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Town Meeting ‘10 Session 10

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

8:01 meeting called to order. Attendance definitely looked sparse, but we had quorum. Jane Howard played the national anthem on the piano.

Town Moderator John Leone remarked that tonight might be the end of Town Meeting for ’10. He asked the people in the back of the room to return their chairs to the main body of the meeting, or they will not be counted.

Announcements:

  • Harry McCabe – Those who would like the report of the Margaret Spengler Committee in writing should ask him for a copy.
  • Janice Brodman – remarked on her first town meeting and thanked everyone for the professionalism of members, committees, and officials.
  • Hugh McCrory – also said thank you. Asked committee members to not terminate debate too quickly. I understand his point, but on the 10th night of town meeting, it’s easy to understand why people choose to terminate debate. If we don’t cut things off, we’d be going back to work next week, too. In some ways, we need more concise speakers, not delayed termination.  I can think of a couple speakers who need lessons in brevity!
  • Al Tosti announced vacancies on FinComm for Precincts 6, 11, and 17.
  • Josh Lobel said that the Vision2020 survey data will be up soon.
  • Gordon Jamieson gave recylcing “party favors” on the chairs. Bags, maps, and stickers.
  • Jack Hurd – 12th Annual Feast of the East will be on June 19 1-5PM.

Article 49 – Committees and Commissions. $17,000. Approved.

Article 50 – Celebrations. $10,667. Approved unanimously.

Article 61 – Miscellaneous. $16,337. Approved.

Article 62 – Scholarship Fund Expenses. No action.

Article 63 – Appropriation/Pension Adjustment. $0 Approved.

Article 64 – Dallin School Area Sidewalks. Al Tosti made an amendment to change the language, but not the intent. There was a question about how much land you can get for $1500 – the answer is only the tiny bits that are needed. John Worden was concerned that the language was not clear enough and further language was added. There were questions about possible lawsuits. The roads in question are public ways. There was concern about whether or not the owners of the new sidewalks would know whether or not to shovel their walks. Approved 140-0. There was a bit of petty drama here as there was not a clear “no” heard when the moderator asked for nos. Finally there was a louder no, which forced a standing vote.  The moderator then noted that Brian Lavalle was not in a seat, and therefore there were zero no votes.  See the earlier announcement about seats – this was a test to see what the moderator would do about the people who are moving chairs around the back of the room.

Article 65 – Harry Barber Service Program. No action.

Article 66 – Minuteman Senior Services No action.

Article 67 – Social Worker II – $18,179. Unanimous.

Article 68 – Traffic Supervisors. Jim Robilard Precinct 3 made a substitute motion to spend $250,000 and move the traffic supervisors to be a police unit. He asked Rose Casazza to speak; she’s the president of the local representing the traffic supervisors. She wants the budget to be transferred to the police department, but does not want to impact the current police budget. She wants $250,000 to be taken from another budget. She threatened a more expensive lawsuit if this is not done. She talked about irresponsible drivers and unsupervised children. She complained that the school administration does not give supervisors the management and respect that they deserved. She said it is a public safety issue. She talked about possible sources of the funds – various stability funds. She ran out of time and the moderator asked her to stop. Mike Healey supports the substitute motion. Al Tosti reported that the Finance Committee voted no. He said that we don’t have the money – he noted that most of the reserve funds Rose Casazza had cited were already being used this year.  He noted that the reason this budget was moved to the school budget was because when it was under the police before, they collected unemployment, which makes it even more expensive.  He said that if this passes, he will ask to reconsider the budgets and take this out of the school budget. If that fails, he’ll ask to take it out of unencumbered fund, which will make next year’s budget even harder. The schools budget had $220,000 for this originally – why is the request for $250,000? He noted that in the meetings and surveys the school committee did about spending priorities, the traffic supervisors were lower priorities. He said that the responsibility for getting children to schools belongs to the parents, not the town. On that, the crowd started booing – people opposed to parental responsibility, I guess. Traffic supervisors have the power to stop traffic. Paul Schlictman argued that it’s a public safety issue, not a educational issue. He said he wasn’t skilled in public safety, but he is in education. I don’t think that’s a great point – it’s not his skills that matter, it’s the Superintendent’s. The Superintendent must be a manager of many skills, from education to physical plant to weather prediction to hall monitors to school security.  Traffic supervisors is just one of many. He started conflating the issue with people who park illegally. Dean Carman asked a couple questions: Does the town meeting have the power to tell the Manager to hire these supervisors?  The answer is no, town meeting can appropriate money, but the manager chooses what it’s for. Can the union decline unemployment? No, they can’t legally. Carman said that Town Meeting is a horrible place to resolve employee grievances. The union and the School Department have a history, and we aren’t good at resolving that history. Carman noted the finance committee asked the school superintendent and CFO if they wanted this transfer, and they were indifferent – but they wanted to keep the money.  Carman said this is a budget issue, and if parents feel really strongly about this, they’ll get the elected school committee to act. Clarissa Rowe is in favor of the substitute motion – she thinks its a public safety issue. Maher said that this is not a feel-good decision – what we decide to fund here, we need to cut somewhere else. Gordon Jamieson – we’re forced to live within the choices of our leaders, for instance not doing things like PAYT. Wagner: “if we cut traffic supervisors, we’ll have smaller class sizes when someone gets hit by a car.” Vote to terminate debate failed by a vote of 67-85. Town Manager Brian Sullivan supports retention of most of the traffic supervisors. He said that this is a budget decision of the schools. He is opposed to doing it within the police department – it would cost more there.  There was a complaint that the Dunkin Donuts hasn’t paid it’s bill yet to support the traffic supervisors. Diane Mahon said that this change isn’t in line with the 5-year plan – the schools aren’t keeping up.

12 minute break.

Janice Weber accused the school department of misusing money, and says we should take the money from them to pay for crossing guards.  Thouis Jones Pct 6 moved an amendment to change it to $120,000. Questions about town liability.  Several speakers were in favor of the substitute motion for safety reasons.  Statements about there being a pro-car bias. School Committee Chair Joe Curro explained that the budget process started last fall, and public presentation in November. They had budget simulations at that meeting. There were hearings at several schools, too, with hundreds of visitors. They also surveyed the community – 1500 responses; supervisors were lowest priority.  In the most recent decision, they funded a transition counselor in the high school instead of traffic supervisors – that’s someone who helps students coming back from hospitalization, suicide attempts, etc. John Deyst says the way to get traffic supervisors is through Bridge the Gap, not this motion. Another speaker on public safety. Leo Doherty voted to terminated debate. There were many post-debate questions about what we’re voting on.  Jones’s amendment to $120,000 fails on voice vote. 64-89 the substitue motion failed.  No action passed on voice vote.

Article 69 – Water Bodies. Affirmative.

Article 70 – Uncle Sam. Lawrence McKinney spent 7 minutes talking about Uncle Sam and his skills as a marketer. He moved a substitute motion for $500. Al Tosti reported the Finance Committee recommended no action because the effort is fragmented; it should be a part of the selectmen’s tourism committee. There were several speakers about the history of the town.  Debate terminated by Lewiton.  75-45, McKinney’s $500 was approved. I voted no.  This is an item that begs for a private solution, not a government solution.  We shouldn’t be paying money for speculative gee-gaws – if there’s a market there, the market will find it.

Article 71 – Restoration of Trees. No action.

Article 72 – Local Option Taxes.  No action unanimous.

Article 73 – Other Post Employee Benefits. $345,000. Question on a study – waiting for GIC before we do the study.  Approved.

Article 74 – Stabilization Fund. $688,000. Someone voted no, and there was groaning because it had to be a standing vote. I don’t know who it was, but I support their position to vote no. I’ve been the lonely no vote before. And sometimes, you end up being right after all. Approved 130-1.

Article 75 – Transfer of Cemetery Funds. Approved.

Article 76 – Overlay Reserves. $500,000. Unanimous.

Article 77 – Stabilization fund. $1,580,000. Wagner asked how much money we lost in the stock market in this fund and where the money is now. Treasurer Stephen Gilligan reported that they are not invested now, but they are in deposit, as requested by Town Meeting. He said that $457,000 was realized as a loss. It was much more lost from high point to sell point. Schlictman terminates debate. Approved 127-1.

Article 78 – Use of Free Cash. $582,051. Approved.

Article 28 – Pension legislation. No action.

Article 3 taken from the table.

The meeting was dissolved.  It was 10:59 or something like that – just finished before 11.

Comments

Comment from Thouis Jones
Time: May 27, 2010, 9:14 am

I was sitting in back, and it seemed to me that Mr. Lavalle stood for the Yes vote (moving to the regular chairs to do so), and sat for the No. So the standing vote was unanimous though the voice vote was not. I think the drama was less petty (though perhaps more confusing) than it seemed from the other side of the room.

I was similarly taken aback by the response to Mr. Tosti’s suggestion that parents were responsible for getting their kids to school safely. I don’t think parents can abrogate that responsibility, whether there are traffic supervisors or not.

Comment from Pcnct 11 Parent and TM mbr
Time: May 27, 2010, 9:35 am

Dan, thanks for doing this website/blog on TM!
Carl Wagner

Comment from William J. Logan, Esq.
Time: May 27, 2010, 4:34 pm

While I’m a big fan of Uncle Sam and even renaming Arlington back to Menotomy, I still can’t believe that Town Meeting voted to spend $500 for Uncle Sam merchandise yet can’t spend money on Traffic Supervisors. Great priorities we have.

Comment from ralph
Time: May 28, 2010, 10:18 am

I’m disappointed that people are so ready to put the responsibility on the parents in order to save $. The town uses buses sparingly, and discourages students from biking, too. The only option is to walk, and now the town doesn’t even want to help out with that. I wish I were a parent that didn’t have to go to work, then I could be sure to get my son to and from school every day. But I simply can’t do that. Crossing guards are not expensive at all and unfortunately have become a line item target. $ can be saved elsewhere in the budget, rather than compromising the safety of Arlington’s children.

Comment from angry
Time: May 29, 2010, 7:21 am

This town will continue to suck the tax payers dry by putting the financial burden on them along with the town employees. It will ask for overide after overide and lay all the burden of keeping the town out of the red on the it’s citizens and workers. Yet when it come to making sound financial choices it will forget it’s responsibility to these same people and allow it’s town officials to spend as they choose. To bad it use to be a nice place.

Comment from angry
Time: May 29, 2010, 8:58 am

Sorry, meant to say on the backs of it’s citizens.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 29, 2010, 1:11 pm

Angry, it’s as if you’ve never read the things that I’ve written. “allow it’s town officials to spend as they choose.” What about that part of town meeting where we voted the budget? What about the half-dozen amendments to spending that we debated at town meeting? Come to town meeting sometime. You’ll see where the power lies. It’s with the people.

Comment from angry
Time: May 29, 2010, 7:24 pm

dunster, I’ve been to town meeting. Just a bunch of town people who think they know where it’s at. How about article 27. When you gave the town manager what he wanted. Which was to continue his onslaugt at the town employees to try to take their collective bargining rights away. Maybe you should be one of those town employees and see how fast your thoughts would change. The problem is that you TM members don’t have a clue how this town manipulates it’s employees and tries to ride their backs through rough financial times. You TM members are more interested in the dogs than the people.

Comment from vandy
Time: May 31, 2010, 10:11 pm

I would be very disappointed to see any Bridge the Gap funds used for the crossing guards. The funds are needed for teachers and educational spending. These are the fundamental items that draw people to Arlington in the first place.

I fully agree that parents need to step up and get our kids to and from school safely. “Fiscal responsibility” means sacrifice and I can’t think of a less painful “sacrifice” than taking a few minutes with our children to see them across the street. I understand parents whose work prevents this – but to say you “can’t” make arrangements is hard to believe. No classmates with at-home parents? No neighbors available to help out?

Comment from cheryl
Time: June 7, 2010, 10:13 am

Responding very very late, but I wanted to address the parental responsibility thing. “[P]eople opposed to parental responsibility, I guess” is a very unfair characterization. Sure, it is the responsibility of parents to teach their kids to obey traffic laws and be safe pedestrians, and parents shouldn’t send their kids walking to school alone until the kids can follow the rules. However, it is the town’s responsibility to enforce the laws that protect pedestrians and make it possible to walk safely around town. This the town absolutely fails to do. Hence the need for traffic supervisors. For me it’s not because the kids don’t follow the rules, but because the cars don’t. Parents ARE NOT responsible for cars failing to stop at crosswalks, running red lights, parking on the sidewalk, etc. The responsibility for that lies with the drivers and with the town in failing to enforce public safety laws.