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Town Meeting ’11, Session 2

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.

Meeting called to order at 8:04.

Town Meeting Member Charlie Gallagher played the national anthem on the piano.

The Moderator swore in a few newly elected members.

We voted to reconvene on Monday. (Until then, I’ll be at Jazzfest!)

Selectman Clarissa Rowe thanked several elected public servants who had left office this year: Town Clerk Corinne Rainville, School Committee Member Joe Curran, and Selectman Jack Hurd.


  • Roland Chaput announced a Saturday cleanup at Robbins Farm.
  • Jane Howard announced several events – Spy Pond Information 2nd Floor of Town Hall Tuesday evening, a trails day by Spy Pond, and spillway cleanup. I didn’t get all the details written down fast enough.
  • Jim O’Conor – Thanked the meeting for electing him as Assistant Moderator. He said he’s happy to help anyone with a question.
  • Gordon Jamieson – Passed out recycling party favors, and gave lots of recycling info. More at:

(announcements done at 8:17 – they were lengthy).

Article 3 Reports of Committees was taken from the table.

Town Reorganization Committee report was entered by Al Tosti.

Article 3 was tabled.

Article 18 – Bylaw Change. Portable Storage Containers

Clarissa Rowe explains that this is mostly a housekeeping article. The town governs dumpsters, but we don’t govern portable storage containers. Chris Loreti rose to contest whether the fee change was outside the scope of the warrant article. The moderator ruled that it was out of scope because it mentions a price. Clarissa Rowe offered an updated version that didn’t mention the price at all. There was a fair amount of confusion about the new version. Bill Hayner protested that we didn’t have the language on our chairs. Ms. Rowe noted that we only heard about the problem with the motion this afternoon. A speaker against – they don’t think the town should be regulating this. A speaker was in favor. There was much confusion about the fee being in or not. Juliana Rice explained that even though the bylaw had a fee in it, a state law that was later accepted by the town meant that the fee could be changed by the selectmen, regardless of the by law. This was a very excellent, clear explanation, and I found it very helpful. The article was postponed to 5/4.

Article 19 – Bylaw Change. Increase Fines for Unleashed Dogs

Clarissa Rowe explained this was brought up by a petition of registered voters. Christine Chelapatis is the voter who put forward this proposal, and she gave her presentation. Her mother was attached by a dog and her arm was broken, but all that happened was a warning. Michael Ruderman offered a substitute motion with much lower fines, and retained a warning for the first offense. There was a speaker against big fines – the problem is only on two parks. A speaker in favor noted that all parts of the town should be treated equally. Several speakers talked about personal experiences where there was personal injury. Gordon Jamieson offered an amendment to the main motion to change the first time fee from $75 to $50. Two speakers spoke against both article and the substitute and said that personal liability law was the right way to handle this. There was confusion about if this was fine or a fee – it’s a fine. Stuart Cleinman moved to terminate debate. A speaker challenged that Ruderman’s substitute motion was too complex and we hadn’t had enough time to consider it. The moderator called it simple enough. I think the moderator was absolutely correct. There were four lines changed in a table in the substitute motion. Town Meeting is quite smart enough to handle that change and assess it. Ruderman’s motion went down by voice. Jamieson’s went down 60-116. Main motion passed 140-35.

Article 20 – no action.

Article 21 and 22 postponed to May 4 at the request of the moderator. Of course, by doing this, the moderator abdicated his moral authority to challenge people for not having their motions prepared in a timely fashion!

Article 23 – Bylaw. Snow removal.

Clarissa Rowe explained that this is a system for cleaning snow from private residences that aren’t getting the job done. It’s not used against elderly. It’s a tool for managing repeat offenders. A question was asked: how many citations/warnings given last year? Maybe 50 at the halfway point. There was a lot of anger about non-enforcement of the existing bylaw. I think a lot of this anger was misplaced. In some places, the problem is lack of enforcement. In other places, the problem is a lack of compliance. You can write as many tickets as you want, but tickets don’t melt the snow. This bylaw gives the town a way to actually remove the snow. It’s a solution to the real problem.

9:32 – 10 minute break.

Swore in new Town Meeting member who was elected during the break.

Mr. Worden suggests an amendment that the town must clean its sidewalks first before anyone else’s. Mr. Maher is opposed to the amendment – it eviscerates the article. A number of speakers were both in favor and against the article. There were a number of repeated statements about snow removal. The moderator said that he’d allow Mr. Worden’s amendment, but others had to be better about future notice. I disagree with the moderator to a degree. Town Meeting is there for debate. We’re not there to simply vote thumbs up and thumbs down on proposed votes. We’re there to debate, to modify, and to legislate. I agree with the spirit of the moderator’s intent – there should be as much as possible, and in all cases adequate time, to evaluate complex motions and amendments. But I disagree with the degree to which he’s trying to enforce it. We need to permit real debate. Worden’s amendment went down by voice vote. The main motion was approved by voice vote.

Article 24 – Bylaw. Public Records.

Clarissa Rowe was presenting the recommended vote of no action, but was cut off by the moderator because there was no motion to debate yet – you can’t debate no action. Chris Loreti has a substitute motion, but hadn’t shared it yet. He asked for postponement to May 11, and it was so voted. I’m very concerned that this article is going to be used as a vehicle to score personal points. If the discussion is simply about the merits of the article, it can be a healthy, valuable debate. Unfortunately, I suspect it will be much more personal and much less productive – not to mention unpleasant for everyone involved.

Article 25 Voted no action.

Article 26 Bylaw – Motorboats on Spy Pond.

A substitute motion is on the chairs. Postponed to 5/2.

Article 27. No action.

Article 28. Beer and Wine in Theaters.

Clarissa Rowe introduced Capitol Theater owner Richard Fraiman. He wants to be able to sell beer and wine to help increase the attractiveness of his theater. Two speakers against – concerned about underage drinking. Many speakers in favor – let the voters decide. Several speakers asked for support of small businesses. David Good had a question about the building – did it ever have a bar? He seems to remember seeing one decades ago. Mr. Fraiman wasn’t aware of one. Debate terminated. Passed 133-16.

Article 29. Ballot Question for 2 More Liquor Licenses.

Clarissa Rowe explained that there is a part of town that could use a liquor store, the heights. There was a speaker opposed to it. A supporter of small businesses was in favor. Several speakers in favor of letting the voters decide. There was a question about whether or not the market can support it. There was research looking at neighboring towns – probably yes, the market can support it.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:02.


Comment from Jennifer Goebel
Time: April 28, 2011, 6:41 am

So Dan, what happens when Town Meeting passes a bylaw that directly contradicts a Massachusetts state law? And was there any discussion of the liability the town may face when so doing? Seems like we really don’t need anymore legal fees in this town.

Comment from dunster
Time: April 28, 2011, 7:57 am

Jennifer, which state law are you talking about? Do you mean the fines discussed in Article 19? I mean my question in all honesty – there were a lot of articles last night that we talked about that had state law as a part of the debate.

My general answer is, state laws themselves sometimes conflict. Our town counsel Juliana Rice is pretty smart, and I listen to her guidance on those conflicts.

In the case of the unleashed dog fines, what I heard Juliana say was that one statute limits fines to under $100 (this statute was also quoted by Michael Ruderman). However, there’s another statute related to public safety that permits fines up to $400, and she thinks our bylaw would be legal under that statute, and had an example where that had held up.

One final thought: If the town really IS violating state law, the way it will play out is that the Attorney General will simply reject the new bylaw. There’s no liability or legal fees involved.

Comment from Ken Domino
Time: April 28, 2011, 8:12 am


Thank you so much for writing up the minutes of the meetings. I’m so glad you are on the BoS. No other selectman or town meeting member seems to be energetic enough to write these notes–very disappointing. While other web sites (,!/arltownmeeting and the town web site) have some information, this is the best source of information. It brings transparency to the process-who is saying what. (I just wish Arlington wasn’t so messed up.)

Comment from Michael Ruderman
Time: April 28, 2011, 9:24 am

If we fine unleashed dogs ever more heavily, someone will take the Town to court over it, much like increased fines for vehicular infractions have tied up local police in traffic courts. Were it my case, I’d ask the judge, look at the “peace and good order” statute–rather vague, and unspecifically directed; and now look at Ch. 140, sec. 173A–absolutely on point, written exactly to deal with unleashed dogs and their fines; tell me, judge, if there’s a conflict between the two statutes which one you think should prevail.

Comment from Sue Doctrow
Time: April 28, 2011, 9:39 am

@Dan, the state statute quoted by Michael Ruderman, Chapter 140, Section 173, limits fines relating to dog restraint to not more than $50 and, interestingly, also limits them to dogs kept within the town (leaving no recourse against the “out of towners” that are reportedly causing such crisis in certain parks:

So, even the current fines under Arlington’s Title VIII bylaw, prior to the increases voted last night, are inconsistent with this law. Even more interesting, to me, is that our bylaws in Title IV (Public Areas) ARE consistent with the law, limiting fines for violation of the leash law to “not more than fifty ($50) dollars” (Sec 11). One of the two questions I had wanted to ask last night, though debate was terminated before I was called, was which fine would take precedent in a public park? In any case, it appears that Arlington’s Title IV was designed to conform to the state law, while Title VIII was not. As John Worden advised me, this is just yet another example of inconsistent Town bylaws.

Comment from Sue Doctrow
Time: April 28, 2011, 9:44 am

To Michael’s point, it is interesting to note that the specific dog-related language appears to be part of state law under “PUBLIC SAFETY AND GOOD ORDER”!

Comment from Susan Ruderman
Time: April 28, 2011, 11:50 am

Town Meeting’s decision last night was based on emotion rather than good governance. Town Counsel has been wrong on other issues and I believe she will be proven incorrect on this matter too. No one thinks that what happened to the proponent’s mother was a good thing. But she could also have been knocked down by a *leashed* dog–or a child, or a crack in the sidewalk. If the law allowed fines of up to $400, why don’t we just increase *all* fines for every alleged misdeed to $400? Good for the town coffers, right? And so “educational”! We don’t do that because it is bad public policy–as is Town Meeting’s vote last night.

Comment from Vesna Maneva
Time: April 28, 2011, 8:43 pm

Article 23 – snow removal fines
So this bylaw will exempt the elderly? Is it legal to exempt a class of citizens? And what is the definition of elderly? What about people with disabilities, pregnant women, people with bad backs, unemployed / underemployed people with bad backs who can’t afford to pay someone else to clean the snow; etc etc?