Main menu:


Subscribe by email:

Delivered by FeedBurner



Site search

Town Meeting ‘10 Session 6

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.

I missed the beginning of the meeting and the playing of the national anthem tonight. The Finance Committee meets every town meeting night at 7:30 to consider any last-minute items that may come up. This year, we’ve been considering an appeal from the Minuteman school district to reconsider our recommendation of no action on their request for capital funds. Our discussion ran overtime tonight, and the FinComm members got into town meeting a few minutes late. (We haven’t reached a conclusion on Minuteman; we’re going to reconsider on Monday and see what conditions/caveats might make us change our minds).

As I walked in, John Maher was making an announcement that I missed.
Roly Chaput announced an unveiling at the Dallin Museum this weekend.

Article 24 – Donation Program. Harry McCabe says the Council on Aging does not have a substitute motion. Voted no action.

Article 28 – Pension Liability Funding. Tabled. (We had tabled this already, but took it off the table on Monday; now it’s back on.)

Article 29 and 30 – Crosby and Parmenter Disposition. The moderator announced we were debating the two articles (the two schools) together. Selectman Annie LaCourt explained the Selectmen’s motion was to have the Selectmen administer the buildings, keep leasing the buildings to the current private schools, and study the issues further. The board is leaning to keep the buildings in the long term and keep renting them, but that is not an official conclusion. Matthew Dolan of Marshfield, the Executive Director of the Arlington Children’s Center in the Parmenter School spoke. He noted the school has 159 children, 129 from Arlington; they operate the Brackett afterschool program; they have 60 employees, 23 residents of Arlington. Dolan endorsed the recommended vote and praised the process that had lead to the vote. Town Manager Sullivan spoke in favor of the Selectmen’s motion. Sullivan noted that the current vote does not permit the Selectmen to sell the property. John Worden moved an amendment to the vote. His amendment would extend the lease on a 10-year basis. It would put the properties under ARB, rather than the Selectmen. Patricia Worden spoke at length, claiming the Selectmen have insufficient experience managing property and the ARB has extensive experience. She spoke for longer than 10 minutes, but the moderator had forgotten to reset his timer. Chris Loreti endorsed the Worden amendment and went into detail about rents and market rates. He finished with this statement: “If the Board of Selectmen understood Mr. Worden’s amendment, they’d be thanking him.” Loreti finished at 8:52. The previous three speakers had combined for almost 30 minutes of speaking! It’s safe to say that none of them were concise. Richard Correder of Vision2020 and Precinct 2 spoke next. On a question, he found out that the Selectmen cannot sell the property without town meeting permission. He also heard Juliana Rice say that an ARB can get extra managementpowers, but only when it is a urban renewal program. Brian Rehrig supported the Selectmen’s position. He noted that the Worden amendment would not permit a longer lease than 10 years, as desired by at least one tenant. He also noted that the actual building managers are in the planning department, and that department behaves the same regardless of who is in control of the property, the BoS or the ARB. Selectman Diane Mahon defended the choice of the BoS with some detailed rebuttals of previous argument, specifically concerning whether or not the property was an urban renewal process. Al Tosti argued in favor of the BoS motion. He notes that this is a policy question – the first time in more than 25 years that we’ve had such a policy issue. That policy issue should be considered, have hearings, etc. It is not an administrative question. He would like that policy decision to be made by an elected body, not an appointed board. Other speakers repeated these points. Stuart Cleinman stood up and complained about discussion of selling the property, when the article was about transfer, not disposition. Cleinman was absolutely right.  Much of the debate was long winded, and it was full of people saying the same refrain that “we like the current schools and we like their revenue.” That wasn’t a point at debate, though!  The only difference in the two competing versions was about WHO should administer the building, and only a few of the speakers spoke to that difference. Most of them wandered through adjacent topics, but made no progress because the topic wasn’t framed in the motions.

We had an 11 minute break.

On request of Joe Tully, former town counsel John Maher answered that he deferred to the current town counsel’s opinion that the ARB could not enter into long-term leases unless it was an urban renewal property. Annie LaCourt noted that the Worden amendment limits any deal to 10 years, and more money may be available with a longer lease. She asked for more time to consider the question. Horowitz moves to terminate debate. Amendment failed on voice, The main BoS motion passed 155-6.  The summary here is that the Board of Selectmen now “control” the property and will consider what to do with it, from sale, to lease, to other.  They have no deadlines.  If they want to sell it, they must get Town Meeting approval.

Article 30 – Parmenter version. Amendment failed on voice, BoS motion passed 153-4.

Article 31 – Crosby Disposition. Selectman Diane Mahon endorsed the Selectmen’s resolution and moved an amendment to change the words “gross receipts” to “net receipts” with the intent that net proceeds from the buildings go to school rebuilding, not the gross. Harry McCabe proposed an amendment to remove the word “sell” from the resolution, with the intent that town not ever sell the schools. Chris Loreti reviewed the costs and revenues and potential revenues from the properties and supported the no-sale language.  Loreti claimed that we can keep the buildings for $10,000 per year in capital expense. He based his numbers on a 8-year analysis. I find that number to be completely unbelievable. In those 8 years, were there any renovations done – plumbing, electrical, roof, boiler, etc.? I don’t care how well the building was built a hundred years ago – it wasn’t built with sufficient electrical or data capacity, just to start, and the roof was not made to last until kingdom come.  The long-term capital expenses of these buildings greatly exceeds the $10,000 he claimed. I rose, as did others, opposed to McCabe’s amendment; we’ve only had two weeks since the school committee made their decision, and we should not rush the decision. I wasn’t quite finished writing my speech, and it suffered.  Not my best speaking.  Wish I could do that one again. Terminate debate failed. Town Manager Sullivan explained that he wanted “net” proceeds not “gross” proceeds so that the buildings do not affect regular revenue and cut into basic budget needs. School Committee Chair Joe Curro rose to defend the gross rather than net. It was noted that this is a resolution, not a binding vote.  Debate was terminated.  We changed gross to net by vote of 123-38. McCabe’s amendment to remove the word sale failed on voice vote. The original resolution, as amended, was approved. The summary here is that we advised the board to look at the best solution, and to dedicate the money to future school capital expenditures.

Article 32 – Parmenter Disposition. The exact same votes were taken by voice vote, and the original resolution, as amended, was approved.

Article 33 – Town Reorganization Committee. Annie LaCourt explained the article. This is a recommendation of the reorganization committee created last year. First thing to do is accept the state legislation so that we can consolidate some town and school functions in the future, if we so choose. It was noted that the School Committee has to agree to any future changes, and this article only permits future changes, it does not actually make any changes. The article was approved.

Article 34 – Consolidation. Al Tosti explained that this doesn’t actually change anything, but has the meeting direct certain town bodies to consider future changes. He ran through the four areas under consideration: Human resources, town counsel, overhead budgeting, and public accouning financial report. Vision2020 endorse. I, of course, am a huge proponent of the overhead budgeting.  You can read more in my previous post on budgeting. Phelps moves the question. Approved on voice vote.

Article 36 – Canine Control. We picked up where we left off 10 days ago.  Andrew Fischer moved Sue Doctrow’s motion of May 5th. He moved also to change the number of dogs permitted from three to two. The debate moved to discussing the length of time for a dog bowel movement. Speakers were in favor of the article, and found it to be reasonable and well defined. Other speakers were against, and found it to be unreasonable and poorly defined. I know this is description is a little glib, but that’s really what it boils down to. There have been years of debates on the nuances of schools, parks, hours, enforcement, definition of terms, good dog owners, children, bad dog owners, enforcement costs, fences, dog poop, bags, bites, charges, barks, noises, etc., and in the end it comes down to what you think is a reasonable way to share the town’s public spaces. I voted in favor of Doctrow’s motion. I believe that dog walking is a good usage of town public spaces. I think that dogs and people can live together. I think that Parks and Recrecation Committee is in a good position to monitor and revise where and when this bylaw is effective. A motion to adjourn was defeated, and a couple more speakers went.  Horowitz moved the question. My hero! So glad to get this vote done with. Doctrow’s original motion of April 28th went down by voice vote.  We changed 3 dogs to 2 on voice vote.  Doctrow’s May 5th motion was substituted (approved) 80-74. There was cheering at that point, and I don’t think it was appropriate.  I agree with the outcome, but I know what it’s like to lose a close vote.  Cheering is adding insult to injury, and makes for hard feelings. We then had to approve the motion as substituted, and did so 78-70. There was considerable confusion on that last vote because some people thought we were adjourning, but I don’t think it affected the outcome.

Brian Rehrig gave notice of reconsideration on 36; Michael Quinn on 36; Al Tosti on 33 and 34.

We adjourned.


Comment from Lisa Bielefeld
Time: May 13, 2010, 7:22 am

Article 31- we changed “gross” to “net”, not the other way around.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 13, 2010, 7:40 am

Fixed, thank you.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 13, 2010, 9:16 am

Thank you for pointing out the particular long-windedness of the early speakers on 29 and 30. I found the ensuing debate mostly informative and thought-provoking (at least at first); the initial, laborious presentations, not so much.

To quote our Moderator quoting Andover’s longtime Moderator Jim Doherty: “…I did tell the meeting that about three minutes is enough for anyone. After five, you put them to sleep. After seven, they’re going to vote against you even if they agree with you.”

Comment from Robin Varghese
Time: May 13, 2010, 9:38 am

What does it mean that TMM gave notice of reconsideration? Regarding Article 36?

Comment from Annie LaCourt
Time: May 13, 2010, 9:45 am

Giving notice of reconsideration is a pretty common practice. It means that whoever gave notice can ask the meeting to reconsider the article at some point before town meeting ends. You have to have voted in the majority to do so. Mr. Quinn likely voted with the majority in this case so that he could give notice of reconsideration. Its possible that he will try to get the meeting to reconsider and offer changes to the vote that was taken. But he would need to meeting to vote on the motion to reconsider and he would have to have a pretty good argument. its sort of like asking a judge to reopen a case – you have to have new evidence or in this case a new idea.

Comment from Ted Sharpe
Time: May 13, 2010, 9:50 am

So, I wonder how many people realize that we passed a bylaw that allows only owners to let their dogs off-leash in the parks? (The bylaw specifies that the dog is to be under effective owner control, which can’t be the case unless the owner is present.) Obviously not the intent, but there you have it.

I was going to point this out on the floor, but the list was so long with people reiterating what had already been said, that we got impatient and cut off debate before I had the opportunity. Maybe Mr. Rehrig or Mr. Quinn will offer to fix the language under a reconsideration.

Comment from Chris Loreti
Time: May 13, 2010, 10:06 am

Dan, I think you missed what I said on article 31–or I misspoke. I don’t believe I said $10,000 per year was all that was needed in capital expenditures on the two buildings. I did say that that was about all that actually was being spent (on each one). Projected debt service for capital expenditures reaches $22k in 2015 according to the Capital Planning Committee.

As for the 8 year analysis, that was for capital expenditures associated with the middle and high school, which amounted to less than 0.1% of the buildings’ replacement values (on a cash basis) in contrast to the 2% the Town Manager claims is necessary. Again, the data come from the Capital Planning Committee.

I raised these points because the Town Manager suggested in response to one of my questions that if it were the net rental income that went to fund the school rebuild program, he’d be subtracting off the 2% of replacement value he’s been talking about. That amounts to over $270,000 per year for these two schools, a number that has no basis in reality, and which would leave little for the school rebuild program. (This is how he gets the $75k per year remaining after receiving more than $300k in gross rents.) He later revised his statement to say the “net” would be based on the amounts actually spent for the capital improvements on the buildings, not his imaginary 2% figure.

Comment from Brian Rehrig
Time: May 13, 2010, 10:08 am

I gave notice of reconsideration not because I oppose the plan (which I do), but for the same reason that you’ll hear the Fincom Chair give notice on all the budget articles after they’re voted — in case there’s a flaw in the vote that needs to be corrected. Without notice of reconsideration, if there’s a realization that the action taken was defective in some technical or substantive way (such as, perhaps, the specification that only an ‘owner’ may be in control), there would be no way to reopen the issue to correct the flaw.

That said, I was so tired last night that I forgot the prime rule of giving notice of reconsideration — one has to have voted on the prevailing side. I had meant to vote ‘aye’ on the final vote, since it was going to pass anyway, in order to give notice. I voted ‘no’ and then gave notice anyway, which is bogus, and I told the Moderator afterward that my notice was invalid. Fortunately, Michael Quinn is either smarter or less sleep-deprived than I am.

Comment from Dean Carman
Time: May 13, 2010, 10:19 am

Changing “gross” revenue to “net” revenue was meaningless as it didn’t accomplish what the Manager wanted. What he wanted was to change gross revenue to net income. The calculation of net revenue is gross revenue, less uncollectible accounts receivable (rent, fees, etc), so it did not accomplish what he wanted. Since it was a resolution and has no legal authority, I said nothing after he clarified his intent on the record.

The discussion of capital expenditure funding by Mr. Lorreti was incorrect because he was not correctly understanding (or presenting) the concept of a replacement reserve, commonly referred to as a funded depreciation account. Without getting into too much detail, a funded depreciation account is a common tool used by colleges / universities and hospitals where the entity buys a capital asset, and then as the capital asset is depreciated, the board sets aside the annual depreciation amount (a non-cash P&L charge) to a board restricted fund. This way, when the asset needs to be replaced or renovated, the entity has a down payment set aside on it. A replacement reserve is not used to fund annual maintenance costs, the basis of Mr. Loretti’s analysis.

Comment from Jennifer Goebel
Time: May 13, 2010, 11:18 am

I believe that the intent was to limit the off-leash recreation time to dog owners (which I support) to mitigate the fear that Arlington will be overrun by professional dog walkers in the early mornings. The term “handler” was apparently suggested by town counsel, but was not meant to broaden the scope of the bylaw to professional dog walkers. I agree that the juxtaposition of the two terms is a little odd, but I don’t find it to introduce any ambiguity that requires a fix.

Comment from Dick Smith
Time: May 13, 2010, 11:25 am

It should be pointed out that in order for a vote to be reconsidered, 2/3 of the voters must vote for reconsideration. That is difficult to achieve when the vote to be reconsidered only required a majority, not a 2/3 supermajority.

Comment from Sue Doctrow
Time: May 13, 2010, 12:59 pm

To Ted Sharpe,
As Jen Goebel suggests, restricting it to only owners was exactly the intent. It was certainly mine, and my colleagues who provided feedback understood this, too. Most local bylaws do have “owner or keeper”, “owner or handler”, etc. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Arlington, as a community, has been very cautious on this issue. We were trying to be as sensitive as possible to this and to eliminate as many fears as we could, while still providing something of value to our primary constituency, that is taxpaying residents/dog owners. Dog’s owners have legal responsibility including, as I understand it, liability for the actions of their pets. So, we thought requiring “owner control” was the way to go. Even if people want professional dog walkers to exercise their pets, this is not likely to be important or in high demand early in the a.m. Anyway, I assume we can revisit making it broader in a future TM if, indeed, it seems important to many residents that other handlers handle their dogs.
Sue Doctrow
p.s. And, yes, it was Town Counsel who later suggested we put the more general “handler” in that other spot. She wanted to make extra certain that nobody thought non-owners were going to be allowed to bring many pooches. Though I felt that, with the required “owner control”, it was not necessary, I thought it was fine to take one more step to allay potential concerns. I agree with Jen that it is not ambiguous.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 13, 2010, 1:22 pm

@Ted, I agree, many people probably didn’t follow that nuance. But it did come up during debate last week, and many people caught it.

@Robin, I hope the previous answers about reconsideration were helpful. It’s very unlikely that a vote to reconsider would succeed on this article, and it would only happen if someone discovered new information that had a large impact.

@Chris, I believe I understood you, and I still think your analysis is misguided. Capital expenditures on a building are inherently lumpy. You only buy a shingle roof every 20 or 40 years (or every 100 years if it’s slate). So if you look at only 8 years, your annualized number is going to be very low or very high, depending on what work happened in that 8 years. What the manager is trying to do is make sure that a 10-year lease includes savings that go towards capital work that happens outside of that 10-year period, like plumbing, electrical, roof, heating, etc.

A more concrete examples is the public safety building. We spent very small sums for the last 10 years on the building, but this year we’re spending millions. For us to manage that properly on a rental property, we need to save that big sum of money over the period of the lease. Saying we only need .1% leaves us short of money when a big ticket comes in.

Comment from Ted Sharpe
Time: May 13, 2010, 1:50 pm

Well, I’m glad that the article reflected the intent of the sponsors. Just so we’re all clear that it’s only the owner (person whose name is on the dog’s license, I guess), and not that person’s spouse or kid who can legally run a dog off leash.

Comment from Sue Doctrow
Time: May 13, 2010, 3:53 pm

Yes, Ted, it is the intent of the sponsors that the adult(s) in the household with financial, custodial, and other permanent responsibilities for the dog are the ones who must have the dog under control. “Owner control” wording is used in Bedford and Concord, though other towns’ bylaws are more general, “controlled by a person”, etc. As to whether the person who registers the dog is the only legal “owner”, my understanding is that it is not that simple. In pet custody litigations, e.g., in whose name a dog is licensed is one factor that would be considered in ownership, but so are factors such as who paid the vet bills, in whose name the microchip is, who adopted the animal, where the dog is living, etc. So, I would argue that licensing in one name does not rule out that other people share ownership of a dog. In the worst case, if our town really wants to, and has the authority to, define “ownership” only by who fills out the dog license application, then a couple can write both names on their application at the Clerk’s office. And, if an adult child living at home wants to share ownership responsibilities, then let her, too, be registered with the Clerk, with her parent’s permission. (It is my understanding that, under MA law, a person must be at least 18 yo to register a dog.) Honestly, based on common sense, I think the difference between a dog’s adult owner(s), and professional dog walker, next door neighbor, etc., is not that difficult to discern.

Comment from Ted Sharpe
Time: May 13, 2010, 4:30 pm

The problem is that “ownership” isn’t a status that’s immediately obvious to someone trying to enforce this bylaw. I’m sure lots of other towns have similarly vague and unenforceable bylaws, but I wish ours was clearer and more practical. I hope we can change it someday to require the dog to be under the effective control of whoever is responsible for it at that particular moment (the handler, I suppose). That’s a status that’s readily apparent to someone trying to enforce the bylaw. Even though that seems a lot more permissive, I don’t think it really is: Common sense suggests that the ACO isn’t going to be able to make a thorough enquiry into ownership status if an out-of-control dog needs to be restrained.

I apologize if I’ve been contentious.

Comment from Dog Owner
Time: May 13, 2010, 11:04 pm

I just want to point out that the anti-Article 36 folks did plenty of cheering in support of their speakers. It was a heated debate and whichever side won was bound to cheer.

Comment from Lexington TMM
Time: May 14, 2010, 9:49 am

Dan, I really enjoy your summaries and reading how different Arlington TM is from ours in Lexington. Thank you!

I would be interested in your including a running list (or even count) of the articles voted on vs. those still on the warrant to be discussed on future nights. After 6 nights of Town Meeting, it appears that Arlington still has many more nights to go, including budget and Minuteman (which took Belmont almost a full night in itself).

Comment from Sue Doctrow
Time: May 14, 2010, 9:58 am

Ted, I do agree with you that “owner or keeper” is simpler to assess and, of course, would have welcomed this feedback from you earlier in the process (e.g. between the April 28 and May 5 versions ;-). I hope you understand, at least, that our intent was to be careful — we’ve been at this for 3 years and have tried to address major concerns and “professional dog walkers”, fair or not, is one of the common ones. It seems to me, though, that it shouldn’t ever really be necessary for the ACO to investigate ownership. A dog out of control would represent a violation regardless of whether the handler were the owner. I believe that even now tickets for leash law violations are issued to the dog’s registered (with the town) “owner”, not to other handlers or even co-owners. And, if an off-leash dog is just playing and not causing problems, I would hope that the ACO would not be wasting time confirming ownership, any more than police routinely screen drivers not violating any traffic laws for the validity of their drivers’ licenses. I’m sure a lot of the bylaws could use some improvement..the main leash law is cumbersome already and has some wording stuck into inappropriate places (I had some discussion about this with John Worden who told me he’s been on a committee to review the bylaws.) I appreciate and accept your apology, too. Happy to discuss this “off-line” anytime..I don’t want to monopolize Dan’s blog (though I will have one more comment to make re cheering).

Comment from Sue Doctrow
Time: May 14, 2010, 10:13 am

Re Dan’s comment on cheering, I just wanted to say that I agree with him that anything that adds insult to injury is inappropriate. TM is generally a very respectful environment, including with its little formalities (addressing people as “Mr” and “Ms”, etc.) and I like that about it. I’m not sure if I cheered after the Article 36 vote; I just don’t remember and, if I did, it was an impulse. I do remember that a lot of people hugged me. But, what I also remember is that last year, there was some very loud cheering toward the back when the Green Dog plan was voted down. That was very hurtful to many of us dog owners. I do feel that there’s a difference between celebrating because you’ve won some privilege, versus celebrating because you’ve kept some privilege away from somebody else. So, I totally get the feeling behind “Dog Owner’s” comment on the cheering. But, still, I know that this issue means a lot to people on both “sides” and I would rather that TM err on the side of sensitivity and discourage cheering.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 14, 2010, 1:00 pm

@dogowner I heard those cheers too, but as my mother taught me, two wrongs don’t make a right!

@Sue If you look at it from the other side, they probably think they did lose a privilege – in their minds, the parks became a little less useful to them. I completely agree that it’s best to err on the side of sensitivity.

@Lexington That’s a good idea. I’ll see if I can whip that up. My tracking of the status of various articles isn’t great, but I think I can get it mostly right.

Comment from Ted Sharpe
Time: May 14, 2010, 9:19 pm

To Sue:
Sorry I didn’t have it together to offer this criticism earlier in the process. Like most town members, I don’t do a lot of serious research ahead of the meeting and just kind of let it wash over me real-time. Call me lazy — the label fits.

I did try to speak to the issue, and had I gotten the floor, would have been surprised to find that owners-only was your actual intent. I guess I wasn’t listening carefully.

Thanks for your generous comments. I think your most recent reply made some very good points. I hope the ACO works with Parks and Rec to codify and publicize reasonable, common sense interpretations of the bylaw.


Comment from Sue Doctrow
Time: May 15, 2010, 6:47 pm

I hope so, too, Ted. At our A-DOG/Picture Perfect Pets fundraiser today (scheduling was a coincidence..we hadn’t quite expected it to ALSO be a celebration), some members were talking about ways we could now work with the town on criteria for enforcement, focusing on cracking down on the irresponsible, etc. (“Peer pressure” will certainly play a role, as it has in other towns’ programs, most notably Brookline’s). I hope we can make this work so that it will be much better for the community, including for those who don’t like off-leash dogs around them, than the status quo. Sounds a little like “Pollyanna”, perhaps, but I do have hope.
I hear ya about not reading things in advance. I feel guilty sometimes about not getting the time to read everything thoroughly enough — I also often take the “real time” approach myself and, as you said, it’s pretty common. Well, I had “promised” not to post on this again, but was moved to thank you for what you wrote. So, thanks!

Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Town Meeting ‘10 Session 7
Time: May 18, 2010, 3:15 am

[…] 28 – Tabled. again. This was an error, I think.  We’d already re-tabled this on Wednesday, and nothing had taken it off the […]

Comment from dunster
Time: May 20, 2010, 2:13 pm

FYI, I deleted a comment from an anonymous poster “dognutter.” Dognutter, whoever you are, you’re welcome to post here when you’ve got a constructive argument to make. I welcome debate and disagreement. However, I’ve got a higher standard than the Boston Globe. Inflammatory screeds with low signal-to-noise ratios will be deleted.