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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.

Town Meeting ’14, 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, as time allows. 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.

Precinct 21 had a Town Meeting vacancy with the passing of Harry McCabe. Our precinct voted to fill his seat before the meeting. That meeting kept me out in the hall up to 8pm, and I slipped into Town Meeting a couple minutes late, after the meeting was gaveled open.

The Menotomy Minutemen lead the meeting in singing the National Anthem.

The invocation was given by the leader of the Boston Church of Christ. Their congregation is moving to the church being renovated Pleasant Street, opening this summer.

Selectman Kevin Greeley introduced the guests from our sister city, Nagaokakyo. He and the Mayor of Nagaokakyo spoke about the program and its impact. They invited everyone to view the memorial bench for Dick Smith, a founder of the program.

Moderator John Leone gave several remarks. We had a moment of silence for the members that pass. He talked about the importance of civility. He reminded everyone that proposals and amendments be on the seats 48 hours before the next session. He said there was too much paper on the seats, and suggested that non-motions be in the back of the room, not on the seats.

The moderator gave an extended explanation of how electronic voting would work using the handset. He reminded everyone that you can only vote for yourself – there is no proxy voting permitted. He noted that all recorded votes will be on the town website tomorrow.

For Article 16, John Leone said he will step down and not moderate because he’s involved in the issue. He also noted that he was proposing a resolution for Article 54 so we can discuss whether or not we like using electronic voting.

The moderator swore in new members.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Steve Byrne made the traditional motion about officials and guests who are permitted to sit on the town meeting floor (as opposed to in the gallery).

The Town Clerk certified that the town was duly notified about the meeting.

We moved to return on Wednesday April 30th.

Announcements:

  • John Worden proposed a motion in memory of Harry McCabe. He listed his history and accomplishments. The resolution was passed.
  • John Maher, a leader on the Symmes charitable fund ($1 million) requested submissions for grants for healthcare organizations.

Article 2

Steve Byrne gave the State of the Town.

Article 3 – Reports of Committees

  • Steve Byrne gave the report of the Selectmen and introduced the BoS and department heads.
  • Charlie Foskett gave the physical Capital Planning report, but saved the explanation for the capital article.
  • John Leonard asked if there would be a report of the utility pole working group. He was told there would not – the utility pole working group is a Selectmen committee, not a Town Meeting committee. I’m sure Mr. Leonard was looking for a follow up to last year’s Article 15.  I’m happy to say that we made a lot of progress last year with the utilities, increased the tracking of the problem, and reduced the number of double poles in town. It is, however, a never-ending job, as poles are constantly replaced.
  • Al Tosti gave the Finance Committee report. He asked for 15 minutes. He introduced the committee members. He walked through the budget overview, revenues, and expenditures. He talked about 5-year projection and the gap in 2019-20. He mentioned the additional money for schools this year to manage the enrollment increases.

Al Tosti moved that all motions in the report be the main motions that we discuss. Leone walked through what that means. It means that virtually every article has a starting motion already on the floor, and every discussion starts from that motion – whether it is to adopt it as made, amend it, or substitute it.

Article 3 was tabled.

Art 4 Measurer of Wood and Bark

Elsie Fiorie was appointed.

Article 5 Assistant Town Moderator

Jim O’Conor was the only nominee for assistant moderator, and was elected.

Article 6 – Medical Marijuana Dispensary Zoning

Redevelopment Board Chairman Mike Cayer walked through the history of the medical marijuana issue in Arlington. Our one-year moratorium on marijuana dispensaries expires at the end of this Town Meeting. The ARB proposed permitting them in the zoning districts B3 and B5, which are the business districts of East Arlington, Arlington Center, and Arlington Heights. There will be Special Permits required for a dispensary. Michael Ruderman asked why all business districts were not being proposed, why just B3 and B5. He was not satisfied with the answer. He pointed out that the town is dense and zoning changes affect residents. He is not happy with the process or the proposal. He urged everyone to vote “no” so as not to restrict where dispensaries might happen. The Town Moderator asked Town Counsel what happens if we vote no. Town Counsel Doug Heim said that it wasn’t clear yet what the result would be. This was the first Town Meeting for Doug Heim, and this question was baptism of fire. It’s a question with a lot of wrong answers, and a lot of simply bad answers that are technically correct.  I think he did this one reasonably well.  Andy O’Brien is opposed to dispensaries in Arlington entirely.

We took a 10 minute break

Kevin Koch noted that the 500-foot radius takes out a lot of the proposed area. Molly Flueckiger noted that this is unlikely to come up. She wants to work with someone who comes to the town with a proposal, not exclude options now. Sean Harrington asked for elaboration about if we vote no, could there be a dispensary in a residential area. The Town Counsel said it was a nuanced answer, and if it’s not zoned, then it depends on interpretation of the other bylaws within the town. Gordon Jamieson asked for Chief Ryan to explain why he preferred this solution. Chief Ryan explained that by putting it in a business district it brings peer pressure to keep the business responsible. A speaker talked about the benefits of medical marijuana. Peter Fiorie said we should vote for this so we can control where they go. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. We had our first electronic vote! Debate was terminated by a vote of 157-49. The zoning change was passed 160-49.

On the ballot question two years ago I voted in favor of permitting these dispensaries, as did 2/3 of Arlington. I think the ARB had a sound proposal, and I was happy to support it.

Article 7 No Action unanimously.

Article 8 - Dark Skies
Steve Byrne gave the introduction. Paul Bayer proposed an amendment to make it “nearby” not “abutting” properties. Paul Schlichtman, the proponent, walked through the impact of the change – making it so that it applies to light cast on residential properties. Bill Hayner was concerned that “nearby” isn’t clear enough. There were two questions about parks – they are exempt. Ed Trembly was concerned that we are over-regulated. Sean Harrington moved to terminate debate. 159-49 terminated debate. 145-63 approved the amendment. 159-52 the main motion passed.

Article 9
No action.

Article 10 – Elected Cemetery Trustees
Steve Harrington moved to postpone discussion of his substitute motion to give time to read it. By a vote of 147-64 we postponed to the 5th.

Article 11 – Electronic Voting change
Steve Byrne explained the language change. Adam Auster made a correction to which sentence is being deleted. He explained that this is to show votes, show the roll call, if the vote result is very close in all situations. There were questions about the math, and some questions about electronic voting in general. Passed 208-1-2. One effect of electronic voting – those are some of the highest vote totals I can remember. High attendance and participation.

Article 12.
Stephen Harrington moved a substitute motion. He thinks the current parking situation isn’t acceptable. He showed a number of pictures of parked cars in the cemetery. Adam Chapdelaine noted that one of the pictures included stones that were placed in the past to prevent parking on the grass. He talked about the challenge of the density of parking in the area. He noted that the upcoming capital plan of $230,000 includes a rebuilding of the cemetery roads, and a berm on the edge of roads. There was a question about enforcement – Chief Ryan didn’t know, he hadn’t been approached by Mr. Harrington. A speaker asked about things about park cleanup. She thinks the language is very harsh. A speaker was in favor because of civility. Gordon Jamieson: is this enforceable or not. He’s not sure if this is over regulation. I thought this wasn’t as clear as it could have been. If I understand it right, ticketing isn’t an option in the current bylaw, but towing is. The proposed bylaw would enable ticketing. That’s something that I hadn’t heard before. I would be in favor a motion that extended the power of ticketing to the cemeteries. However, I would leave the power of regulation in the hands of the cemetery trustees.

It being 11, we moved to adjourn. The moderator made this an electronic vote – there definitely a few people who had left early. I suspect some were on the way out the door and didn’t realize this was an electronic vote.

Town Meeting ’13, 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, as time allows. 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.

Town Meeting Member Charles Gallagher played the national anthem.

The moderator noted we can finish tonight.

Announcements

  • Sean Harrington – Honorable mention for Mr. Worden in a photography award.
  • Angela Olszewski - Historical events and volunteers
  • Gordon Jamieson – Collection day Saturday from 9-1
  • Kevin Greeley – Town Hall Centennial on June 7. Buy your tickets!

Article 3

Trembly – Tree Committee report.
We dissolved a number of committees – the list was too long for me to jot down.

Article 3 is tabled

Article 35 – Sewer Finance

2/3 required, approved.

Article 36 – Water Finance

unanimous

Article 37 – Committees

unanimous

Article 38 – Celebrations

unanimous

Article 39 – Miscellaneous

unanimous

Article 40 – Water Bodies

Question about salinity testing. Comment on drainage water going into Spy Pond. Question on the size of the appropriation.  Approved.

Article 41 – Eminent Domain for Mass Ave/60 Intersection

I introduced the article and explained that it had no appropriation.  It’s for temporary taking for construction, and a few permanent to install handicap ramps.  Questions on the proposed plan. parking.  and notification. The plan is on the town website.  Speakers were opposed. Mark McCabe moved to terminate. Passed on voice (2/3 vote)

Article 43 – Harry Barber

unanimous

Article 44 – Historic Signs

$20,000 in signage.  Speakers were opposed because we haven’t seen a sign design yet. Speakers were in favor because it advances Arlington’s cultural and commercial goals. There was concern that this program would support non-profits rather than the town. As Chris Loreti left the podium, he called the signs “a poster child for the opposition of the tax override that is being planned by the people behind me.” To be clear: Barring some revolutionary transformation of the tax structure in this state, the town will need another tax override. I don’t know if we’ll need it in 2017 or 2020 or somewhere in between, but we will need it. I suppose you can characterize that override as being planned by the people behind Mr. Loreti, but it’s a plan that has been endorsed by the people in front of him when they approved the budget, and endorsed by the people at the ballot box at the last override and at other town elections. As with all things in this town, there is no them-and-us; there is only us.  One final thought: this appropriation is for $20,000; the projected budget for 2019 is more than $150,000,000; the projected budget gap is about $9,000,000. That’s 450 “poster children.” Clarissa Rowe noted that this appropriation is in support of tourism. There was more discussion of the potential design. Sean Harrington moved terminate debate, and it was. Appropriation was approved

Article 45 – Uncle Sam Sign

Lawrence McKinney gave the presentation in support of the appropriation. Question about how the money will be expended. A speaker complained that debate was going on too long. Nathan Swilling moved to terminate debate and it was. Approved.

Article 46 – Pension Adjustment

Approved unanimously.

Article 47 – OPEB

Unanimous

Article 48 – Override Stabilization Fund

Stephen Harrington asked a question about the long term planning projections – he wasn’t happy with the proposed motion. Charlie Foskett explained the long term planning process. Al Tosti explained that we’re saving more than we expected (back in 2011) because of the GIC and other spending reductions.

We had a 10 minute break

John Maher moved to terminate debate and it was. Appropriation approved.

Article 49 – Long Term Stabilization Fund

Approved unanimously.

Article 50 – Overlay Reserve

Question on the size of the appropriation. Approved.

Article 51 – Tip Fee Stabilization Fund

Al Tosti noted that this is the end of NESWC. Approved unanimously.

Article 52 – Transfer of Cemetery Funds

Approved unanimously.

Article 53 – Unencumbered Funds

Approved unanimously.

Article 3 was taken from the table.

Town Meeting was dissolved.

Town Meeting ’13, 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, as time allows. 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.

Town Meeting Member Charles Gallagher played the national anthem.

The moderator noted we might finish Wednesday. I had been hoping that we finish tonight – but it wasn’t meant to be. We took our time with the budgets over the last two nights.

  •  Marvin Lewiton announced a large cancer study that Arlington is an enrollment center for and invited others to participate. cancer.org/cps3ne
  •  Patricia Worden gave the report and history of the Affordable Housing Task Force. It has not met in five years. She asked that the task force be dissolved.
  •  Sean Harrington Monday May 13th benefit show for Krystle Campbell Memorial. regenttheatre.com
  •  Barbara Costa gave the report of the Arlington Cultural Commission.
  •  Angela Olszewski was confused about whether we were in reports or announcements. She’s right; we have not been careful about the delineation.
  •  Bob Tosi announced that May 11 US Postal Service food drive. Arlington Food Pantry.

Article 3 taken from the table.

  •  Brucie Moulton gave the Vision 2020 report.

Article 31 – Budgets continued

Education, continued: Stephen Harrington moved to increase the education budget by $300,000. He said he also intended to move to place less in the stabilization fund as well in order to balance the budget. He suggested the money be used to reduce student activity fees. FinComm Chair Al Tosti spoke. He requested that substantive amendments be provided in advance – it would be appreciated. Tosti noted that in past years changes in state aid, good and bad, are shared by the town and school budget. Tosti noted the history of school budget increases. He noted that this motion would violate the agreements and commitments of the 3-year plan. Carl Wagner asked if a motion to terminate debate was in order. He was told that it was in order, but he was not permitted to make the motion because he had said other words. I disagree with the enforcement of this rule. The spirit of the rule is that you shouldn’t be able to both speak to an issue and terminate debate; you can only do one. Carl Wagner did not speak to the issue, even obliquely, so his motion to terminate should have been in order. Gordon Jamieson asked for the rationale for the amount of $300,000 – Mr. Harrington said it was the amount of unexpected revenue. Superintendent Kathy Bodie was asked what she’d do with the money, and she feels bound by the 3-year plan. Mr. Harris disagreed with some of the arguments of both sides. “The last time we reduced fees we had a plan. This time, we’re apparently hoping for a visit from the magical fee fairies” – it got a chuckle from the crowd.  Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate, which carried 142-45.

Tosti moved to table Articles 31-33 so that the Minuteman Superintendent could speak.  A loud minority forced a standing vote on the motion to table. 145-41 we tabled.

Article 34 – Minuteman Vocational

Tosti asked for 10 minutes for the presentation which was granted. Superintendent Bouquillon gave a presentation on the school district’s budget. He also gave an update on the school rebuild feasibility study. In answer to a question, we found that Arlington is 34% of the operating budget. Six towns have approved the budget, and 6 are voting tonight, so the budget will probably get it’s 11 required votes tonight. Dean Carmen talked about the problems with the regional agreement – we have 1/16 of the votes but 1/3 of the budget.  Bouquillon noted that the feasibility study is looking at two numbers for school size – a member-only version and a version that includes non-member students. Chris Loreti asked about marketing money – the answer is that they market to students, and not about the school rebuild project.  There was a question about enrollment numbers. Michael Ruderman asked about whether or not Dr. Bouquillon was going to leave the school district, and it was ruled out of order. Swilling moved to terminate debate.  Budget approved.

Break for 10 minutes.

31-33 came back from the table.

Article 31 – Budgets continued

Libraries. The budget does meet state requirements. John Deyst talked about the finance committee process.

Reserve Fund. Ted Peluso thinks the budget process within Town Meeting is broken.  I can’t say that I agree with him on this point.  As time goes by, the process has to keep changing, and there are improvements that can and should be made.  But broken is a strong word.   I think Churchill said it best: “Town Meeting is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”  Or, at least, that’s what he should have said.

Water and Sewer. We don’t borrow all the money we could because we don’t have the revenue to repay it.

Stephen Harrington’s amendment went down 42-127.  He asked for roll call, but he did not have enough support to force one.  I note that next year this won’t be an issue.  Electronic voting will get us roll call records for votes like this without any additional effort.  Of course, I voted against it.  The integrity of our multi-year planning process depends on us sticking to our commitments to spending limits.

Budgets were approved.

Article 32 – Special Education Reserve Fund

Transferring funds from last year to this year – no new appropriation. Approved unanimously

Article 33 – Capital Budget

Charlie Foskett gave the report of the committee. He outlined the people, process, and major projects that are in progress. Chris Loreti moved that the money proposed for the parking study be changed to pay for new trees instead. There were questions on the school fire alarm and the school clocks.  I spoke about parking and the trees, and I tried to explain how one of the problems is already managed and the other one isn’t.  We need to manage parking better. Question about ADA. Question about leases and software licenses being capital – they are. My notes are thin here as I was listening more than taking notes. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. It was terminated. Loreti’s amendment defeated by voice vote. Capital budget approved through the several procedural votes.

We adjourned.  I feel like we came up about a half-hour short of a 5-night meeting.  We’ll finish Wednesday, and hopefully early.

Town Meeting ’13, 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, as time allows. 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 led the meeting in the national anthem.

Moderator John Leone announced that all precincts should have organized – elected chairs and clerks.

We will return on Monday May 6. That will hopefully be the last night of this year’s Town Meeting!

Announcements

  •  Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine reported on the compensation study, and provided a memo.
  •  Town Manager asked everyone to take the website survey.
  •  Sean Harrington announced the Republican Committee meeting for tomorrow at 7:30 Senior Center.
  •  Jane Howard announced the Spy Pond Trails Day cleanup on the 11th from 9-1.
  •  Gordon Jamieson – Collection Day is May 11th 9-1
  •  Beth Ann Friedman: SNAC meeting 87 Medford tomorrow at 7:15pm.

Article 3

  • John Cole gave the Permantent Town Building Committee report. He updated on the town’s building projects, including the Public Safety building and Thompson School.
  • School Committee Chair Judson Pierce introduced School Committee report. Superintendent Kathleen Bodie gave the full report.
  • Laurence McKinney gave the report of the Uncle Sam Committee.

Article 25 – Personal Property Exemption

Moderator John Leone stepped down for this article because he has a (small) financial interest in this matter. Assistant Moderator Jim O’Conor took over. I introduced Director of Assessments John Speidel. There were several questions. I regret that I didn’t emphasize that this article was about $3100 in total revenue. With 252 people in Town Meeting, you could have paid us all $12.30 with the revenue we just passed up! Terminate debate from Paul Schlictman. Approved.

Article 31 – Budgets

Board of Selectmen – Question on expense calculation.
IT – Question on Assessor’s software. Questions on job titles that were changed. Question on school budget for IT. There was a question about the new systems analyst postion. CTO David Good explained that we have a “hole in our skill set.” We’re not good at counseling other departments in how they can use IT to improve business processes. This position will help us do that.
Treasurer – He intends to fill his vacant position. There were questions on salary increases, expenses, and overtime. There was confusion on budgeted v. actual.
Legal – Stephen Harrington asked questions on the cost of the lawsuit against the town.
Planning – Budget growth is largely from picking up declining CDBG funding.
ZBA – Question on increase in salary.
DPW – Question on salt usage and equipment choices. Stuart Cleinmann praised the DPW for their response to the microburst. There was a question on the brick holes in the sidewalk in front of Town Hall. There was a question on the “snow graveyard” remediation. The new trash policy was discussed. There was a question on street cleaning. There was a question about too much salt on lawns. Several questions on trees. This debate went on for an hour – I think people forgot you can call the question. Question on sidewalk repair. There was more discussion of trees.
Community Safety - Question on police budgeting and enforcement. There was a discussion of brush and fire risk. Paul Schlictman asked for more parking enforcement and revenue. There was a question on park patrolling.
Inspections – Question on Symmes.
Education – There was a question on Chapter 70 aid and kindergarten. There was a question on high school science MCAS scores. There was a question on user fees for athletics.

We got real slow today – lots of questions that can be asked before the meeting were asked during the meeting.  I hope that we can still finish on Monday.

 

Town Meeting ’13, 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, as time allows. 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 led the meeting in the national anthem.

Moderator John Leone made two announcements. Precincts 8-14 need to organize tonight. Boy’s lacrosse is having a bake sale outside.

Announcements

  • I introduced the visitors from our sister city Nagaokakyo. The Cherry Blossom festival is Friday at at Ottoson School. The leader of the delegation extended his thanks to Arlington.
  • I announced that the Attorney General had already approved the vote of the Special Town Meeting in regard to leaf blowers, and will become effective after the change is advertised on May 9. This is record time for such an approval!
  • Gordon Jamieson asked how to inquire about legal questions. The moderator replied that a legal question about a vote is a legitimate point of information.
  • Clarissa Rowe reported on progress for the Books for Bill program and invited members to talk to her during the break.
  • Roland Chaput announced a cleanup of Robbins Park 9-1 on Saturday.
  • Diane Mahon announced a Saturday cleanup of Hill’s Hill by the Summer Street Association at 9AM.
  • Diane Mahon reported on the AHS basketball and cheerleaders banquet.
  • Sean Harrington announced for Thursday at the Senior center.

Article 3 – Reports

  • Stephen Gilligan gave the report of the treasurer.
  • Gordon Jamieson asked for the dissolution of the bus shelter and liberty ride committees. It was granted.
  • Diane Mahon asked for the dissolution of the leaf blower committee. It was granted.

Al Tosti moved to table Article 3.

Article 13 – New Animal Laws

Juliana Rice explained that the state has passed a new set of laws. This proposal updates our bylaw to fit the new state law and incorporates some other items that are already in practice. Zarina Memon asked several questions. She is opposed to the change. There were discussions of some of the detailed language and several corrections of typos. Mark McCabe moves to terminate debate. Debate was terminated. The new bylaw was passed.

Article 14 – Self-serve gasoline

I spoke, and said that this article was brought forward by 10 voters. Selectmen discussed the safety issues, ADA, and other considerations. Carl Wagner spoke. He had proposed this change, but is no longer in favor. The Master Plan (and others) should look at it. He urged the town meeting to vote it down quickly and move on. Mr. Worden proposed an amendment: permit self-serve, but require full-service. Paul Schlictman terminate. Worden’s amendment went down. The main motion went down.

Article 15 – Utility Poles

John Leonard proposed a resolution that the selectmen ensure that all double poles and other utility pole issues be resolved in 90 days. I was opposed to the resolution. I complete agree that the poles are a problem and the town should work on it. We have adopted a new policy and put in some levers to get change in the future.  But a resolution that demands the problem be fixed in 90 days just isn’t a reasonable resolution.  I would have preferred a more realistic resolution.  A speaker was in favor, and one against.  A speaker wants us to bury the lines.   Swilling moves to terminate. debate is terminated.  Leonard’s motion was substituted and approved.

Article 16 – Safe Streets

No action

Article 17 – Overnight Parking Fees

Jim Ballin proposed a  resolution asking the selectmen to lower the parking fees. I noted that the issue will be on the agenda this summer and that we value the opinions of town meeting members.  Several speakers were in favor.

We took a 10-minute break.

Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. The resolution was substituted and passed.

Articles 18, 19, and 20

All voted no action

Article 21 – Evens Maurice

Bill Hayner said we should take a look at the rules more carefully. Carl Wagner said we should use existing rules, and we shouldn’t allow this to happen. In a more perfect world, I’d agree with Mr. Hayner and Mr. Wagner.  In this case, we are stuck between two terrible options by state law.  The exception granting process is a way to mitigate the bad options.  The real solution here is a change to civil service law by the state. Moore moved to terminate the debate. The motion was approved.

Article 22

Voted no action.

Article 23 – Public Art Fund

I noted that this article has no appropriation and no appropriation is contemplated at this time.  Stephen Harrington was opposed because he thinks it will be an appropriation. Several speakers were in favor. A vote to terminate debate failed.  Several more speakers were in favor.  Debate was terminated and the fund was approved.

Article 24 – Retirement Board Compensation

I noted it doesn’t affect retirement or health insurance benefits. John Bilafer spoke for several minutes about what the board does. Chris Loreti was opposed.  In Loreti’s speech, he referred to the board’s meeting minutes, and how the minutes talked about sending a member to a conference in Hawaii.  It was an attempt to paint the board as a cushy, perk-filled job where the members vote each other favors.  What Mr. Loreti didn’t say is that no one actually went on the trip.  A juicy sound bite, but lacking in substance when you find the real story. Other speakers were in favor. Mark McCabe terminated debate.  Passed 88-81.

Article 25 – Personal Property Exemption

Postponed to Wednesday because Assessors are out tonight.

Article 26 – Local Option Taxes

No action.

Article 27 – CDBG

I talked about the declining funding for CDBG.  We are trying to move programs to private charities where we can.  We are trying to prioritize and support health programs first.  There were several questions.  The motion was approved.

Article 28 – Revolving Funds

There were several questions and demands for more reports on spending.  The article was approved.

Article 29 – Collective Bargaining

One union still is not under contract.  This reserves money for future appropriation. Approved.

Article 30 – Positions Reclassification

No discussion.  Approved.

Article 31 – Budgets

With 9 minutes to go before 11, we adjourned early rather than take up the budgets.

At this pace, we are in a good position to have two nights left.  We can do most of the budgets on Wednesday, finish up any budgets and spending articles the following Monday.  Let’s hope we keep the pace up!