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Town Meeting ’10 Session 3

90% taken on the laptop, and 10% on paper, tonight.  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

8:07 start.

Charlie Gallagher played the piano and lead the meeting in the national anthem.

The next meeting was set for May 5th.

  • ARB member Chris Loreti announced that the Redevelopment Board’s Special Town Meeting report is on everyone’s seats, and will be officially reported at next week’s Special Town Meeting.
  • The Spy Pond Trails Day was announced by Jane Howard.
  • John Worden made a resolution honoring the passing of former town meeting member Margaret Peggy Nichol.
  • After the Moderator’s announcement, there was a round of applause for Josh Lobel’s work on adding visual presentation.  He’s hung a couple projectors to make it easier to incorporate presentations and updates into the meetings.
  • Moderator says that future controversial resolutions need to be in the warrant so they can be debated – we were too hasty with the first night’s stand against racism motion.  I think he’s correct.  The non-debateable resolutions should be restricted to items that are relatively free of controversy.  I’m glad he’s making that change.

Article 3 – Reports. Al Tosti moves to take Article 3 from the table.  Town Governance Interim Report is recieved from Mr. Tosti.  The article is tabled again.

Article 13 – Symmes.  Clariss Rowe moved a postponment to the 5th.  She did this because Paul Schlictman had provided a substitute motion, and they were waiting for 48 hours to elapse.  It’s worth noting that earlier in the evening the Finance Committee endorsed Schlictman’s motion by a 10-1 vote.

Article 22 – Additional 2 Alcohol Licenses. Moderator Leone reports that he did represent one of the liquor stores 2 years ago, but has not represented them since and has not spoken about this article with them at all.  Good for him – this is conflict of interest disclosure working exactly as it should. Selectman Greeley explained that he would like to have two more licenses available, and he had promised to bring the question up at last year’s town meeting.  He wants a liquor store in the heights.  Selectman Mahon voted against because of concerns of density and concerns about supply and demand and want to hear about what the vote result is on all-alcohol.  Over the course of the debate the timeline was reviewed: on November’s ballot will be a binding question on whether the town should permit all-alcohol liqour licenses.  Today’s question, for two additional licenses, would likely appear on the ballot in April.  The two questions are independent of each other.   Maria Meg Moloney Pct 1 noted that  Menotomy beer and wine supports Arlington schools.  Neal Duggan of Menotomy Beer and Wine (Arlington resident) spoke.  Raised $12,000 for charities.  Paid back $20,000 of $200,000 that they owe in startup costs.  Competition would make him lay off employees. He’s explicitly asking for market protection. I like his store and I appreciate the work he does for the community, but that is not justification for government protection of his business. Annie LaCourt and Diane Mahon disagreed about whether there was data to back up the statement about how many liquor stores are supported on average in neighboring towns.  Town Counsel Julianna Rice explained Nov 09 TM approved the home rule to put all-alcohol on the ballot, and the state just approved it.  If that ballot question passes, the BoS will be authorized but not required to convert up to 3 of the existing licenses into all-alcohol.   Greeley corrects Mahon that 5 people requested alcohol licenses, not 3.  LaCourt contradicts Mahon’s statement that the license must be put out.  Town Counsel Rice supports LaCourt – yes, if the BoS denies a license, we might get sued, but a well-reasoned decision that explains why the public need is not met by the license will prevail. This question was a recurring theme in later questioning, and I think that Mahon’s statements were not accurate and not helpful.  She repeatedly said that “if the applicant meets our requirements then we have to approve the license.”  Town Counsel Julianna Rice contradicted this and said that one of the things that Selectmen can consider is whether or not the license “meets a public need.”   Mahon kept talking about “meeting requirements” and made no mention of the legal standard that Rice did.  I was on the list to speak, and I wanted to clarify the argument, but I didn’t get a chance to speak.  If you read the case law, the ultimate decision goes both ways, but the legal standard is clearly public need – not “meeting requirements.”  Here’s an example. LaCourt explains that she wants this as a future option – new licenses can be used to support a future development.  We can’t possibly have these new licenses for another 18 months anyway – Mr. Duggan will get the protection he’s looking for.  A speaker was opposed to booze in general.  A couple wanted to go slower.  The debate itself was questioned – why is alcohol so special?  We don’t debate sushi or Indian food or pizza places or nail salons.  “If you think this town meeting is the right body to debate how many stores we can support, you’re deluding yourself.”  Several speakers opposed protectionism and wanted to let the market speak.  The motion failed on voice vote.  I voted in favor of this.  I also would have spoken, but it didn’t come to me before debate was terminated.

Article 23 – Home Rule Legislation Noelan Corbett. Diane Mahon explains that this doesn’t give him a job, it just gives him the option to apply for the job, despite the fact that he’s 33.  A speaker says it’s a “young person’s job.”  I disagree – it’s a job for a healthy fit person.  The age of the person shouldn’t matter. Failed on voice vote.

Article 24 – Council on Aging Donation. Harry McCabe asked for postponement to the 12th.  He said he’d have a substitute motion.  The moderator told him to provide the paper 48 hours in advance, on the 10th.  He didn’t actually say he’ll have paperwork, so this will be an issue, I’m sure.  Also, this was the second postponed article of the night.  As you’ll read below, this was a recurring theme – people just not ready for Town Meeting.  The Finance Committee heard the Council on Aging on this article on February 24th – more than 60 days ago!  I do not understand why, more than 60 days later, they don’t have a substitute motion ready.

Article 25 – Texting While Driving. Voted no action.  Paul Schlictman wanted to ask a question, which is really pretty pointless because there is no action to be done here; people rudely shouted while he was speaking.  In my opinion, all parties should have held their tongues.

10 minute break.  And it really was 10 minutes!  Great work by the moderator.

Article 26 – Double Pole Regulation –  Voted no action.

Article 27 – GIC home rule petition. Postponed to 5/17. This is where the postponements started getting silly.  The facts of this issue have been available for months.  The teacher’s union refuses to negotiate with the town about the GIC.  The only way for us to get to the GIC, therefore, is through this home rule petition.  There is no reason that the Board of Selectmen had to wait this long to put out their recommendation.

Article 28 – Pension Liability. Al Tosti explained that the state legislature was moving very slowly on this bill, and until it’s done, this article might be needed.  He wishes to lay it on the table where it can age while the Senate considers it.  The meeting need not consider it at all, hopefully.  Tabled.

Article 29-32 – Parmenter and Crosby Schools. Postpone 5/12.  This one you can blame on the School Committee.  They only voted on this article last week, after Town Meeting had already started.  The Board of Selectmen took a vote promptly at their next meeting. Selectmen will provide a recommendation in paper on Weds; vote next week.

Article 33, 34 – Combining School and Town Functions. Moved to postpone to 5/12 by Stephen Gilligan.  Postponed by 109-36.  This vote was in the Selectmen’s packet, so I don’t understand why Mr. Gilligan wanted it postponed.  At this point the meeting was getting annoyed with all of the postponements.  It was a fascinating vote where the front (establishment types) and the back of the room (anti-establishment types) voted against the middle of the room – but the middle is bigger.

Article 35 – Conflict of Interest. Voted no action.

Article 36 – Canine Control. Sue Doctorow asks for a tabling because the selectmen had just had a re-hearing and had run out of time.  92-63 vote to table failed (required 2/3).  She moved a substitute motion dated April 28th.  This is a moment where the 48-hour policy inhibited debate.  There was a clear intent to provide a substitute motion. The version dated 5/3 was cleaner and more clear, but was functionally identical to the 4/28 version.  In this case the policy meant that we were forced to debate an inferior motion.  An exception would have been a better choice. She talked about an 8 year debate, 3 at Town Meeting.  Green Dog was rejected by 5 votes last year, and it was deemed too complex.  This motion is much more simpler.  This motion complements the work of the dog park fences committee.  She noted that “Owner control” is a very powerful phrase.  Parks and Rec Commission gets to make decisions in the end.  It’s also cheap.  Parks and Recreaction approved this language.  Several speakers talked about decisions based on fear, dogs and children, and people attacked by dogs.  Leslie Mayer explained that Parks and Rec agreed that there was demand for dog recreation, and the town was not meeting that need, and that was why they supported this.  There were discussions about responsible and irresponsible dog owners.  After more than an hour of debate, Mr. Fuller moved to postpone to 5/12.  That was debated.  65-79 adjournment vote fails.  Finally the postponement question was moved, and by 80-67 the article was postponed.  The good news about the postponement is that we get to consider the better motion.  The bad news is that we didn’t get the job done.  I voted against postponement; I was prepared to vote the current language, as-is.

The meeting was adjourned.


Comment from david blakely
Time: May 4, 2010, 7:55 am

Need to get your facts straight. The teachers union has a standing offer on the table to negotiate GIC. The town refuses. No vote was taken last year after membership made it clear to Mr. Colosi that such a rushed vote, around thanksgiving remember, would have no hope of passage. The town ignored all Mr. Colosi’s deadlines for him to be able to adequately inform/educate our membership.

Comment from david blakely
Time: May 4, 2010, 8:04 am

Furthermore, passing art. 27 will eviscerate any loyalty employees feel toward the town, and guarantee that a C-, doing the bare minimum a contract requires, effort will become the norm. Why bust your butt for a town that wants to take away your rights under false pretence. Great way to manage your people there arlington. Stupid is as stupid does… some things never change.

Comment from Barbara C. Goodman
Time: May 4, 2010, 8:52 am

“The teacher’s union refuses to negotiate with the town about the GIC.” if you are not party to the union – management negotiations, how do you know what happened? Dan, you are usually very careful about distinguishing facts vs opinions and folks tend to trust that what you say is true ( though they may have a different opinion on the issues). I worry that when we state assumptions as facts, we are creating “reality” that may be less than accurate.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 4, 2010, 9:35 am

Mr. Blakely, my facts are indeed in order.

Barbara, I’m not making an assumption – I’m repeating a fact that was stated as such.

In February the Town Manager sent a letter to all unions inviting them to negotiate a new deal including joining the GIC. The teacher’s union replied that it would come to the table, but it would NOT discuss entering the GIC. I spent several minutes at two different meetings reviewing this timeline with the Town Manager, so I’m certain of what he was saying.

Mr. Blakely, on your other comments: I think that town employees understand what is going on here. There are painful financial realities that the town has to face, and the GIC is a way of making them significantly less painful. The proposed home rule legislation protects their interests by requiring the town to make the GIC a financial win for the unions – the town has been linking entry into the GIC with both health insurance concessions and salary increases.

The home rule legislation is necessary because we don’t have the time (as in the ADDITIONAL years) to wait for the teacher’s union to come around. Without GIC there won’t be an override, and without an override FY12 will see layoffs and service cuts like no other in recent memory. (Obviously, that’s opinion!)

Comment from Joe Tully
Time: May 4, 2010, 10:29 am

One commentary with regard to the postponements. I’ve never understood why it is such a problem for some. It happens every year, through no one’s fault, we know there will be some. There are 78 articles in this year’s warrant. So if we don’t attend to 24-34 tonight, instead we tackle 35 – 45. We still get just as much done, then we go back and take up the ones we postponed. It takes no longer in aggregate. And, the people to whom you don’t give the courtesy of a postponment wil be the people you will be relying on when *you* want something.

Comment from Michael Ruderman
Time: May 4, 2010, 11:31 am

Joe Tully writes: “So if we don’t attend to 24-34 tonight, instead we tackle 35 – 45. We still get just as much done, then we go back and take up the ones we postponed. It takes no longer in aggregate…”

…unless 35-45 aren’t ready to proceed either, and we try to act on less information than an article’s proponents would have desired to present with more time. I don’t mean not having your motion written–people, please, May did not come early this year (see Articles 24, 27, and 29 through 34 above) –I mean the Board of Selectmen thought they had one more session to consider their position of Article 36. Turns out, they need two more sessions. Proponents of 36 knew the Selectmen were reconsidering and figured they had at least one more session, and could thereby distribute a substitute (and better written) motion on a Monday for action on Wednesday.

Inevitable delays aside, adhering to the warrant order, like being ready to answer the teacher’s question when called upon, is a demonstration of competence in your responsibilities and respect for your fellow Town Meeting participants.

Comment from Ron Spangler
Time: May 4, 2010, 12:07 pm

You can blame the SC for delay on the Crosby and Parmenter votes if you’d like. (Blaming the SC is all the rage these days.) But they’re just doing their job.

It’s been like pulling teeth to get solid information on whether we will or will not need those buildings for public schools-related uses in the near term. It’s been even more difficult to get the kind of assurances I wanted – i.e., in writing – from all the stakeholders that the proceeds from the sale of the buildings would go back to the capital needs of the school buildings we are using.

Once the SC votes to surplus permanently, the SC no longer has any say in what happens to the buildings. It’s a precipitous decision and not to be rushed.

I may not agree with the direction the current SC is taking on this, but I don’t fault them for taking their time.

Comment from Adam
Time: May 4, 2010, 1:15 pm

For many reasons, some good some less so, committees and boards and town officials often do not have the final wording of motions available in time for Town Meeting members to satisfy the 48-hour rule without postponement.

I view postponement as a courtesy that should generally be extended quickly and automatically. We seem to be doing it more this year, partly in conjunction with the Moderator’s enforcement of the 48-hour rule. Yes, it could become a problem, but so far it has not been one at all.

What has been problematic is the 48-hour rule (which is good) enforced and the postponement not granted. I won’t repeat what Dan said about that, but we wasted a lot of time last night.

Comment from Annie LaCourt
Time: May 4, 2010, 2:23 pm

Barbara, I was at the meetings and I can confirm Dan’s facts. The town manager is in receipt of a letter from Mr. Colosi stating that he is more than willing to come back to the table and discuss any solution to the healthcare issue other than the GIC. I asked for the postponement last night specifically in order to allow more time for the ongoing discussions with the PEC to result in a meeting. We have been working on coming back to the table for months and I am hopeful that we will be there shortly. When the BOS discussed this article I made what I felt was a commitment to allow the process to work until the very last moment before coming to the floor with a vote on article 27.

Comment from david blakely
Time: May 4, 2010, 3:08 pm

Annie, that letter was written shortly after the union chose not to vote on it. Any member at our meeting could have made a motion to vote – NO ONE did because we didn’t all fall off the turnip truck together – we are well aware of the charades/lies coming from management. You want cooperation – start acting like it – not like sullivan who takes his ball and petulently walks away.

Comment from Barbara Goodman
Time: May 4, 2010, 6:37 pm

Annie and Dan,
You are both giving the impression that the union was not trying to find a way of helping to reduce health care costs. I don’t believe that is the full story. My understanding is that they have been willing to discuss other health insurance options.
From their point of view, the GIC had too many problems. However, they have been willing to explore others proposals related to health insurance. Is the GIC the only option? bg

Comment from Annie LaCourt
Time: May 4, 2010, 6:42 pm

No it was not, David. The letter in question is dated February 25th, 2010. If Mr. Colosi is prepared to discuss the GIC this spring he should inform the Town Manager right quick. I bought us two weeks grace but we have to have a vote on that article ready before May 17 or let the fincom’s vote stand. An expressed willingness to include the GIC as an option in the talks we hope are about to start would change my planned vote on article 27.

I would also like to correct one other issue with the sequence of events in your first response to Dan’s post. In order to go into the GIC we needed ratification votes from all unions before Dec. 1. We reached agreement with enough of the unions, including the AEA, on October 29th 2009 to enter the GIC. I was not present but the town manager reported to me that all of the unions left that meeting with the understanding that the final language of the agreement would be drafted for those votes and they should go back to their respective memberships and schedule them while the language was hammered out. That was a Thursday. The following Tuesday the AEA backed out of that agreement. So all of the other unions halted their efforts to schedule ratification votes. For some reason that is beyond my understanding the AEA scheduled a membership meeting in late November at which they finally presented some information to the membership about the plan. The membership at that meeting apparently decided not to vote on the plan which makes sense since such a vote would have been entirely academic. There was no deadline suggested by Mr. Colosi that the town ignored. Mr. Colosi and the rest of the executive committee withdrew from a process they had agreed to and killed the deal. It was effectively dead due to that act on nov. 3rd and had the membership voted in favor of going into the GIC at the meeting in question we still would not have made the Dec. 1 deadline and we would still be where we are today. All that meeting seems to have done is permanently prejudice every teacher I talk to against joining the GIC. So I am not sure how Mr. Colosi would manage a ratification vote now even if he were willing to discuss the GIC in the hopefully upcoming discussions.

This is twice now in conversation that you have insulted me. I am not stupid and I NEVER lie. Your characterization of Mr. Sullivan is totally uncalled for. He has been reaching out to the unions attempting to revive this discussion for months. He transferred 450k to the school budget to save teaching positions. I have very good recollection of the events from the presentation you made to the BOS in 2005 concerning coalition bargaining until this moment. Your timeline and your characterization of management’s attitude are in contradiction of the facts. I can understand and accept that the AEA does not want to enter the GIC. I cannot stand that you feel it necessary to distort the truth and libel those who disagree with you when you could simple state your position and defend it on the merits I assume you believe it has.

I spent political capital to delay that vote last night and I am working on this issue now in direct contradiction to my own sentiments about it. If you really feel that I am both stupid and a liar perhaps I should spend my efforts on some other issue. I am the swing vote on the BOS on Article 27 and the mother of one of your former students, the ones you say you care so much about. I would suggest that therefore you might treat me with some respect during the course of this conversation.

Comment from Annie LaCourt
Time: May 4, 2010, 6:56 pm

Barbara, over the course of two years of meetings we discussed multiple options. Other plans, other configurations of the plans. Other insurance consortiums. Every idea that anyone in the room had no matter who proposed it and no matter how skeptical anyone was about its efficacy. We had consultants analyzing data and insurance companies quoting and staff members reaching out to various entities for months. None of it was going to save us any money without shifting the costs to the employees and they agreed with that. we looked at many options and we will look at any new ones that anyone wants to look at now. The was no option that the unions were prepared to agree to that the town rejected. There was no option that the unions wanted to consider or analyze that the town refused to consider or analyze. The unions were patient, good partners and worked hard. And most of the unions were prepared to present the GIC to their memberships for ratification. If you are hearing in my words any hint that the unions as a whole were recalcitrant then I am not communicating clearly. I am very skeptical that there is an option out there that we didn’t consider but I am perfectly willing to come back to the table and discuss anything the unions have to propose. I don’t, however, see how the unions can agree to a proposal that increases the cost of their current benefits or shifts the cost of any savings entirely to the employees via plan design and that is what every other option we looked at did. That is why I didn’t take any of them seriously.

Comment from Barbara Goodman
Time: May 4, 2010, 7:12 pm

Annie, On February 25th, Mr Colosi offered to discuss other health insurance options – but not the GIC. What has happened since that date?

Comment from Annie LaCourt
Time: May 4, 2010, 7:23 pm

We have been trying to set up a meeting.

Comment from david blakely
Time: May 4, 2010, 9:32 pm

Sorry you’re so sensitive about this but I wasn’t speaking of you as I’ve never had any dealings with you. Touchy are we?
Anyway lets drop the whole “he said she said” bit as we clearly see the timeline of the town’s final offer as different, and focus on the essential question, to wit: in a 4/15 article in the Globe it shows that arlington teacher salaries rank 256 out of 329 communities – bottom quartile. And yet by any measure you can think of our academic performance is top quartile. And while you and others in arlington enjoy enhanced property values largely from our efforts you refuse to pay us comparable wages and now want to strip us of our collective bargaining rights. And we the teachers are supposed to be grateful for this? What water have you been drinking?
Therefore I ask you, what could be more american, more free market than “pay for performance.” Will town leadership agree to pay fair value for the results we deliver or not?
So, Annie, have you got the teacher’s backs on this one …. or just our wallets?

Comment from Annie LaCourt
Time: May 4, 2010, 10:43 pm

As a member of the BOS I am management so when you refer to management you are referring to me. Your rehtoric is overheated and it alienates. Suggesting that I am over sensitive doesn’t help your case. Stick to the facts and don’t characterize me or my personality and you won’t run into this trouble. You may think anything of me that you like but keep your opinions of my nature to yourself or the discussion will be about that and not about the issues. I was a stagehand for 15 years and I know better than to back down on issues of respect.

The article you are referring to used a bad statistic. It was average wage. It didn’t show the wage range and it didn’t indicate how many teachers in any of those communities are in what year of their career. Show me data on how starting salaries in those communities compare, what the top of the salary range is and what the health insurance premium split is and I might have a clear picture of the situation. The fact that we are 256 is meaningless for another reason – the rankings aren’t even. The average salary in the 10 communities immediately above Arlington didn’t vary from ours by a thousand dollars while wages in the top ten communities varied be several thousand. So we are really in a cluster of communities with similar averages NOT isolated at 256.

I have the teachers back. The deal that was accepted on Oct. 29th would have resulted in teachers paying less for the same health benefits, included the assumption of wage increases in fy11 and fy12 at least, would have added 1 million dollars to the schools current bottom line saving even more teaching positions and opened the possibility of holding an override in the spring of 2010 for FY 11 that would have saved even more teaching positions. That is what the math said and it’s why I supported the deal although the town manager had to talk me off the ceiling over the premium split. I won’t support a deal that shifts all costs to the employees and I was always clear about that in the discussions. But I was also clear that I was elected to represent the residents of Arlington and when I am at the table my job is to represent the interests of the taxpayers. It is in their interest for the town to treat its employees well and pay a competitive wage. That is how you get good services. But Arlington has a limited tax base, has suffered inordinate cuts in state aid and in this economy there is no way I could ask people to vote to raise their taxes to support benefits they can only dream of. Not when they themselves have seen their benefits deteriorate, their wages drop, their assets lose value, their retirement investments disappear and are statistically likely to have suffered unemployment, be living with someone who has or have seen their co-workers laid off and be waiting for the axe to drop on them.

The fair market value of anything is what the market will bear not what is fair or just or values the commodity paid for at what any of us believe it is worth.

If you want higher wages you have to convince the voters that you are worth it not me – and the voters also have to feel like they have it to give. Without a tax increase I have no idea where you think the money is coming from. No one wants to underpay teachers. All of us are just dealing with the financial reality in front of us. Article 27 wouldn’t exist if the deal had gone through last fall. And no one asked you to be grateful for anything. I just want you to acknowledge the facts and defend your position honorably.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 4, 2010, 10:56 pm

Mr. Blakely: My main issue still stands. Is the teacher’s union willing to come to the table to talk about the GIC?

Barbara: In the same line of questioning, if the teacher’s union has a non-GIC proposal with even half of the savings of the GIC, I’d be delighted to hear of it. It would be a most pleasant surprise.

If we don’t have a GIC negotiation, or an alternative with savings, then I will be supporting the home rule legislation proposed by the manager that forces negotiation on the GIC.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 4, 2010, 10:59 pm

Joe: I agree, some postponements are necessary and proper. The ones that I’m complaining about are the ones that are not necessary.

Ron: The good news is, I’m only blaming the School Committee for one of these postponements =). That said, I think the criticism is fair. Getting information is sometimes like pulling teeth, but getting that done in a timely fashion is a responsibility of all town budget authorities – Selectmen, School Committee, FinComm, etc.

Comment from Ron Spangler
Time: May 5, 2010, 2:39 pm

Dan, I agree, and I wish the school committee had been less dysfunctional over the past two years. Just providing an explanatory viewpoint. I think we will see things improve.

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