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Town Meeting ’08 Session 4

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 at 8. The Arlington High’s Madrigal Singers performed the anthem and a couple of other songs. Mary Lou Burke of St. Eulalia’s 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). Tonight in the audience I noted a number of men in suits. I’m guessing they were there to speak in articles 35-42. They left later in the evening when it became clear that our pace was pretty darn slow.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Clarissa Rowe set the next meeting time for May 12.

Several announcements were made. The start to this meeting was one of the frustrating ones. Slow start time, concert, and announcements – we didn’t start any business until 8:25. That’s 15% of our time gone before we even start. If I had my choice, we’d start closer to 8, cut out the concerts, and restrict announcements to ones that are directly related to the meeting. If you want to tell town meeting about your event, please leave a piece of paper on the seat. Town meeting time is precious. The 250+ residents and employees in the hall aren’t there to hear about the next fundraiser. They’re there to do the town’s business.

Article 25 – Leaf Blower Noise Bylaw, continued. Several speakers were against the article. They noted that the town had received no complaints, so it was not a significant problem. They talked about the cost and time increase for raking. Mr. Worden proposed an amendment to change the weekday permitted start time to 9AM rather than 7AM. Several speakers were in favor of the regulation, and advocated compromise. Vote was terminated by a vote of 127-34. The Board of Selectmen’s weekend time amendment was approved 77-76. Worden’s vote went down by voice vote. Carol Band’s amendment went down by voice vote. The main motion failed 72-97. [9:07] I voted against this – I’m not convinced it’s a problem that needs regulation. After the vote was declared, several loud cheers erupted. My advice to the cheering section: Tone it down. We won. Accept the win with grace. There’s no need to rub anyone’s face it it.

Article 26 – Sidewalk/Curb Snow Removal. Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Clarissa Rowe explained the recommended vote of no action. The board is concerned about the issue and thanked the original proponents for drawing attention to the problem. She said that actually doing what the proponents want would cost $500,000 in equipment. Maria Harrington moved a substitute motion, a non-binding resolution asking the DPW to focus on curbs and sidewalks for snow removal. Stephen Harrington gave a verbal presentation and a slide show of several examples of problematic snowbanks. (You can see the pictures he presented, and more, on his Flickr page.) He showed a snow-removal Bobcat that priced at $35,000, conflicting with the Selectmen’s estimate. Charlie Foskett gave FinComm’s no action recommendation, warning that the proponents would use this resolution to try to modify the budgets later in the meeting. Town Manager Sullivan and DPW Director Bean both said it would be too expensive. There were several speakers in favor, and they split into two groups: 1) This is a free resolution, so vote for it, and 2) We should spend the money on this public safety issues. The proponents said the problem was long-existing and demanded action, that it was particularly hard on the disabled and elderly, and that the current law needs better enforcement. A couple speakers were against, advocating that the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Snow and Ice Committee will work the problem out, and that throwing money at the problem is not the right solution. Jim Doherty tried to make an amendment; rather than a non-binding resolution, he wanted to pass a binding bylaw change. But he didn’t have the text of the bylaw! The moderator tried to work with him for a bit, but eventually gave up and told him that if he didn’t have a prepared amendment, he couldn’t provide one. Doherty barked for a while, and complained that other people got to make amendments. The moderator lectured him (and everyone) about needing to be prepared, especially since the warrant had been out for months. I’m totally with the moderator on this! Has Doherty read the bylaws? Has he read the other bylaw amendments we’ve seen? They’re detailed, carefully-worded regulations. You can’t just ad-lib one from the floor. The resolution passed by voice vote. I voted for the resolution. I still support the Finance Committee’s vote of no action on the original proposal; passing a bylaw at this point is a bad idea. That said, I think Harrington’s pictures tell a convincing story: we’re not doing a good enough job clearing curbcuts, particularly near schools. I think the resolution helps to steer the DPW towards fixing this. I absolutely will be voting against modifying the budget. This problem can be resolved with our current resources; this is a time to work smarter, not spend more money.

Article 27 – Meeting Notice Bylaw. Selectman Rowe gave the selectmen’s recommendation of no action. Jeanne Leary has a substitute motion, but asked for the article to be postponed to Monday. It was. I have a strong opinion on this one! Voting no action.

Article 28 – Canine Control. Selectman Rowe explained that there had been many hearings in the last year, but there was not yet a consensus. She asked for a vote of no action. Michael Ruderman proposed a substitute motion to change the maximum leash law from 6 to 20 feet and permit off-leash dogs for 4 hours per day. He talked about how long the process has taken. He said that it was time for the town and dog owners to trust each other long enough to try a change in the law. Leslie Meyer spoke against the substitute motion. She said that the hearings needed to continue, and the proposed amendment had serious flaws.

The meeting adjourned, to resume debate on Monday.


Comment from RichC
Time: May 9, 2008, 12:20 am

Jim Doherty, not Leo.

Comment from RichC
Time: May 9, 2008, 12:23 am

Here’s the way I’d like to see the concerts done:
1) At the previous session, announce the Madrigal Singers (or whoever) will be performing at 7:50pm at the next session.
2) Concert starts at 7:50pm, does whatever songs they have planned, and then…
3) End their concert with the national anthem, which also serves to open the session.

That way the kids get to perform for a nice crowd, we get to hear them (and they are damned good), and it doesn’t eat into the meeting’s time.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 9, 2008, 12:48 am

Thanks for the fix. It’s funny how the brain works. Madrigal Singers did “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. I was listening to the Jeff Buckley version of the same song, which was once on West Wing, where the chief of staff was Leo. . . . oops.