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Town Meeting ’12, Session 6 and Special Town Meeting #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.

Town Meeting Member Charles Gallagher played the national anthem on the piano and the members sang along.

In Moderator John Leone’s opening remarks, he noted the progress we had made so far, and were likely to finish the Special Town Meeting tonight “if we finish the discussion on Article 10 ad infinitum.”

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Kevin Greeley moved that the meeting will resume Monday May 14, and it was approved.


  • Gordon Jamieson made a detailed description of the Community Collection Day this May 12 9am to 1pm. Read more details on the town website.
  • Steve DeCourcey announced that the Arlington High Girls Tennis team was selling baked goods in the hall.
  • Christian Klein reported from the Friends of Robbins Farm Park: this Saturday at 4PM they are celebrating the return of the hillslides.
  • Mark Kaepplein recounted a recent health scare at his neighbor’s house. He complimented and thanked our public safety employees. There was a long round of applause.

Article 3 – Reports was taken off the table.

  • We heard the report of the Tree Committee. He talked about their work and pointed out their website,
  • Jane Howard gave the report of the Vision 2020 committee, including noting the results of the annual survey.

The moderator reminded committees that are no longer active to come to town meeting and ask to be dissolved.

Article 3 was tabled.

The moderator declared regular Town Meeting to be recessed, and re-opened the Special Town Meeting.

Kevin Greeley set the date for the meeting to be resumed to be May 14. This ended up being moot, as we dissolved the special meeting tonight.

Article 10        Bylaw Amendment/Rubbish Collection, continued

Bill Kaplan moved an additional amendment. He did not believe this is really a problem, so he proposed that people have additional hours to bring trash back in from the curb.  There was a motion to terminate debate which carried.  Scott Smith said he liked Kaplan’s amendment better. This was technically extending the debate after debate was terminated, but it did help the voting considerably.  There was no longer a real risk of two somewhat contradictory amendments being passed.  Smith’s amendment went down by voice vote. Kaplan’s amendment was approved 137-40.  Main motion -was approved 133-48.

Article 1 was taken from the table.

Special Town Meeting was dissolved.  The regular Town Meeting was resumed.

Al Tosti moved to take Articles 44-46 from the table because the Minuteman Superintendent is here.

Article 44 – Appropriation/Court Judgment In Favor Of Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District

Mary Ellen Bilafer moved a substitute motion. John Bilafer chair of the Arlington Retirement Board spoke in explanation of the motion.  He talked about the circumstances of the $785,000 court judgment against the retirement board. Arlington administered the retirement for Minuteman for the first 10 years. The courts ruled that Arlington was required to assume the burden of the retirement cost of those employees for those 10 years. There is no option but to pay. However, by making the payment over 10 years time, that could save the town money. The purpose of the substitute motion is to put the payment in the town’s hands, and the town is more likely to get the 10 year payment agreement. The town has leverage where the retirement board does not.  Al Tosti said that the Finance Committee supports the substitute motion as the best option available. After a question, Mr. Bilafer said they had appealed the decision, but lost the appeal, and their lawyer said there was no sense in appealing further.  Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate, and it was. Ms. Bilafer’s substitute motion was substituted by voice vote. The substitute motion was then approved unanimously.

Article 45 – Minuteman Appropriation

Stephen DeCourcey is the Finance Committee’s representative to Minuteman, and he introduced the article. He noted that this year’s Minuteman assessment is up considerably. One of the biggest drivers of that increase is that Arlington’s fraction of students went from 26% to 32% of member town students. He noted a 4.97% increase in total budget at the school. He pointed out Laura Morrissette, Arlington’s representative to the Minuteman School Committee. He introduced Minuteman Superintendent Ed Bouquillon. Dr. Bouquillon referred to the previous Article 44 in his opening remarks: he said that he would work on settling the judgment with the two retirement boards (Arlington and Minuteman). Dr. Bouquillon walked the meeting through the proposed budget. He talked about achievements and improvements at the school in the last year. Charlie Foskett, speaking for himself, moved a substitute motion that would reduce the Minuteman appropriation by $700,000. He said that the Minuteman regional agreement is awful for Arlington. He noted that the awful agreement made votes like this.  He asked that Town Meeting send message to the Selectmen and FinCom to change the Minuteman agreement. He likes Minuteman, and had high praise for Bouquillon. He compared the agreement to the old NESWC agreement. He noted that part of the increase in Arlington’s assessment was because of a change in savings rate by Minuteman. Minuteman did it because we have no control, and they knew they could.   He said the Selectmen and FinCom have failed to block the feasibility study. Outlined changes needed in the regional agreement – proportional votes, capital allocation, exit agreement.  He said that we had to say no now because in two years the plan will have too much momentum and we’ll give in.

We had a 10 minute break.

Al Tosti said that  we’re discussing more than one issue, but we’re only voting on one.  We should only vote on this one.  He said if you support Charlie you’ll cost the town money when we do a special town meeting, because we will be forced to pay the full amount.  He noted that change to the regional agreement requires unanimous votes of the towns.  He noted that the FinComm supported the feasibility study 12-5 and Selectmen 4-1.  He said we need the scope and materials  from the feasibility study to sell the building to new towns, or we’re never going to get the changes.  He said vote no on substitute for practical and forward looking. Bill Hayner: was the feasibility money voted already?  yes, in 2010.  Superintendent: 40% of students are non-member.  Arlington is 32% of the member towns’ students.  We cannot charge non-member students for capital costs, but we are trying.  Chaput: schools is in good shape.  We need the school, and the programs it makes.  Paul Schlictman – they’ve made progress, but the governance is still broken.  Support the budget, but don’t vote on a capital plan without a change.  He noted that  13 of 16 towns have already voted yes.  Voting no is a moot point and muddy message.  Leo Doherty moved to terminate debate, by 119-51 vote is terminated (it required 2/3 vote, and it met 2/3).  Foskett amendment was defeated.  Main motion approved.  I had a pretty good speech for this, but I didn’t get up before the vote.  Probably just as well!  If I’d gotten up, I wanted to focus on a key point from Charlie Foskett’s presentation.  I agree with the vast majority of things that he said.  The place I disagreed was that he said we had to say no now.  I disagree.  The reason it has to be now is if you believe we can’t say no in two years; I believe we have the necessary backbone to say no.  The reason to delay the no is that it will be easier to get a satisfactory outcome if we have a feasibility study in hand.  We can use that study as the carrot to get other towns into the system and make the system viable.  My final point was about the concept of “sending a message.” I’m confident that Minuteman has gotten the message.  Candidly, I think they have a very difficult road.  I think it is unlikely that there will be a plan in two years that we can agree to.  But I think the feasibility study is the best chance we have.

Article 46 – Vote/Establish Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School Stabilization Fund

Al Tosti noted that enough towns had already approved this, so our vote didn’t matter.  Still, we voted no action.  We’re overruled, but we still think it’s a bad idea.

Article 32, Again

A motion to reconsider was made by Andrew Fischer.  He wants to ask everyone to stop talking about financial restructuring because some people don’t like the idea.  He claimed the DoR report was biased and prejudiced.  He said the discussion is draining, so we shouldn’t have it.  Al Tosti noted that the DoR studied what we asked them to.  We didn’t ask them to study the Retirement Committee.  He noted that there are parts of the report, like water-sewer offsets, that are already being implemented, and we shouldn’t ignore the report.  Ted Peluso: we need to look at this.  Town Reorganization Committee voted  4-1-4 to accept the report – 4 accept except parts referring to appointed/elected officials, and 1 voted accept unconditionally.  John Worden says the DoR is prejudiced, and they were out to get the treasurer.  He accused the DoR of lying about the treasurer.  I get the strong impression that there was an organized campaign to get Town Meeting to accept two statements as fact.  The thing is, nothing becomes true simply because it is repeated.  I think there is a lot more to say on the two issues: 1) whether or not the DoR was prejudiced in its report and 2) how much of the override savings fund was lost in the stock market.  Nathan Swilling move to terminate debate.  Debate was terminated.  Reconsideration failed.  This was one of the oddest motions I’ve ever seen.  I’ve never seen someone try to get Town Meeting to ask people to stop talking.  I find it unreasonable to pretend that everything is OK by not talking about the issue.  Many of us in town (myself included) think that the current system needs to be improved.  I’m going to keep talking about that. I’m going to be polite, I’m going to be professional, and I’m going to be persistent.  I will not be quiet simply because some people find the issue uncomfortable.  

Article 25  –  Bylaw Amendment/Leaf Blower Regulation

This article had been postponed.  Carol Band made a substitute motion to ban gas-powered leaf blowers.  She talked about noise and pollution. She compared leaf blowers to secondhand smoke.  She cited other communities that have restricted leaf blowers.  She compared this action to banning burning leaves.  Arlington landscaper Eli Garzon talked about how he doesn’t use leaf blowers.  There was some confusion because the amendment version Juliana Rice had was different than what Moderator read, but it was resolved.  Tommy Caccavaro said that it will cost more to get your lawn cleaned if this is passed.  He talked about other noise sources that are worse.  Janice Brodman was opposed to the substitute motion, and she contradicted some of the earlier statements about other communities based on her phone calls.  Jeremy Marin gave a presentation about the health hazards of leaf blowers.  He talked about dust, herbicides, lead paint, poop, and other particulates that are blown around by leaf blowers.  He closed saying “If I threw herbicide and feces in your open window, you’d have me arrested” and compared that to leaf blowing.  Jeremy was kind enough to email his notes, if you’re interested.  You can download the three files here, here, and here.

We adjourned for the night.

So, it’s time to start playing the annual game of “when will Town Meeting end?”  I looked at the rest of the warrant, and I picked 5/21.  But some people I talked to think it might be as early as 5/16.


Comment from Adam Auster
Time: May 10, 2012, 8:48 am

When Town Meeting first took up the so-called financial-consolidation issue last year, it debated for a night and a half before voting to authorize the DOR study.

It wasn’t much of a discussion, substantively, because we had no concrete proposal before us. For that reason, I only exercised my listening skills. But passions ran high.

As it happens, I paid particular attention to Andrew Fischer’s remarks at the time. They made a great impression on me. I could probably recap some of his comments accurately even a year later.

So it is particularly ironic that having spoken his piece Fisher wanted to shut down debate and not hear anyone else.

The discussion is not over. Some of us still have something to say.

I want to ask Mr. Fischer to extend to me the same open-minded attentive listening that he received. It’s how we are supposed to do things at Town Meeting.

Comment from Anne DiNoto
Time: May 10, 2012, 9:24 pm

What’s the best way to connect about the leaf-blower issue?

Comment from Nathan Swilling
Time: May 14, 2012, 3:41 pm

I would be interested in hearing why the proponents of the article exempted electric leaf blowers, and also why the bylaw only applies to the use of gas powered leaf blowers on private property. All of the arguments they propose would seem to apply to both electric leaf blowers as well as the use of leaf blowers on public property.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 14, 2012, 4:45 pm

@Adam I have very similar thoughts.

I can give a decent answer on the gas, but I don’t know about the public property. On the gas: This was a 10-voter article, meaning it came from a citizen petition. I believe that original petition included the words “gas powered.” That phrase then carried through into the warrant. Once the warrant was published, it narrowly defined the scope of the article as “gas powered.” The proponents clearly wanted to ban them all, including gas, but were constrained by the warrant.