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Town Meeting ‘10 Session 2

I did something different tonight and took the notes on my laptop, rather than raw paper notes that I then rewrite.  I hope it saves me time, but I’m wondering how it will change the notes.  Feedback is welcome.

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

8:08 the meeting was called to order by Moderator John Leone.

Town Meeting Member Jane Howard played the piano and led the meeting in the national anthem.

The moderator announced there are still vacancies in town meeting – Precinct 5 has one vacancy and Precinct 6 has 3 vacancies. He noted that tonight is organization meeting for precincts 1-7 where they elect chairs and clerks. He announced that the 2nd floor has the kindergarten through 8th grade art work installation.

He swore in a few new members – either newly appointed or missed it on Monday.

The meeting will reconvene on May 3.

Gordon Jamieson announced the upcoming town Ecofest.

We put Article 3 on the table. It was already on the table, but it can’t hurt to keep putting it there.

Article 5 – Assistant Moderator Election. We heard from the two candidates. Bill Logan went first and mentioned his experience on the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee and 1995 town meeting. He has a law practice in Arlington. Good relationship with the existing moderator.  Jim O’Conor next talked about his work as a tax consultant. 1998 town meeting. Warden for precinct 20. Would conduct meeting in same manner as Leone if Leone wasn’t there.  The election was held later in the meeting, and by 109-60, O’Conor won.

Article 13 – Symmes. Clarissa Rowe reported the Board of Selectmen’s recommendation, which was just made available, was to modify the permitted medical uses on Symmes property.  As of this writing, I can’t find the report online, though it was given on paper tonight. Paul Schlictman rose and called it disrespectful to have such a substantive (and long) motion be made available with such short notice and moves it be postponed to Monday 3rd.  It was postponed.

Article 14 – Stretch Energy Code. Selectman Diane Mahon reported that the Board of Selectmen endorsed it. Planning Director Carol Kowalski requested 30 minutes for the presentation, which was denied. She requested 20 minutes and that was granted. That was pretty unusual, both to get such a long request and to have it denied.  I think 20 minutes was about right, and it could have been done in 15. She explained that the town was trying to qualify for a state green designation. $10 mill annually awarded to towns that are designated as green communities. $7m is available this year if we qualify. We could qualify for up to $1m and use it for things like energy efficient street lights, programmable thermometers, better boilers, etc. Michal Byrne Director of Inspectional Services introduced Ian Finlayson – Mass’s manager of buildings and climate programs. He said that building codes are changing in the state. 18 towns have adopted the stretch code. The residential stretch code is based on Energy Star. He showed details on how the code was written, is monitored, is tested, and what it is applied to. The 3rd party performance-based testing involved in the code will enable a buyer to be sure about the quality of the house’s energy efficiency. Over a 30-year mortgage, the home owner will save money.

Peter Howard asked for Sustainable Arlington member Sally Molton – 164 Scituate St. Her speech was largely repetitive of the points already made, including reading from a document that we all had in our hands. Martha Scott asked for Maria Romano to speak. The moderator is asking for the meeting’s consent for town residents to speaker – but if you’re a resident, there doesn’t have to be a vote, at least as I recall it.  But I also can’t recall where that policy is written! Maria Romano thinks we should slow down – the code is too new.   John Belskis notes that 40B developments don’t have to follow the stretch energy code, although later speakers refuted that. Andrew Fisher asked when the stretch code would become law that wasn’t optional. Inspector Byrne said in 2012 we will have to meet the stretch code anyway. He noted the low cost effect on remodeling, and only 11 or 10 new homes were built per year in the last couple years. Andrew Fischer to vote yes. O’Conor noted that the state money isn’t guaranteed but worth trying for. Gordon Jamieson is in favor. Annie LaCourt asked what the town spends on energy. $3M per year on energy costs says the Town Manager, and he’d spend grant money on street lights. He thinks we might save 25% of the town’s energy costs. Gary Horowitz says 40B is not exempt from stretch code. Ed Trembley notes that it costs $750-1500 to have the house rated, and half of that is paid for by Energy Star. Energy Star is paid for by your power bill and by the regional cap-and-trade carbon auctions. Another question about whether it would cost the town money, and the answer was no. Clarissa Rowe urged support. Cayer Pct 12 moved the question. It was approved on voice vote.

Article 15 – Nuisance Fire Alarms. Town Manager Sullivan said this is aimed mostly at institutions, not homeowners. He outlined when the fines kick in. Ed Trembley was concerned about fines for places that were having difficulty with their fire system. The Germaine Lawrence School comes up, and it’s clearly a target of this law – 156 false alarms last year. The time frame is number of infractions in a calendar year. Fines are in line with other communities.

15 minute break.  It ran long because of ballot counting.

It was noted that cutting down on false alarms saves lives of pedestrians, motorists, and fire alarms. A comment is made that Germaine Lawrence won’t really be able to solve the problem. Chad Gibson Pct 4 moves the question. Approved by voice vote.

Article 16 – Public Consumption of Marijuana. Town Counsel Juliana Rice explained that last year’s bylaw was partially disallowed by the state, and this proposed change would permit the non-criminal prosecution of marijuana. Lawrence McKinney offered a change to also make it legal if it was prescribed by a legal doctor. Moderator John Leone ruled his amendment as out of order because it changed the definition of marijuana. Leone was absolutely wrong to rule that motion out of order. The Town Warrant reads “To seek if the town will vote to amend Section 2 of Article 7. . . or take any action related thereto.” McKinney was offering a modification of the appropriate article.  The motion should have been allowed.  I was tempted to stand up and argue, but decided it wasn’t worth the wasted time. It was pointed out that the penalty for smoking pot is the same as pulling 6 fire alarms. Bylaw change passed.

Article 17 – Solicitors. Voted no action.

Article 18 – Junk Dealers and Collectors. Chief Ryan explained that detectives are sharing stolen property information electronically rather than monthly via paper. This proposed change gets Arlington on the electronic transmission path. Mark Streitfeld proposed an amendment provided in paper. Leone ruled it out of order for insufficient notice (notice not provided within 48 hours before the vote). Leone gave quite the harangue on the topic.  My first reaction was that he was overly harsh, but on second thought, I can see why he wanted to make an example to drive future behavior. Streitfeld moved to postpone to May 5th which was initially ruled to have failed by voice vote. I stood to request a standing vote, as did others. By standing vote we postponed 103-60.

Article 19 – Paint Removal. Christine Connally explained that this changes the lead paint bylaws to comply with state and local laws. Sandrelli Pct 16 – questioned and answered that houses after 1978 don’t need the EPA requirements. Complaints voiced by Andrew Fischer that the current bylaw is not well enforced. Voted affirmatively.

Article 20 – Pay-As-You-Throw trash collection.  Selectman Mahon explained that Ms. Rowe was ready to go forward with PAYT, and that is why Rowe voted against the Selectmen’s main motion which was more advisory and linked PAYT to an override. Mahon asked that the vote by postponed to 5/10 to permit the recycling committee to prepare a substitute motion (one that presumably includes a PAYT proposal). Article was postponed.

Article 21 – Senior Citizen Safety Zones. Chief Ryan explained that there were too many accidents involving senior citizens. He listed a few areas he might apply this traffic zone to including the Senior Center and Drake Village. But it was noted that many senior residences in town are on “numbered routes,” so the point is moot in many areas – the law would not permit safety zones on numbered routes. A speaker asking how many of the accidents were senior-on-senior accidents, and if the problem was actually poor drivers. Questions about how it would be signed were made, and the answer is as designated by the Board of Selectmen. John Worden notes that his house would qualify based on the language in the law. There was a discussion of what a “functionally arterial” road would be. One speaker wanted to make it enforceable on Mass Ave. Gordon Jamieson asked if we could use yellow warning signs instead. I think this zone would be a really bad idea if it was applied to Mass Ave and Summer St and other big roads.  Roads are a balance between pedestrians and bikes and cars, and I value being able to get across town in a reasonable amount of time.  However, I’m fine with this law because it only applies on a few side streets. Passed 143-14.

I was opposed to adjourning early, but we did at 10:50.  Start late, long break, end early leads to town meeting lasting until June!

LaCourt gave notice of reconsideration on 14. Marian King 15. Gordon Jamieson 16. John Deyst on 15.


Comment from Quantum Mechanic
Time: April 29, 2010, 9:24 am

You can’t find a policy because there’s no policy required. State law gives registered voters the RIGHT to speak before a representative town meeting subject to the usual rules. So once the chair recognizes a non-TMM registered voter of the town, TM cannot say that person cannot speak. They don’t even get to vote on whether or not to let the person speak.

If this happens again, perhaps you (or Mr. O’Conor) can make this point to the Moderator during the break.

Comment from Ted Sharpe
Time: April 29, 2010, 9:48 am

Town Meeting Time, Chapter 2. Section 14 Para. 13 (p. 43, half way down in my edition):
“In a representative town meeting a registered voter has a right to speak, subject to conditions prescribed by the meeting, even though she or he may not be a town meeting member.”

I think our customary prescription for this is to have the resident introduced to the meeting by a representative. I seem to recall Worden distinguishing between “residents” (not registered voters), whom he described as having a right to speak, and outsiders, to whom we might grant the right by a vote.

But, in any case, I believe you’re correct that people from the town have the right to address their town meeting, and it would be nice if Leone respected this distinction.

Comment from Adam
Time: April 29, 2010, 10:46 am

A strict application of the rule that motions may not exceed the scope of the original warrant article (as in Article 16) would have disqualified Ms. Rice’s motion as well as Mr. McKinney’s proposed amendment.

The warrant takes the unusual step of specifying the precise words to be inserted into the bylaws, which the actual motion exceeded. Adding “and all matters…” does not expand the scope, or if it does, it also includes Mr. McKinney’s amendment. You can’t have it both ways.

I think the Moderator was substituting Ms. Rice’s intended scope for the actual scope as written. Of course this scope was exactly what she wanted and no more.

This is a slippery slope and one that suggests that proposers have special privileges on the floor of town meeting. That in turn would violate a fundamental principle of parliamentary law, that all members have equal rights.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 1, 2010, 8:47 am

@Dan, I like the result of your laptop notes experiment. Thanks very much for doing this.