Main menu:


Subscribe by email:

Delivered by FeedBurner



Site search

Town Meeting ’12, Session 8

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 opened with the Selectones singing God Bless America and the Star-Spangled Banner. Patsy Kraemer and Charlie Gallagher played the piano.

Town Moderator John Leone noted that we might finish tonight if things move speedily. He also gave another reminder on civility.


  • Harry McCabe missed a meeting and thanked everyone for the well-wishes.
  • Gary Hororwitz proposed a resolution in support of the Human Rights Commissions and its mission. John Leone ruled it out of order; he said that it was potentially controversial, and should be a warrant article. This sounds like an unfortunate misunderstanding between Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Leone.
  • Leslie Mayer Chairman of Parks and Recreation announced that the off-leash dog park at Thorndike will open on Monday May 21st at 6AM.

Article 3 taken from the table

  •  Gary Horowitz delivered the report of the Human Rights Commission.
  • Angela Olszewski gave the report of the Arlington Committee of Tourism and Economic Development.

Article 3 was tabled.

Article 27 – Transfer Of Real Property/Gibbs Junior High School – back from the table

Selectmen Kevin Greeley and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine explained that this is extending the lease with the current residents. Chris Loreti had several questions. School Superintendent Kathy Bodie explained that we might need it for swing space for Ottoson, and thus limited the extension to 3 years. He asked how long will the leases be? 3 years says Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine. Loreti wanted to know how early of notice of non-renewal the current occupants will get.

Article 14 – Liens-School Fees taken from the table

School committee, Selectmen, and FinComm all changed their vote to no action.  No action approved.

Article 47 – Special Education Reserve Account off the table

Al Tosti moved $500,000 from FY12 be moved to the special ed reserve account. Stephen Harrington spoke in favor. Moved unanimously.

Article 52 – Signage For Historic Sites was taken from the table.

Angela Olszewski talked about the purpose of the signage, the existing signage, and what ideas they have in mind. “Come for culture. Stay for Dinner.” She had a small amendment to include consultation with other historical groups. Clarissa Rowe talked about the signage and the price tag. Lawrence McKinney made a substitute motion that is very similar. He complained about lack of coordination between Tourism committee and Uncle Sam committee. His motion was ruled out of order because it was flawed. Bill Berkowitz moved an amendment to the vote that would increase the scope of the vote and increase the amount of money spent. Al Tosti supported Angela’s language change, but opposed to the monetary increase from Mr. Berkowitz. Mr. Tosti noted that tourism committee is well organized, and the money was not requested by them. Chris Loreti asked for whether or not Berkowitz’s amendment was in scope, and the moderator ruled Berkowitz’s motion to be out of scope of the warrant article.  The moderator gave a good explanation on why it was out-of-scope.  Warrant articles set the outer limits of what you can talk about.  This warrant article was written very narrowly (about signs) and included an amount of money ($20,000).  Berkowitz wanted more than signs, and more than $20,000, and that exceeded the warrant article.  It was asked where the signs would be. Loreti was opposed to spending money to support non-profit organizations. Hugh McCrory complained that ATED meetings don’t have punctual minutes. Debate is terminated by Gordon Jamieson. Angela’s amendment passed, and main motion passed.

Article 55 – Harry Barber Community Service Program

Ann Fitzgerald said this would reinstate the program. Voted unanimously.

Article 56 –  Appropriation/Uncle Sam Committee 2012

Elsie Fiorie spoke in support of the funding. Lawrence McKinney spoke in favor. McCrory terminated debate. Approved unanimously.

Article 57 – Arlington Senior Center

No action unanimously

Article 58 – Appropriation/Arlington High School Concussion Reduction Program

Stephen Harrington moved a substitute motion to appropriate $25,000 for helmets, pads, and collecting data on concussions. He gave a presentation on the rate of concussions in student athletes. He talked about older helmets in use in the town. He wants to replace more helmets, and to put in pads to make players less likely to use their helmets. He introduced Mr. Patterson of Arlington who has a company building a system to collect data on concussions.

We had a 10-minute break.

Al Tosti described the funding process of this – there were several hearings, the schools agreed to spend the money, and he didn’t understand why there was a motion to spend more.  He was opposed. Nathan Swilling moved to terminate debate; it received 107-58 in favor, but not 2/3, and terminate debate failed. Gordon Jamieson had questions about the legality of the vote. He was opposed to the spending. Edward Harris  talked about the inherent dangerousness of football, and was opposed to the spending. Joe Curren supports the spending – he wants to see what happens to kids in the field. He called the decision a “no brainer” – I saw more than one grin in the meeting. Diane Mahon moved to terminate the vote. Harrington’s motion went down 53-121.

Article 59 Pension Adjustment


Article 60 – Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund


Article 61 – Appropriation/Overlay Reserve


Article 62 Appropriation/Stabilization Fund


Article 63 Appropriation/Override Stabilization Fund


Article 64 Appropriation/Tip Fee Stabilization

Approved. Some of these votes in this string required 2/3, and some didn’t, but I didn’t capture which ones.  None of these votes were unanimous.  If I heard the “no’s” correctly, certain people were unhappy with losing earlier votes in the night, and were simply voting no on everything.

Article 65 – Transfer Of Funds/Cemetery


Article 66 – Use Of Free Cash


Article 67 – Vote/Flood Study Interlaken Neighborhood


Article 68- Vote/Geographic Information System (GIS)

John Belskis tried to make a motion, but it wasn’t in the proper form, and was ruled out of order.  Voted no action.  John is very persistent on this issue.  He doesn’t like the answer that he’s been given, and he keeps asking the question.  Someday he may even get the answer he’s looking for, but not until the town has more affordable housing than it does today.

Article 69 Vote/Rescind Eminent Domain Authoritymassachusetts Avenue Sidewalks

Mark Kapplein moved to table Article 69 so he could discuss Article 70 first, and the motion failed. Kapplein then moved a substitute motion that would reverse the vote of eminent domain. He said that the only way for the town meeting to stop the Mass Ave corridor project is to stop the eminent domain. He said the town was against the project. He said the project proponents had no data at all.  He wants to put the project on hold. Eric Berger spoke in support of the substitute motion. He thinks it will be bad for the town. He cited 94% opposition to the plan.  He raised a number of issues. Paul Schlictman is opposed to the substitute. Scott Smith explored the possible effects of delay. He went into details of the public process on the Mass Ave progress. Ed Trembley spoke against the Mass Ave project. Brian Rehrig terminated debate.  The substitute failed 40-132. No action was voted.

Article 70 Vote/Add Ballot Question On Mass. Ave.  Travel Lane Count

Mark Kapplein moved a substitute motion. He suggested that meetings on the issue were held in stealth. He said that there are hidden goals driving this plan. Kevin Greeley recommended no action and talked about the process of the project.  Mr. Greeley did get one thing wrong – the Selectmen could have put this on the ballot, but we voted not to. Charlie Foskett moved to terminate debate. Kapplein’s motion failed.  Voted no action.  The debates on 69 and 70 were both tedious – lots of long-winded speakers, lots of strawmen arguments, and a fair number of easily debunked claims were made.  And, in the end, the result is the same – most of the town thinks the project should go forward, and a vocal minority is opposed to it.  The good news is that next year, the speakers will be restricted to 7 minutes.

There was a motion to adjourn, and it failed.  We were on the home stretch, and people wanted to finish.

Article 71 Home Rule Legislation/Timothy Edward Flood

No action.

Article 72 Bylaw Amendment/Restrictions On The Use Of Outside Counsel

No action

Article 73   Resolution/Us Supreme Court Decision In Citizens United.

Dick Smith argued that Town Meeting should advocate overturning the Citizens United decision. Sean Harrington argued that Town Meeting shouldn’t consider the article. It was approved 109-42.  I did not vote on this article.  I think that it’s unnecessarily divisive to discuss national issues where there is little or no impact from our vote.

Article 38  Collective Bargaining

Al Tosti said this is to fund future collective bargaining.  Approved.

Town Meeting was dissolved.


Comment from Scott Smith
Time: May 17, 2012, 6:30 am

First, Dan, thank you for the public service that you provide by preparing these notes.

Regarding Article 52, bike path usage is actually quite a bit higher than the 1,000 indicated in the presentation. A 12-hour (7 AM – 7 PM) count on a nice Saturday last September revealed over 3,000 users, of which about 2,000 were cyclists. The weekday count revealed over 2,000 total users.

Comment from Mark Kaepplein
Time: May 17, 2012, 8:01 am

Regarding your comments on article 70: Sequencing of articles by Selectmen is designed to put most citizen motions last, at which point, the crowd, unfortunately has more interest in ending TM than considering issues, finding all tedious. The article saved for last, 38, handed out $900,000 without debate, unlike $20,000 so 4 historical/ educational sites are less hidden. Yet, for any investment, the return should be known. A business spending $20k on advertising has an idea how long before break-even.

Mr Greeley had an easily debunked claim concerning pedestrian safety. The two ped deaths 16 years ago both happened about an hour after sunset, thus lighting was the main issue as with many ped accidents. Within 10 years, Selectmen had addressed causes in those accidents with improved street lighting and bold, continental crosswalk markings far above standards.

What would most improve safety in the Mass Ave plan are raised medians, moving the Lake/Winter bus stops out of those intersections, and pedestrian activated crossing signals at crosswalks. Raised median may be challenged by this being a R2 resurfacing project.

We also must acknowledge the safety of 40x$4,000 added sidewalk lights in helping to reduce our street muggings, stabbings, and shootings – similar statistical improvement and cost/benefit performance as other claimed safety benefits. Changes are 99% cosmetic, excepting count down walk timers, a no brainer.

Comment from Peter Fuller
Time: May 17, 2012, 10:09 am

Another vote of thanks to Dan for his informative Town Meeting notes!

Regarding Mark Kaepplein’s apparent complaint that article 38 was saved for last to avoid debate on handing out $900K: the article sought funding for collective bargaining agreements (union contracts), but there were none when the article first came up, so the article was tabled by vote of the meeting, in case any such agreements were reached before the end of the meeting. No nefarious purpose here, this happens nearly every year. When the article was untabled, we voted $900K “to be set aside for funding future collective bargaining agreements….said sum shall not be expended without a further vote of Town Meeting.” So we didn’t exactly hand out the $900K, we merely laid down bounds within which we think the Town should negotiate with its unions.

Mark is absolutely correct that the Selectmen sequence the articles on the warrant, and I sometimes share his frustration that articles toward the end get short shrift when the members just want to finish and go home. Perhaps we should think about adopting the practice of the Town of Brookline, which holds two town meetings a year, one in the spring as required by state law (annual town meeting), and one in the fall (special town meeting called by their selectmen). This could avoid one long crowded tedious warrant in which articles at the end get less than deliberate attention of the meeting.

Comment from C Wagner
Time: May 17, 2012, 11:18 am

Thanks, Dan, for continuing to give us your notes to remind us what happened! I’d ask everyone reading them (even if you remember differently) to revel in Dan’s service he provides and to applaud him!

Carl Wagner
Pcnt 11

Comment from John Belskis
Time: May 17, 2012, 11:27 am

Dan, thanks again for your diligence in producing TM minutes. Just a couple of points about my not being able to present my amendment, on Monday I had sent the proposed amendment to the Moderator and he replied. What is disturbing is that he never even mentioned that my proposal was flawed. If he had done so I would have made the necessary changes.

Yes I am persistant about 40B, as I feel it has been represented as the provider of affordable housing when i my eyes it’s an abject failure after 43 years of no progress. As to Arlington’s position, If I had been allowed to speak I could have dramatically shown that we as a town have more than exceeded in this regard.

The point of my Warrant Article was that the 2006 Town Meeting did vote for a GIS / 40B study but its vote was usurped by the past Town Manager in not assigning participants to the voted study comittee.

I concur that during the Warrant hearing the BOS committed to perform the study but left it as the Town officials doing so with my participation. That’s not what TM voted in 2006!

I agreed to work with the GIS coordinator and Planning but in retrospect, I was uneasy that once again, it placed me as speaking for Town Meeting which is rather insulting to the past members that voted this issue.

Last but not least, this issue has been framed as anti affordable housing, which is far from the truth. It’s about a defective law which has been abused. I’d love to have a detailed discussion with you about 40B as your perception of my activities is not at all valid. Coffee and a conversation and I’ll buy?

Comment from Nathan Swilling
Time: May 17, 2012, 12:28 pm

As a newbie to Town Meeting, I’d also agree that two sessions would likely be better than one. My fear is that “work always expands to fill a vacuum” and that with two meetings, people will feel more comfortable talking longer, and repeating the same points more.

That said, I do see wide discrepancy with the amount of attention given to different issues. We can debate for quite a long time on very small issues, and then larger issues can be breezed over so quickly half the people don’t even know what we’re voting on. This is not unique to Town Meeting, as I’ve experienced the same thing in many, many other committees I’ve been a part of. Part of the nature of the beast, I think.

But, sometimes I wish there was some way of having a “non-partisan” memo about each warrant article that in as fair a way as possible, summed up the pros and cons of an article even before we debate it, as well as some way of vetting some of the technical questions about things ahead of time. I don’t want people not to ask questions, some times I think not enough questions were asked, but maybe there’s some way to do it more efficiently.

Pingback from Town Meeting rebuffs Mass. Ave. foes again « The Word on the Street
Time: May 17, 2012, 10:16 pm

[…] think Dan Dunn, who blogs about Town Meeting (among other things) summed things up pretty well when he said, The debates on 69 and 70 were both tedious – lots of long-winded speakers, lots of strawmen […]

Pingback from martial arts arlington ma. – Session 8: Meeting concludes by knocking out concussion article, backing Citizens United push – martial arts arlington ma.
Time: May 17, 2012, 11:01 pm

[…] Town Meeting with votes on a series of articles. For reporting and commentary, see Dan Dunn’s blog | Wes Beal on concussion effort Unofficial info on Twitter, Dan Dunn’s blog | […]