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Town Meeting ’19 – Session 7

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.

The AHS Madrigal Singers sang two songs. At 8:12 performance over, and we began.

Moderator John Leone noted that we had no court reporter today, but the meeting transcription will still be made.

The moderator noted we had 22 articles left, and we could finish tonight if we move quickly.  I admire his optimism, and I really really wanted to finish tonight, but the meeting had other plans.

Clicker test: It costs more to make pennies and nickel than the coins are worth. 167 true 14 false 13 abstain. -It was true.

Announcements

  •  John Gersh sang the praises of Arlington Residents for Responsible Development. He pushed this as an “information” site, but I’d characterize it more as an advocacy organization.  
  • Helene Newberg announced a Pride Stage at Porchfest and the upcoming LBGTQ picnic.
  • Al Tosti – Ranking Officers agreement is complete and available to review for upcoming vote.

Article 37, Police Chief out of Civil Service, continued

Christopher Moore asked about how the chief is chosen within Civil Service. Town Manager Chapdelaine explained that under Civil Service he would have to hire the top scorer on the test unless he gives written reasons to pick the second or third scorer – no lower. Those reasons for the 2nd or 3rd are challengeable.  It’s a very narrow pool. Bill Hayner is opposed to the change, and thinks the civil service test is important. John Deyst moved to terminate debate, the motion failed 109-90-3 (requires 2/3). Charles Foskett is opposed to the change and thinks that it violates the goals of civil service. I think that Mr. Foskett articulated the benefits of a fully-functioning civil service system, but we don’t have one, and we can’t get one without state-level reforms.  Joe Tully is opposed to the change. Betty Stone is in favor of the change because it assures an open and competitive hiring process. John Leonard is opposed. Gordon Jamieson is in favor of the change. Peter Gest asked for a repeat of Diane Mahon’s argument from Wednesday. Selectman Steve DeCourcey spoke against the change – he thinks the hire should be from within the department. He asked the opinion of Fire Chief Jefferson – Chief Jefferson is opposed to the change. Jordan Weinstein supports this change. Annie LaCourt asked about the two Arlington Police Captains hired to Belmont and Bedford – they were hired outside of civil service. Mark McCabe is opposed to this change for morale reasons. There was expectation on the floor that he’d move to terminate debate – there was laughter when he revealed that he’s there to speak. Bob Radochia is opposed – he thinks the chief should come up through the ranks. Timur Yontar asked the Town Manager why he was in favor – hiring, flexibility, and noted that the last 3 chiefs were all hired out of civil service. After a few more speakers, Eric Helmuth moved to terminate debate.  The change was approved 126-81-6.

Paul Schlichtman moved reconsideration on Article 34. He said that the meeting was unaware of the impact to uplighting. 85-93-9 the motion of reconsideration failed.  I abstained on this one.  I needed more information to get to yes.  The couple of sentences on the floor weren’t enough.

Article 38 Senior Tax Deferral Limit
Sophie Migliazzo asked how we would handle the missing revenue while it’s deferred. Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler explained that the money comes out of overlay revenue. Christopher Moore had questions about the role of the bank and the mortgage. This is the type of question that can probably be handled before Town Meeting, not during it. Michael Quinn, member of Council on Aging noted that Thursday May 23rd the CoA is sponsoring a meeting to do more education of seniors of available programs. John Worden thinks it’s a good program. 207-2-1

Article 39 Deaccession of Town Library Materials
Director of Library Services Andrea Nicolay walked through the history of the Robbins print collection. Gordon Jamieson is in favor. 186-7-3

We took a break.

Article 40 – Library Parking Costs
Andrew Fisher moved a resolution to ask the Select Board and Library Trustees to find a way to lower parking costs for disadvantaged visitors. Michelle Durocher asked the Library Director about the current parking situation. James O’Connor asked about a voucher system, but it has a privacy issue, and is in favor of the resolution. Roderick Holland is in favor of the resolution. Mustafa Varoglu is in favor of the resolution. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate. 121-61-8 the resolution was substituted. 125-52-8 the resolution was approved.

Article 41 – Redevelopment Board
No action

Article 43 – Means Test Senior Tax Relief
Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine explained that this is yet another senior tax relief program – this one is means tested, though, which is different. It requires act of the state legislature. Steve Revilak had questions about the impact. John Deyst thinks it shouldn’t be just for seniors, it should all be means tested. Sophie Migliazzo asked about the qualifications. Charles Hartshorne asked about wealth v. income. Michael Quinn shared some experience working with seniors, and is in favor. John Worden is in favor. Gordon Jamieson talked about circuit breakers. James O’Connor talked about circuit breakers. Ann Fitzgerald talked about fixed income and is in favor of this change. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate, and it was. 188-5 in favor.

Article 44
No action

Article 45
Benjamin Rudick explained that his neighbors can’t vote, and it was startling to him. He went through the history of voting rights. He argued that the town should let permanent residents vote. Rieko Tanaka explained her path to citizenship, how important this change is, and is in favor of the change. Jim DiTullio is opposed because he thinks it will lead to permanent residents being denied citizenship. Michael Ruderman is opposed. Timur Yontar asked if it’s legal – it will be legal as soon as the state says it is. Patty Muldoon is in favor – she argued this is not simply a symbolic action, it’s how change happens. There was a question about how voting registration would be done practically. Sophie Migliazzo is opposed to this, because she thinks voting should be linked to citizenship. John Worden is opposed. A motion to adjourn failed. Christopher Moore moved to terminate debate and it was. 131-51-5 it was approved.

Adjourned.

Town Meeting ’19 – 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.  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.

Eric Helmuth played the national anthem on the piano. Helmuth Sock Watch: still striped, but more muted in color than the last report.

We tested the voting clickers with this question: The Sea of Tranquility can be found on the moon? 152 true (and correct), 14 false, and 15 abstained.

Select Board Chair Diane Mahon moved for us to return May 13.

Announcements

  • Michael Quinn – May 23 2PM at the Senior Center, seniors can hear about the various financial programs available to seniors. The program is sponsored by the Council on Aging and other organizations.
  • There was an announcement about Arlington Restorative Justice. I was briefly distracted and didn’t capture the announcement. My apologies.
  • John Leonard gave a token of appreciation to John and Patricia Worden – a road sign saying “Worden Way.”
  • Girls Tennis had a bake sale at the break

Art 58 – Capital Budgets Continued

Timur Yontar rose with a point of order; he asked if any of these late amendments were in order.  The moderator ruled one amendment in order, and two out of order. Patricia Worden moved an amendment to increase the flow of water through the Mill Brook pipe. David Levy is opposed to the DPW building and the Senior Center because the town is spending too much money on building, and he moved to postpone both of those projects to 2022.  David Levy’s math around capital budgets and the override was suspect. I think he was mixing annual revenue numbers with total-project numbers. Gordon Jamieson is opposed to tabling the budget to accommodate late amendments. He had a question about why we were transferring previously-borrowed money to new project. He also had a question about how the sale of the Mass Ave building would be accounted for. He had another question about why we were buying so many trucks. He had a question about voting machines, but didn’t wait for an answer. He didn’t think we heard enough about the new building projects. Greg Dennis had a question about voting machine. I spoke in favor of the main motion and against the amendment to divert the money for the Minuteman/Lake Street intersection. I argued that it was necessary because of the high volume of accidents and total traffic. I briefly described the process that TAC, the town, and Select Board went through. On Monday night I suggested that Mustafa Varoglu was working with a few bicycle advocates to kill the Lake Street light project. I absolutely accept him at his word (see comments at bottom) that he made his proposal independently.  And I agree that the drainage he wants fixed is a problem.  But  I strongly disagree with his prioritization of drainage over a traffic light.  Chair of the Capital Committee Charlie Foskett asked Director of Public Works Mike Rademacher to speak, and he explained why he can’t change the Mill Brook culvert. Adam MacNeill, member of the Arlington Bike Advocacy Committee spoke in favor of the Lake Street intersection. Bill Hayner is in favor of the traffic light. Beth Ann Friedman asked questions about the override’s impact on the budget and the tax rate. I will gladly refer questions like this to buildarlingtonsfuture.org. Andrew Fisher asked about the loss of a practice field to the DPW building – Adam Chapdelaine explained that the town will gain a net of one field between the DPW and High School projects. Alex Bilsky is in favor of the Lake Street/Minuteman project. He talked about the related problem at Brooks/Lake intersection that is involved in this project. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate on Article 58. There was a contested voice vote on termination, and we voted 150-57-4 on clickers to terminate debate. The amendment failed 20-189. The main motion was approved 198-14. Note this vote requires 2/3 approval for bonding, because it binds future town meetings which ordinarily is not allowed.  We often take separate votes for the majority-only spending, but we just did it all by 2/3 this year.

Tosti moved to table Articles 59-67 so that we can discuss the CPA.

The moderator noted that amendments need to be available 48 hours beforehand, and that he and Town Counsel Doug Heim are available to help in their drafting.  He was referring to late and badly-drafted amendments without naming them.

Article 68 Community Preservation Act

CPA Committee Chair Eric Helmuth described the projects that the CPA intends to fund. Beth Melofchik is opposed to the Whittemore Park project because of tree removal, and moved to strike it. Town Counsel Doug Heim noted that the park is the property of the town. The jurisdiction of the property mostly Select Board, but the back of the parcel is under ARB jurisdiction. Melofchik used her full 7 minutes without waiting for an answer to her questions, and if I was moderator, I’m not sure I’d have asked Doug Heim to answer them.  That said, the meeting did get useful information from the answer.  Clarissa Rowe cited her credentials as a tree hugger and a landscape architect, and supports the Whittemore project. Paul Schlichtman is in favor of the Whittemore project. Ed Trembly thinks we are overspending on the Whittemore project and is opposed. Naomi Greenfield spoke in favor of the reservoir project. She had a question about the Spy Pond playground.

9:30 break
9:39 return

Bill Berkowitz asked about trees in the Old Burying Ground – there are 15ish of 57 that will be removed from the lot. Berkowitz wants to retain the atmosphere we have today.  David Levy had a question about the impact on the beer garden and fees for the Robbins Garden. John Leonard had a question about the state CPA fund. Susan Stamps is in favor of the Whittemore project. John Worden is opposed to the Whittemore project. Debate was terminated. 20-191 Melofchik amendment was defeated. 199-15-1 the CPA proposal was approved.

Article 35 Short Term Rentals

Town Counsel Doug Heim presented the contents and impact of the bylaw. Christopher Moore asked a question about inspection and certifications. Annie LaCourt asked about implementation. Jennifer Susse was opposed to the 31-day restriction, but it turns out to be a state requirement. Timur Yontar moved to terminate debate. 202-10-1 the rules were approved.

Article 36-49 were tabled

Article 50 Local Option Short Term Rental Fees

Peter Gast asked which fee option were we approving – Doug Heim answered that we’re adopting both. 202-12.

Article 36-49 were taken from the table.

Article 36 Election Modernization Study Group

Select Board Chair Diane Mahon discussed the committee. Christa Kelleher is the originator of the proposal. She supports the motion, and offered a modest adjustment to the composition of the committee. I welcomed her amendment. Christopher Moore moved a different amendment to reduce the restrictions on the appointees. I disagree with Christopher Moore’s motion. We have a real need to get more than the usual suspects on this committee. Several of the named slots have knowledgeable, involved people. The careful descriptions were aimed at getting people outside the regular voting body to the committee.  Paul Schlichtman is opposed to the Kelleher amendment. Timur Yontar had a question about the charge to the committee. Lesley Waxman works for the Cambridge Election Commission and is very excited about the committee and wants to participate. She is in favor of the looser restrictions for appointment. Angela Olszewski said the League of Women Voters supports the article in all forms. Debate was terminated. Kelleher amendment approved 109-84-1 Moore amendment approved 152-47-2. Main motion approved 188-9-1.  I’m glad this got done, and I’m sure the committee will work well (even if I didn’t get exactly what I would have preferred).  The town is not doing things entirely right for voting.  We’re not open enough to off-hours voting, to answering voter questions, to providing visibility into the voting process.  We do things that were good choices back in the day, but I don’t think we’ve changed as fast as the town’s citizens have.   It’s sometimes hard (even when you’re an elected official!) to drive change.  I hope this committee shines a lot of lights in a lot of corners, and accelerates the pace of change in the way elections are run in Arlington.

Article 37 Remove Police Chief Position from Civil Service

As Vice Chair of the Select Board I spoke in favor of the change. My main points were 1) that the civil service process is too limiting to our hiring process.  It limits the applicant pool too sharply, and applies criteria that are not appropriate. I argued that civil service in Massachusetts is antiquated and needs to be brought up to date, despite the political obstacles to change.  I noted that the Town Manager has committed to hiring the next police chief from within the current department.  I argued that 2) we need good management control of the police chief.  If a future police chief were to work in opposition to Town Meeting’s sanctuary town resolution or any number of sensitive policing issues, the Manager would not be able to make remove the chief under civil service.  I am very pleased with our past chief and our current acting chief. I am more concerned about a future chief. Select Board Chair Mahon spoke in opposition to the change, and thinks the chief should be more protected from politics. She recounted some of Arlington’s history putting the position in and out of civil service. Brian Gallager, resident and ranking officer, spoke on behalf of the Ranking Officers Association. He and his organization are opposed to the change, and argued it was necessary for the strong leadership of the department. John Maher, former Town Counsel is in favor of the change. He explained why the situation in 2002 (a Director of Public Safety position) was different than 2019.

We adjourned shortly after 11.  Some people wanted to vote immediately, and I understand the motivation.  But I think this article is a significant change and I prefer to let the debate run it’s course.

The meeting was adjourned after notices of reconsideration were accepted.

Will we finish on Monday? We didn’t move fast today, but there is still a way to finish Monday if we want to. But I moved my odds to later rather than earlier. 5/13: 60%; 5/15 35%; 5/20 5%.

Town Meeting ’19 – 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.

Town Moderator John Leone called the meeting to order at 8pm on the dot.

Town Meeting Member Jane Howard led the meeting on the piano in the Star-Spangled Banner.

The Moderator announced that Relay for Life is doing a bake sale.

The Moderator announced a survey of Town Meeting Members about paper usage.

Select Board Chair Diane Mahon moved that we will return on Wednesday May 8th for another night of Town Meeting.  My personal odds making: 5/8 5%; 5/13: 60%; 5/15 34%; 5/20 1%.

Announcements

  • Bill Hayner announced that Rotary Club award dinner is June 4, honoring Clarissa Rowe and Alan Tosti.
  • Steve Revilak reported back on the Minuteman/Greenway cleanup effort.
  • Jane Howard invited everyone to Spy Pond cleanup on May 11 from 9 to 1.
  • Sarah Burks pointed out the Cyrus Dallin Museum report contained in the annual town report.

We did a test vote with the clickers: Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. True 117 False 58 Abstain 15 I went to the Van Gogh museum last year. You’d think I’d get this one right.

Reports

  • Priya Sankalia, Recycling Committee, Co-Chair, gave the report of the now-renamed Zero Waste Committee.
  • Len Kardon, School Committee Chairman gave the report of the School Committee.

Finance Committee Chair Al Tosti tabled Article 35-62 so that we can get to the Minuteman Vocational High School.

Article 63 – Minuteman Vocational High School Budget

Superintendent Ed Bouquillon got 15 minutes for his presentation. He reported on the new school building which is set to open next year. He said there was a jump in enrollment for next year too. He reviewed the changes in his proposed budget. DeAnne Dupont had a question about cleaning services. Roderick Holland is in favor of the budget. 209-0

Articles 57 and 58 were taken from the table.

Article 57 – Budgets

John Deyst rose to say that he doesn’t think we should vote the contingent yes-override and a no-override budget. He thinks we should just vote the yes-override. Al Tosti thinks the FinComm approved contingency method is better – the contingent budget is more appropriate than calling a Special Town Meeting.

School Committee Chair Len Kardon requested 10 minutes for their presentation. He thanked Town Meeting for their support for the AHS rebuild. He noted the opening of the Gibbs and the Hardy’s expansion. He reported on the school’s development of a 5-year plan. I’m so pleased to see this plan. I’ve been asking the school department to use a planning model like this for years. I think it will make for better planning and visibility into the planning. Superintendent Katherine Bodie continued the presentation, reporting on recent successes and current plans. She walked through several details of the proposed budget.

The moderator ran through the list of budgets, and some of the budgets were “held” for discussion.

Select Board – John Worden is opposed to the town joining the Mayor’s Coalition because we are a town, not a city.  This is a semantic complaint, not a substantive one. Arlington is close to Boston, and if we want to affect the urban policies that impact us, we need to join organizations like this one.  One example is the MBTA.  MBTA decisions are driven by the Boston inner-core cities.  If we decline to participate, we decline to exercise a powerful lever on that organization. Ted Paluso noted that the override is $5.5 million, but we don’t actually spend most of the money this year. It’s mostly pushed into savings to be used in future years.

Town Manager – no questions

Comptroller – Gordon Jamieson appreciated the reporting.

Treasurer/Collector – Ed Trembly had a question about notification on excise bills.

Assesors – Timur Yontar introduce another resident, Kathleen Maloon. She believes property taxes are going up too much. In her situation, her land’s value increased dramatically, and so did her taxes. She requested an abatement, but she refused to allow the assessor to inspect her home, and her abatement was denied. She doesn’t think anyone should get a double-digit increase. Assessor Mary Winstanley O’Connor explained that when requests for abatements come in, they are required by the state to get full information, including an inspection; if the inspection is not completed, the abatement must be denied. She explained that the town’s property values have escalated dramatically recently. There are some key facts that didn’t come out clearly in this discussion. The most important one: for many people in town, their taxes went down last year! Proposition 2.5 constrains total tax levy growth to 2.5%, but in when properties are revalued, the burden of that tax levy is redistributed. Property values in Arlington have moved dramatically in the last few years, and that made this year’s revaluation unusually volatile. Broadly put, East Arlington saw dramatic increases in land values, more than other parts of the town.  That moved the tax burden more heavily onto those neighborhoods. That is painful for many individual taxpayers, but I’d argue that it reflects the reality of the situation.  East Arlington’s valuations have risen faster than other parts of town. Al Tosti spoke about the tax rate. Steve Revliak asked a series of questions about how the tax rate is calculated. Dave Levy asked about how property flippers affect property values and tax increases. Roderick Holland asked if we can assess homes differently if they are owned by a long-term resident. Mary Winstanley O’Connor explained that they are required by the state constitution to assess the full-and-fair cash value of your home. Doug Heim explained that there are a few legal exceptions ot this that the town takes advantage of to protect seniors and other groups, but the town doesn’t have the freedom to ignore the state’s assessment methods.

9:33 break started
9:46 break ended

Beth Ann Friedman asked what is the underlying data on changes – the answer is property sales. Annie LaCourt talked about property tax v. wealth tax. She also noted that the first two bills of a year are estimated, and the second two are actual. It can make the second half surprising.

Town Clerk – Steve Revilak asked if the Town Clerk’s records are going to be digitized. There are no plans to do so at this time. Patty Muldoon had a question about the Board of Registrar’s budget.

Parking – Peter Fuller asked about the parking clerk. Timur Yontar asked about the recent court case about chalking cars and how it might affect our revenue.

Public Works – Ed Trembly asked how much salt we used. He was not happy with the salary increases. It was explained that the budget is actually 2 years of salary increases. Annie LaCourt gave support to wage increases.

Fire Services. Peter Fiorie asked about the safety of propane delivery trucks. Fire Chief Jefferson said it was a state regulated vehicle.

Inspections – No questions.

Education – Gordon Jamieson had a “show and tell” about the budget document. He and John Deyst supported the budget.

Health and Human Services – Betty Stone is in favor of the new diversity coordinator. Director of Health and Human Services Christine Bongiorno explained that the position will be the ADA coordinator, and will work with Disabilities Commission, Human Rights Commission, and Rainbow Commission. Mona Mandal asked about collaboration with the school parent diversity inclusion groups.

Insurance – No questions

We moved to voting.  Town Counsel Doug Heim – if we don’t have a contingent budget, and the override fails, then we have to come back later this year.  Deyst’s motion failed 29 – 175 -2. I voted in favor of Deyst’s motion.  This override is, should be, a no-drama override.  It’s smart budgeting, and we should approve it.  If the town chooses to reject it, then it becomes high drama, and we should talk about what the alternatives are.  If the override fails on June 11, I would prefer Town Meeting comes back into session and debates what to do next.  All that said – let’s go with the no-drama, well-planned override.  Vote yes on June 11!  Budget approved 207-2. Contingent Budgets approved 198-11.

Article 58 Capital Budget

Charlies Foskett asked for 18 minutes and got it. He described the process the committee follows and the projects that are proposed. Mustafa Varoglu moved an amendment to not work on the Lake Street intersection on the bike path, but to spend the money on drainage instead. I’m opposed to this amendment.  I think the driver of the amendment are a few bicycle advocates whom I generally agree with, but not in this case.  After years of study, the bottom line is that is the Lake Street intersection with the bike path is overloaded and needs restructuring.  The current configuration unnecessarily blocks car traffic.  The proposal in the capital budget is the result of the many studies, and should move forward.  Some Patricia Worden is concerned about flooding from Mill Brook and is opposed to the DPW project.

We adjourned for the night.

Town Meeting ’19 – 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.

Town Meeting Member Rieko Tanaka again played the National Anthem on the piano, and the meeting members sang along.

The moderator asked for a moment of silence in memory of Judy Paradis who passed away on Sunday.

The moderator swore in Lori Leahy, a new Town Meeting Member from Precinct 21. This is my precinct. One of our members resigned, and we had 2 people apply for the vacant seat. Lori was the winner.

The moderator reminded everyone that civility is required, and it includes no snickering.

Select Board Chair Diane Mahon moved that we come back Monday for the next meeting.

Clicker test: is the funny bone a bone located in the elbow? 81 said yes, 93 said no, 14 abstained. Answer was no.

Announcements

  • John Maher – Symmes Non-Profit Medical Use Committee. $1m left. RFP this year are due June 7. The fund has given nearly a million dollars given so far. Donations go to Council on Aging, School Department, Youth Services, visiting nurses, and more. The funds are medical use only.
  • Phil Goff – Alewife Brook Greenway and Minuteman Bike Path cleanup is Saturday. East Arlington cleanup is starting at the dog park by Thorndike 9am sharp at saturday. Bicycle Advisory Committee is working on the Minuteman and is meeting behind Trader Joes. Sunnyside is meeting at north end of Alewife Brook Greenway.

Reports

  • Susan Stamps gave the report of the Tree Committee. Most people don’t know about the tree bylaws, she reported.
  • Eric Helmuth gave the chair of the Community Preservation Act Committee. He reviewed the money spent, and leveraged funds that have been leveraged.
  • Dave Swanson and Naomi Greenfield jointly gave the report of the Human Rights Commission. They closed with a moving speech about working to stop hate in Arlington. This was very well said, and I gave it my strongest applause.

Article 3 was tabled.

Article 22 Zoning Bylaw Corrections
Director of Planning and Community Development Jenny Raitt said this change fixes 6 references to the old zoning bylaw. Approved 203-1

Article 24 Definition of Half-Story Building
Residential Study Group member Elizabeth Pyle explained that this will make the definition easier to calculate. It will also slightly reduce the massing – only 3″ of ceiling height. She supports, personally, the amendment from Christian Klein. She says the ARB supports the article and amendment. Christian Klein moved an amendment that would more comprehensively define roof types and their slope. Gordon Jamieson had a question about how the floor space is calculated. He’s also concerned that the various zoning committees and study groups need to be more careful about their minutes and reporting. Daniel Jalkut had a question about how we’re taking advantage of state law or not. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate on Article 24, and it was on voice vote. Klein’s amendment carried 194-15. I was typing these notes, and I forgot to vote on the amendment! I do support it, but no vote recorded. The motion as amended carried 201-7-1.

Article 26 Billboards and Signs
Bill Berkowitz asked where he could find the referenced “Display of Notices.” Town Counsel Doug Heim said they were on the website. Approved 210-3.

Article 27 Meeting Speaking Times
Jim O’Conor Town Meeting Procedures Committee recommends no action. Michael Jacoby Brown seeks to respect Town Meeting Members. He didn’t actually say the words “I move a substitute motion.” It was not clear to everyone in the room that there was actually a substitute motion. But he had submitted one in writing. Adam Auster is opposed. Roderick Holland is opposed. Joe Tully is opposed. He had several concrete suggestions about how speakers can be more respectful of the meeting members’ time. They were very well said, and Joe gave me his speech which I paraphrase here:

  • We should pay attention so we can limit repeated answers.
  • If you question is amatter of curiousity, but not relevant to how you will vote, perhaps you should ask at a different time.
  • If your observation is intended to demonstrate your subject matter expertise but isn’t particularly aimed at informing the debate, perhaps it’s not the best use of the meeting’s time.
  • When you speak, be prepared.
  • Just because you’re good at budgets doesn’t mean you have to speak on every budget.
  • Having 7 minutes doesn’t mean you need to use all 7.

Daniel Jalkut is opposed. John Worden is opposed. Len Diggins is opposed. Len is the regular staffer for ACMI for Select Board meetings. He made a joke about limiting Select Board new business to 5 minutes – it made me laugh. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate, and it was. The vote started, then there was a point of information about what the question being voted was. On the vote to substitute Brown’s motion failed 26-178-2. No action prevailed.

Article 28 Recycling Committee Membership and Mission
Larry Slotnick, Recycling Committee Member explained that it changes the name and size of the committee and updates the mission of the committee. He talked about the need to move from just “recycle” to more reduce and reuse. He showed examples of areas where the town can improve. Jim O’Conor is in favor, as is Ted Paluso. Jordan Weinstein asked about current recycling, and we heard about how recycling market is failing. Christopher Moore moved to terminate debate. 208-4 approved

Article 29 Polystyrene
Juli Brazile explained that this would ban the sale of foam coffee cups and other polystyrene within the town. It can still be bought outside the town and used in the town. It does not require that the replacement product be biodegradeable. This is the plastic type to reduce first – it’s the least recyclable. Jim Ballin explained that these materials are easily recyclable. He described the outreach that the committee has done and reviewed steps other towns have taken. There was a question about the definition of a “food service item.” Jim DiTullio is in favor. He compared it favorably to the plastic bag ban.

9:33 break
9:47 return

Phil Goff moved to terminate debate. It was terminated on voice vote. 192-3 the ban was approved.

Article 30 Waterline
Voted no action.

Article 31 CPA Committee Renaming
This motion was already passed on the consent agenda, but there was confusion. So we voted on it a second time. We changed the name on a 163-1 vote.

Article 32 Tree Protection and Preservation.
Town Counsel Doug Heim made an administrative change. Tree Committee member Susan Stamps explained the changes to the requirements for a tree plan. She explained the change in permitted mitigation that payment is now the only option. Mustafa Varoglu asked about the definition of “near.” Greg Christina also asked about whether “near” was the right term to use. Daniel Jalkut was concerned with the consistency of capitalization. The speaker apologized for being a nitpicker, but argued that he’s making the bylaw better. But how much better? The capitalization changes have no meaningful improvement in the bylaw.  I’m not opposed to the changes themselves; I just wish he’d take these questions up before the meeting rather than during it. 3.5 minutes times 250 people is 14.5 hours.  The bylaw didn’t get 14.5 hours better with those capitals.  Zarina Memon is concerned about how the diameter is measured. Stephen Revilak asked, and DPW Director Mike Rademacher explained that there is a donation/fine account for trees and a line item in the budget. We plant 225 years last year and have a goal of 300 going forward. Beth Anne Friedman asked if we will reach out to tree removal companies. Mike Rademacher shared the process. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. It was approved 203-1.

Article 33 Notice of Demolition
Elizabeth Pyle of the Residential Study Group put the motion forward with RSG support. This adds tree plans the “Good Neighbor Agreement”. The result is notification of abutters during large renovations and new construction. JoAnne Preston asked about how enforcement would work going forward. Steve Revilak asked about the timeline of a project under this bylaw. Gordon Jamieson had a series of capitalization concerns.  I hope this isn’t a trend.  Or if it is a trend, it runs its course and concludes before 8pm on Monday.  Timur Yontar moved to terminate debate. 200-0.

Article 34 Dark Skies
Paul Schlichtman presented the article. He explained that this expands coverage from residential to commercial properties. He showed a particularly offensive light and how it could be reigned in. Christian Klein moved an amendment to expand the approving bodies for special events. Charlie Foskett asked questions about some of the aspects of the proposal. He thinks that it’s flawed, and not well defined, and is opposed to it. Beth Benedikt is opposed because she is concerned it affects her home lighting. Ed Trembly is also opposed because of public safety. Gordon Jamieson asked about the Leader Bank facade and expressed displeasure of it. He moved to strike the building facade reference from the bylaw. A speaker was opposed because she didn’t think the scope was clearly enough explained. Andrew Fisher is in favor. Deborah Sirotkin Butler had questions about the model law – we could use a lumen-based bylaw, but that’s not what this proposal does, this is less strict. Greg Christiana asked about public safety – whether this article would hinder public safety. Acting Police Chief Julie Flaherty didn’t think this bylaw would hinder public safety. Roderick Holland was unaware of the existing bylaw. There was a motion to adjourn, which failed. Timur Yontar moved to terminate debate. Klein’s amendment approved 157-38. Jamieson’s amendment passed 126-65-5. The main motion was approved 117-69-5.

Paul Schlichtman gave notice of reconsideration on Article 34

Minuteman, budgets, and capital budgets will be discussed on Monday.

We adjourned.

Special Town Meeting ’19

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.

Tonight is the third night of Annual Town Meeting, but as we often do, we inserted a Special Town Meeting into the annual.  There are a couple of reasons we do that.  One reason is that sometimes things come up after the annual warrant deadline, and then you need a special to set a new deadline.  Another reason is that Town Meeting votes only become official once certified by the Attorney General, and that only happens after Town Meeting is completely dissolved.  For the AHS rebuild, for instance, we don’t want to wait until sometime this summer to get the vote certified.  By doing a special, and by dissolving it, we get the vote certified quickly enough to move forward.

Moderator John Leone started calling the meeting to order a minute before 8pm and we started on time.

Town Meeting Member Rieko Tanaka played the National Anthem on the piano, and the meeting members sang along.

Select Board Member Joe Curro introduced the Mayor of Nagaokakyo, Arlington’s sister city in Japan. He gave a short speech thanking Arlington volunteers and host families. The visiting students came on stage and sang a song to us.

The moderator explained Notices of Reconsideration. If you vote on the prevailing side (meaning, the side that won the vote), you can give a notice of reconsideration that night. And then, if there is new information available, then you can move reconsideration of the article at any time. The meeting can choose to take that article up with a 2/3 vote.

We tested the clicker with this question: US Presidents originally lived in the President’s Palace. 55 true, 118 false, 16 abstain. There were several fits and starts during the test vote. As the moderator said – glad that it was a test vote!

Announcements
Bill Hayner announced the elementary school mock Town Meeting and greeted the participants in the audience.

Reports

  • Chairperson Jeff Thielman gave the Arlington High School Building Committee (AHSBC) report.
  • Al Tosti gave the Finance Committee report. He noted the high school project has the unanimous support of FinComm. He gave some high school history: in the 1970s Town Meeting supported a rebuild twice, but it was twice defeated at referendum. The third attempt passed Town Meeting, and there was no challenging referendum. In the end, the town got a lesser project for more money than the original proposal. Don’t repeat that mistake.

Article 1 – Arlington High School

The moderator said that he wouldn’t be taking names for the list until after the main presentation. This was a bit of an unusual choice, but it makes sense to me. The beginnings of presentations are sometimes a bit of a circus with people desperately trying to get the moderator’s attention while the speaker is trying to hold the meeting’s attention. This way the audience, and any potential speakers, will have had the benefit of actually hearing the original presentation.

Jeff Thielman requested a full hour presentation. John Worden asked if opponents “who dare have a contradictory opinion” would be allowed to speak for a similar amount of time. The moderator replied that it is a very important question, and he expected that the meeting will hear everyone appropriate.

Thielman explained the need for a new high school. He went through the process with the state MSBA program. He noted that the site is small, 22 acres, and has a significant grade, and some capped contamination. He talked about the different town departments, such as IT and Comptroller, that have been moved from the AHS building into other town facilities. He talked about the design process and phased building plan.

Principal Janger talked about the good parts of the high school, including being ranked 9th in the state. The expectations of high schools have gone up over the years, from No Child Left Behind and special education needs. He talked about how the proposed design supports the educational mission. He walked through a broad overview of the layout of the school.

Committee Member John Cole talked about the architectural choices in the design, including the central spine of the building. He went into the details about why the recommendation was to rebuild, not renovate. He explained the logistics, the cost savings, and the limiting factors of the old building. He explained how by moving the building forward we can add athletic space in the back. He went into a more detailed view of the phasing of the construction.

Committee Member Ryan Katofsky walked through the environmental sustainability of the building. It’s designed to be a carbon-neutral, all-electric building. It will have a ground-source heat pump and solar panels. It takes advantage of utility programs for funding. He covered other initiatives.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine walked through the financial support of the MSBA and the limitations of it. He talked about how expenses will be managed. He shared some of the cost management measures that have already been taken. He explained some of the “bonuses” the town has earned for reimbursement. He gave a benchmark analysis of comparable high school projects.

Jeff Theilman explained the cost of “no vote” to the town. We would lose state money, and have to fund the renovations ourselves. Doing nothing is not an option, he said, because the current building is failing. He relayed a cautionary tale from Lincoln who rejected MSBA plan, and had to pay it alone. He played a “flythrough” animated video of the proposed building. He closed with an appeal to build a school for the town’s future.

Senator Cindy Friedman spoke on behalf of Representatives Garballey and Rogers. The three of them enthusiastically support this project. She explained how competitive the state funding process is, and how unlikely and expensive it would be to forgo the state grant. Of the 18 that towns that skipped the grant in the last few years, none have succeeded in getting funding later.

At 9:31 we took a break.

At 9:40 we were back in session.

Joe Tully supports the rebuild. He asked about whether the school was being built for a big enough population. Timur Yontar is in favor. Adam Pachter is in favor. He argued: just because the committee didn’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean you weren’t heard. It doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy against you. It was a very cogent point. Patricia Worden is opposed to the plan. I read Patricia Worden’s screed before the meeting started. I shook my head at the falsehoods, distortions, and repetitively-used incorrect numbers. Two quick examples of her legerdemain: The proposed high school has a price tag of $291m, not the $308 million she cites over and over; she says in 2016 the project was promised “not to exceed $150M” – a promise never made; and a third bonus item – no one gets to pull a $29M renovation-cost prediction for Fusco and Collomb out of thin air and be believed. Later in the night, during the presentation, I was struck by the careful detail of the AHSBC pricing benchmark slide, which includes multiple footnotes about the data that was used, its limitations, and the underlying assumptions. My point: One set of people here is using facts and should be taken seriously. Similarly, some of the opponents to the project are reasonable people making reasonable arguments who can disagree reasonably. But some of the opponents just can’t be taken seriously. Michael Ruderman is in favor of the project as just and right for the next generation of students. He also had a question about the reimbursement rate. Greg Christiana is in favor of the proposal, and explored the cost of saying no. John Deyst is in favor; it’s good for our students and our real estate prices. David Baldwin, town resident, is opposed to the project; he argued that the current buildings have too much historic value to be demolished. Gordon Jamieson moved to terminate debate. I overheard the moderator say there were 15 people on the list. 166-50-3 debate was terminated. 208-10-2 it was approved.

Article 2 – no action

Article 3 – Zoning Consultant
JoAnne Preston is opposed to this expenditure. She thinks that more volunteers should be used, and fewer consultants. Beth Ann Friedman is also opposed and thinks the work should be done by the planning dept. Al Tosti spoke in favor of it. Daniel Jalkut terminated debate, and it was approved 192-20-2 I was on the list to speak, and I had some strong words, but I’m glad I didn’t get to the mic – it wasn’t necessary.

Article 4 – Real Estate
Town Counsel Doug Heim explained that it is landlocked. It’s an artesian well. The next-door neighbor has filed a complaint against the town. The town would like to not disclose the assessed value because it is subject to negotiation. Paul Schlichtman thinks the parcel is otherwise worthless and thinks this would be an excellent use of it. And also took the lead in the 2019 humor category by opening his speech with “Well, well, well. . .” Ted Sharpe is in favor, but does not want extort beyond its reasonable value. Michael Ruderman is in favor of the disposition. It was approved 218-0

Article 5 – Residential Design Guidelines
Director of Planning and Community Development Jenny Raitt explained that many towns and cities have design guides. The recommendation is to develop guidelines for R0, R1, and R2 parcels. The current process is imprecise and this would help add rigor to the process. Sophie Migliazzo noted that this was a 9-5 vote and wondered who was opposed to it. Pat Hanlon talked about how this was a tool for evaluating tear downs. Ted Paluso supports this expenditure. Ed Trembly asked if we know who the consultants would be – no, because there is a competitive bid process. Karen Kelleher is in favor. Brian Hasbrouck is in favor. Ethan Zimmer asked whether these were enforceable like zoning – the answer is it would likely be advisory to the ZBA as guidelines, and something would come back to Town Meeting in the future. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate, terminated on voice vote. 197-6-3 approved.

Article 6 – Mugar Application Process
Taking this article up was going past 11PM! I approve. We want to get this done. By getting it all done tonight, we can dissolve the special town meeting.  Town Counsel Doug Heim explained that town meeting had already approved money for this, but it had carefully been spent.  We have ongoing legal costs in the fight with Mugar.  On voice vote, approved near unanimously.

We dissolved the Special Town Meeting.

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.