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Town Meeting ’11 – Session 5

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.

The meeting was called to order at 8:03.

Town Meeting Member Jane Howard played the piano and led the meeting in the Star-Spangled Banner.

Town Moderator John Leone said that he hoped we’d be done with Article 51 by the break, and if we’re not then we’ll convene the Special Town Meeting at the break.

The Moderator noted that things had gotten heated last week, and reminded everyone that Town Meeting was not a place for ad hominem attacks, and asked everyone to be polite. He apologized for a comment of his own last week.

The Moderator gave a significant statement about written notice of amendments and substitute motions. He put up the text of the written notice rule for everyone to review. He reminded everyone that the motivation was to keep people from proposing sweeping changes at the last minute that could have been shared earlier, and it was not to stifle debate. The rule is meant to advance debate. If the amendment is simple and easily understood, he will let it in. Town Meeting does not exist to ramrod recommended votes in the books. Town Meeting is to debate and create the best possible outcome. I could not agree with him more. I was very glad and thanked him for making this clarification.

We voted to come back Wednesday for the next meeting.


  • Cindy Friedman announced that Tuesday May 17 Senator Donnelly is hosting a budget forum. “Why Cuts In Service Should Matter To You.” Memorial Library in Lexington.
  • Harry McCabe. Appreciates the calls while he was out – he was fine.
  • Hugh McCrory. He wanted to thank Richard and Donald Briand  for repaving a sidewalk on Dundee Rd. Thanks to them. Town Meeting applauded.
  • Al Tosti. On the 11th the Superintendent of Minuteman School District will be here at 9am. He would like to take the budget out of order at that time.

Article 51, continued. Consolidated School and Town Finance.

John Maher briefly presented his modified amendment. He creates options. Jeff Thielman move to terminate debate. 108-73, not 2/3. John Deyst urged us to be less emotional and come together as a community. We need articles to be brought forward next year so that we can have a real debate. Joe Tully supported Mr. Maher’s amendment. He does not think we should tinker with the Treasurer’s department, though. Jim O’Conor likes the amendment and likes the debate. He’s proud of the fact that we’re taking this long on this important issue. Treasurer Stephen Gilligan reiterated his qualifications to be treasurer. He again accused the selectmen of having divisive and self-interested motives. I find it very unfortunate that Mr. Gilligan is unable to have a more dispassionate debate, one that is less personal and more focused on the facts of the debate. Mr. Gilligan asked for John Bilafer to have five minutes of time, but here were only 2 minutes remaining on the clock. John Bilafer asked for and received five minutes to speak. It’s very much of a sign of the respect that he’s held in that he was granted those five minutes. Most anyone else wouldn’t have been granted the request after 4 hours of debate. Mr. Bilafer reported about a treasurer’s race in the ’50s, and talked about the qualifications of treasurers. He argued that the treasurer was more than an administrator, and is a policy maker. He said that “allowing a study would disrupt the balance of power.” I think that is silly on the face of it. Studies don’t change the balance of power. Any power that can’t survive a study is already unworthy of the power it wields. About 70 people have asked to speak, about half of them have spoke already. Lyman Judd thinks that people are set in their ways. He wonders if we need an auditor. He moved no action. Cleinman moved the question. Passed 2/3 on voice vote (third time is the charm). Mr. Maher’s substitute passed 149-44. The main motion passed 128-69. I voted in favor of Mr. Maher’s substitute and the main motion.

Mr. Ruderman served notice of reconsideration.

Annual Town Meeting is declared in recess. The Special Town Meeting was opened.

We passed the seating rules for Special Town Meeting. (Same as regular town meeting – Town Meeting members and officials on the floor, visitors upstairs in the gallery).

The Town Clerk certified that the Special Town Meeting had been correctly called.

If the meeting is not done today, we’ll come back May 11.

Reports – Moderator said that the Finance Committee and Selectmen Reports are already accepted.

Article 2. Amendments to FY11 Budgets.

Christine Connolly explained how in FY11 that the Arlington Youth Services had restructured itself. They were doing more for-fee work, and are billing insurance companies. That results in a need to change the budget. In response to questions, we found out the waiting list has gone from 40 to 16 families. Two speakers in favor. Lyman Judd asked where the money for this budget came from. The question was already answered, and she repeated her answer that it was billing insurance companies. Article passed on voice vote.

Article 3. Arlington High Rehab.

Town Manager Brian Sullivan explained that there was a burst water pipe, and this was to cover the deductible under our insurance. Article passed on voice vote.

Article 4 and 5. Al Tosti moved to postpone to May 16 until Mr. Foskett is back in the country.

Article 6. Appropriation Unpaid Bills.

Superintendant of Schools Kathy Bodie explained that two invoices came in more than a year after services was rendered. This is to pay the bill – ordinarily you can’t do it after the fiscal year has closed. There was a question what happens if we say no – the answer is that they don’t get paid. A speaker was opposed to paying. There was a very detailed question about how many hours we were being asked to pay for and what the rate was. They are two, two-day arbitrations. There were questions about whether there was a contract or not. Lyman Judd suggested we send a sharp letter. Gordon Jamieson asked about the effect on the bond rating, and the answer was none. Two speakers were in favor of paying. A speaker asked for a policy so that this won’t happen again. This is where Town Meeting leaves the rails – there’s just no way you can make a policy to suggest someone not be dumb. We can’t enforce when someone sends a bill; we can only set a policy about what happens when a bill is sent late. We have a policy for that, and it’s outlined in state law. When someone sends a bill that late, it requires a vote. Town Meeting can’t set a reasonable policy on a $4000 bill in a $110,000,000 budget! We agreed to pay the bill, 175-10.

9:35 went on break.

Article 7. Easements by Eminent Domain.

Michael Rademacher, head of DPW, explained that in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Mass Ave Corridor, there will be the need to temporarily enter private property. Specifically sidewalks, steps, lawns, etc. that abut the project will be touched by the contractor. There are 6 permanent easements where there are handicap ramps that will need more room than they currently have. We’re not taking land taking, we’re just getting easements. The money comes from Chapter 90, but not the tax roles. There was a complaint against bumpouts. Scott Smith put up a number of photos showing the decaying condition of the sidewalks that are being replaced. Joe Connors suggested that if this is killed, then the Mass Ave Corridor project is killed. Everything I know says that’s incorrect. Paul Schlichtman says that Mr. Connors was incorrect. He said that the road is going to be done anyway. “Vote no if you want crappy sidewalks. Vote yes if you want good sidewalks.” Eric Berger suggested that there is no limit to the financial exposure. He thinks we can’t afford it. He said that the most irresponsible part of this is that the authorization is being given now, before project is approved. Harry McCabe sought clarification about what the vote we’re taking is – it was clarified that it’s listed as Article 58/Special Town Meeting Article 7, page 26 of the Selectmen’s report. Mark Streitfeld pointed out that the vote doesn’t appropriate money, and the concerns of previous speakers about the cost were moot. There was continued debate about whether or not stopping this would stop the Mass Ave project. Adam Auster pointed out that we did this last year when we re-did the sidewalk at Dallin School. He asked everyone including the Mass Ave Corridor opponents to vote yes so that pedestrians and businesses can get first class treatments. Mr. Cook says that the “selectmen want this money like he wants wings on game day.” I disagree with his characterization. I want the improvements the money brings, and I want to bring them without impacting the town budget. I’m splitting a hair, I suppose, but I like my motives better than the motives that Mr. Cook suggests I have. The ramps are ADA compliant. Mr. Logan thinks we don’t need the easements. Town Manager said that we have a million dollars in state money to do the sidewalks, and if we don’t use their appropriation, we’ll have to appropriate the money ourselves anyway. We owe it to East Arlington and the town taxpayers to get this done, he said. Paul Bayer moved the question. Terminated debate by voice vote. Passed 135-32.

The Special Town Meeting is then recessed.

The Town Moderator admonished Lyman Judd for repeated outbursts and meeting interruptions. I think this was appropriate. The moderator has given Mr. Judd a number of warnings, and Mr. Judd continues to act as if the rules of the meeting are beneath him. If we all acted like Mr. Judd, the meeting would never be in order.

Article 18 – PODS/Dumpsters, continued.

Chair of the Selectman Clarissa Rowe reported that the Board of Selectmen have voted to set the fee for PODS and dumpsters at $24. A number of speakers on the list passed, then Annie LaCourt moved to terminate debate. Terminated by voice vote. Amendment passed by voice vote. Approved, as amendment, by voice vote.

Article 21 – Closing of Warrant.

Town Meeting Procedures Committee member James O’Conor proposed a substitute motion. He wants a bylaw to say when the warrant opens (early December) and closes (late January). He went into the history of the debate of the issue in Town Meeting.

Al Tosti gave notice of reconsideration for articles 2, 3, and 6 of the Special Town Meeting.

We voted to adjourn.


Comment from TMM
Time: May 10, 2011, 8:57 am

Lyman Judd has to go. I hope the moderator continues to address his rudeness.

Comment from Lily
Time: May 10, 2011, 9:13 am

The Moderator was out of line, publicly chastising Lyman Judd, an adult and long time Town Meeting Member. This incident speaks volumes about the Moderator’s ability to perform his duties.

An effective leader in the Moderator’s role should be able to convince an outspoken, elected representative as to the proper decorum. Perhaps, if this Moderator was more respectful of the membership and not refer to many as “dude”, crack jokes, ram through late night votes on controversial articles and speak impatiently to others, like he did to Don Marquis in an earlier session, members might show him proper respect and abide by his ad-hoc rules.

Democracy is messy, dictatorship is efficient. Town Meeting should strike a balance. The public chastising of an elected representative pushes the pendulum the wrong way.

Comment from TMM
Time: May 10, 2011, 9:51 am

If you’re not happy with the moderator; you can run for the job yourself. However the whole TM should not be subjected to Mr. Judd’s histrionics, regardless of how long he has been in TM.

Comment from Adam
Time: May 10, 2011, 11:16 am

All of us in Town Meeting are obliged to follow the rules. That’s how we work together. The Moderator did not admonish Mr. Judd for his views, but for his conduct. That’s part of the Moderator’s job.

Lilly, democracy is messy. I’m not sure about dictatorship being efficient. Being harangued by someone who constantly interrupts, speaks out of turn, and refuses to accept the votes of Town Meeting is a kind of dictatorship of its own that can be tremendously harmful to democracy if unchecked.

Mr. Judd has the right to speak at Town Meeting and is not at all shy about exercising it. That’s as it should be, but he should stop trying to claim rights he does not have–that no member has.

Comment from Out of the country
Time: May 10, 2011, 11:25 am

Is it too much to ask Mr. Foskett to schedule his vacation around town meeting…he is the Vice Chair of FinCom after all and there are lots of issues that require his attendance that are either being postponded for weeks at a time or debated in his absence.

While I may not agree with Mr. Fosket on everything, his presence is needed to move some of these things along.

That said – if he’s say… serving in the National Guard I withdraw my comment.

Comment from Alan Jones
Time: May 10, 2011, 12:39 pm

To “Out of the country”: Charlie is the CEO of a growing company with customers all over the world. He needs to travel on business frequently. He volunteers more than his fair share of time to the citizens of Arlington, and we are all fortunate that he does.

Comment from Greg
Time: May 10, 2011, 1:30 pm

I think that the Moderator has done all he can to reign in Mr. Judd and was appropriate in giving him clear limits, though in his exasperation, the Moderator did pass the line into rudeness once last night. I could not do his job! I think Moderator Leone needs to reign in debate to focus more tightly on the warrant article at hand. Too often TMMs get too far afield of the Article and start discussing the Mass Av. Corridor Project instead of easments, or defense of Mr.Gilligan/attacking the school department rather than discussing the merits of studying town/school consolidation. A challenging but critical line for the Moderator to invoke.

Pingback from Muddled attempt to stop Mass. Ave. fails at Town Meeting « The Word on the Street
Time: May 10, 2011, 1:48 pm

[…] Dunn has posted an abbreviated account of the debate on this article at his blog. (It is Article 7, and begins a little bit past the halfway point in his post.) Copying […]

Comment from Gordon Jamieson
Time: May 10, 2011, 4:59 pm

Minuteman .. 9am .. Now that’s taking things out of order :]

Comment from Gordon Jamieson
Time: May 10, 2011, 5:07 pm

Dan .. In that we moved and passed that we would come back on the 11th to complete Special TM business not completed on Monday .. Do we need to open/recess the Special TM then so that we can declare May 16th as the date when we will again resume the Special in order to take care of Foskett’s STM articles?????

Comment from Grant Cook
Time: May 10, 2011, 11:08 pm

I hope we’ll be glad we did not prevail.. but more expectant that we’ll be sad we did not.

If local decision making is a keystone of well-thought out plans, I do have a hard time believing the state can impose a few dozen requirements and not corrupt the process. The 55mph speed limit was a badly thought out federal decision forced upon the states, perhaps bike lanes in this case are a poor decision forced upon the town, but required by fiat..

But your motives, Dan, I believe are getting the money.. many of the improvements are for sure needed. But have y’all really modified this project to also address resident’s concern? I would say no.. cut through traffic remediation falls into the “that’s out of scope” argument… but cut-through traffic is serious to my neighborhood. So welcome to being a selectmen – what’s your answer?

Comment from Hugh
Time: May 12, 2011, 8:12 am

Thanks for making the Dundee Rd Sidewalk corrections.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 12, 2011, 10:56 pm

Gordon – Interesting question, but I don’t think it really matters. Any TMM is getting good notice about when to show up.

Grant – Yes, the project plans have been modified a number of times in response to input from neighbors and others. Compare the original drafts to the latest drafts – there are a number of changes. Of course, I know we haven’t satisfied everyone. But it’s really easy to prove that input was received and the plan was modified to accommodate the input. It made the plan better.

I’m not exactly sure what you’re looking for on “what’s your answer?” I agree the plan doesn’t solve cut through traffic, or backups on Lake St., or backups on Rte 16, or backups on Rte 60. There are many things it doesn’t solve. The question is, does the plan leave the neighborhood better off than it was before? As good as you can reasonably hope for the money being spent? I think the answer is yes.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 12, 2011, 10:56 pm

Hugh – thanks for pointing out the error.

Comment from Carl
Time: May 17, 2011, 12:11 am

article execution! Ha! Thanks for noticing 🙂

I tonight tried to ask the moderator for a way that we might see on the overhead projector the current list of speakers, both so TMMs could tell where/if they are on the list and also how large the list has grown on any issue. Perhaps kind souls could be called upon to speak no more than 2 mins after the initial proponents/opponents have spoken. Perhaps we could take a straw poll to see if a huge majority already is for or against a given motion at 15, 30 , 45 mins into a question…

Comment from Peter Fuller
Time: May 17, 2011, 2:34 pm

Carl – The previous moderator’s practice was to announce how many names were on the list of speakers before taking a vote on a motion to terminate debate. Members could take this info into account when deciding how to vote. The present moderator has abandoned this practice.

Before the rules were changed in (I think) 1999, speakers got 15 minutes instead of the present 10, so things sometimes really droned on: some speakers would grace us with their oratory for the full 15!