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Town Meeting, 5/2, Session Four

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I scribble notes. Iā€™m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I then 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 notepad 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. When I remember to note the time, it looks like [8:05].

The meeting was called to order promptly at 8:00. Town Meeting member Jane Howard played the national anthem. An invocation was delivered, but I forgot to write down the leader.

Announcements:

  • The moderator gave several precinct election announcements. My precinct, 11, hasn’t met yet. We’re going to do it Wednesday at the break.
  • Jane Howard announced a Spy Pond cleanup.
  • Gordon Jamieson announced a recycling event.
  • Mr. Curro announced that the Human Rights Commission had collected enough money to run an ad in the Advocate.
  • Mr. Curro announced that the Summer St. neighborhood group was cleaning the woods at Symmes.
  • Mr. Judd announced the Lion’s Eye mobile visit.

Announcements completed at 8:16. We’re doing better than we were, but I’m not satisfied. All but one of these announcements could have been delivered more efficiently in writing rather than using 9.5% of our meeting minutes.

Article 2: Reports

  • Allan Tosti gave the report of the Finance Committee. He skimmed the chairman’s report, pointed out the 5-year plan, and a few other highlights. [8:26]
  • Charlie Foskett submitted the Capital Planning Committee report.
  • Frank Ciano submitted the Noise Abatement Committee report. [10:29]

Article 25 – Alcohol License Change, continued. Mr. Loreti successfully had his first amendment (function halls) withdrawn. Scutra’s owner spoke, and so did Mr. Bose of the Chamber of Commerce. I spoke (first time at this year’s meeting) in favor of the main motion but against the amendment regarding no-alcohol at bars. As I stood up, someone whispered that I should move the question. I was tempted given our pace, but I think I had something substantive to say that had not yet been said – I think I was the first speaker to articulate why the amendment was a bad idea. A few other speakers supported the main motion. The amendment failed and the main motion was approved 162-8.

Article 22 – Brendan Gormley Firefighter Waiver. The state thinks that he is too old to apply to be a firefighter, and is asking for legislation to permit him to apply. Mr. Tosti made a motion that the waiver should expire at the end of 2010. Two speakers were opposed to “making exceptions” and that there needs to be a “clear logical rule.” I agree that there needs to be a clear, logical rule. That rule should be: do not discriminate on the basis of age. My rule is clear. I have in the past and will continue to support any waiver that avoids the age restriction of our broken state civil service law. I can already hear the argument: “But, we can just accept the other state law that doesn’t have age requirements, the one that Boston uses.” That law is even more broken. Mr. Roselli made a couple points of order that were debate, not points of order. He appears to think that when he disagrees with a speaker, or he thinks the speaker is factually incorrect, that he can interrupt the debate. The rules don’t work that way. There was a drawn-out discussion about whether this article would guarantee an interview for the job which, of course, it does not. An amendment was made to make the expiration 2012. There was a modification to the text of the motion because he had already passed the civil service exam. Debate was terminated. The 2012 amendment was approved, and the main motion passed 150-26.

Article 23 – Daniel Wesinger Firefighter Waiver. Not available, article tabled.

Article 26 – Pension Funding Legislation. John Bilafer presented the reason the Selectmen endorsed this article. He wants special legislation that says the town can delay paying off the pension liability so it can start paying off the health care liability. He said that it was an important element of the town’s preparation for the OPEB liability. After 12 minutes he was cut off by the moderator. [10:12]. Allan Tosti explained the Finance Comittee’s recommendation of no action. He explained that the town was better off paying off the pension benefit first because it was a legal requirement, unlike the OPEB liability. Several speakers supported one side or the other. I was against this article, but in the end, it hopefully won’t matter at all. The legislation explicitly gives us the right to do something that we already can do by law. But, we don’t have to do it, and many different bodies can block it if it looks like a bad idea. The whole argument was about enabling something that we already have the right to do and having the ability to stop something that we don’t want to do – not much difference. There is one shoe that has to drop, though. The retirement board’s investment record is quite bad. I hope we didn’t somehow give them a lever to control the OPEB funds. Gordon Jamieson brought up the retirement board’s investment record. Joe Tully asked further questions about the retirement board’s investment record. Michael Quinn protested to the moderator that the line of questioning was irrelevant to the article’s debate. Quinn was right. The only way that the investment record was relevant was to argue that the retirement board had invested badly and therefore should not be trusted in the OPEB discussion – no one made that argument. I think this conflict served as a turning point: the meeting members are frustrated with the slow pace and are held hostage by long-winded speakers. I think this may inflame the members to demand more pithy and succinct debate. The article was passed 73-53.

Article 27 – Legislation for OPEB funds. All boards voted no action. Mr. Jamieson asked if the town could do this without violating its own laws. Town Counsel answered that it was legal. Mr. Jamieson tried to continue and was asked if he had a substitute motion. He did not. He kept trying to speak, but was stopped. No action was voted.

Article 26 – Rental receipts. Voted no action.

Article 269 – Establish Bus Shelter Committee. Approved.

Article 30 – Parking Management Committee. Voted no action unanimously.

Article 31 – Parmenter and Crosby. School Committee not ready. Tabled.

Article 32 – Arlington Scholarship Fund Naming. Change the “Dollars for Scholars” to “John Bilafer Scholarship Fund.” It was asked if the memorial committee had reviewed this action. There was debate whether or not the committee had jurisdiction. A motion to table failed. The article was approved. Mr. Bilafer expressed his thanks. During this run of articles there were calls to adjourn and table articles. They all were shot down. I was very glad. We could have thrown in the towel 10 minutes earlier, but instead we made real progress. I’m glad we were able to plug through the objections without letting them slow us down.

The meeting was adjourned.