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.
- 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.
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.