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Town Meeting ’08 Session 3

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I scribble notes. I’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.

The meeting started a few minutes after 8. Jane Howard played the national anthem on the piano. James O’Leary, pastor of St. Camillus Church gave the invocation. A new member was sworn in.

Moderator Leone reminded that only town meeting members could be on the first floor (with exceptions). I noticed there were at least seven people in the audience at the start of the night – a real crowd!

Board of Selectmen Chairman Clarissa Rowe set the next meeting time for May 7.

Jane Howard announced the Spy Pond trail work for Saturday 9-1PM.

Article 2 – Reports.

  • Finance Committee: Al Tosti gave remarks about the FinComm report. He thanked the state government for setting local aid amounts early this year. He asked the town meeting to carefully review page D1, the 5-year plan. He also called attention to C1, the summary of revenues and expenses. He noted that that the Minuteman High budget was a nice surprise this year.
  • Noise Abatement Committee: [8:25] Frank Ciano gave the report, and talked for several minutes about leaf blowers. He was twice admonished by the moderator to stick to the report, and save the article debate for the appropriate time.

Article 19 – Housing Trust, continued. [8:31] We resumed debate with Town Counsel responding to Charlie Foskett’s question about risks. Mr. Maher said that the trust did incur liability for the town. Mr. Foskett repeated his statement that the proposed trust was excessive bureaucracy with a lot of liability. Mrs. Worden rose on a point of personal privilege to argue about some of the points made. This was an abuse of personal privilege. The moderator should have shut it down right away. Allan Tosti spoke against the proposal. He noted the several groups that work on affordable housing already, and noted that at the Finance Committee hearing that the AHTF representatives had said that all they were really looking for was a bank account. Selectman Annie LaCourt and Treasurer Stephen Gilligan spoke against, both because of trust’s powers with borrowing. [8:45] Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB) Member Chris Loreti spoke in favor. He favors the trust because he thinks the town needs a more effective means of handling affordable housing. He had several questions about who would control affordable housing money if there was no trust – the answer was the Board of Selectmen. The 40B development on Brattle and possible “excessive profits” from the development were discussed by several speakers. In answer to a question, Planning Director O’Brien stated that all money available to the trust is also available to the town without the trust. In response to a question, Selectman Jack Hurd and Patricia Worden disagreed about whether the Affordable Housing Task Force (AHTF) had voted specific language, or just a warrant request. Loreti and Worden were insisting that the AHTF had voted specifically in favor of the trust and the proposed bylaw language. My previous conversations with other AHTF members indicated otherwise; several members were opposed to a trust but didn’t want to generate more hard feelings. That drove a compromise to the warrant, but not the actual language of the bylaw. Mrs. Worden is the secretary and claims that the minutes reflect that the vote was for the language. I note that the minutes went up on the town website only last week (1/3 and 2/28). I further note that the 2/28 minutes do not include a vote to accept the minutes of 1/3. I’m inclined to think that the minutes were recently written and posted on the town website without the review of other members of the task force. Certainly there is no posted record of the minutes being approved. Update: I’ve since been informed that my concerns were unfounded; the January minutes were approved in April by a 6-1-1 vote, and the February minutes were approved unanimously at the same meeting. Several speakers spoke a second time. David Levy of the Arlington Housing Corporation asked the meeting to consider the question: Will this trust fund facilitate the creation of more affordable housing in Arlington? He argued that it would not. He gave examples of federal and state money that the town already receives without the trust. [9:24]. The question was called, and the vote to create the trust failed, resulting in a vote of no action.

There was a break of about 15 minutes.

Article 20 – Trench Safety. [9:41] John Maher explained that this is required by the state. There was a question about if it applied to private property, which it did. Ed Trembly gave a lengthy speech against the article. He argued that this applied to even small trenches, the means of protecting the trench (steel plates) were too expensive, and the cost of required permits were excessive. Several speakers agreed. Several speakers talked about protecting children from being buried. It was noted a trench permit would be in addition to a building permit. The new rule passed, 90-60.

Article 21 – School Principals on Permanent Building Committee. [10:24] Approved unanimously after a question.

Article 22 – Alcoholic Beverages. Voted no action.

Article 23 – Entertainment Bylaw. Voted no action.

Article 24 – Summer Street Noise. Selectman Clarissa Rowe explained that this had been referred to the Noise Abatement Subcommittee. Barbara Cutler asked that it be referred to the Disability Commission instead. I was unable to determine why she made this request.

Article 25 – Leaf Blower Noise Bylaw. Selectman Clarissa Rowe explained that the selectmen had modified their vote such that leaf blowing would be permitted noon-6PM on all weekends and holidays (as opposed to only Saturday in the original vote). She noted that this was a result of the work of the Noise Abatement committee. [10:36] Stephen Gilligan introduced Mr. McCarty of Crosby Street who asked for 13 minutes. He spoke for most of that time, arguing that the town should not permit the crankiest elements to dictate town-wide behaviors. He said that proponents of the restriction have small lawns, and shouldn’t make life hard for people with large lawns. Carol Band said the proposal does not go far enough and proposed an amendment to ban all gas-powered leaf blowers, permitting electric ones. Paul Schlictman spoke in favor. The meeting adjourned to continue discussion on Wednesday.


Comment from RichC
Time: May 6, 2008, 9:04 am

I thought it was pretty clear that for some unknown reason, Cutler thought Article 24 was about, among other things, reducing the volume of crosswalk beepers.

Comment from Bob Sprague
Time: May 6, 2008, 10:24 am

Re the AHTF minutes: Under the state’s Open Records Law, draft minutes are public records and may be provided to the public. I would think that for accuracy’s sake, the AHTF board should review them, if it has not done so.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 7, 2008, 12:14 am

Rich: Thanks, that clarifies it nicely.

Bob: I have no argument about draft minutes being public documents. The key question here is whether or not the posted minutes reflect what actually happened or not. The AHTF is obviously divided, and it is hard for me to accept the minutes as accurate without the committee reviewing them first.