Main menu:


Subscribe by email:

Delivered by FeedBurner



Site search

Town Meeting Session #6

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 8:00 on the dot. Jane Howard played the national anthem. I failed to catch the name of the man who gave the invocation, but he was some flavor of Orthodox.

Moderator John Leone spoke for a minute or two about the meeting so far. He noted that 31 articles have been completed, at roughly 6 per night. The pace is slow. He also said that several members were abusing the Points of Order and Points of Personal Privilege. He reviewed the two terms.

  • Points of Order: Generally given about whether someone is allowed to speak. Is the speaker unlawful, irrelevant, off course, engaging in personal attacks? Or is the article unlawful, irrelevant, off course, engaging in personal attacks?
  • Points of Personal Privilege: Generally about the integrity of the meeting. Is there a problem that violates the integrity of the meeting? Is there a problem with audio, sight, or comfort that keeps the meeting from proceeding with integrity? Or, has someone been insulted or had their honor questioned?

The moderator asked people to refrain from abusing these points. He also noted that while most had followed the rule about providing motions in writing beforehand, a few had not. He encouraged everyone to follow the rule.

There was an announcement. I continue to be annoyed with announcements that have nothing to do with Town Meeting. These announcements are a waste of time. Town Meeting should not be held hostage, forced to listen to the date and time of some future event. So, I will not help these selfish announcers spread the word. Events announced at Town Meeting will not be mentioned on this blog. But if you leave an announcement on the chairs or at the back of the room, like the Police Department did, I’ll be happy to publicize events like the Public Safety Fair.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Clarissa Rowe set the next meeting for the 19th.

Article 2 – Reports, continued. Jane Howard reviewed the Vision 2020 report. She called attention to the satisfaction and importance ratings of various aspects of the town. I think there was some interesting stuff in the report, particularly related to what people think we should spend more money on. It relates to the debate about Arlington’s post-five-year-plan.

Article 35 – Home Rule Matthew Silva, continued. Several speakers were in favor of seeking the exception, including me. The speakers noted that people are live longer and healthier than they used to. I argued that we should remove the exception argument by creating a “permanent exception.” Several spoke against using age as a discriminating factor. Town Counsel said that we could not be successfully sued for this decision. Selectman Rowe offered a small amendment (changing “and” to “and/or.”) Several speakers were against the exception. They asked Town Meeting to listen to the chiefs’ opposition. They noted the pension repercussions. Joe Tully compared this decision to the hiring decision of the Superintendent and made completely irrelevant potshots at Paul Schlichtman.  It was bad enough that the moderator chastised him and told him to get off the personal.  Schlichtman made a point of personal privilege to defend himself. I thought the whole interchange was bad. Tully was out of line, and Schlichtman should not have bothered to respond. One speaker was concerned about a 44 year old applying for the job, and realized that he then had to be concerned about the 33-year-olds; he had no criteria to make a choice but the state law. One speaker said that Town Meeting was good at making decisions about town character, but bad at making exceptions. Several speakers argued that each of the 6 cases should be voted consistently. More than one speaker in favor of the motion deplored the tone and content of one or two of the speakers from Monday. The next out-of-line part of the meeting was Joe Daley. He was unhappy with the debate from Monday. At first he made passing references. He couldn’t leave it alone, and started getting more and more personal. The moderator told him to get back on track, and then he got in a big pissing match with the moderator. I do not understand why he has such a hard time sticking to the debate. It seems like half the time he speaks he’s just wasting time; he’s not making a point, he’s trying to score points with the moderator. Some speakers argued that the applicant had good character, while others said that town meeting is unable to judge character, and others said that judging should be left up to the hiring authority. Ed Starr moved to terminate debate, and that passed by voice vote. The selectmen’s change passed. Joe Tully’s amendment to extend to 2013 failed. The motion passed 85-76. [8:59] Last Monday I wrote that Town Meeting needed more grace in victory. Again, after this vote, there was loud clapping, cheering, and whooping from some of people on the prevailing side. Again, I say that it was inappropriate. It’s one of those times where you should put yourself in the other guy’s shoes. What if the vote had gone 76-85? What would you think if there was loud cheering at your vote’s defeat? You’d think they were jerks, or worse. Remember, this isn’t sour grapes on my part. I also voted on the prevailing side. I’m just asking for more politeness and decorum.

Article 36 – Thomas Wesley. Selectman Rowe introduced him, and he spoke briefly. Tully said that he was not offering his amendment (it clearly had failed before, and there was no need to consider it for each article). A speaker advocated consistency. Diane Mahon talked about hiring cycles, and said the town was hiring a bunch of public safety workers. There was a question about what the Finance Committee voted; they had not. Phelps moved to terminate debate and the article passed 84-70.

Article 37 -James Carnell. Ed Starr moved to end debate. Article passed 83-71.

Article 38 – Matthew Earley. Ed Starr moved to end debate. Passed 84-71.

Article 39 – Robert Griffin. Ed “Terminator” Starr moved to terminate debate. Passed 81-71.

Article 40 – Tara Diab. Mrs. Rowe spoke, talking about gender equality. Two other speakers echoed elements of the previous debate. Passed 90-70.

As had been announced on Monday, all articles up to 54 were tabled.

Article 54 – Capital Budget. Charlie Foskett, Chair of the Capital Committee, asked for 3 extra minutes. He spoke about the 5-year plan, the capital process, and some notable elements of this year’s report. He spoke for several minutes about the Thompson and Stratton improvement plans. Superintendent Levenson and School Committee member Ron Spengler also spoke about the plans. There were several questions about the improvements of the DPW building, copiers, LED lights in traffic signals, DPW trucks, the fire department deployment plans for the proposed quint, the location of the Highland fire station, the process for planning Thompson and Stratton improvements, what the process for selling old town schools might be, the proposed Thorndike field improvements, the bridge on Mill Lane, interest costs, and ARB building management.

There was a motion to adjourn. Many members wished to finish the article. The motion to adjourn carried, 62-45. I voted to stay, not to adjourn. It’s frustrating to spend an entire night and not finish a single major article. It’s particularly frustrating where some speakers are willing to just talk and talk, just to hear themselves speak. I am not complaining about all the questions; I think it’s appropriate for everyone to ask the questions they need to. Sometimes we argue for hours about a few bucks; it’s a good thing that we spend time talking about the big bucks. But I am complaining when the same speaker asks the same question seven times in a row. Just be quiet, and get your answer! Your are not judged by how many words you use; you are judged by the wisdom of your words.


Comment from AMR
Time: May 15, 2008, 9:05 am

Do the voters in the precincts know what insufferable yahoos some of our town meeting members are?

Back in college, before any formal effort to solicit student opinion on the efficacy of their instructors, the editors of the campus daily took it upon themselves to publish a “Confidential” Guide to Courses. The “Confi’ Guide” was must reading to learn which professor was sharp, who blathered, who to seek out and who to avoid.

Anyone who wants to compile a Best/Worst Speakers of the Night list, as Alice Roosevelt might have said, “come sit next to me.”

Comment from RichC
Time: May 15, 2008, 1:39 pm

Re: Article 2

Dan, you misspelled “read practically verbatim even though we all had it front of us” as “reviewed”.