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Special Town Meeting – Fall 2012

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.

It was busy outside Town Meeting tonight.  There were a lot of people and a lot of signs – leaf blower and November election both.  Inside, there were dozens of viewers in the gallery.

Jane Howard played the piano and we sang the National Anthem.

Moderator John Leone asked for a moment of silence for several town meeting members and town volunteers who had passed away in the last year.  He announced his intention to do the finance articles first, then the leaf blowers.

Selectman Kevin Greeley missed the meeting.  He had surgery on Saturday.  That makes me acting chairman.  I moved the regular motion about seating rules.  The only people allowed “on the floor” are Town Meeting Members and various officials; guests and observers should watch from the balcony.  It was my observation that this rule was well observed at this meeting.

It was certified that the meeting was legally called.

I moved that if we didn’t finish, we would reconvene at 8pm on the 15th.  Thankfully, this was moot.

Announcements

  • Carol Kowalski announced that next week, on the 17th at 7pm, the Master Plan kickoff meeting will be held.
  • Hugh McCrory – Uncle Sam statue is lit.
  • Gordon Jamieson – Community Collection day is November 17th.
  • Charles Simas tried to make a motion at this point, but it was ruled out of order.
  • Adam Chapdelaine reported the sad news that former Deputy Town Manager Nancy Galkowski has pancreatic cancer, and invited people to contact him and coordinate our contact with her.  I am crushed by this news.  Nancy is a wonderful person, and she contributed so much to Arlington in the decades that she worked here.  I wish her good health as she battles this terrible disease.

Article 1 – Reports

  • I moved that the Selectmen’s report be received
  • Charlie Foskett moved that the Finance Committee report be received.

Charlie Foskett moved that the motions contained in the reports be the main motions for each article.  This vote is very quick and easy, but it’s very important.  For new town meeting members the importance is not obvious.  If we didn’t make this motion, at the start of every article, the Moderator would have to call on someone to start the debate process by making a motion under that article, then find a second for the motion, etc.  Instead, through this vote, we automatically start each article with a motion already made and ready for debate.  That becomes key later on.  For instance, in Article 3, the main motion was the Selectmen’s vote of No Action.

Charlie Foskett moved to table Articles 1, 2 and 3.  This carried by voice vote. Mark Kaepplein asked for a roll call vote, but there was no support.

Charles Simas moved to bring up article 3 first (which we had just tabled).  The motion failed on voice vote.  Mark Kaepplein asked for a roll call again, again without support.  I was mystified by these roll call requests.  The order of the article consideration didn’t seem like it was worth fighting about.

Article 4 – Budget FY13 Adjustments

Finance Committee Vice-Chair Charlie Foskett explained that the proposed change is an advance to the school department. We stop collecting kindergarten fees ($970k). The state pays us $1.4 million per year more in the future.  Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine explained that this change improves the long term financial plan. John Leonard had a question about what a “qualified” student was. He supports the change. Stephen Harrington moved to terminate debate. Debate terminated on voice vote. Approved on voice vote.

Article 5 – Collective Bargaining

Charlie Foskett emphasized that this vote is moving previously appropriated money, not actually spending new money.  Adam Chapdelaine proposed an amendment (a new union agreement) and explained the rationale for the raises.  Stephen Harrington moved to terminate debate.  I was really torn on this vote to terminate debate. I generally think debate is good and healthy. That said, this article is a bit of a slam dunk. 96-98 the vote to terminate failed (requires 2/3 vote).  Mark Kaepplein argued that overall wages had gone up less than 2%, why so much for town employees?  Adam Chapedelaine answered that over 6 years the average wage increase is 2%. He also said the compensation survey will give us more information. Has turnover been high? No, he said.   Annie LaCourt asked and was answered that yes all of these raises are in line across unions.  She noted the health care sacrifices employees had made. Ted Paluso said he was trusting the finance committee. He also noted the room has “energy to get to the fight” about leaf blower.  He was disappointed. Finance Committee member John Deyst asked the meeting to remember that we are saving money because the employees went into the GIC, and the raises are consistent with the 5 year plan. Peter Fuller: were the contracts ratified by the unions? Yes they were. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate, which carried on voice vote. The amendment passed. Main motion passed.

Article 6 – Thompson School

Charlie Foskett explained that this moves the money earlier than would otherwise happen.  Approved unanimously.

Charlie Foskett moved to take Articles 2 and 3 off the table.

Articles 2 and 3 – Leaf Blowers

The moderator announced that Articles 2 and 3 would be debated and then voted together.  He believes that they are too linked to be reasonably debated separately.  I thought that decision made a lot of sense.

I gave my speech on behalf of the Board of Selectmen.  We asked that Town Meeting show patience.

Adam Auster moved an amendment that modified what the committee should examine.  He said the issue needs compromise.  Chris Loreti moved an amendment full of procedural changes.  He supports moving the issue to committee.  Laurence McKinney moved an amendment to encourage ear protection. Stephen Harrington moved a substitute motion for Article 3 that would repeal the ban passed last spring.  He said he would rather not be here tonight, and had better things to do.  Harrington said the selectmen refused to talk to homeowners.  I thought it was a bit disingenuous of Mr. Harrington to say that he had better things to do even though he was the one who petitioned to have the meeting held.  Furthermore, his statement that selectmen “refused to talk to homeowners” is clearly untrue.  I can think of at least three meetings in the last year where citizens were invited to speak on the issue – there are probably more.  It is true that Mr. Harrington has not been permitted to speak every time that he has wished to.  He has spoken at selectmen meetings, but not as often as he would like.   Mr. Harrington said that if the ban is not overturned, the negotiations would fail. He said if the ban is not overturned, “we’ll be back in 45 days.” Robert Jefferson said yes on committee, yes on overturning the ban.  He invited town resident and landscaper Gary Tibbetts to speak.  Tibbetts said he would compromise, but since we’ve got a meeting, he would ask us to overturn. Tibbetts then showed pictures of the home of a leaf blower ban proponent and said the problem was that ban proponents were using bad gardening techniques.  I thought this was just appalling.  I tend to agree with Tibbetts – the leaf blower ban goes too far.  But this was just an awful attack, very personal, and very far from the real argument.  Tibbetts should have stuck to his better arguments.  As it was, he simply looked mean, and he lost votes for his cause.  Lyman Judd complained that he is not on the list yet. Jeanne Leary is concerned about noise pollution.  She thinks we should look at the big picture, not just leaf blowers. Selectman Diane Mahon noted that we have ear protection for employees using blowers. She supports the Auster amendment. She is worried about Loreti’s amendment.  She said this is a divisive issue that needs more time.  Mr. Radochia thinks we need a deeper compromise. He was disappointed that the debate has moved to a level of childhood bickering. Bill Moyer said he voted yes last time, but if he’d known how much rancor it would generate, he would have voted no.  He said he may vote to repeal in the spring.  But he won’t vote to repeal tonight.  He doesn’t like that people were brought back to vote without a compromise to consider. Lyman Judd accused the moderator of trying to restrict debate.  He said that the ban passed because some “good citizens did nothing.”  This is another speaker who went too far.  Reasonable people can disagree on this issue.  It is not appropriate or prudent to make passing statements that those who want to ban leaf blowers are evil.  He thinks we should overturn the ban.  John Maher spoke, and said that he regrets the vituperative nature of the debate and uncivil discourse.   He wants to repeal the ban.  Mr. Maher gave a shining example of how to debate.  I disagree completely with what he said.  But we can disagree and work together without the animosity.  Andy O’Brien talked about the emissions of leaf blowers: more than a pickup truck.  Gordon Jamieson supported the ban the first time around, and will again. John Deyst said he was amazed at rancor.  He believes that the summer grass on a driveway is just as easily done with a broom. David Bean moved to terminate debate.  It was terminated by voice vote. Auster amendment passes 155-39.  Loreti amendment approved by voice vote. 92-95 McKinney’s fails. The main motion passed, creating the committee, 156-43.  For Article 3, substituting Harrington’s motion to repeal failed 91-106 on a standing vote.  40 people stood up and asked for a roll call vote. The roll call vote took more than 30 minutes, and the final count was 95-110.  The main motion of no action passed.

The meeting was dissolved.

Comments

Comment from Mark Kaepplein
Time: October 11, 2012, 3:12 am

Dan, please note the correct spelling of my name, which is also correct on TMM lists.

Gary Tibbets point was that last year’s presentation by a professional political strategist and novice gardener were deceptive. The picture was cropped and timed to lead viewer to assume the lead contamination came from leaf blowers. It could have come from rain runoff from the barn right next door, but rain wasn’t displayed in the picture. Tibbets showed great restraint in not saying TM was fooled by the presentation and testing of a vegetable chosen to highlight lead levels in a garden whose position was chosen closest to a building with lead paint.

What I found most appalling were TM members not respecting the wishes of voters by voting to keep a ban in place. Shame on them and I hope they are aptly rewarded come re-election time.

Comment from Mark Kaepplein
Time: October 11, 2012, 3:24 am

The point of asking for roll calls is simply for elected officials to be accountable to voters. Taking article 3 first and alone would have allowed TM to respect the wishes of voters who clearly expressed a mandate, and then business could move on to other articles. Asking for roll calls was also foreshadowing to TM that they would be on record instead of voting nearly anonymously. I am eager for electronic voting and records of all votes.

Comment from Richard Pelletier
Time: October 11, 2012, 12:45 pm

“I thought this was just appalling. I tend to agree with Tibbetts – the leaf blower ban goes too far. But this was just an awful attack, very personal, and very far from the real argument. Tibbetts should have stuck to his better arguments. As it was, he simply looked mean, and he lost votes for his cause.”

Let’s take your first comment above “”I thought this was just appalling. I tend to agree with Tibbetts – the leaf blower ban goes too far”

Why would you say that the leaf blower ban goes too far but yet continue to vote “no action” in selectman meetings and NO in a TM to overturn it?

As far as the comments about Mr. Tibbetts presentation, I am not sure how the pictures from Mr. Tibbetts were apalling. He was trying to disprove the “money shot” pictures that the proponents used in getting the ban passed in the first place. The homeowner used his vegetable garden as proof that the town needed a ban, so once he/she does that, then that “evidence” is fair game in any counter evidence claims. To label it an attack is wrong and accusatory. I can argue that the whole ban is an attack on the citizens of Arlington.

TM did not take Mr. Tibbetts very well presented evidence that the vegetable garden could have very well been contaminated by the barn or paint from the house next door which could have already contaminated the ground long ago into consideration. As far as it being personal, you are correct, this is a very personal debate, because the town is taking a citizen’s right to use their personal property on their private property. It does not get more personal than that.

Until the town has electronic voting, a roll call is the only way for voters to know who really has their best interest in mind and which TMM’s do not.

Comment from Glenn Koenig
Time: October 11, 2012, 3:23 pm

I am also sorry there is so much rancor over this issue. And the cost to the town has been considerable.
The vote in July keeps being brought up, but I know many people who wanted to keep the restrictions but were confused about what the 20% meant. They thought the total number of voters had to be over 20% not just the ‘no’ votes. So they stayed away from the polls on purpose, hoping to keep the total vote below 20%.
This skewed the results towards the ‘no’ side. Now those who voted ‘no’ are saying that the results reflect the will of the people and I disagree strongly. I don’t think the ratio of the vote in July is at all accurate.
I know some people will blame those voters for being short sighted, but in the short time we all had to understand how this very unusual election worked, there was bound to be confusion. After all, many votes on ballot questions are counter-intutitive based on wording, etc.

Comment from nora
Time: October 11, 2012, 3:40 pm

I can’t really get past the news about Nancy Galkowski. Crushed, as you noted, is a god word. How terribly sad. Our community just lost two terrific members to pancreatic cancer just this year (that I know of) and many more in the past. Nancy served our community so well. It makes me think that the rancor and divisiveness is even more troubling in light of what really counts – health, family, and community. Peace.

Comment from DON RICKTER
Time: October 11, 2012, 3:43 pm

Global Climate Change is a serious issue. We can cut greenhouse
gas emissions by refraining from the use of unnecessary gasoline
engines. Our planet is getting warmer and dryer because of emissions of methane, carbon dioxide, and some other gases. Each
of us can help if we look at the big, world-wide picture.

Comment from Lily Reardon
Time: October 11, 2012, 7:54 pm

I agree with Mr. Richter, global warming is real and any reduction, such as a ban on gas powered anything is good enough for me. Congratulations, Mr. Dun, for taking such a principled stance on this issue.

Mr Richter also correctly identifies methane as a major, man made green house gas that must be reduced since it has 25 times the effect on global warming as carbon dioxide. More than half of all methane is produced by the human consumption of livestock.

I hope that Town Meeting take this import, next step and ban the sale of meat and dairy in Arlington. A vegan diet is not only healthier for the body, but also is healthier for our embattled planet.

Comment from Mike
Time: October 11, 2012, 10:19 pm

Mark Kaepplein – at 40 minutes per roll call, you can’t have EVERYTHING go to one.

Richard Pelletier – Dan and the rest of the Selectmen get that this is a divisive issue. 2600+ people voted to uphold TMM’s April vote (in the election that Glen describes), so it’s not just one neighbor. The BoS were getting both sides to the table to hammer out their differences, and now that will continue. And Dan’s choice of the word “appalling” is spot on, but Mr. Tibbets didn’t craft the attack, he just delivered it.

“Lily Reardon” – Good evening, Mr. Harrington.

Comment from Mark Kaepplein
Time: October 11, 2012, 10:56 pm

Glenn & Don, I’ve asked how much greenhouse gas will be produced by the Mass Ave project and gotten no answers. Repaving the road instead of replacing all 2 miles+ of concrete sidewalk and granite curbing will greatly reduce how much CO2 is produced by producing materials, disposing current materials, and construction efforts. A few 50cc leaf blower engines pale in comparison. The EPA continues to tighten pollution restrictions as it did for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and big trucks. In the mean time, don’t heat your house with gas, oil, or wood heat – only use your solar panels, geothermal, windmill, or bicycle powered generator for all your energy.

Dan, Steve Harrington did the administration a great favor. He moved the kindergarten tuition question before anyone got a chance to ask why school or town finance officials had not saved parents $1M a year, 5 years sooner, or why a motivated parent had to find the savings.

Pingback from Leaf-blower committee supported as repeal fails – Rise of the Right
Time: October 13, 2012, 9:33 am

[…] facts, less opinion: Dan Dunn’s blogMore opinion, fewer facts: […]

Comment from Peter Fuller
Time: October 13, 2012, 10:31 am

Thanks Dan, as always, for your informative notes! (…and please feel free to use my first name in your Article 5 narrative.)

I think the silver lining in this Special Town Meeting was Article 6, under which the almost $2.9 million proceeds from the sale of the old Crosby School building were appropriated to help fund the ongoing Thompson School rebuild. Finance Committee report pointed out that “Releasing these funds at this time rather than at the Annual Town Meeting in 2013 can save the town tens of thousands of dollars in short-term borrowing interest expense.”

Tens of thousands is several times the cost of a Special Town Meeting. If the petitioners had not forced the Board of Selectmen to call a special, I hope the Board would have called one anyway just for this appropriation. I guess we’ll never know. Thanks to the Finance Committee for seizing the opportunity and placing Article 6 on the warrant.

The tens of thousands saved also render irrelevant criticism of the petitioners for saddling the Town with the cost of this special town meeting.

Comment from Stephen Harrington
Time: October 14, 2012, 9:09 am

Dunn,

I attended the May meeting of the Board of Selectmen and asked to speak, Kevin Greeley said “no, no”. You can see this on the acmi tape of the meeting as well as me leaving the room soon after. He allowed other citizens to speak after this episode, denying me to be heard. Strike 1.

I wrote to each member of the Board of Selectmen on July 19, immediately after the referendum vote, asking for a discussion for a Special Town Meeting be placed on the BoS agenda. Not one of you responded and after this request failed to be on the agenda for two meetings in a row, we submitted our petition. Greeley only called the Leaf Blower Committee together after you all realized the petition was about to be submitted. Strike 2.

I asked to be placed on Greeley’s sham leaf blower committee, twice. Greeley blocked this. We all got Leone’s email where he asked for TMMs “presumably who are in favor of the ban”. Let it be noted that all four voted to uphold the ban at the STM. The farce that landscapers who receive between $500K and $1M in contracts from the Town are somehow unreachable opponents to the ban and would have any incentive to *represent* homwowners who do their own yard maintenance completed Greeley’s sham committee. As well, the entire Board had the names of the STM petitioners before the committee members were selected. Not one petitioner, including almost a dozen TMMs who signed the petition, were selected for the sham committee. Greeley and Mahon lied about the timing of committee selection (September 11) and petition submission (August 28) at the warrant article hearing. Strike 3.

I went to the sham committee’s only meeting and recorded it. Greeley made it clear, I was only there as an observer and not as a participant. At no time did the committee solicit my input. Strike 4.

I appeared before the BoS at the warrant article hearing explaining the view of the 200+ petitioners and homeowners who maintain their own property. Without any debate by board members, you all voted no action on article 3. Strike 5.

So explain exactly how my characterization that, as you quote, ““refused to talk to homeowners” is clearly untrue”. From my experience, it was completely true. How is it “clearly untrue” Dan? These were my five interactions with the BoS either individually or as a group over the past six months. How did the BoS “talk” to me?

Futhermore, explain to me how your opinion, written above, that “It is true that Mr. Harrington has not been permitted to speak every time that he has wished to. He has spoken at selectmen meetings, but not as often as he would like.” isn’t an unjust characterization?

At that same meeting, I read a statement calling for civility, after Mr. Greeley called me, and the 249 residents who petitioned for the STM, “idiots” and left that choice up to the Board members on how they wanted to proceed in terms of being civil. After I could no longer respond, you characterized my statements as “rich”.

I think we have heard your choice clearly, Dunn. Over the next few months and years don’t be surprised when we hear you all complain about the rancor, incivility and lack of “patience” many of us have with you, as an individual and as an elected official.

Comment from dunster
Time: October 14, 2012, 6:54 pm

Mr. Harrington,

Your comment has a number of statements that are inaccurate, or incomplete so as to be misleading. I’ll tackle a few of them below.

First, the big picture:

The root of your argument is that the selectment are not moving fast enough to repeal the leaf blower ban. What we all need to remember is that the ban has not yet taken effect, and it will not take effect this spring unless Town Meeting so chooses this spring.

Having heard your speeches on the matter, I imagine that your retort is “why wait? it should be repealed, so repeal it now.” The problem with that argument is that is ignores the residents who are in favor of restricting leaf blowers. I hear the leaf blower proponents, I hear those who want to restrict leaf blowers, and I want to find a compromise. We have the time. We should use it.

Second: you do not think that the selectmen permitted enough input. The record is quite clear. When you watch the tape and read the minutes, one can see at least four different meetings this year when leaf ban opponents (homeowners and professionals) either spoke or were permitted to speak. I believe there are more. Plus, there is citizen’s open forum, where anyone can speak on any issue. Really, the problem here isn’t that you weren’t permitted to speak. The problem is that you don’t agree with the selectmen’s vote.

Third: you are upset that you were not put on the committee to seek a compromise. You have leveled personal insults in email to selectmen. You have made obscene gestures at selectmen’s meetings towards board members. You have made personally insulting statements on your “anonymous” blog. These are disqualifying factors when we are trying to construct a compromise-seeking committee.

Next, a few of the inaccurate statements that bear on this discussion: You suggest that the selectmen met twice after the special election before creating the leaf blower committee; the truth is that the the leaf blower committee was put on the first agenda after the special election. You suggest that we recommended no action without discussing article 3; we had an extensive discussion on both article 2 and 3 at the same time, which you neglected to mention. You think that the board “refused to talk to homeowners;” but there have been several public hearings and citizen’s open forum that demonstrate this is not true. You think I am “unjust” to say that “It is true that Mr. Harrington has not been permitted to speak every time that he has wished to. He has spoken at selectmen meetings, but not as often as he would like.”; but you were permitted to speak at length at that meeting – I think my characterization was quite accurate.

Finally, you bring up Mr. Greeley’s statement. I agree that it was undiplomatic, and I would not choose to use it, myself.

Comment from dunster
Time: October 14, 2012, 7:01 pm

@Mark and Peter: I apologize for the name errors. It was late, and I have corrected them.

@Mark and @Richard: I believe the notion of a “money shot” is a red herring. There is simply no reason to show the man’s house and make fun of his gardening. It’s not related to the leaf blower argument, and it never was.

@Mark and @Richard: as I said earlier, “The root of your argument is that the selectmen are not moving fast enough to repeal the leaf blower ban. What we all need to remember is that the ban has not yet taken effect, and it will not take effect this spring unless Town Meeting so chooses this spring.” There is simply no need to rush.

Comment from Stephen Harrington
Time: October 14, 2012, 10:03 pm

Dunn,

You failed to respond to any facts that I laid out, good thing since they are all verifiable.

You say:

“The root of your argument is that the selectment (sic) are not moving fast enough to repeal the leaf blower ban.”

Yet in your blog post and in Town Meeting you comfortably ignore my stated reason; I am a representative from precinct 13, 84% of precinct 13 voted to overturn this ban. I would not be a good representative if I did not respond to this mandate.

Town Meeting is a representative form of government. The STM showed the people of Arlington exactly how representative. The answer needed answering now, so that steps can be taken before next April, if the electorate so desires.

But you fail to adequately represent the people of Arlington, hence you can’t understand this argument.

Furthermore, as Peter Fuller figured out, this STM needed to be called anyway; foremost to return $1M to kindergarten parents and second to provide the town with tens of thousands of savings in debt refinancing. No doubt our finance committee and school, department would have allowed these savings to be left on the table.

Many towns have spring and fall town meetings to provide financial flexibility. Arlington will be seeing more fall town meetings in the future.

That explains the why and when.

The rest of your response is a rationalization.

However, you made a statement:
“You have leveled personal insults in email to selectmen.”

This is your forum, you control the content, even deleting some posts you disagree with. Why don’t you share the personal insults to selectmen, plural. And Dunn, just so our readers can find out whether you are lying, I’ll let them know that today, when I posted this little rebuttal to your personal attack on your blog, I wrote the same thing in an email to you and gave as a subject line “Damn Dumb”, sort of rhymes.

Now Dunn, provide us with another. Oh yeah and since you claimed that was one of the reason why I was not invited to sit on Greeley’s sham committee, provide the headers so everyone can see the timing, surely you’re not saying my cute subject line today was the reason for your actions in the past.

As for obscene gestures, prove it.

Hopefully, you may discover soon why most elected officials who blog shy away from naming residents, publishing negative opinions about them and making unsupported accusations.

Stephen Harrington