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Town Meeting ’15 – 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.  I do not try to reproduce my entire notes for this online version. 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.

Town Meeting Member Jane Howard played the Star-Spangled Banner on the piano and the meeting sang along.

The Moderator John Leone posted a test question using voting clickers: Will we finish tonight? 72-53-16. I was one of the 72. I was too optimistic! We got there, but it was a long slog.

Announcements

  • Kevin Koch – May 16 Ice Cream Scooper Bowl fundraiser for cancer research. noon-4 in front of Cyrus Dallin Museum in the center.
  • Roly Chaput – Hidden Treasure program – Old Schwamb Mill this weekend, noon-3pm both days.

Article 3 – Reports

Laurie McKinney gave the report of the Uncle Sam Committee. It was more of a diatribe than a report. Mercifully, it was limited to four minutes by rule.

Article 3 placed on the table.

Article 22 – Budgets, continued

Education, continued

Gordon Jamieson thinks that it is inappropriate that the long-term planning committee, which isn’t even created by our bylaws, is setting the rate of increase of the school budget. There is confusion about the role of the long term planning committee. The long term planning committee doesn’t set any budgets, and doesn’t set any policy. It’s a group of town officials that discusses ideas and concerns with the Town Manager. In the end, only the Town Manager proposes a budget – the committee can’t (and doesn’t) dictate what that budget should be. Finance Committee reviews that budget, adjusts the budget as it sees fit, and sends it to Town Meeting. Town Meeting adjusts the budget as it sees fit and the vote of Town Meeting is the final decision. I know there are many people who think that the the annual increase in the school budget should be maintained at 3.5%, or even increased, while the Town Manager thinks it should go to 3.25% next year and 3.0% in subsequent years. I’d suggest that the path for those people is to lobby the town manager, the finance committee, and other town meeting members. Those are the people who can actually change the budget. Of course, it makes sense to lobby the members of the long-term planning committee, too, because they give advice to the Town Manager. But it’s a mistake to think that the power of the budget lies with the long-term planning committee. The power of the budget lies where it always has – with the town manager, the finance committee, and ultimately, town meeting. There were questions about what purchases aren’t being made because of budget restrictions, including slowing the pace of curriculum improvements. John Leonard had a detailed question about using insurance money to cover a deficit. After a very confusing discussion, it was explained that the FY15 budget was supplemented with $25,000 voted by Special Town Meeting for repairs. This was seven minutes that Town Meeting will never get back. It was just a long, meandering, vaguely confrontational exploration of confusion. Jennifer Susse talked about two big financial stressors on the school budget. 1) state/federal stresses. The state keeps cutting money in little ways. Unfunded mandates keep being added – teacher training and evaluation, common core, and others. 2) student growth is second stressor. 450 student surge in the last 3 years. She explained that as enrollment increases, 25% of the per-pupil enrollment growth is covered by budget increases. She believes there is more analysis necessary to see if 25% is the right number. She said that cutting the rate of growth on the school budget is another stress on the budget. She is thankful and respectful of the financial team in the town who are looking to carefully control expenses. She made the argument that every time we have asked the voters in recent history, they have agreed to pay more and keep and/or expand services. She wants to make sure that is acted upon. Stephen Harrington thinks the school budget is going up too much. He proposed an amendment to reduce the budget by about $1 million. He estimated the school salary increases at 5%, and compared it to the municipal budgets (aka town budgets) which are increasing 2.5%. It’s an interesting comparison, but what he didn’t consider in his calculation is the increase in the number of students. The CFO further explained that some of the budget increase is “lanes and grades” as opposed. Len Kardon put up a slide that showed how our per-pupil expenditures are falling further behind the state average. He said that he looks forward to a robust debate next year on the school budget. Paul Schlictman went into detail about the 3.7% increase in enrollment, the state funding process, and their impacts on the budget. Annie LaCourt quizzed the Superintendent about the school department’s 5-year plan. Linda Hanson thought the debate was doing well at looking at the big picture. She encouraged further, wider conversation about budgeting and compensation. McCabe terminated debate, vote was 175-37.

Libraries
Jennifer Susse talked about future renovations of Fox Library by private funds.

Health and Human Services
Zarina Memon had a series of detailed questions on the budget for this department.

Retirement
Gordon Jamieson reviewed the history of the performance of the retirement system’s investment. He said we should keep track of it carefully.

We had a break.

Stephen Harrington said that we shouldn’t make investments based on fear. Both previous speakers were waxing philosophical, but I don’t think their comments actually were on the budget. It was here that I gave up hope that we were going to get Town Meeting done tonight.  We must be funded for our pension by 2040. Our goal to be budgeted by 2032. Our OPEB liability is much larger.

Reserve Fund
There was no special ed reserve fund article placed on the warrant. FinComm and School department made an agreement for the schools to have $200,000 come back to the general fund at the end of the year, and $200,000 go into the reserve fund. It’s a wash for the town.

Water and Sewer
There was confusion about indirect costs and how they work.

Recreation – pass

Ed Burns Arena – pass

Harrington’s amendment lost 24-164-6.

Final budget approved 192-4-1.

Article 20 – Collective Bargaining was taken off the table.
At Tosti moved a substitute motion with updated numbers based on successful collective bargaining results. John Maher congratulated the town manager and unions on reaching an equitable conclusion so quickly. 194-3-1. Passed.

Article 23 – Revaluation
Director of Assessments Paul Tierney said that this is for the three-year cycle of revaluation.

Article 29 – Committees and Commissions.
Approved unanimously.

Article 30 – Town Celebrations.
Approved unanimously.

Article 31 – Miscellaneous
Approved unanimously.

Article 32 – Public Art East Arlington
Town Manager. This is to fund the planning, but not installation of the art. Sean Harrington noted that two years ago the Public Art Fund was created without appropriation and with no intent to fund. There were speakers in favor, describing the amount as modest. Paul Schlictman moved to terminate debate, and it was by voice vote. 130-62-3 it was approved.

Article 33 – Human Rights Commission
Al Tosti explained that $4500 for staff work for this committee is sufficient. He explained the recommendation of FinComm to have the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager look at the need for his positions. Stephen Harrington thinks that the study should be done by a committee of 5 people. There was a question about elevated suspension rates for minority student groups. The moderator told the speakers to stay on the scope, the question of whether or not to create a committee of one type or another. There were speakers in favor and opposed of further review of the committee’s work. Deshler moved to terminate debate, done on voice vote. Harrington’s amendment failed 42-151-2. Tosti’s language amendment approved by voice vote. 161-24-7 main motion passed.

Article 34 – Water bodies
Unanimous

Article 35 – Harry Barber
Stuart Cleinman is concerned that the program doesn’t have enough publicity.

Article 36 – Scenic Byway
John Leonard thinks we should repair the signs for Paul Revere’s ride. Budget passed by voice vote.

Article 37 – Pension Fund Adjustment
Passed unanimously.

Article 38 – Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB)
Passed unanimously.

Article 39 – Survivor Benefits
No action.

Article 40 – Long Term Stabilization
Passed unanimously.

Article 41 – Overlay Reserve
Passed unanimously.

Article 42 – Transfer Cemetery Funds
Passed by voice vote.

Article 43 – Use of Unencumbered Funds (free cash)
Passed unanimously.

Article 44 – Fiscal Stability
Passed unanimously.

Article 45 – Town Meeting Member Removal Process
Selectman Diane Mahon spoke for the majority of the board, a 3-2 vote. The board wants to have the discussion on Town Meeting floor. Jim O’Conor asked for a sense of the meeting. There were speakers opposed to the idea of removal. Swilling terminates debate on voice vote. 107-79-5 the committee was created to study the issue.

11:02pm. Motion to adjourn failed on voice vote. Despite certain long-winded town meeting member’s attempts to send us to a sixth session, the body was intent on completing the business of the town tonight.

Article 46 – Master Plan
ARB Chairman Andrew Bunnell gave a detailed explanation of how the Master Plan was written, what it’s impact is, and what the vote of Town Meeting means. Brian Rehrig explained the importance of the Mugar parcel for wetlands and noted how the Master Plan renews and repeats the town’s public policy of preserving the site. He proposed a resolution to endorse that. Stephen Harrington proposed a further amendment that the resolution call for the use of CPA funds to preserve the space. League of Women Voters in favor of the Rehrig resolution. Michael Ruderman was opposed to the resolution. He thinks that the wetlands might be improved by development. He thinks the Master Plan will have too much negative budget impact. A second motion to adjourn failed. I was part of the vote to keep us going.  I think we had a decent conversation about the Master Plan and the Mugar property.  We could have had the same conversation on Wednesday.  I preferred to do it tonight, however, because I think it kept a lid on some of the repetitive comments.  People were more judicious in choosing whether or not to speak. It was noted that Mr. Harrington’s amendment would not be a binding vote. John Worden was in favor of both amendments. He wants zoning to protect us from McMansions. He said it was the latest we had run town meeting since before he was town moderator. Bill Kaplan noted that there are good and bad things in the Master Plan, and that no one will be in favor of all it. Karl Wagner moved to terminate debate. 128-43-7, Rehrig’s amendment was approved. 62-114-3, Harrington’s amendment failed. 136-41-3 the Master Plan was adopted.

Town Meeting was dissolved by vote.

I’m tempted to add a new feature to my notes next year. I should keep score on how many times each town meeting member stands to speak. If I’m really ambitious, I’ll time them. I love town meeting, and I love a good debate. But I believe there are some repeat offenders who quickly pass the point of diminishing returns and speak far too many words for too little contribution to the debate.

Town Meeting ’15 – 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.  I do not try to reproduce my entire notes for this online version. 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 moderator started us up a minute or two before 8. We watched a video of a mock Town Meeting of Thompson School students moderated by Bill Hayner.

The AHS Madrigal Singers sang the National Anthem and several other songs.

The Town Moderator swore in one new town meeting member.  He was applauded.

The Town Moderator asked for a moment of silence for the man who died in the condo fire on Arizona Terrace early Tuesday morning.

We voted to return for the next session on May 11.

Announcements

  • Jason Donnelly announced that on May 16 Thompson Arlington Eats fundraiser. They have provided 7500 meals for Arlington kids this year.
  • Stuart Cleinman thanked police and fire for their service in the crisis.
  • Pam Hallett announced a fund to support the families displaced by the fire. Donate on the HCA site and type “fire” in the note field.
  • John Maher – Symmes foundation makes grants for medical purposes. Contact him for more information.
  • Jane Howard gave four announcements. 1) Saturday, at Spy Pond Park. Elements art illustration. 2) May 16 9-1. Spy Pond Trails Day. 3) 30th 1-4pm Spy Pond Fun Day. 4) On the 2nd floor of town hall, see the public school art show, k-9.
  • Bob Tosi – May 9 postal food drive.
  • Paul Schlictman – Pct 9 doing their organization at the break.

Test question for the clicker: Will we finish Town Meeting on Monday? 101-76-18 I think we can finish Monday, but it will be close.

Article 3 – Reports

  • Susan Stamps and Ed Trembly – Tree Committee. They talked about tree replacements and policies.
  • Ann LeRoyer – Open Space Committee. She referred to the new Open Space plan.  It’s the 4th version of the plan. I read this plan earlier this spring, and I found it to be fascinating. Bring it to bed with you later this week – it’s good reading.
  • Juli Brazile – Vision 2020 report. Survey results are available. She ran through the activities of the different task groups.

Article 3 was tabled. We finished announcements at around 8:45 – I forgot to note the exact time. It was the latest we’ve run this year so far, I think.

Article 17
No action.

Article 18 – Community Development Block Grant
Kevin Greeley reported the history and process on the allocation of these federal funds. There was a question on the brown fields cleanup that is contemplated. We discussed the “program income” that is the money that comes back from loans, and is re-applied to the program. There was a question if the grant money will be used for the Housing Corporation of Arlington when that group is doing a 40B development in town. I think it is important to note that not all 40B applications are bad. Some 40B applications are attempts to bulldoze town zoning. Those plans are wildly oversized in order to maximize developer profits, and the actual benefit to affordable housing is limited. On the other hand, the 40B proposal being put forward by the HCA for Westminster Ave is an appropriate use of the property in question, it is making the affordable housing perpetual, and there are no profits being reaped. I encourage people to investigate the details of the various 40B proposals in town – they are very different in their qualities and impact. It was noted that the Community Preservation Act will take some pressure off the CDBG program. Motion to terminate debate was made, by 107-90-6, debate was not terminated. There was a question about the size of the budget. Mr. McCabe moved to terminate again. Terminated on voice vote. CDBG endorsed by 190-14-2

Article 19 – Revolving Funds
Question on town hall receipts and balance. Stephen Harrington had a question on ambulance and billing contract. He says it isn’t fair and the town is getting a bad deal. Chief Jefferson replied and explained the details of the deal and why it was a good one. Frank Ciano asked for a Patriot’s Day parade – planned for next year. Approved 199-4-2.

Article 20 –
Tabled to Monday, hoping all negotiation will be done.

Article 21 – Position Reclassification
One question about an acronym. Passed unanimously 199-0-3

Article 22 – Budgets

Board of Selectman
Stephen Harrington thinks that the staff in the Board of Selectmen’s office should report to the Town Manager. Sean Harrington wanted to know the price difference of having election on Tuesday instead of Saturday. He opined that they should be moved. Kevin Greeley noted that it’s 3.5 full-time employees in the department, not 4.5. He said they should be congratulated for the work they do. Ted Peluso wondered what we’re actually talking about. Paul Schlictman noted there are costs to schools when the election is on Tuesday.

We took our break.

Town Manager
Question about the Water and Sewer line item. It was explained that this is the charge to the Water and Sewer fund for the services to the fund from the Town Manager’s office. Annie LaCourt gave an extensive speech about long-term planning, and is concerned that we’re not doing enough work to prepare for future needs as our town evolves. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine replied with some planning exercises. He believes that there is a growing gap in the service level expectations of town residents and what the town can provide. Al Tosti and John Deyst talked about the difficulties in planing. Annie spoke again about the importance of thinking not just about how much money we have, but what it is that we want. A motion to terminated debate on budgets 3 through 16 failed to get a second. I think a motion to terminate debate on just this budget might have carried, but people weren’t willing to skip over so much of the budget without discussion.

Treasurer
Gordon Jamieson – have you considered outsourcing the software needs of the department? Deputy Treasurer talked about the consulting process and needs analysis that are in process.

Legal
Stephen Harrington asked what the cost of Chris Loreti’s lawsuit against the town was. The answer is that the law firm who defended the town was paid for by our insurance policy. I think that Mr. Harrington was trying to make the argument that Loreti’s lawsuit against the town was “free” and didn’t cost the town money. However, there are many costs that aren’t covered by the insurance policy. There were dozens of hours spent on the lawsuit by town counsel, by the town manager, by other town employees, and by volunteer boards. I can’t prove it, but I firmly believe that we lost a valuable employee who chose to resign rather than deal with further attacks by Mr. Loreti. The lawsuit was dismissed in the town’s favor. And yet, we’re still paying for it today.

Parking
Mr. Langone had a question about overnight parking. He disagrees with the overnight parking policy. He further disagreed that the spots in front of the high school be allocated to the schools. He accused the Board of Selectmen of sending the police into his neighborhood, and said that he’s not coming back to Town Meeting next year. In case you were wondering – no, the Board of Selectmen did not send the police into his neighborhood. . . .

Planning and Community Development
There was a question on a title change.

Public Works
There was a complaint about road condition. DPW Director Mike Rademacher explained the process for utility digging in a recently paved road. The contractor does the work and does a temporary patch. That patch is left in place for a year while the earth underneath settles. The contractor is then required to come back and do a permanent “infrared patch” which means the pavement is heated and a melted seal is placed. A change in the parks and cemetery position was noted. We used 9455 tons of salt, which was less than the previous year. Snowplow damage happens most on roads with bad surfaces. There were several references tonight to open checkbook. It makes me so happy to know that the town made that information, and it’s being used. There were several questions about snow and ice. Question on Gray Street rebuild – not yet. Recycling position question. Terminate debate by Moore.

Facilities
Sean Harrington asked for information on the facilities department. This group centralizes our building maintenance for long-term conservation of town assets. There was a discussion about why fields and parks weren’t included, and when they might be included in a process.

Public Services
Stephen Harrington asked if there are any electronic devices such as license scanners used by the APD. Chief Ryan answered that there aren’t. There was a question about fire alarm system maintenance – it’s the radio boxes in the schools etc. on the pull boxes. Annie LaCourt asked several questions. She asked how well we’re handling electronic fraud and identity theft, and the answer is that we’re getting better at it using regional resources. She asked about the school resource officer and how they were being used. She asked how much overtime was being done, on average. She also made a spectacular joke about the police being well-rested when they visit her house – jaws dropped all over town hall.

Education
Sean Harrington had a question about special ed budget – is the rate of increase too high? Tosti: the long term average is still 7%. Bill Hayner: no one can predict special ed year to year; a single child moving in or out of the town can make the difference. There was a question about the money held aside for contract negotiations. There was another question about administration costs.

We adjourned for the night.  The burning question is: can we get it all done on Monday?

Town Meeting ’15 – 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.  I do not try to reproduce my entire notes for this online version. 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.

Unfortunately, I missed Wednesday’s session, and I have no notes. I don’t miss a lot of meetings, but I went out of town for this one.

A local chorus group, Vocal Revolution, sang the National Anthem in barbershop-quartet style.

A handful of new town meeting members were sworn in and applauded for their new membership.

Next meeting was set for May 11.

Announcements

  • Paul Bayer made an announcement about the “motion to terminate debate on all matters.” He noted that on Wednesday town meeting had a motion to terminate debate on all matters when only one of the several amendments had actually been discussed. He noted that town meeting didn’t talk about several of the amendments. He reminded town meeting members that they might move to terminate debate on only a few amendments at a time so as to permit a fuller debate.
  • Steve Decourcey announced that baked goods were for sale in the hall from AHS tennis. They are vying for entry into the state tournament.
  • Jeremy Marin – May 7th Rot and Roll

Article 3 was removed from the table.

  • Barbara Costa – She noted that the Committee on Arts and Culture update is in writing. She noted in particular the calendar and website.
  • Stephen Gilligan gave the report of the Treasurer. He noted the for closure program and the revenue that it is getting.

Article 3 was tabled.

We did a test vote on the clickers – the result was 135 – 38 – 18. That’s 191 votes. Later vote totals were higher.

Article 7 – Regulating Posted Event Notices, continued

I missed the start of this debate on Wednesday, so I didn’t know exactly what was the state of debate.

Bob Radochia: He noted that sign clutter has already been against the law, and this change doesn’t fix the problem. He showed some examples of signs that were long past their expiration date. Paul Bayer moved a two-word amendment that would make the signs permitted only if posted for non-commercial. A resident was unhappy with lack of enforcement with current rules. He wants to protect the decorative poles. There was a concern that lost pet signs would be taken down too quickly. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate on all matters. 172-25-5, debate was terminated. There were two parts to the vote, the zoning change and the bylaw change. The zoning was first because it required 2/3 vote. Sean Harrington’s amendment – add “town committee and student groups” passed 142-63-3. Bayer’s amendment add “non-commercial” passed 143-59-6. Vote on main motion passed 171-35-1. BoS bylaw vote was the same list. Harrington’s passed 162-39-2. Bayer’s amendment passed by voice vote, the main motion passed.

Al Tosti moved to table Articles 12-23 so they could bring up Minuteman Vocational School budget.

Article 28 – Minuteman Vocational School budget

Minuteman Superintendent Bouquillon reported that the overall Minuteman budget was up 0.9%. Arlington’s assessment is up 5.89%. He noted that the school is getting smaller and closing a few programs. Town assessments are up a lot because the state is lowering the tuition Minuteman is permitted to charge the out-of-district students. Stephen Harrington complimented Minuteman on having a small budget increase and wondered why Arlington schools couldn’t do the same. At least part of the answer is enrollment growth – Arlington has growing enrollment, and Minuteman has declining enrollment. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.  The per-pupil costs are informative, but they aren’t perfect either – vocational education is typically a lot more expensive than general ed. There was a question about why non-member towns get lower costs, and the short answer is state law. Barbara Thornton asked a question about medicare reimbursement; it’s not used anymore. She asked about how to fix the free rider problem for out-of-district students. The Superintendent said there is a new program where non-members towns will have to pay for part of the capital costs. What he didn’t say is that those towns are free to come and go every year – they are not on the hook for a long term commitment like Arlington is. Dean Carman spoke. He said that Minuteman’s financial situation is bad and it’s getting worse. Arlington is paying more as the school is shrinking. The new regional agreement is not getting passed. There was a question about which programs are being opened and closed. Several speakers support the school’s programs. The point was made that per pupil cost is much higher in this budget, even as the budget is smaller. There was a question about the proposed building project: she asked what it meant to have 8% annual enrollment increases predicted. That was a very astute question! I don’t think the Superintendent really answered it.  He certainly didn’t answer how he thinks he can increase enrollment by 36% over 4 years. There was a question on when it will be built. All the votes that would have to happen were described.

We did a 10-minute break.

Questions on cost of the new building. Prices were discussed. Sean Harrington moved to terminate debate. 129-34-3 terminated, 156-16-2 budget passed. I was on the list to speak. I believe that Minuteman is in an unsustainable situation. Arlington should not and will not vote for a new building without the district first approving a new regional agreement. Town Meeting, FinCom, and the Board of Selectmen have all voted to send that message. Unfortunately, several towns have not approved that regional agreement, and in the April meeting the Minuteman School Committee voted to table the pursuit of the agreement “indefinitely.” I am a strong supporter of vocational education, but that support has limits. It isn’t fair for Arlington to shoulder the costs that are outlined in current regional agreement. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the district can negotiate it’s way to a solution. I believe that state intervention is required.

Articles 12-28 were untabled.

Article 12 – Vision 20/20

Juli Brazile explained the structure of the Vision 2020 committee. She walked through the proposed changes to the Standing Committee. 178-2 changes approved.

Article 13 – Sell 1207 Mass Ave

There were questions about what deed covenants might be imposed. There were concerns about leasing and how it might interfere with selling the property. We carefully built the RFP for the lease to cover that – the lease won’t interfere with the sale, and may aid the sale. It was asked how did we got the property: we got it in the mid-1920s, but we didn’t know that we owned it until we were research the owner of the property after the residents, the DAV, was busted for alcohol violations. It wasn’t a shining moment for the town, for sure. We did check to make sure there are no other properties like this. Zarina Memon was opposed to sale – we can get more as rental property. “Monopoly is a great game for me,” she said. Sale approved 184-11.

Article 14
No action.

Article 15 – Change to Director Assessments

Board of Selectmen recommend vote of no action. Peter Howard moved a substitute motion from Chris Loreti. Chris Loreti argued that moving the Director of Assessments under the Town Manager would work better. He listed several reasons to support it, including increased transparency and more integration with the Town Manager. Assessor Kevin Feeley spoke against the change, saying that the current system works well, and cited other examples of the management structure in the town including the BoS hiring the Town Manager and the Superintendent hired by the School Committee. Gordon Jamieson was in favor, saying it would be a more professional organization. Stephen Harrington was in favor. Adam Auster was in favor. EJ Harris was opposed to the change, saying that the political oversight of assessments was appropriate. Steve Smith moved to terminate debate, approved 104-73-8. Change passed 116-76-2. It now goes to the General Court to be considered as a home rule petition.

Article 16 – Complete Streets

The Town Manager explained that this is a step towards meeting the state designation as a Complete Streets town. That will make us eligible for state grants. Ed Trembley was opposed – he thinks that roads should be more car friendly. He doesn’t think we should take the money. Scott Smith spoke in favor and showed some examples of complete streets, good and and bad. Annie LaCourt was in favor, as this will not impede driving, but make it easier to use other forms of transportation. John Deyst noted that this vote only makes us eligible, it does not commit us to anything. There was a question about whether or not Town Meeting will vote on the final policy, and the answer is likely not. There were other speakers for and against. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. Terminated on voice vote. 157-33 in favor.

Town Meeting ’15 – 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.  I do not try to reproduce my entire notes for this online version. 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 started a couple of minutes late as members came through the line to check in and get their electronic voting “clickers.”

The Menotomy Minuteman marched in and led the body in the National Anthem.

Moderator John Leone called the meeting to order. He reminded the body of the rules of order and several of the rules of the body. Notably:

  • Any proposed amendments should be in writing and on the chairs of members two meetings before the article is considered. Also they should be emailed to the moderator.
  • He noted that announcements and reports of committees are now limited to 4 minutes.
  • He gave a quick training on the voting clickers. In the test vote there were 193/252 votes cast, but I recognized some people were here who didn’t vote. The actual number of members present is somewhere north of 200.

The moderator administered the oath of office for newly elected town meeting members. They were greeted with a round of applause afterwards.
The oath was then given for returning members, who were also applauded.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Kevin Greeley 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.

Article 1 State of the Town. Kevin Greeley gave the state of the town.

Announcements and Reports

  • Nagaokakyo student exchange visitors were recognized, and their adult chaperone (who I think is also a city official?) thanked the town for hosting.
  • Gordon Jamieson announced that the art show “Recycled Beauty” is on display in the hallway on the 2nd floor of Town Hall until Friday.
  • John Maher, chair of the Cable Advisory Committee, noted that the ascertainment hearing is still open for written testimony until May 1.
  • The Arlington Redevelopment Board report was received.
  • The poet laureate committee was announced by Jeff Boudreau.
  • The Town Meeting Procedures committee report was given by Jim O’Conor.
  • The Board of Selectmen report was given by Kevin Greeley.
  • Charlie Foskett gave the Capital Planning Committee report, and said that he would ask to take it out of order on Wednesday to accommodate travel.
  • Sheri Baron gave the report of the Human Rights Commission. She did not read their annual report, but she did note some of the accomplishments of the Human Rights Commission.
  • John Leonard asked that we dissolve the Maintenance Study Committee. He noted that we had previously dissolved it, but it was still on the warrant. He also wanted to know what the town was doing about fatalities on Mass Ave. The moderator told him that wasn’t an announcement and he could bring it up under the budget.
  • At Tosti gave the Finance Committee report. He requested 10 minutes and was given it. He walked through key points of the committee report.
  • Roly Chaput is a member of the electronic voting committee, and reminded everyone to drop their clicker off in the bin before they leave.

Kevin Greeley introduced elected officials and department heads at the front of the room.

At Tosti moved that the motions contained in the reports be the main motions for each article. This vote is very quick and easy, but it’s very important. For new town meeting members the importance is not obvious. If we didn’t make this motion, at the start of every article, the Moderator would have to call on someone to start the debate process by making a motion under that article, then find a second for the motion, etc. Instead, through this vote, we automatically start each article with a motion already made and ready for debate. That becomes key later on – the first motion sets the debate, and other motions alter it.

Article 3 was tabled. The moderator appears to be comfortable with mixing reports and announcements together, in contrast with some past practice. It works, I think, simply because there are no votes, just listening. At the end of them all, we table this article until the next meeting for the next round.

Article 4 – Measurer of Wood and Bark. Elsie Fiorie was re-appointed without opposition.

Article 5 – Assistant Town Moderator. Mike Cayer nominated Jim O’Conor and he was elected without opposition.

Article 6 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Documented Zoning Reviews
The ARB recommended no action. Michael Ruderman moved a substitute motion that would change how the ARB received information about special permits. He introduced the author of the article, Chris Loreti, who spoke in favor. Loreti would like the ARB to use independent review from the building inspector. He said, in part, that this was needed because some lawyers before the ARB have close ties with the selectmen. Yes, he really said that. He argued with the written comments from the Finance Committee. Director of Inspectional Services Michael Byrne asked for clarification about what exactly had been moved. He got clarification from the moderator. Mr. Loreti had moved a smaller set of changes than had been discussed in other venues. That led to some confusion through the debate. Mr. Byrne said that this proposal was contrary to the state law. He argued that this would be a larger increase in the amount of the work by his department than one would think – one or two full-time employees additional. John Maher was opposed. He reviewed the implications of the proposal and called it a solution in search of a problem. He called the article an invitation to litigations. He noted that the proponent, Loreti, had sued the town and employees of the town. I have mixed feelings about what John Maher said here. I think everything he said was completely accurate.  My problem is that he’s stooping to Loreti’s level. I know that one sometimes needs to bring up some unpleasant truths. I would prefer that we’d just get through this issue without the personal politics. Ryan Ferrar said he thinks of this differently. He thinks the role of town meeting is to tell the enforcement bodies what we want as a town. He said that this is about how, not what we want, and is micromanagement. Paul Bayer of Finance Committee explained the discussions that committee had had, and urged a no-action vote.

Moved into a break for 10 minutes.

Stephen Harrington spoke next and said that the amount of work was much less than had been stated, “5 2-page reports per year is all.” He asked for an opinion whether the Attorney General would approve this bylaw, if passed. Town Counsel Doug Heim answered “maybe” and went into detail about the merits of two different sub-questions. Harrington asked what lawyers represent clients before the ARB. Town Moderator John Leone and Assessor Mary Winstanley O’Connor were named as two. Paul Schlictman is opposed because it increases the chances of litigation. The question was called. By a vote of 26-171-4 Loreti’s motion failed. Stephen Harrington then challenged that Selectman Steve Byrne shouldn’t have voted because his father is the building inspector, and that is a financial conflict of interest. Town Meeting is, in general, productive and worthy of the responsibilities that it must meet. But sometimes, it’s petty, ugly, and vile. This was one of those times. The moderator replied that there was no financial interest and no rule violated.

No action was voted, 147-45-6. There was confusion about this vote. I think the moderator understood the problem and later votes were articulated more clearly.

Article 7
Christian Klein is out of town, postponed to Wednesday.

Article 8 – Limit Time for Reports
Selectman Kevin Greeley was confused about which article this was, and Town Counsel Heim rescued him with an explanation of the board’s support of the 4-minute limit. John Worden proposed a substitute motion with alternate language on behalf of the Town Meeting Procedures Committee, but urged that the change be voted down. Original proponent Paul Schlictman noted that last year announcements took as much as 87 minutes and that change was needed. Jim O’Conor supported the procedures committee. Gordon Jameison moved the question. By 164-35-5 Worden’s version was made the main motion. His version was approved 104-95-6. In general I’m sympathetic to the judgement of the moderator, but in my opinion the moderator’s judgement could benefit from bylaw support. We need shorter meetings, and the long announcements are a good place to cut.

Article 9 – Human Rights Commission
Chairman Greeley reported that there was no proposal given at hearing, and the board recommended no action. The board supports the Human Rights Commission. Stephen Harrington proposed a substitute motion to make a Town Meeting committee to study the Human Rights Commission. EJ Harris started by expressing his respect for the HRC. He went on a winding and sometimes amusing speech about needing a lawyer to protect human rights. Kevin Greeley spoke again and noted the proponent hadn’t asked for anything at hearing. Stephen Harrington claims that he answered the questions, and he had made a proposal. At that hearing, I told him that I had read his warrant article, and I asked him what motion he thought we should be supporting under that warrant article – he didn’t answer the question. Several of the other selectmen asked him the same question. If you don’t know who to believe at times like this, I invite you to watch the video of the meetingMolly Flueckiger said that she has mixed feelings, because she is concerned that the ADA is not being followed closely enough. John Deyst moved to terminate debate. By 55-149-4, Harrington’s motion failed. No action was moved by voice vote.

Article 10
To fix an error in the physical description of a historic district. Approved unanimously.

Article 11 Community Preservation Committee.
Kevin Greeley gave the selectmen proposal. Lots of amendments proposed on this one! There are a lot of ways to constitute this committee, and we’re going to debate a lot of them. Sean Harrington proposed an amendment that would impose a 6-year term limit on at-large members. I don’t think this is good policy. Furthermore, as written, it has some real functional problems. For instance, a member could server for 5 years and 364 days, then resign, then be re-appointed, and it would be permitted by the proposed amendment. Bill Hayner proposed an amendment to make appointment of the at-large members not be by the Board of Selectmen, but be 2 by the Town Moderator, 1 by Finance Committee, and 1 by the Town Manager. Dean Carman had prepared two amendments, but he decided not to propose them. He supported Hayner’s amendment instead. John Worden would have 2 by Town Moderator and 2 by the Selectmen. Ruderman supports Hayner’s motion because he wants the finance committee to have a seat at the table. Susan Stamps noted that most other towns use the board of selectmen appointment model for the CPA. John Leonard wants the committee members to be elected, not appointed. John Deyst preferred Dean Carman’s amendment which makes the at-large members appointed in the same way as the Finance Committee. He moved Carman’s amendment (which Carman had not done himself).

We adjourned for the night. I heard no notices of reconsideration.

Missing Bobby Mac

Earlier this year, my friend Bobby Mac, aka Robert MacMurray, passed away from pancreatic cancer.   It is very sad,,and a loss to my fraternity and to Arlington.  He served them both in different ways that ended up being very similar in the end.  He made people better.

An Arlington rider, Anke Shafer, is working on a memorial for Bobby (funding support requested).  The memorial requires approval, and I was happy to help her seek support from the Board of Selectmen (my letter is below).  Support was granted for which I am grateful.

Then came the letters.  Every week the members of the Board of Selectmen receive a package of information, a weekly digest, from the office.  This week’s edition is 68 pages, and 30 of them are letters (and articles) about BobbyMac. (This is the full packet, Bobby starts on page 20).  I had no idea.  I sat at my computer, doing my reading, and there was a letter about Bobby.  And another.  And another.  And. . . . another and another.  I cried.  Bobby did so much for so many people.  It was beautiful and heart-rending to see how so many people knew him and missed him, and how their memories of him matched my own.

I miss you, Bobby.

 

Dear colleagues,

I request that our board refer this memorial request to the Public Memorial Committee with a positive recommendation.

Robert MacMurray was known as BobbyMac to all.  His special talent was to make everyone feel loved and strong in their own way.  When he was younger he struggled with his weight, and when his doctor told him to lose weight or die, he shed the pounds on a bicycle.  Over the coming decades he taught thousands of people how to ride and how to love riding.  He lived many years in Arlington and worked at QuadCycles on Mass Ave.  From QuadCycles he lead hundreds of morning rides, all comers welcome, all skills.  Everyone was good enough for Bobby, and then he made you even better.  He did this even as age robbed him of his eyesight; he was legally blind, but could see enough shapes and motion to lead a ride across Arlington and surrounding towns.

The memorial proponents have their eye on a spot on the bikepath which abutts the Summer Street Bacci Ball court. The plaque they envision would have Bobby‘s years and his “Ride with Love in your Hearts & Smiles on your Faces” quote and a line or two about his dedication to helping new riders train for charity rides, and that the bike path still holds his energy. They have started a gofundme sight to offset the cost.  http://www.gofundme.com/bobbymac?pc=mb_em

They are also holding a memorial celebration on April 4th (Bobby‘s birthday) at the Lexington depot. It would be great if the boulder unveiling could be on that date too.

I should note that Bobby was also the cook of my fraternity, after I left the house in 1994.  He was technically my employee when I was the president of that alumni group.  Bobby was just as powerful there as in Arlington.  As a cook to 50, he was often their mom or their dad, depending on the day and what the man needed!  My first memories of him on a bike were doing the AIDS ride, soliciting donations and asking for the name and picture of a departed fraternity brother that he could ride for.

BobbyMac was a special man who is missed by many here in town.  I believe the proposed memorial, or some other alternative, is appropriate.

Sincerely,

Dan Dunn

Town Meeting ’14 – Session 6

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.  I do not try to reproduce my entire notes for this online version. 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 Star-Spangled Banner for us to sing along to.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Steve Byrne moved that we reconvene on Monday if needed. The hall was notably more empty tonight than the previous 5 nights. I think there were two factors. First, the items remaining on the warrant were non-controversial. Second, the competition was Game 7 of Bruins-Canadiens.

Moderator John Leone noted how late we have been to getting started the last couple of days because of all the lengthy announcements anre reports. He ran two non-binding votes about putting time limits on announcements. In the first vote, 126 wanted to limit, 21 not limit, 2 abstain. In the second vote, 58 people wanted a limit of 5 minutes, 31 wanted a limit of 4 minutes, and 51 people wanted a limit of 3 minutes. There was no way to abstain. My personal opinion is that reports should be given a reasonable window – 5 or 7 minutes. But announcements and resolutions should be much shorter, perhaps 30 seconds. Upcoming events just don’t need 3-minute infomercials.

The Moderator said he had recovered several pairs of lost glasses. He noted that emergency lights had been installed in the hall after the power outage last week.

Announcements:

  • Angela Olszewski – The tourist welcome booth is up.
  • Bill Berkowitz – Tar sands petition is in lobby during break.
  • Ed Trembly gave the report of the Tree Committee. He noted the memorial tree for Brian Murray.
  • Director of Library Ryan Livergood – Get out of jail free card for late books and materials.

Article 30 – Capital Budgets
Capital Planning Chair Charlie Foskett presented the capital plan. Among other points. John Leonard was concerned that we the high school was not sufficiently secure. He asked Bill Hayner. Stephen Harrington thinks there is insufficient spending on road work in the cemetery. He thinks we shouldn’t pay for a columbarium and moved to strike it from the budget. Moderator Leone noted that this type of motion should be distributed beforehand. Town Meeting does not benefit from surprise motions. One of the things he said was that town meeting had rejected the columbarium before. What he didn’t say was that town meeting had rejected putting the columbarium in a park, outside the cemetery. This proposal is to put the ashes of dead people in the cemetery, which is a very different question.  His argument was a bit of logical misdirection that didn’t work. He was concerned that we were renovating a church space for the food pantry. Adam Chapdelaine noted that the source of funds for the pantry would be private donations. Peter Fuller asked about the new phone system. He asked about the RFID for library. Ryan Livergood explained how this technology helped the library staff serve more people with fewer employees.  Fuller asked about windows in the Hardy School. He cheered the replacement of the parking meters. Terminated by a vote of 131-46. Amendment lost on voice vote. Voice vote was doubted, so we did electronic. 40-127-8. 172-7 the budget passed.

Article 33 – Water Mains Construction
No discussion. 178-0.

Article 35 – Committees and Commissions
Peter Fuller question about Transportation Advisory Committee. They got $25,000 in 2001 drawn down slowly. $5000 in account today.  Unanimous voice vote.

Article 36 – Town Celebrations
Unanimous voice vote.

Article 37 – Miscellaneous/Legal
Unanimous voice vote.

Article 38 – Reduce School Fees
We blew through this with a voice vote of no action. But Bill Downing had put forward a substitute motion in writing. The moderator recognized a motion to reconsider the article. I was strongly opposed to the substitute motion, but I voted to reconsider the question – it wouldn’t have been fair to just run past the issue. Bill Downing made a motion to appropriate another $205,000 for school fees. Al Tosti reminded the meeting that we had increased the school budget by more than $3 million this year. It’s up to School Committee to decide how to use it.  Stephen Harrington is in favor of the substitute motion. Nathan Swilling moved to terminate debate. 125-56 terminated debate. 77-105-1 the substitute motion failed. No action vote carried.

Article 39 – Water Bodies
Unanimous voice vote.

Article 40 – Harry Barber Program
Unanimous voice vote.

Article 41 – Uncle Sam Signage
Lawrence McKinney moved a substitute motion that would direct Arlington Tourism and Economic Devleopment (ATED) committee to put up an Uncle Sam sign. There was confusion about which slide show was on the screen. He gave a long argument about why he wanted this particular sign. Dean Carman challenged if the motion is in scope, the moderator ruled that it was. His ruling did not sound enthusiastic. John Deyst moved termination. 157-20-2 to terminate debate. McKinney’s substite failed by voice vote. No aciton was approved.

Article 42 – Uncle Sam Stationery
There was no substitute motion. No action approved.

Article 43 Holiday Lights
No action approved.

Article 44 Historic Town Sites’ Signage
No action approved unanimously.

Article 45 Old Burying Ground
No action.  At this point we were moving too quickly for me to take good notes about unanimous or not.

Article 46 Scenic Byway
Approved on voice vote.

Article 47 Accidental Disability
Approved unanimously

Article 48 Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB)
Approved unanimously

Article 49 Increase Minimum Allowance
Approved (unanimous?)

Article 50 Long Term Stabilization Fund
Unanimously approved

Article 51 Overlay Reserve
Approved on voice vote.

Article 52 – Transfer of Cemetery Funds
Stephen Harrington was opposed to this. He thinks this is not a legal expenditure of the Perpetual Care fund. Al Tosti defended the motion from a legal and from a financial perspective. Andy O’Brien asked opinion of Town Counsel Doug Heim – he said yes it was legal. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. yes on voice vote. Motion voted in favor. 129-46

No break was taken on vote of the meeting.  We were rolling and ready to finish.

Article 53 – Unencumbered Funds
Approved unanimously.

Article 54 and 55 – Electronic Voting
The moderator said we would discuss the motion and the appropriation at the same time.  Eric Helmuth proposed that we endorse electronic voting and appropriate money for the future use of electronic voting. Al Tosti amended the appropriation to be $35,0000. Kevin Greeley was in favor of the change, and wants to use the technology for the speaker list as well. 125-53-4 debate was terminated. Approved on voice vote. Appropriation also approved on voice vote.

Article 56 – Fiscal Stability
Amended and approved by voice vote.

Article 3 taken from table.

Town Meeting was dissolved.

Town Meeting ’14 – 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.  I do not try to reproduce my entire notes for this online version. 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.

Tonight we had meeting of the Board of Selectmen that started at 7pm. We spent quite a while talking about a betterment order to repave Wright Street, a private way. At 8, Selectmen Steve Byrne and Kevin Greeley went down to Town Meeting and the rest of us finished the Selectmen’s meeting. I got downstairs at about 8:35, missing the anthem, any moderator remarks, and some of the reports.

Reports:

  • As I arrived, Lawrence McKinney was going through the report of the Uncle Sam committee.
  • John Maher announced the beginning of the cable provider contract negotiation. There is an opening on the cable committee, and interested people should apply to the Board of Selectmen.
  • Sheri Baron gave the report of the Human Rights Commission.

Article 3 was tabled.

At 8:55 we started the business of the meeting. There was some serious grumbling about this.  It was the 2nd night that we had more than 30 minutes of announcements and reports.  I missed too much of it to have a comment about the quality tonight.  In general, I do think there is too much report reading and not enough “here’s the report, please ask us questions later.”

Special Town Meeting Article 5 – Central Fire Station
Bids are open, and we don’t need additional money. No action.

Special Town Meeting was dissolved. The few items we did in the Special Town Meeting are now sent to the Attorney General for their approval.

Article 28 was tabled so we could be sure to get to assessor’s tonight.

Article 29 – Revaluation
Gordon Jamieson was unhappy that the Assessors were not there last week. Assessor Jim Doherty gave apologies and explained the time conflicts. There was discussion about the multi-year revaluation cycle. Christian Klein asked a question about having too many units a building; there are not general on site visits this year, just spot ones. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. Terminated by voice vote. Motion was approved.

Article 28 – Budgets
Al Tosti made a correction in the budget. He talked about the contract agreements and how they are represented in increases in the budget. Annie LaCourt gave a demo of the Arlington Visual Budget. I think this tool is fantastic – I hope everyone who reads my blog clicks the link and checks out the visual budget. It’s a great way of understanding what we spend our money on, and where it comes from.

The full budget is in the FinComm report. These are the sub-budgets that members wished to discuss.

Town Manager
Peter Fuller with a question on Symmes increase? Debt service. We now have revenue, which we didn’t before, so that’s why you see it here. 2022 will be end of debt service.

Treasurer/Collector
Stephen Harrington wants to see actual expenditures, not budget. What happened with last year’s vacant assistant treasurer position salary? Treasurer Gilligan replied that it either was spent as overtime or was returned to the town.

At this point the power went out in the hall! Sitting in the front of the hall, looking at the body of members, you could see which people use electronic tablets or laptops – their face were lit by the ghostly blue glow. I’m sure my face was too. It would have been a very unusual picture, if you’d had the equipment to take it. Power was out for less than a minute.

We took a 10 minute break.

Al Tosti explained that we used to do actuals and budgets in the report, but that data was a lot of work and confusing. They changed to the current format at that point. Annie LaCourt noted that the visual budget has actuals spent where available. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said the town is moving toward having an open checkbook like the state does, through a state grant.

Assessors
Stephen Harrington had a question about a volunteer-driven database effort that was no longer being supported. Assessor John Doherty said that it was replaced by Patriot’s database. John Worden dislikes the newer website. Chief Technology Officer David Good talked about why the town stopped using the volunteer’s website. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate on this budget, and it was.

Public Works
Ed Trembly asked how much salt did we use last year. He thinks that we should less salt and drive more slowly. Peter Fiorie had several questions about contractors the town hires for snow removal. DPW Director Mike Rademacher answered the questions. Stephen Harrington had questions on increases in energy manager and recycling coordinator. Al Tosti: energy manager is a regionalized position – partly paid by Bedford. Tosti noted that the recycling position had been scrutinized by FinComm. He explained that both positions are to reduce money expended down the road. I think Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine had a more concrete response to this question, and I wish Town Meeting had heard it. Al was right, but there is a much more informative way of answering. Peter Fuller had a question about reduced street lights from LEDs. There was a question about what to do with a snow dump, and the answer is the Res parking lot for now.

Community Safety
Stephen Harrington had several questions about the ambulance revolving fund, the Medicare payments, and how the revenue is billed and distributed. Chief Jefferson said that Armstrong does our billing because they won the bidding process. Debra Edelstein asked why so much overtime? Chief Ryan explained that a lot of the overtime is the two-year hiring lag to hire and train a new employee, also testifying in court, and vacations.  I think that’s a pretty good question.  It’s something that I spent a lot of time studying when I was on FinCom.  I think we’re a lot more efficient in our use of overtime than we used to be, mostly because we’ve hired enough to fill our vacancies.  

Education
Superintendent Kathy Bodie gave the report of the School Department. Dean Carmen thanked the town leadership for working through the enrollment increases collaboratively. Roly Chaput asked about redistricting – it’s worked fairly well.

Libraries
Michele Durocher asked and found that we are meeting state requirements for accreditation. Director Ryan Livergood explained the programmatic changes in the library. There was a question on Sunday hours and whether they were cost effective. There is a lot of demand for Sunday hours, and the contract requires overtime.

Retirement
Stephen Harrington noted that it’s going up by 6%. Al Tosti agreed that the pension obligation must be funded by 2040, and we are planning on being fully funded by 2032. Gordon Jamieson wants more reporting on retirement fund performance.

Insurance
Marvin Lewiton would like to see lower workers comp spending. Andrew Fischer asked about the structural deficit and Al Tosti explained some of the factors.

Water and Sewer
Stephen Harrington had questions about the operating offsets and sources of capital budget spending. Adam Chapdelaine explained some of it.  There is no doubt that this one is complicated.  It doesn’t follow the budget “rules” that the rest of the budgets do, which means the reporting is hard.  I think of it like looking at a 3D object in 2D – you can see some things clearly, but the 3rd dimension is hard to understand until you rotate the object, or look from a different angle.  This budget needs a different angle.

Recreation
No one raised their hands.

Youth Services
No one wanted to speak.

Budget passed unanimously.

We adjourned. I came into tonight with a glimmer of hope that we’d be able to finish on Wednesday, the 6th session.  That glimmer of hope still exists, but just barely.  We have very little left that is controversial.  It’s just a matter of how talkative everyone feels.

Town Meeting ’14 – 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.  I do not try to reproduce my entire notes for this online version. 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.

AHS Madrigal Singers led the meeting in the national anthem, and then performed three songs.

Moderator John Leone swore in the one new member. He received a welcoming round of applause.

Eric Helmuth announced that one member got the wrong clicker. It was quickly resolved.

Selectman Steve Byrne moved that we return on May 12.

Announcements:

  • Treasurer Stephen Gilligan announced that we have a new Assistant Treasurer. He will be in the back of the hall on Monday. He also announced that he had inadvertently cast a few votes incorrectly as he put his clicker away in his pocket.
  • Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine announced that a memo about the comprehensive salary study was in the back of the hall.
  • Angela Olszewski announced that Arlington Tourism and Economic Development (ATED) has received a donated video about Arlington which will be shown during the break. It will be used online and at the welcoming area.
  • Kate Loosian introduced Maya Ginns who announced the 2nd annual cleanup event on Saturday. 9am to noon, meeting at the St. Agnes parking lot (where the farmer’s market is).
  • Selectman Joe Curro introduced Gina Sonders. She did not put forward a substitute motion on Art 20, about tar sands. But, she has materials and a petition in the back of the hall and invited us all to sign it.
  • Phil Goff announced that it is bike to work day on Friday. There is a breakfast at Thorndike field 6:30-9:30. Sunday May 18th is the 2-hour bike tour of Arlington.
  • Jane Howard May 17th is Spy Pond Trail Day cleanup.

Moderator Leone’s remarks: We said we have been very civil, but noted a place where it wasn’t best last week.

Article 3 was taken from the table.

  • Mary Harrison and Brucie Moulton gave the report of the Vision 2020 Committee. They are actively looking for new co-chairs.
  • Molly Flueckiger gave the report of the Disability Commission. She outlined some of the good and bad updates in ADA compliance in town.

Article 3 was tabled.

Al Tosti moved Articles 22-33 tabled so that we can do Minuteman.

Article 21 – Minuteman Regional Agreement

Charlie Foskett went first. He asked for extra time. He explained some of the changes in the agreement.  He moved a substitute motion. I spoke too. I had thought I was going first, and then had to re-write my speech on the fly. It wasn’t a good speech, and I wish I had gotten it better. Maria Romano was opposed. Ms. Romano made a couple of interpretations of the regional agreement that were incorrect. In particular, her understandings of how a town can veto a debt approval in the current and proposed systems were confused. It muddled the discussion. Andy O’Brien talked about how Minuteman taught him to be a plumber. Paul Schlichtman supported the changed agreement. Stephen Harrington is opposed. Michael Ruderman is in favor. He had Superintendent Bouquillon explain how the capital cost changes. Dean Carman is in favor.

10 minute break.

John Leonard had questions about vetoing debt requests which were answered. This largely cleared up the confusion from earlier, I think. Paul Valeri asked about the change in proportional voting. He also asked about the school size for a new building. Dr. Bouquillon said that they have been studying 430 and 800, but will look at 640. He asked if withdrawing towns can send students – yes, if they pay. Len Kardon moved to terminate debate 164-38. 185-13-6 we substituted the motion. Approved on voice vote.

Article 34 Minuteman Budget
Finance Committee member Steve DeCourcey noted that the budget is already approved, 11 towns having approved it. He introduced Dr. Bouquillon. Dr. Bouquillon gave examples of some excellent students at Minuteman. He reviewed the budget and the drivers of the budget. Dean Carman is in favor of the budget, though he was concerned on a couple of increases. Gordon Jamieson terminated debate – voice vote terminated. Budget approved by voice vote.

Articles 22-33 were taken from the table.

Article 22 CPA, continued
Gordon Jamieson praised the debate and supports the CPA. Ann Fitzgerald as a senior, and a member of a number of boards, she supports the CPA. Phil Goff is in favor of the CPA. Scott Smith moved to terminate debate. 170-36 terminated debate. 128-77-2 CPA was approved.

Article 23 Local Option Taxes
No action.

Article 24 Community Development Block Grants
Selectman Steve Byrne noted that CDBG is decreasing. He talked about some of the criteria for how we allocate the money, but noted that we can’t fund everything we get applications for. Approved unanimously.

Article 25 Revolving Funds
Stephen Harrington had questions about how the ambulance service revenues are split. Roland Chaput had a question about Gibbs School. Alan Jones had questions on white goods and Town Hall Rentals.  All were answered by Deputy Town Manager Andrew Flanagan. Approved.

Article 26 Collective Bargaining
No action

Article 27 Position Reclassification
Approved unanimously without discussion.

Article 28 Budgets
Al Tosti noted that 20 minutes were left, and that we should start fresh on Monday.  Postponed.

Article 29 Real and Person Property
Postoned to the 12th so Assessors can be here.

Article 30 Capital budget
Al Tosti postpone to Monday.

Article 31 Rescind Borrowing Authority
This requires 2/3 vote, and we approved it on voice vote.

Article 32 Water and Sewer Construction
There was confusion about how much money was in this article – $800,000. Stephen Harrington asked about Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund operating expense offsets and how they were related to this borrowing. Peter Fuller asked about capital plan relationship. Sean Harrington moved to terminate debate, and it was terminated by voice vote. The motion was approved 176-9.

We adjourned.

Town Meeting ’14 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.  I do not try to reproduce my entire notes for this online version. 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 Red Line was terrible tonight, and I got into the room a couple minutes late. From outside the hall I could hear the National Anthem being sung, but I didn’t see who performed it.

New members of Town Meeting were sworn in as I walked in.

Selectman Steve Byrne moved that the meeting reconvene on Wednesday.

Moderator John Leone made a couple of announcements:

  • Some precincts are set to organize tonight, and he reminded them of where to meet.
  • He said that to make electronic voting easier, he will be more deliberate in calling for electronic votes. He ran a test vote. I feel like tonight was the best night yet for the electronic voting.

Announcements

  • Gordon Jamieson and Juli Brazile from the Recycling Committee gave announcements. Collection Day is Saturday 10th 9-1pm. They talked about some of the committee’s plans beyond recycling.
  • Jim O’Conor. Tomorrow 15 members of Town Meeting will be visiting Minuteman Vocational.
  • Bob Tosi. Saturday is postal food donation day. Leave dry goods to be taken by the postal delivery person.

Reports

  • Stephen Gilligan asked that the report of treasurer be received.
  • Charles Kalauskas led a group of three people giving updates one the Master Plan. They reviewed the process that has been followed, the progress that has been made, and outlined the future timeline of events.

Article 10 – Cemetery Trustees
Stephen Harrington made a substitute motion. He said the Cemetery Trustees had failed to live up to their fiduciary responsibilities. He listed a number of things he thought the Cemetery Trustees has done incorrectly, including neglecting infrastructure and diverting funds inappropriately. He showed a number of photos of road conditions. He alleged that state law was violated in regards to spending of the cemetery trust fund. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine responded that there have been no appropriations of the principal. the Department of Revenue and the town’s independent auditor agree that the funding we have done is appropriate. Stephen Harrington tried to interrupt the town manager, but the moderator didn’t recognize him. Chapdelaine talked about addressing the cut-through and future budget plans. John Maher is opposed. We should not politicize the cemetery operations. We should keep the management of the cemetery (and other boards) under the Town Manager. Mr. Harris – the substitute motion won’t actually solve the problems outlined in the presentation. His rhetoric is often over the top, but it’s pretty good theater. You really have to see it to believe it. Sean Harrington wanted to know the last time the bridge in the cemetery was inspected. He’s concerned that the bridge might fall into the stream under it. He tried to ask a series of questions, but the moderator quashed them as “setup questions.” Sean Harrington further argued that just like the liquor license article last week, we should let the voters decide on cemetery trustees. Bill Moyer  moved to terminate debate. 154-47 debate is terminated. 58-141-4 the substitute motion failed. No action was approved.

Al Tosti announced the budgets for Minuteman will be in the back of the hall by 10pm.

Article 17 – Second Water Meters
Gary Tibbets proposed a substitute motion on allowing second water meters. He said that the motion was for water conservation. He went on to say that the meters wouldn’t charge for sewage usage, which was fair. This particular argument doesn’t hold water (pun intended). The town is already on a path where water usage for gardens and lawns will not be subject to sewer charges. Towards the back of the Selectmen’s report there is an appendix that describes the future of water billing in Arlington. This summer we will adopt a plan where the sewer rates are set by the winter usage – water used in December, January, and February. That means that water usage increases in the summer will be billed for the water usage only, not sewer.  Mr. Hayner spoke in favor of rate fairness. His speech continued the confusion, but it was soon corrected. Ryan Ferrara explained that the MWRA doesn’t have a water supply problem. The substitute motion won’t be effective at conserving water, he said. He explained the winter water usage plan. Town Manager Chapdelaine went into more detail on the winter water usage plan. Gordon Jamieson moved the question. 142-60 terminated debate. 62-139-3 substitute motion failed. No action approved.

Article 18 – Lake Street Signs
No Action – approved.

Article 19 – Junk Cars
Selectman Stephen Byrne explained that we get calls at the Board of Health, and they should be able to respond, not police officers. Stephen Harrington wanted to know the definition of junk cars. After hearing the definition of junk cars, he thinks it should stay with the police. John Leonard wanted to know if there was enough staff to do this. He also wanted to know the ticketing process. The questions were answered by Director of Health Christine Bongiorno. Roly Chaput wanted to make sure his garaged roadster was OK. It is. Paul Schlichtman moved terminate debate. 175-25-3 debate was terminated. Passed by majority voice vote.

Article 20 – Tar Sands
No action – approved.

Article 21 – Minuteman Regional Agreement
Al Tosti moved postpone to May 7 so that Dr. Bouquillon can be here. Postponed on voice vote.

10 minute break

Article 22 – Community Preservation Act
Selectman Joe Curro explained what the CPA is and how it can be used. I talked about how the CPA can be used to increase town revenue and mitigate the future override. Susan Stamps is one of the citizens who put the question on the warrant, and she was one of three up front able to answer questions. Chair of the ARB Mike Cayer shared ARB’s unanimous support. The CPA coordinates with Master Plan. Dean Carman thinks it is short-sighted and supports a no action vote. He thinks tax increases have been too high. He noted the coming override. He’s right that there is a coming override – but I think that means we should get additional state money, not rely on property taxes. He thinks we have not sufficiently planned the next several years. He thinks the tax increase is not necessary. On one hand he talks about the looming projection of the deficit, and on the other hand he says the tax increase is not necessary. I can’t reconcile those two statements. Mr. Ruderman used to be in favor of this, but now he’s opposed. He thinks there isn’t enough state money. Brian Rehrig urged the town to approve it. He went into details of the act. Roly Chaput supports the article. Al Tosti represented the opposition of the Finance Committee. They believe that the CPA is too much of a tax increase with overrides and school building coming. He thinks that the CPA is not a good priority. Annie LaCourt is in favor because it helps us with affordable housing. Charlie Foskett is opposed. He argued that this is a permanent misalignment of our spending priorities. I noted that after three FinCom members had spoken against the plan, none of them had acknowledged the state’s matching funds. It seems like the irrefutable argument. It’s one thing to say “the state funds aren’t worth the requirements that they impose” but that argument simply wasn’t made. I also note that while it was argued that the CPA is not good prioritization, each one of the examples in our presentation was from the report that FinCom had approved. I argue that they are highly prioritized items, and FinCom agrees with that prioritization. Stephen Harrington was opposed. Clarissa Rowe is in favor. She thinks that parks, playground, affordable housing, and historic preservation are critical. Marc Dohan is on the board of the Housing Corporation and asked for details on the reduction in federal spending in support of affordable housing. He is in favor. John Worden noted that the Master Plan discussion has included capitalizing on our historic character. He reported that the Historic District Commision is in favor. “We are not a suburb that sprang up after the war with a lot of ticky-tack.” Elsie Fiorie is in favor to support open space. Peter Howard went into details about the Community Preservation Committee. He is sure that the Capital Planning Committee and CPC can work together. Linda Hanson is in favor, but she’d like to see more about the 10-year look forward plan. She notes that the 5-year plan is not immutable, and Town Meeting can change it. I think Linda’s comments were particularly insightful. Town Meeting does control the long-term plan of the town. Separately, I was struck that both she and Dean asked for a 10-year plan. I haven’t tried to build one yet because the variables are so many and so large (Will the state agree to help work on the high school? Will we get a decent Minuteman building proposal? Are one or the other or both renovations or rebuilds, and what is the resulting price tag?  What will the economy be like in 5 years?) that I have hesitated to try to write a plan. I now think that it’s worth the attempt, unknowns be damned.  Angel Olszewski noted that the League of Women Voters and the Arlington Historical Society are in favor. She thinks the voters should decide. Diane Mahon also supported the CPA. She advocated for the state match, and for support of parks and athletic fields. We aren’t done yet, but I think this is a debate we should be proud of.  It’s a debate of ideas and facts and values, and the town is well served by it.

We adjourned for the night.

Town Meeting ’14 Session 2 – And 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.  I do not try to reproduce my entire notes for this online version. Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Most of the time 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 piano as the meeting sang the Star Spangled Banner.

Moderator John Leone swore in a handful of new members of Town Meeting.

We opened the Special Town Meeting. We took the same votes yesterday setting the rules and motions of the meeting. They are important, but no need to repeat them here – you can just read them from Monday. Why are we having a special town meeting? For the purpose of speed. Votes of the regular town meeting don’t become valid until many weeks after the meeting closes, and that is generally mid- or late summer. We do the special town meeting so that the decisions in the meeting can be effective more quickly. Because of timing this year it might not be a significant difference.

We voted to return on May 5th.

The moderator made several announcements:

  • Precinct organization is in progress, reminder to attend precinct meetings.
  • On electronic voting, he asked us to wait until the clock starts before we vote. “Wait until Simon says go” he said. I think the first night of electronic voting went really well. It was interesting to see the votes posted the next day. By the time you read this, tonight’s votes will probably be posted on the town website.
  • 99.5% return on clickers on Monday – one went home with the owner, but came back today.
  • He announced there was information on the Community Preservation Act info in back of the hall.

Announcements

  • Jane Howard announced two art exhibits. One is Sunday through 26th of may. The other is Chairful Where You Sit – Jefferson Cutter Green July 18-July 20.
  • Annie LaCourt – Tech Initiative Showcase. Monday 6-8PM.
  • Sheri Baron – Human Rights Commission. Sunday 10th anniversary of marriage equality. 2-4. Video screening and speakers from wedded couples.
  • Christian Klein – Friends of Robbins Farm Park. May 3 in morning is park cleaning. Afternoon is kite day.
  • Al Tosti – May 7 will be the night for Minuteman votes because that is when Dr. Bouquillon can be here.
  • Jim O’Conor – Go to town website to sign up for Town Meeting email list.

STM Article 1 Reports of Committees
Only two reports – Selectmen and FinCom.

STM Article 2 – 5 More All-Alcohol Restaurant Licenses, Total of 20
John Leonard asked: do we have a drunk driving problem. Chief Ryan – we don’t have a trend in offenses from any establishments. It was noted that we get revenue, more annually, from meals tax. Do we have too many alcohol incidents? Answered no.  Eric Helmuth asked a question on alcohol source density that no one had the answer to. Diane Mahon noted the town has received a request for a license from a resident. Questioner: does this permit bars? No. It was noted this is just to put it on the ballot. John Worden thinks we have enough licenses, and doesn’t think you need hard liquor with dinner. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate, which passed. Main motion passed. 187-22

STM Article 3 – FY14 Budgets Change
Unanimous passed without discussion.

STM Article 4 – Police Patrolmen Union Contract
Dean Carman spoke. He wanted to point out in FY15 2.75% raises translate to a  4.02% increase in personnel costs. John Deyst and Al Tosti both spoke on the issue as well. Carl Wagner moved to terminate vote which passed. Motion passed 194-17-1.

STM Article 5 – Central Fire Station
Al Tosti said we are waiting for bids to be opened on May 8th.  May 12th we’ll have the bids. Table to 12th

STM Article 6 – Insurance Transfer for Peirce Elementary
John Leonard had questions about the cause of the failure and who we could go after to get the money. Mr. Burke gave his opinion that the town wasn’t building buildings well. Peter Fuller noted it was 5th graders who restocked the library, and their efforts were applauded. The building committee was praised. The motion was approved by voice vote.

STM Article 7 – Special Education Stabilization Fund
We deposited this money last year, and we need it this year. 209-2

Adjourned the Special Town Meeting to May 12.

We resumed the Annual Town Meeting.

Article 12, continued, Cemetery Parking.
John Maher said that he thinks parking will be resolved when the construction is done. He asked the opinion of Chief Ryan. Chief Ryan said the cart is before the horse. This is a blunt solution for a delicate problem. We should not legislate parking problems. If we do, there will be a flood of special warrant articles. He asked that we wait for normalcy in the area, then evaluate it and make decisions rather than make decisions now based on an unusual situation. Some person(s) hissed while Chief Ryan was speaking. That is totally inappropriate and disrespectful. I was appalled.  We are better than that – and thankfully, we are. Such a gross outburst is rare. Michael Ruderman is sure enforcement won’t be a problem, doubted the opinion of the police chief, and is in favor of the substitute motion. Peter Fiorie thinks parking should have a time limit, not full ban. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate, 127-87 failed. Roly Chaput asked people to vote no – he enjoys birding and other activity in the cemetery. He thanked Mr. Harrington for bringing it up. He wants a 2-hour limit. Christopher Moore – not clear how to fix the parking problem. Joe Curren said that the cemetery was sacred ground and should be gated.

10 minute break

Jim O’Conor – will the BoS make a change? Steve Byrne responded: given the discussion, agree with Chief, after it settles down we should look at it. Steve was in a tough place on that question because he can’t speak for the board unless we’ve taken a vote, but I think he handled it well.  I was on the list to speak and if I’d gotten to the podium I would have gone a bit farther.  As I mentioned Monday, I didn’t know we couldn’t ticket in the cemetery; I had assumed that power already existed. We need to fix that.  That new information didn’t change my opinion of the substitute motion.  The parking problems exist on just one stretch of road, not the whole cemetery.  It was too much of a change.  I also agree that it wasn’t the right venue. Town Meeting isn’t a great place to debate individual parking regulations.  Peter Fuller is in favor. Ted Peluso said to put it on the books. Sean Harrington proposed an amendment to change “conducting cemetery business” to “visit the cemetery.” Two speakers who live nearby said they don’t think there is a parking problem. John Deyst in favor of waiting a year. Andrew Fischer is worried we are doing a bad law, and moved to postpone. That motion failed on voice vote. Phil Goff tried to terminate the debate, but he gave a few words as preface, and was ruled out of order. He then asked a question about how long the problem has been, and got contradictory answers. Len Kardon moved, and by a vote 184-23-1 terminated debate. There was confusion about which motion to vote first, but it was cleared up. Sean Harrington’s amendment passed 161-48. The substitute motion failed 90-115-4.

Article 13 – Poet Laureate
Chairman of the Board of Selectman Steve Byrne introduced the article. There was a question about the length of terms. Is it really a poet? Yes.  Terminate debate?  Terminated and approved.

Article 14 – Public Music
Ted Sharpe talked about the benefits to a community for public performance. Ed Trembly wants to rid of the bylaw entirely. Sean Harrington asked a question about amplification.  I’ll quote the printed report of the board, which had already answered the question explicitly: “The Board expressed its commitment to developing regulations and enforcement measures to protect residents and businesses from unreasonable performances, such as those employing sound amplification at inappropriate hours or otherwise disrupting and disturbing the Town.” Moore terminated debate.  Motion passed unanimously.

Article 15 – Cultural Commission Name Change
Name change to alleviate confusion. It is now CultureComm.

Article 16 – Venner Road
John Leone stepped down because of a conflict of interest. Jim O’Conor moderated. Town Manager Chapdelaine explained the negotiated agreements.  The abutters are buying part of the property as a buffer. The town is agreeing to release the land in exchange for $30,000 in value, plus $35,000 of the taxes that could have been collected.  Leone explained that the resulting land can have 2 houses, not 3. Denise Long spoke and explained the history of her family on the land, and why they needed this in order to sell the house. A speaker was passionately opposed to the price, and wanted to give the land back for free. A speaker was in favor. Scott Smith move to terminate, 134-52-1. Motion passed 162-17-9.

Meeting was adjourned.