. Samantha Dutra moved to terminate debate, and it was on voice vote. 207-8 it passed.

Article 18 and 19 Flood Plain and Inland Wetland Districts

ARB Chair Andrew Bunnell noted that the review process does not change, but some inconsistencies were corrected. 214-2 Article 18 was approved. 210-1-1 Article 19 was approved.

Article 20 Religious and Educational Uses

ARB Chair Andrew Bunnell explained that the “Dover Amendment” on state level prevents restriction on certain types of use. That isn’t in our zoning. This would clarify the applicability in Arlington. There was a question about a reference. There was a question clarifying the exclusion of for-profit educational businesses. 207-4.

Article 21 Bicycle Parking

ARB member David Watson explained that the existing bylaw links the number of bicycle spaces to the number of car spaces. The new bylaw makes bicycle parking independently calculated. It also has a lot more definition to what a bike rack must be. Peter Howard clarified that it is only on new development, not existing ones. Daniel Jalkut had a question about how it can be placed. (I missed a speaker and quetion) Timur Yontar moved to terminate debate, and it was on voice vote. 207-7

We adjourned a few minutes past 11.

Town Meeting ’19 – Session 1

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

At 8:00 Moderator John Leone started callling the meeting to order. The meeting started at 8:03. It was really wet outside – bucketing rain. People slogged in anyway!

The Menotomy Minutemen marched in and lead the meeting in singing the National Anthem. (See the video on Facebook)

Pastor Marc Bishop from St. Agnes gave the benediction.

The Moderator gave his remarks. He noted this is Arlington’s 212th Town Meeting, and this is the 87th as representative town meeting (1937).

  • The moderator walked through the ground rules about submitting amendments (must be shared the sessions beforehand).
  • He said that town meeting materials in 2020 will be changed to primarily electronic distribution, not mailed beforehand. Print will no longer be the primary method.
  • He invited people to speak briefly and reminded everyone of the speaking time limits. He explained the electronic voting, aka the clicker. The test vote was: La Brea Tar Pits are found in Los Angeles? True 135, False 59, abstain 15.
  • He announced that the budgets would be discussed on May 6th.
  • He said the consent agenda would be taken up on Wednesday the 25th.
  • He offered a moment of silence for town meeting members who had passed.

The moderator administered the oath of office. There was some confusion about how the oath would be read and said – but people muddled through it. They were greeted with a round of applause afterwards.

Chair of the Select Board Diane Mahon made the traditional motion about permitting town officials and employees to sit “on the floor” with town meeting members. Non-members are seated in the viewing gallery on the 2nd floor.

Town Clerk certified that the meeting was properly convened and called by the Town Constable.

We voted to return on Wednesday for the rest of the business.

Announcements

  • Bill Hayner announced the elementary school mock town meetings.

Article 2 State of the Town. Diane Mahon gave the state of the town.

Article 3 Reports of Committees

See all reports on the town website

  • Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB) Chairman Andrew Bunnell gave the report of the Arlington Redevelopment Board.
  • Diane Mahon gave the Select Board report.
  • Al Tosti moved the reports of the Finance Committee.
  • Peter Howard gave the report of the Master Plan Implementation Committee

Article 3 was tabled.

Article 4 Measurer of Wood and Bark. John Worden was appointed the Measurer of Wood and Bark after 50 years in Town Meeting.

ARB Chair Bunnel moved to table Articles 9, 10, 12, 14, and 15.

Articles 6, 7, 8, 11, and 16

ARB Chair Bunnel explained that 6, 7, and 8 are administrative. Article 16 is the meat of the proposed change. He explained that it only affects a narrow range of districts in Arlington, the ones along the business corridors. The goal is to improve Arlington’s economic, business, and housing stock diversity. The ARB wants it to increase affordable housing production. Gersh moved a substitute motion that only changes inclusionary zoning. He thinks the density changes are too much and too fast. Christian Klein moved an amendment to shrink the scope of the change. Barbara Thornton moved an amendment to add storm water management to the scope of Article 16. Marvin Lewiton moved an amendment that would protect more of the open space in town by removing the reference to balconies used as a part of the open space calculation. Steve Revilak was the original proponent of the article. He talked about exclusionary v. inclusionary zoning. He doesn’t think Gersh’s amendment solves the problem, but he thinks that Klein’s, Thornton’s, and Lewiton’s are good. JoAnne Preston invited Janice Broadman (Arlington resident) to speak. She doesn’t think there was enough outreach or research. This is a classic tactic to defeat a proposal when you can’t marshal a logical argument – don’t attack the merits, attack the process. If her leading argument is that the process was broken, her argument is pretty weak.

9:36 The moderator called a recess

9:47 He called us back to order.

Patricia Worden requested an extra 2 minutes and it was not given. She is opposed to the ARB proposal and supports Gersh’s amendment. She predicted a number of dire consequences for the town if the ARB article is adopted. Jordan Weinstein had several questions for Director of Planning Jenny Raitt about the analysis and study done on the proposals. He’s opposed to all of the changes. Anne Thompson thinks the town needs to take more time. Maureen Gormley invited a non-resident business owner Julia Mirak Cue. She supports the proposed changes. John Worden is opposed to the proposal. “We have done our share of people packing” he said, as if Arlington were full.  Kaspar Kasparian is opposed to the proposal. His speech . . . . wandered. Susan Stamps announced the Tree Committee’s opposition to the change and asks for further study. Peter Howard is in support of the change – he thinks the economic development is important. Kevin Koch doesn’t know the impact on the tax rate. Bill Berkowitz invited Don Seltzer (resident) to speak. He presented a series of hypothetical buildings and shadow studies. Joe Tully supports Gersh’s amendment and introduced Winelle Evans (resident). She supports Gersh’s amendment. Daniel Jalkut is in favor but has reservations. Bill Hayner asked what an affordable unit would cost. He’s concerned with the impact on the schools. He’s opposed to the change.

We adjourned just after 11.

I’m voting to support the change proposed by ARB. We need to encourage affordable housing and commercial building production in Arlington. The changes proposed are moderate – measured changes to a fraction of the town’s neighborhoods. I believe the fears of the opponents are overblown. Some of the opponents make reasonable arguments that I still disagree with. Other opponents are simply fear-mongering: for instance, the ridiculous claim that these zoning changes would make Arlington Center look like a building on the 5-lane divided highway that is Route 2.

Taking a step back: Arlington has to change. The current zoning laws are not serving us well. We’re creating more high-end housing and converting commercial space into residential. If those trends continue Arlington will lose any diversity that it has today, and will become even more dependent on residential property taxes. I very much understand that change is scary and includes some risk. I hope that Town Meeting isn’t paralyzed by the fear of those unknowns, and we can move the town towards a solution.

Town Meeting ’18 – Session 4; Special Town Meeting

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

The Special Town Meeting was called to order.

Rieko Tanaka played the National Anthem on the piano.

We did a test vote on the clicker about “E Pluribus Unum.” 87-71-7 I think it was a trick question!

Anouncements

  • Bill Hayner made a couple announcements that I didn’t get written down fast enough.
  • Brendan Sullivan – DCF foster care. If you want to get involved, he passed a pamphlet.
  • Naomi Greenfield gave statement from Arlington Human Rights Commission gave a statement about a hate incident of Arlington High School.
  • Anna Watson gave the report of the Rainbow Coalition. I’m the Select Board liaison to the Rainbow Coalition, and I’m very excited about the start.

Article 1 Reports

  • Selectmen report received
  • Arlington Redevelopment report received
  • Adam Chapdelaine gave a report on the High School Building Comittee

The Moderator put the Special Town Meeting in recess, and we returned to the Annual Town Meeting.

Article 19 – Budgets

Recreation – Question about changes in revolving to enterprise fund.

Ed Burns Arena – There was a question about a line item that went up by $13,455. I’d argue that this question could have been asked before the meeting.

Budgets approved 197-1-1

Article 35 – Committees and Commissions. There was a question about the culture budget increase. John Leonard moved an amendment to strike the sentence about consultants managed by the Town Manager. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine and Vice Chair of Finance Committee Charlie Foskett explained that consultants are generally supervised by the Town Manager, but this article was a pooling of all the relevant funds. The amendment failed 15-187-1. The budget was approved 195-6.

Article 42 – Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB). Annie LaCourt asked for a lesson about what OPEB is. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine explained that this is for retiree health care. We have $201 million liability and $8.9 assets. There was a question about the funding mechanism. 202-0

Article 45 – Free Cash (Undesignated Funds). Mr. Chapdelaine explained this is the previous year’s unexpended funds.

Article 46 – Long Term Stabilization. 201-1

Article 47 – Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund. FinComm Vice Chair Charlie Foskett updated the number to be voted. 204-0

Article 27 Collective Bargaining was taken from the table. Collective Bargaining. Adam Chapdelaine said that some unions have settled, and some have not. This funds the settled ones and other funds are set aside. 202-0

Article 3 was taken from the table.

The regular Town Meeting was dissolved. Unprecedented speed in an Annual Town Meeting!

We returned to the Special Town Meeting

Article 2 – Recreational Marijuana Moratorium. Arlington Redevelopment Board Chair Andrew Bunnell explained that the recreational marijuana regulations are very new and we need time to properly zone and regulate recreational marijuana in Arlington. Patricia Worden spoke in favor of the moratorium and against the use of marijuana. This was a reprise of her famous “Reefer Madness” speech of 2017.  There was a question about if we’ll be ready for fall with regulations. There was an opponent of the moratorium. It was asked what happens if we don’t have a moratorium – the answer is that the store can be in town, relatively unconstrained by zoning. John Deyst moved to terminate debate. The moratorium was approved 157-47.

Article 3 – Residential Tear Down – As Chair of the Select Board, I reported again on how some tear downs are good, some are bad, and they are hard to tell apart. Several speakers were in favor, but several were frustrated with the pace of the solution. There were discussion about whether or not teardowns were an issue (everyone appeared to say yes). Schlichtman moved to terminate debate. Debate was terminated 157-35-1. 192-9 it was referred to committee.

Article 4 – Tax Relief I talked about the importance of the coming override and the various strategies. Speaker in favor, and a question.  Mr. McCabe terminated debate, approved 191-2-1

Article 5 – No action

Article 6 – Package Stores – It would most likely be in Arlington Heights. Several speakers were opposed, and a few questions were asked. 126-67-2 approved.  The two most controversial articles this year were pot and alcohol.  I think there is going to be an interesting Venn diagram of voters on these voter sets.

Article 7 – Gender Neutral – This finishes the change from Select Board to apply to all other boards and bylaws. There was a speaker against, who thinks it is too risky. There were speakers in favor. 182-8-3 approved.

Special Town Meeting was dissolved.

Town Meeting ’18 – Session 3

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

We had been moving at a decent pace through Town Meeting so far, but tonight we slowed down quite a bit in the budgets.

Eric Helmuth played the National Anthem on the piano and the meeting sang along.

As Chairperson of the Select Board, I welcomed the visitors from Nagaokakyo.  We have been sister cities since 1984 with some 75 exchanges over the years.  We heard remarks from their teacher, Connor Boyle.  In my remarks I forgot to thank the families in town who host the visitors, and I forgot to thank Sue Sheffler for her hard work on the program.

Announcements and Reports

  • Moderator John Leone reminded everyone that clapping for individual speakers is not appropriate and is a form of intimidation.
  • I announced that the Symmes fund financial report was available in the back of the room.
  • Jane Howard announced the Spy Pond cleanup.
  • I didn’t get all the announcements recorded – I had too much going on to catch them all. 
  • The school committee report was received from Kirsi Allison-Ampe
  • The Recycling Committee report was presented by Larry Slotnick and and Priya Sakalia.
  • John Ellis reported on the tree inventory.

Article 34 Minuteman. Fin Comm Member Stephen DeCourcey requested 10 minutes. He noted that Minuteman’s budget includes the capital costs along with the operating budget. Assistant Superintendent Kevin Mahoney gave the presentation. He relayed the changes in the budget and the new building progress. He answered questions, in particular about revenue opportunities for the old property. Minuteman was approved 212-1.

Budgets – Al Tosti had a substantive increase to the education budget, and a number of administrative changes related

Board of Selectmen – Questions on elections and increased staffing in the department.

Information Technology – There was a question about Request/Answer upgrades. There was a question on our preparedness for a cyber threat.

Treasurer/Collector – There were questions on what out-of-grade pay was and the balance on the Symmes debt.

Assessor – Many questions about how the department does it’s work. There was a question about creating a differential for commercial tax rates v residential rates.

We took a break.

Planning – John Maher thinks the Planning Director is underpaid. Questions on traffic hiring and MBTA.

Public Works – There were discussions of road salt and drinking fountains. Or, as I term it, we chatted about salt and water. There were questions about traffic signal maintenance as well. There was a question about how often trucks are washed.  Schlichtman moved to terminate debate. I confess at this point I was hoping the debate would move along more quickly. The questions could have been asked beforehand, and could have been delivered with more precision.

Facilities – There was a question about a budget change, and it was answered that there was a change between consulting and personnel. The FinCom budget document gives a lot of information, but it is only a summary of the budget. The next deepest layer is the Town Manager’s report. Many of the questions in town meeting are answered in that document.  It’s possible to dig even deeper if you want – FinComm members get a budget every year, hundreds of pages, that breaks it down line-by-line.  But I find the Town Manager’s report to be the best level of narrative and detail.

Police – There were several questions on position changes and staffing.

Education – There were questions on Gibbs cost increases, Gibbs library funding. There was discussion on PTO spending and how they were funding more “must haves” not just “nice to have.” There were compliments on the quality and cost effectiveness of the Arlington education system. There was a question about how the school checks residency. Someone in the meeting shouted “scope.” The question was absolutely in scope – even if I wish the questioner was asking in a more efficient venue, not in full town meeting. The speaker was clearly rattled. However, the only person who can determine if something is or isn’t in scope is the moderator – it’s not determined by the peanut gallery. My advice to the speaker: ignore the people shouting at you – the only person who can stop you is the moderator. If the disruptions become too much you should appeal to the moderator for help, not engage with the shouters. There was a question about bullying.  We finished the discussion of education.

The meeting adjourned.  Wednesday is the special town meeting and maybe? hopefully? the rest of the regular town meeting.

Town Meeting ’18 – Session 2

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Kevin Greeley played the National Anthem on the piano, and the meeting sang along.

Moderator John Leone gave a question to test the voting clickers, “Was Steamboat Willie a silent film?” The vote was 85-70-16, and the actual answer was no – it had soundtrack.

The moderator swore in one new member. Hi Amy! Welcome!

It was noted that the test vote review didn’t finish, and they ran through it again.  It’s the opportunity to verify that your vote is working

Announcements and Article 3 Reports of Committees

  • John Maher announced the continuing availability of the Symmes non profit funds.
  • Alan Reedy gave the report of the Permanent Town Building Committee. He drew applause for the announcement that the project to rebuild all of the elementary schools is done. He offered thanks to John Kohl for his years of service at chairman.
  • Richard Greco gave an extended report of the Retirement Board.
  • Charles Kalauskas and Joseph Barr, co-chairs of master plan implementation committee gave an extended report on their committee.

Article 3 was laid on the table

We took article 30 out of order to do the capital plan.

Article 30 Capital Budget – Charlie Foskett, chair of the Capital Planning Committee, ran through the plan for the capital budget. There were a series of questions on details of the budget. There was a question about the possible cost of the high school and operating override. Adam Chapdelaine explained that there are still many unknowns on the high school, like exactly what will be reimbursable by the state. One conservative scenario is a $300m high school with a 35% reimbursement rate, which would give an average tax increase of $700 on the average Arlington house ($650,000 value). For the operating override there are also many decisions still to be made including how long the override is intended to last. An override in 2019 (FY2020) that supports a 3 year balanced budget would cost $305 for the average house; 4 year budget would cost $530; and 5 years would cost $705. I didn’t expect this question to appear in this way, or in this article, but I am really happy with Adam’s answer.  We don’t know all the answers yet, but we know a range of possibilities, and Adam’s answer was remarkably clear despite the ambiguity that remains.  I am glad that Town Meeting has heard the scope of the override campaign that we need next year.  Debate was terminated debate by a vote of 170-28-2. The budget passed 207-1-2.

Article 39 – Eric Helmuth, chair of the Community Preservation Committee ran through the plan for the CPA spending. There were several questions about the spending.  We took our 9:30 break and then approved the budget 172-2-2.

Article 19 – Financial Department I apologized for the errors in the Selectmen’s report. This really has been tough, and I’m very sorry about it.  This year’s process was different than past years, partly because of changes in personnel.  We didn’t get it right.  I will make sure we get it right going forward.  I explained this article is putting the pieces together. 200-7

Article 20 – I gave an introduction and endorsement of changing the Selectmen to Select Board. I said that Selectmen is a cause of unconscious bias, and we need to remove it. Proponents Clarissa Rowe and Naomi Greenfield explained their support. Paul Schlichtman made a substitute motion to put the question of what the new name should be to a committee. Timur Yontar made a substitute motion to change the name to Town Council. Several speakers were in favor of the main motion, at least one in favor of Schlichtman’s motion. John Deyst moved to terminate debate, and it was terminated 169-36. By a vote of 23-183-1 Yontar’s motion failed. 21-185 Schlichtman’s failed. 195-6-5 approved.

Article 21 – Change Vision 2020 to Envision Arlington. Juli Brazile gave the history of Vision 2020 and the plan for the group going forward. Two speakers were in favor.

Article 22 – Local Option Taxes.  No action

Article 23 – Community Development Block Grants. I’ve been chest-deep in emails and worries about the errors in the Selectmen’s report, and when I couldn’t find my CDBG report, I was convinced we’d forgotten to include it.  I’m glad that we did include it, and embarrassed about (yet another) error.  I first moved to postpone, and then I was shown that the report was distributed, and I was happy to see the postponement shot down.  After one question it was endorsed.

Article 24 – Revolving funds – Approved.

Article 26 – Position Reclassifications. There was a question, then approved.

Article 27 – Tabled – there may be union contracts.

Article 28 – Parking Budget. Approved. 197-2-1

Adjourned.

Town Meeting ’18 – Session 1

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

This year I’m the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and I’m frequently introducing articles, answering questions, and directing traffic.  I’m not able to keep the notes that I usually keep.

Under Article 4, I delivered the State of the Town.  You can read my speech here.

Under Article 10, Animal Control Bylaws, Chief Ryan gave the winning reply of the night.  The question and answer had moved into policing philosophies, and Chief Ryan offered an answer to the question about “what would he have done at that Starbucks in Philadelphia.  His answer was: “I’d buy them a cup of coffee.”

Town Meeting ’17 – Session 5

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Selectman Kevin Greeley played the National Anthem on the piano and the meeting sang along.

Moderator John Leone said that we might finish tonight. I was doubtful, but he was right. We finished tonight! He did a test question on the clicker about Ghandi, the vote was 80-98-11.

Chairman of the Board of Selctmen Joe Curro moved that we’d come back on May 10 if we didn’t finish tonight.

Announcements

  • Bill Hayner announced May 23rd Mock Town Meeting with elementary students.
  • Susan Stamps – Arlington did get a tree grant. Tree committee is looking for volunteers to help with tree inventory.
  • DeAnne Dupont – announced recycling day on Saturday.

Reports

  • Juli Brazile gave the report of the Vision2020 committee.
  • Anne LeRoyer gave the report of the Open Space committee.

At 8:21 we got to the articles.

Article 33 Budgets, continued

Education, continued

Len Kardon. He thinks that we’re not spending enough on education. He noted that our spending as a fraction of state budget is flat over the last several years. He noted the average elementary school sizes are going up. He suggested that one path is to have an early override so that the tax increase can be smaller. I understand and respect Len’s argument about school budgets, but I don’t agree with him. We have a tension between the demands for higher school spending and our fiscal constraints. I think we’re picking the right compromise. On his second point, I have given a lot of thought and discussion about when we should do our next override, and how big it should be. I’ve been generally supportive of doing an earlier, smaller tax override, but the devil is in the details. The timing has been hard because of school building votes. My current thought is that we should do our operating override at the same time as the high school building vote. Karl Wagner moved to terminate budget on education. Termination approved on voice vote, but 5 people stood, so we did a counted vote on the clicker. 122-71-4, terminate failed. Joe Tully was upset that “a member of the school committee” had admonished the meeting to not ask questions. Paul Schlichtman tried to rise on a point of personal privilege but the moderator ruled him out of order. I think Tully was reading too much into Schlichtman’s comments on Wednesday; I think Schlichtman was encouraging more questions, not fewer. Brendan O’Day reviewed the history of the multi-year budget projections, and that each year we’re wrong to the upside, and the date that we think we’ll need an override keeps pushing out. He said that our fiscal situation is better than our predictions say, and the predictions are generally wrong. I think O’Day is making an interesting point, but I don’t look at it the same way that he does. Predictions are the best estimates we have, but they have significant error margins. In budgeting, you have to think about what direction you want to be wrong. If your budgeting isn’t biased one way or the other, you’d expect your budget to be too high 50% of the time and too low 50% of the time. If half of the years our budgets were overdrawn, it would be a rolling, multi-year catastrophe. We would regularly have to call a special town meeting to adjust the budget, and if we don’t have reserves to draw on, we would have to make unplanned mid-year cuts in education and DPW and public safety. To avoid that, we deliberately bias our predictions to be conservative. We want our mistakes to be “to the good” because the downside would be so bad. The point that Al Tosti makes is that if we enter a recession, our budgets will start to miss “to the bad” and our conservative budgeting will ensure that is only painful, but not catastrophic. Paul Schlichtman: I wasn’t admonishing, I was encouraging participation. Ed Starr – terminate on voice vote.

Libraries

Jennifer Susse – Fox Library conversations ongoing about hours. Ted Paluso asked how we can change the budgets – they are finely constructed. John Worden noted that we can debate and change budgets if we want.

Insurance

No discussion

Water and Sewer

Gordon Jamieson noted that the tax rate and other items are discussed at the Long-Range Planning Committee. He noted there is a lot of public information about the budget. The Moderator suggested that he stick with the water and sewer budget. Jamieson had a question about the revenue estimate.

Recreation

No one spoke.

Arlington Youth Counseling Center.

Gordon Jamieson is in favor of this budget. He noted the effect on pensions.

The budgets were approved 211-0-1

Article 27-32 were taken from the table.

Article 27 – Special Education Reserve Fund

Selectman Joe Curro explained that this vote is part of the Municipal Moderation Act. We use a reserve fund today, but the act changes how the fund is created, funded, and operated. School Committee Member Kirsi Allison-Ampe noted that taking money out of it is different than it used to be. The School Committee supports it. Approved 208-0-1

Article 29 – Endorsement of CDBG

Steve Revilak had a question on planning expenses. For Housing Production Plan and others. 205-1-3

Article 30 and 31- Revolving Fund Bylaw, Revolving Fund

Chairman Joe Curro made two administrative changes to the votes. This article is also a part of the Municipal Modernization Act and codifies all of the the revolving accounts in one place. Article 31 is the regular votes for the funds. Gordon Jamieson – why are we putting this in a bylaw? Because the new law requires us to. Zarina Memon had a question about private ways fund. Bethann Friedman had a question about the Gibbs Energy fund. It’s included in this year, but not for next year, because then it will be a school expense. Mark McCabe moved to terminate 30 and 31. Article 30 approved 204-4-1. Article 31 approved 196-1.

Article 32 Positions Reclassification

The Moderator noted that 2a and 3a were removed in a previous announcement. John Leonard moved an amendment to rename the the Board of Selectmen to the Board of Administration. The Moderator ruled the motion out of scope – we would have to make a change to the bylaws and Town Manager Act. The amendment was passed on voice vote. 208-1 approved.

Article 38 – Zoning Bylaw Recodification

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said that the working group is already in progress. They’re not making policy changes. They’re making the bylaw more readable, and making it consistent with state law and case law. This is for retaining a consultant and paying for advertising of the pending changes. Deborah Sorotkin Butler had a question about the advertising budget. Greg Christiana – when did we do this last? 1975. Cost of not doing this? Town Manager explains that we want a bylaw that is accessible to the public. BethAnn Friedman asked if the Arlington Redeveloment Board will be holding a hearing. She thinks that sometimes the ARB hearings aren’t sufficiently open. The answer is that they will. Peter Fuller wants to know if the appropriation is large enough – this isn’t something to cheap out on. The answer is, by current research and scope of work, yes it is. Approved 206-7-1.

Article 39 – Parking Operating Costs

Peter Fuller wants to know how did we arrive at these numbers. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine says it’s 50% of the personnel costs. The parking meter operation costs include credit card fees, software fees, coin collection, leasing parking from First Parish, maintenance, and lease payments on the meters themselves. 203-5-3

break 7 minutes

Article 40 no action

Article 41 Real Property $300,000

155-2-4. This vote count was low as many people were slow coming back from the break.

Article 45 Committees and Commissions $52,000

Annie LaCourt asked about the appropriation for public art. FinComm Chair Al Tosti explained the history of paying for arts in the last couple of years. He explained they consolidated it to Arlington Commission on Arts and Culture. That was a unanimous vote. 10-8 vote on $25k – some people thought it was too much. Ian Goodsell is opposed to spending so much on arts compared to the other budgets. Barbara Costa announced the work on the arts being done in town. Budget approved 198-5-1

Article 48 Water Bodies $55,000

Ed Trembly wants to know if we study the salt in water. David White says that most of the money is for invasive plants, there is some water testing. John Worden asked about the pump in Menotomy Park. Approved 196-0-1

Article 49 Community Preservation Act $2,200,000

Clarissa Rowe asked for 10 minutes and got it. Eric Helmuth reviewed the CPA funding sources. Rowe explained the projects. Ed Trembly asked how much is spent on planning, and how much is being spent on doing. $2m in construction and $401k in studies. Allan Reedy asked if we were spending too much on the reflecting pool. Rowe: We’re trying to fix this for good, not a bandaid. Greg Christiana asked if affects high school rebuilds. Rowe: looking for creative ways to fund the high school, but it’s the beginning of the process. Gordon Jamieson did we appropriate money for the fountain already? No we didn’t. Peter Fuller had a few questions. Carl Wagner moved, and debate was terminated on voice vote. The expenditures were approved 198-5.

Article 51 Pension Adjustment $0
approved on voice vote

Article 52 Other Post Employment Benefits $500,000
200-0

What is OPEB? Health care costs for retirees. This is to defray part of the costs. The liability is far larger than this appropriation.

Article 53 no action

Article 56 Free Cash 4.8m

What is Free Cash? I prefer to call it “unencumbered funds.” It is the money that has been returned to the town by budgets. It is our policy to use half of it every year. 185-1

Article 58 Stabiliztion Fund $211,000

No discussion. Approved 188-0

Article 59 Sanctuary Town/Trust Town

The Moderator noted that it was a resolution, not a binding vote. He is limiting discussion to 10 minutes for each side, and then discussion. Joe Curro spoke in favor of the article. Joe Monju spoke against it. Monju listed many, many criminal acts. He listed communicable diseases. He didn’t make any logical connection between those and the sanctuary town resolution. It was a ham-fisted attempt to scare town meeting members, devoid of any logic or reason. Approved 173-19-10.

Town Meeting was dissovled.

Town Meeting ’17 – Session 4

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Moderator John Leone called the meeting to order at 8:00.

The AHS Madrigal Singers performed until 8:15, including the National Anthem.

Test vote on the clicker was about Farenheit 451, count was 126-55-15

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Joe Curro moved that we return May 8

Announcements

  • Joe Curro – Saturday and Sunday AHS Pops concert.
  • Barbara Costa – She advocated for Article 60 and referred to a handout on the resolution.
  • John Maher – Symmes Medical Use Fund is accepting applications until June 2nd. They fund any group that provides medical services to Arlingtonians. It’s his 44th Town Meeting. He praised the discourse. He noted that his voting clicker was missing, and someone had used it. It turned out that Diane Mahon had it.
  • Stephen Gilligan – Boy Scout Troop #306 is here. They are celebrating their 100th anniversary in town.
  • Dave Levy – Selling “I Drive 25 for Arlington Kids” bumperstickers, donating to AYCC.
  • Carol Band and Betty Stone – Arlington Porchfest has 120 bands signed up for June 3rd. She talked about Arlington Center for the Arts fundraising.
  • DeAnne Dupont – gave an announcement for Foodlink – Sunday May 21st 2-4pm 117 Broadway.

At 8:33 we got to Reports

  • Barbara Thornton gave the report of the Facilities Committee. The committee works to maintain and protect our $300 million in town property. She introduced the director of Facilities Ruthie Bennet. She updated on the department activities.
  • Eric Helmuth reminded the meeting that the report of the Community Preservation Act was in the back.

8:42 we got to the School Committee budget. It wasn’t clear to me at first exactly what budget we were tackling at this point. I think the moderator was running through the relevant reports/committees in anticipation of the capital budget.  I think it worked well. Jeff Theilman gave the report of the committee and introduced Superintendent Kathleen Bodie. She gave a high-level view of the budget. She talked about the increase in enrollment. She gave an overview of the school building projects in motion.

Charlie Foskett gave the report of the Capital Planning Committee. He reviewed that the votes tonight include both exempt and non-exempt debt. He talked about the votes will be in both the Special Town Meeting and the Regular Town Meeting. He noted that the Stratton project came in $1.5m under budget.

John Cole got a standing ovation for his committee’s work, and gave the report of the Permanent Town Building Committee. He asked for 10 minutes. He reviewed the many building projects in town.

Special Town Meeting Article 3 – Hardy School – $3.5m

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine reviewed the work of the School Enrollment Task Force. They had considered temporary and permanent solutions of several sizes. They opted for a permanent, 6-classroom addition. Carl Wagner noted that it was a good thing that we hadn’t sold the Gibbs. He commented on the evolution of the town. Kate Leary spoke for several Hardy parents. She talked about the changes at Hardy as it grows. She supports the plan and thinks it is needed. 215-1 approved.

Article 4 – Gibbs School – $24.5m

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine reviewed the details of the Gibbs renovation. The total cost is $2m higher than thought last year because the windows and other exterior work was found to be needed. 96% will come from the debt exclusion, and 4% will come from regular capital budget. William Burke is in favor of this article, but he thinks the town is letting too much building happen and enrollment is going up. Approved 217-0.

Al Tosti noted that the capital budget had changed at the last minute because of the Gibbs budget and the Mystic Street bridge work. He thanked Charlie Foskett and many others for the last-minute revisions of the capital budget.

Special Town Meeting was dissolved.

Regular Town Meeting returned.

Articles 27-33 were tabled.

Break 8 minutes long

Article 34 – Capital Budgets

Gordon Jamieson thanked the town employees and town meeting members for their work. He asked if the presentations would be put online. He asked about the accounting of bond premiums. He thinks we should spend more on parks and fields, and Charlie Foskett said that capital planning was hoping would be paid for out of Community Preservation. Ted Sharpe had a question about the math, and it was explained. Steve Revilak had questions about drainage rehab and Chapter 90 money. Peter Fuller had a question about elementary school ventilation. 205-1 approved.

Article 36 – Application of Bond Premium

Charlie Foskett explained that when we sell bonds, we often get cash payments (premiums). The state has codified how we should apply these payments. Approved 199-0

Article 33 – Budgets

Article was taken from the table. Al Tosti ran through the 5-year projection. He said that the plan has become slightly less conservative over the last few years. He noted that next year, FY2019, we start withdrawing money from our savings. FY2020 will withdraw more from savings. FY2021 we don’t have enough money. We will need an override of 14-16%. He asked everyone to support keeping spending down, and seek additional revenues, particularly from the state.

The moderator uses a “hold” system where each budget gets called, and if not held, then not discussion. Budgets 1, 5, 18, 19, 23, 24, 27, water and sewer, and youth counselling were all held.

Finance Committee – Gordon Jamieson asked for meeting notifications to be emailed.

Information Technology – Peter Fuller asked why that budget was so different. David Good explained that we had a new MUNIS collections package, and a messaging solution. He wants to focus more on security. He’s also working on the construction projects. He’s hiring so he can work on more long-term planning. Susan Stamps wants to know if there are updates to the town website. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine: we always accept suggestions, improvements are made regularly. There was a question about the software fees. John Deyst asked about security, particularly the finance area. Annie LaCourt asked about disaster planning.

Public Works – Ed Trembly asked about how much salt we used. He thinks town drivers should use snow tires.

Facilities – Barbara Thornton had a question about how we save money with facility software. Steve Revilak wants to know the facility’s information security – same as the other systems.

Education – John Maher asked for an update the relative compensation of our teachers to other towns. Bodie answers, comparable on master’s level, not on other levels. Gordon Jamieson had a question about grants, and special ed, and interventions. This was Gordon’s second time speaking, and he should have been restricted to 5 minutes, and the next time he speaks it will be his third time this article. He was at the podium 13 minutes tonight, out of about 160. Bill Berkowitz thinks the school should use more volunteers. Frank Ciano asked why administration expenses went up faster than janitorial and clerical. Paul Schlichtman reminded the meeting that the school budget line items can’t be modified by the meeting, only the bottom line can be modified. He said that no one was attending the school committee budget hearings, and he welcomed questions in those venues.

We adjourned for the evening.

Town Meeting ’17 – Session 3

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Jane Howard played the National Anthem on the piano, and the meeting joined in song.

There was at least one new town meeting member appointed tonight to fill a vacancy, and he was sworn in by the moderator.

The test vote on the clicker was 19-145-19 – it was a question about Jackson Pollack. That count of votes was pretty low, but I think people just skipped this test vote. Later on in the meeting we had as high as 214 votes. Our attendance has been higher this year than years past. Looking at my past notes, 2015 had 195 voters on Session 3. Farther back you see a big dropoff.  The infamous leaf blower vote was only 169 voters, in Session 4 of 2008.  In 2002, Session 3 was only 160 attendees.  I found one vote in 2008 that was 110 votes.  I attribute the higher attendance to electronic voting.  It has increased accountability both in attendance and in the substance of votes taken, and has driven turnover at the ballot box.  More people are showing up, night in and night out.

Board of Selectman Chairman Joe Curro moved for us to reconvene on Wednesday May 3, and it was approved.

The representative of the school committee of our sister city in Japan, Nagaokakyo gave a brief speech. She talked about the students’ 10-day visit. She thanked everyone for their welcome.

Article 3, Reports

  • Al Tosti updated the Finance Committee report. In Article 32, he deleted Section 2, item A and Section 3, item A. The Moderator said the change was made administratively, without further vote.
  • John Ellis gave the report of the Tree Committee. 187 trees removed, 175 added by the town last year. He reported on other programs the committee is working on, including working with the new Tree Warden.
  • Rich Greco, Retirement Administrator, gave the report of the Retirement Board. I thought this was a great report. The retirement system has a big impact on our town budget, and I don’t think it is generally well understood. It was a good education piece. I’ve asked Rich to post it on the town’s website.

Announcements

  • Michael Ruderman announced that today’s bake sale are items made today at the Minuteman Voc High School.
  • Steve Revilak announced that his neighbors had removed 42 bags of trash on the Mystic. He commended the town and volunteers for removing the trash.
  • Jane Howard announced Spy Pond cleanup day is May 13 9am to 1pm, they are focused on the section along Route 2. Rain or shine.
  • Betty Stone announced May 24th evening at the library is a film and discussion about women and immigration issues.
  • Selectman Curro June 6th 6:30-9 visioning session on Arts and Culture.
  • Angela O announced that the ATED visitor center is open, and the Uncle Sam Plaza site work is finished. “They Want You” to work at the visitor center.

Article 3 is tabled.

Al Tosti moved 19 be 43 be tabled.

Article 44 – Minuteman Vocational Regional High

FinComm member Steve DeCourcey asked for 15 minutes for the presentation. He gave the FinComm’s recommendation of the budget. He explained that the school district budget is down, but Arlington’s budget is up. Dr. Bouquillon gave a presentation about the school’s status and the changes to the budget. Gordon Jamieson asked about how Minuteman was able to shave a year off the school build: Bouquillon answered that it was an aggressive bid. Bond premium paid, he asked? yes – projected at $6million if they hit what they are planning. Topher Heigham: what is in the debt service? Why did the assessment jump so much? Answer: the rolling average includes some high years. Dean Carman – note that member towns get preference in acceptance if the enrollment gets larger than capacity in the new building.  Michelle Durocher had a question about the “academy model” at Minuteman. It’s an organization oriented at supporting students. Teachers are in academies organized by program, math and english aren’t separate departments, but are aligned within the academy. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate on Article 44. Terminated on voice vote. Budget approved 216-3.

19 and 43 were removed from the table.

Article 19 – Appointment of Treasurer, continued

Al Tosti spoke on his behalf, not on behalf of FinCom. Tosti spoke in favor of the change. He argued that the position is not political, and is professional, among other arguments. MaryEllen Bilafer shared former Treasurer Bilafer’s thoughts. He now supports making this an appointed position. Ms. Bilafer joined her father in supporting this change, saying that now is the time. She had a great quote: “Now it the time to take chance out of the process.” John Worden was opposed, and thinks the voters should decide who the treasurer is. BethAnn Friedman is favor, but had a question about the transition. Dean Carman said that he was already farming out most of the job to the deputy treasurer. Town Manager Chapdelaine gave a general picture of how it would work in three years if approved by the voters. Gordon Jamieson had several questions about the current appointment processes of various finance officials. Jud Pierce is opposed to this because he is worried that this will lead to a merging of school and town’s finance departments. I disagree with Jud on two levels. First, I think this vote should be taken on its own merits, not on future concerns. This issue isn’t a slippery slope change; the boundaries are clearly defined. Any future changes would be carefully scrutinized by town meeting. My second disagreement is that I do think that much of the school finance department should be merged with the town’s. I believe that Jud and I agree that the School Committee and Superintendent must retain independence to run the school system, and use the authority granted them by state law and the town’s charter. The School Committee should not need to ask permission of the Town Manager or anyone else (beyond reasonable checks) in order to run the school department. However, there are a lot of processes and systems that are entirely about execution, not policy, and those are the type of things that would be improved by merging the departments. Payroll is an excellent example. The Superintendent decides who gets hired and at what payscale, but the actual checkwriting is done by a joint team. Still, there are systems that are separate that should be integrated. The invoicing system is one of them. The schools are still using an outdated paper system, and invoices are not entered into the town’s electronic accounting system on a timely manner.  This is both expensive and increases risks of budget overruns. As with payroll, the actual invoice, the decision about spending, should be controlled by the school management. But once that spending decision is made, the actual flow of the money should be managed by a joint department. This is why we need integration. It’s an argument for another day. Adam Auster thinks that this is an appropriate position to be professionally chosen, not elected.

break for 10 minutes

Joe Tully is opposed to the change, and thinks it should be elected. Andrew Fischer also thinks it should be elected. John Deyst thinks that Dean Carmen and Adam Chapdelaine are the right two people to figure out the right structure, and supports the change. Steve Gilligan spoke next, in opposition to the change. He thinks that local, passionate candidates are the best choice. He noted other towns and cities that are unhappy with elected treasurers. There were too many points in Mr. Gilligan’s speech for me to capture them in detail while he spoke. I think that some of his points were factually correct, but many of them served in support of the change, not in favor of his position. Some of his arguments (and facts) were wrong.  He also brought some personality-driven elements to the debate, the elements that had made previous discussions less productive and more unpleasant.  It’s unfortunate that he chose to do that.  The debate had been generally focused on the merits, and there was no need to re-open those irrelevant issues. There was a question about how a treasurer could be removed, and Town Counsel Doug Heim gave an overview of the town’s recall procedures (Town Manager Act sections 36-44).  Steve Gilligan rose with a “point of information” and said that Town Counsel was wrong, and that the Board of Selectmen can remove an elected Treasurer for “malfeasance.” Neither Town Counsel nor I are aware of any such power of the selectmen to remove the treasurer, for any reason.  There used to be a statute where the state Commissioner of Revenue had the power to remove a treasurer, but it was never used and was regarded as unenforceable, and was ultimately repealed.  I think Gilligan was entirely wrong on his point of information. Ted Paluso argued that the “we need to trust the voters” argument means that if we trust the voters, we should send this question to the voters. Mark McCabe moved the question and it was terminated on voice vote. The change was approved 154-57-1 and will go to the voters.

Article 21 – Surveillance

The moderator asked who had held this off the consent agenda. A gentleman stood up, but he didn’t have a substitute motion. I believe the speaker is confused about the difference between a warrant article and a motion under an article. The warrant article serves as notice to the town residents that something will be discussed, but it is not actually a proposal for change. If you look at the language in the warrant, the articles all start with “To see if. . . .” They aren’t actions, they are considerations.  Later, the actual motions all start with “It is moved that. . .”  They are actions. No action was approved on voice vote.

Article 22, 23, 24, and 25 – Senior Tax Relief

Selectman Joe Curro thanked the town employees for their work on these. John Leonard had a series of questions about the programs. Gordon Jamieson had questions. Several speakers passed. Charlie Foskett wanted to understand what work was being done, and what effect it would have on collected taxes. Zarina Memon moved to terminate debate, done on voice vote. The four articles passed, 202-5-1. 199-7-1. 201-5-0. 199-4-1.

Article 26 – Parking Benefits District

Selectman Joe Curro said that it is part of the town’s economic development plan for Arlington Center. Last year town meeting did a bit of stick with the vacancy regulations, and this vote tonight is a carrot. The parking meters have encouraged turnover in parking spaces on-street, and usage of the off-street lots has increased by 20%. This district would permit us to put the revenue from the meters into improvements in the business district. Gordon Jamieson had a series of questions about the financial details. That was the fourth time he was called on tonight, the same number as Joe Curro. I didn’t clock Jamieson’s exact time at the podium, but I estimate it was 15-20 minutes out of the 160 minutes we met tonight. A speaker asked who spends the money, and why we’re doing this vote now. Chapdelaine: we’re doing it now because we want to use the money sooner than later, and this permits us to start looking at projects. Andrew Fischer had questions about the amount of anticipated new revenue ($150k) and what it would be used for. He is opposed. Phil Goff moved to terminate debate, and it was approved on voice vote. 170-28 we approved the district.

We adjourned a few minutes early.

Town Meeting ’17 – Session 2; Special Town Meeting 1

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I try to publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.  Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Meeting called to order at 8:00.

Eric Helmuth played the National Anthem on the piano, and the members of the meeting sang along.

The moderator noted that many members didn’t get written reports mailed to them this year – they had signed up last year to get it electronically.

The moderator said that Town Meeting was not a political body, and that people should remove their political buttons. I don’t agree with the Moderator on this one. This has never been a rule of the meeting before that I recall; I don’t think a rule of this type would be legal on state law and First Amendment grounds; and I would oppose any rule of this type if it were proposed. I decided to exercise my First Amendment rights and put on a Cindy Friedman for Senate button during the break.  I did it because I’m proud to support Cindy, and because I wanted to make the point. I got some thoughtful comments about the merits of that choice.  I haven’t decided whether I’ll wear the button again on Monday.  But I’ll be supporting Cindy, whether I’m wearing the button or not!

The moderator swore in two members who didn’t get sworn in on Monday. They got a round of applause.

The Special Town Meeting was called to order.

Selectman Joe Curro blazed through the same opening motions that we did for the regular town meeting yesterday.

Reports

  • Master Plan Implementation Committee gave their report
  • Cyrus E. Dallin foundation created on this night in 1995.
  • Treasurer Dean Carman gave his first annual report. He walked through balances, collections, and debt status.

Article 1 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment

Arlington Redevelopment Board Chair Andrew Bunnell expressed the ARB’s support for the amendment and introduced Elizabeth Pyle and Steve McKenna of the residential study group. They described that this bylaw change is a part of the package of changes. They are meant to be taken as group to solve the design problems that they see. The change wouldn’t allow a bigger envelope, but it would permit the open space’s longest dimension to be smaller. Gordon Jamieson was in favor. Carl Wagner is opposed – he believes the package of changes should be rejected, and that this will lead to bigger houses. Andrew Fischer was confused about how this changes the 2.5 stories – it doesn’t. Zach Grunko asked if it will accelerate the rate of tear downs – Director Inspectional Services Mike Byrne doesn’t think so. Daniel Jalkut doesn’t think larger houses are a risk and supports the change. A speaker whose name I missed asked a good question – is this change purely for aesthetics? The answer was partially yes, but also to create a good alternative to the garage-under design. Joe Tully – why not just ban the garage-under design? Bunnell: they talked to a lot of people, and there were a lot of people who still wanted versions of the design. This proposal was a compromise. John Deyst moved to terminate debate. 179-29-1 terminated debate. 185-25-1 change was approved.

Article 2 – Recreation Marijuana Zoning Moratorium

ARB Andrew Bunnell asked for a moratorium through June 30, 2018. In general, I’m opposed to delaying the implementation of zoning for recreational marijuana. The town approved it at the ballot box, and we shouldn’t stand in the way. However, the state is moving so slowly on this issue that they won’t be issuing anything until spring of 2018 anyway. I supported this because it makes some people feel more comfortable, but it doesn’t actually delay anything. Michael Ruderman moved an amendment to make the moratorium expire as late as possible, even if new rules are applied. Stephen Revilak noted that the town supported recreational marijuana in November, and is opposed to the change. He asked whether we can make local regulations of marijuana – the answer is yes, in a limited matter, but we don’t know the parameters yet of what will be allowed. Chris Moore – would this change be legal, because it is setting an indefinite date. Town Counsel Doug Heim indicated that he thought June 30, 2018 was the latest possible date. Patricia Worden is in favor of Ruderman’s amendment and is very unhappy with permitting recreational marijuana. She went on a tirade about marijuana that can be best summarized as “reefer madness.” One of her arguments was one that I’ve heard several times from opponents: She is concerned that her grandchild will be going to the pediatrician in the same building as a medical marijuana dispensary. I can’t for the life of me figure out why that is a problem. First of all, how many children go to the doctor without their parents? Doesn’t the doctor’s office make a good place for parental and medical education about marijuana and other substances? Furthermore, there could not possibly be a more low-profile marijuana sales location than behind a closed door in a medical building. In a town where marijuana sales are legal, isn’t this the best possible option for the people opposed? To me, this line is a clear demonstration of the hollowness of the arguments of the opponents of marijuana. Paul Schlichtman is in favor of the moratorium so that we can take the time to decide where the business should be. Mustafa Varoglu is opposed to the moratorium. The next speaker, John Ellis, brought the house down: “The downside of this moratorium is that next year at town meeting the tennis team will still be selling only traditional brownies.” This was one of the best one-liners I’ve heard in town meeting in years. 44-167-1 amendment failed. 161-51-2 the moratorium passed.

Al Tosti moved to postpone Articles 3 and 4 to Wednesday May 3 so that we can do all finance articles on one day.

Article 5 – Special Ed Stabilization
Al Tosti said that special ed costs were high this year, and we needed the money this year. It was approved 211-2-1.

The Special Town Meeting was adjourned to May 3.

Break for 12 minutes

We reconvened and came back into the regular town meeting.

Article 17 – Plastic Bags, continued

Jim DiTullio is one of the original proponents of the bag ban. He focused on the million plastic bags that are used in Arlington each year. He is opposed to Schlichtman’s amendment because it is hard to implement in places like CVS where some of the products are paper. John Leonard attempted to make a point of order but the moderator ruled that it was actually just debate. This was the first such ploy this year, where one person thinks they are above the rules and has a license to waste the time of the entire meeting.  If we’re lucky, it’s the last. Annie LaCourt was in favor.  She thinks this is putting the cost of bags in the proper place, with the people who use them. Several speakers got applause after they talked on this issue.  As I’ve said before, I don’t think the applause is appropriate.  Part of the town meeting process is talking, disagreeing, and getting over differences.  The applause only serves to harden feelings and make future compromise more difficult. Gordon Jamieson moved to terminate. Terminated on voice vote. Klein’s amendment approved unanimously by voice vote. 12-193-3 Schlichtman’s amendment defeated. Main motion was approved 188-21.

Consent Agenda

The moderator put forward the consent agenda. Several articles were “held” out of the consent.  We approved Articles 20, 28, 35, 37, 42, 43, 46, 47, 50, 54, 55, 57 and 60 by a vote of 190-3-3.

Article 15 – LBGTQIA+ Rainbow Coalition

Selectmen Chairman Joe Curro explained the acronym and why the Board of Selectman supported this article. There are people and families in town who need support. He talked about the relationship with the Human Rights Commissions. Mel Goldsipe of the HRC endorsed the creation of the group and thanked town leaders for supporting it. Greg Christiana was in favor of it. Joe Monju was opposed – he thinks it will cost too much, and doesn’t think that voting against it makes someone a bigot. Wagner moved to terminate, on voice vote. 189-12-3 approved.

Article 18 – Appraisals of Town Property

Selectman Joe Curro: codifies a process but still permits flexibility. Annie LaCourt supports the article, but wanted to talk about it. Michael Ruderman explained that at previous Town Meetings there had been debate over how to value easements, and this change was to help resolve this. John Worden moved to strike the option of using an appraiser and make it required. Ted Sharpe noted that fair market value is determined by more than one thing and appraisal wasn’t only way. Brian Rehrig was opposed to John Worden’s amendment because, in part, the appraisal might cost more than the transaction.  I spoke in opposition to the amendment because I think the flexibility is important, and the amendment would remove it.  Christopher Moore moved terminate, approved on voice vote. 24-176 amendment failed. 198-5 approved. I didn’t find this discussion to be a productive use of Town Meeting’s time. It would have been better to resolve it on the consent agenda.

Article 19 – Appointment of Town Treasurer

Selectman Joe Curro noted the trend across the commonwealth to make the position appointed. And he noted the only 3 other towns of Arlington’s size that still have an elected treasurer. He talked about how the new Treasurer Dean Carmen was already delegating parts of his position to his professional deputy. Bill Hayner was opposed, and wanted a one-year delay on the change. Michael Ruderman was opposed to it. He thinks that we need a firmer plan before we approve it. I actually think that the points Ruderman made in his presentation were an argument in support of the change – he was pointing out all of the good things that are happening. The difference is, he doesn’t think this new way of doing things should be codified, and I think it should be.  I strongly believe that most of the work of the treasurer is professional, and that belongs in an appointed position.  There is very little of the political/policy work that remains, and Dean Carmen is working on ways to retain that in a decision-making board. Annie LaCourt is in favor of this change, as she was when she was on the board of selectmen. She made the point that it’s not about who is in the office, but about the office itself. She reminded Town Meeting that the reason it has taken so long (10+ years) for the treasurer’s office to convert to the same software as the rest of the town is that there was no way to compel the treasurer to cooperate. Eric Helmuth asked about whether the one-year delay would be a problem – Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said a delay wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Helmuth is in favor of the change.

It was 11pm, and Al Tosti moved to adjourn.