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Town Meeting ’13, Session 2; Special Town Meeting

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 try to publish the notes every night after the meeting, as time allows. 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 regular Town Meeting was called to order, and we opened the Special Town Meeting.  I heard some question about why there was a special town meeting.  The reason we did it this way is to make the leaf blower regulation changes as seamless as possible.  Anything passed in a town meeting doesn’t take effect until some period of time after the meeting is completely dissolved.  Regular town meeting sometimes extends into June.  The special town meeting was dissolved tonight.  Thus, the new leaf blower regulations will take effect much sooner, almost-but-not-quite before the May 15 when the seasonal ban will technically go into effect.  

The Arlington High School Madrigal Singers sang the national anthem. They performed three other songs.

The moderator announced that precincts 1-7 were taking organizational votes today. He referred to a breakdown in civility on Monday. He gave the definition of an ad hominem attack.

Since it’s the Special Town Meeting, we have to set our ground rules again. The basic motions about seating etc. were made.

Announcements

  • Scott Smith of the Bicycle Advisory Committee announced a bike path cleanup for Saturday at 9:30
  • Carol Kowalski made several announcements about the Master Plan process.  She introduced the town’s consultants who outlined the 18-month process.  Harry McCabe asked why we didn’t have a building moratorium during the process, and the answer was that the changes anticipated so far weren’t sweeping.
  • Michelle Durocher announced Saturday’s cleanup of Meadowbrook Park at 9am.
  • Maya Ginns announced a town-wide cleanup on May 11.
  • Jim O’Conor talked about joining town meeting member email list.
  • Chris Loreti  found a pair of eyeglasses
  • Lyman Judd announced that he was forced to apologize for his actions at the previous town meeting.  He gave a meandering speech on various topics, some related to the incident on Monday.  This was a spectacle, awkward, painful to watch, and a waste of the meeting’s time.  It is not clear to me what the moderator was hoping for when he (apparently) required an apology from Judd.  That said, I don’t have a easy alternative to recommend for dealing with misbehaving members.

Article 1 – Reports

  • I gave the report of the Board of Selectmen.
  • Al Tosti gave the report of FinComm.
  • Michael Quinn moved that the Municipal Power Committee be dissolved.  This was the first committee I joined in Arlington.  It was a good group, and I enjoyed the work we did.

Article 1 was tabled.

Article 2 – Leaf Blowers

Selectman Kevin Greeley recounted the history of the leaf blower debate in Arlington. He advocated support of the proposed compromise.  Christopher Moore proposed an amendment to apply the bylaw to internal combustion, not just gasoline. Wes Beal made a substitute motion to “press the pause button” and send it back to a committee. Paul Schlictman said it was not a true compromise. There are real concerns on both sides, but we should vote this down.  Landscaper Tibbets described the process of the compromise committee and advocated its support.  He received applause and cheers, and the moderator asked them not too.  I completely agree with him.  Cheering only inflames and does not advance the debate. Michael Ruderman gave a “minority opinion of one” from the committee. He said the committee was driven by people with a financial interest, and not enough input from non-landscaper experts. I think some people thought this was an attack, but I think Ruderman’s language was careful and quite appropriate.  It is entirely reasonable to point out someone’s financial interest and how they affect a position being taken.  Carol Band asked Town Meeting to reject the compromise, and go with the compromise Town Meeting approved last year. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate – failed. Andy O’Brien talked about emissions of gas and propane leaf blowers. Questions were asked and answered about the language. Bill Berkowitz described the question as one of balance of different people’s rights.  Speakers were for and against the compromise.

We took a 10 minute break

After a couple more speakers, Jim Doherty move terminate debate, and it was terminated. Beal’s amendment went down by voice vote. Internal combustion amendment was approved: 125-74.  The main motion was approved 113-95.  So, the vote last year was 95-85.  After so much debate, a ballot question, public hearings, etc., it all came down to 20-odd town meeting members whose votes approved the new policy.  Interesting to think about.

Article 3 – Tourism

Angela Olszewski explained what the proposed building is for. Visitors come to Arlington – we need them to understand where they’re visiting and encourage them to stay. John Leonard is concerned about grafitti.  Steve Harrington thinks it should be somewhere else. Ted Sharpe spoke in favor of busking. Chamber of Commerce is in favor. Sean Harrington moved to terminate debate. approved.  Spending approved on voice vote.

Article 4 – Water Bottle Ban

Harry McCabe with a substitute motion on behalf of Amy Currul.  She spoke to explain the substitute motion. She spoke of the negative environmental effects of water bottle production and disposal. Diane Mahon spoke, opposed to the ban, and introduced the manager of Stop and Shop.  Stop and Shop are opposed.  A couple more speakers were opposed.  Nathan Swilling moved to terminate debate. McCabe’s substitute went down by voice vote, and no action was approved.

Article 1 taken from the table.

Meeting was dissolved.

Comments

Comment from Bob Sprague
Time: April 25, 2013, 7:59 am

Good notes, Dan. Amy’s last name is Currul.

Comment from Joe Moreau
Time: April 25, 2013, 8:03 am

I find it funny that Mr. Dunn is now making announcements in that fast talk that he used to make fun of Mr. Greely for doing.

Comment from dunster
Time: April 25, 2013, 9:26 am

@Bob – thanks, fixed.

@Joe – I suspect that I disapproved of the speed speak at the first motion because I think newcomers need to hear it, but I wouldn’t have minded it later on during town meeting. That said, there are a number of issues where I’ve changed my mind over the last 10+ years. I think it’s a healthy thing. http://dandunn.org/tm2006.html

Comment from Leanne Fitzgerald
Time: April 25, 2013, 10:42 am

Just a few things I’ve taken note of as a new TMM: A) my front row seat Monday night allowed me to clearly witness Mr. Moderator doing his own share of provoking during the interaction with Lyman Judd and it should have ended there and then without putting all of us – particularly Lyman through that dog and pony show last evening. Poor form indeed. B) How in the world did Clarissa Rowe get to galavant right up to the podium to give her input – past everyone else waiting patiently to speak? Can I try that sometime? C) Yes – I admit that clapping probably was not necessary – I am new and I did not realize it was verbodden. At the same time Dan – what about the hissing sounds that were not called out? D) Your commentary about how the Leaf BLower compromise passed by 20-odd votes is indeed the point – and that is why so many more of us chose to run for TM this year – in order to affect a change. And you know what – we did.

Comment from Wes Beal
Time: April 25, 2013, 1:06 pm

Thanks for the notes, as always Dan. Glad to see that so far you’re keeping up.

I’ll throw out a comment on Clarissa Rowe’s getting to speak, since I’ve heard it come up a couple times now.

1., there may well have been some communication going on between the Moderator and Rowe, that if a person wasn’t sitting in just in the right place where you could watch them both, you would have missed out on.

2., Clarissa is on the Arlington Committee on Tourism and Economic Development, the sponsor of the article itself, and it is common practice for members of committees to be available, at the front, to field questions that come up.

It is, or can be a difficult challenge to focus on what a speaker contributes to the meeting, apart from any allegiance’s I feel I have toward one group or another.

It is though a worthwhile challenge, that I continue to pursue, and I think we all would do well to take on.

It’s also a lot easier prior to 10 p.m. than it is after.

Comment from Rich Carreiro
Time: April 25, 2013, 1:46 pm

“Anything passed in a town meeting doesn’t take effect until some period of time after the meeting is completely dissolved.”

To be specific, bylaw amendments, zoning bylaw amendments, and appropriations are not final until 7 days after TM dissolves (or whatever the deadline is for submitting a petition for a “negation” election is). The expiration of that deadline is sufficient to allow appropriations to go into effect, but not bylaw/zoning amendments.

For those to go into affect the Attorney General’s office must sign off on them. There’s no discretion on that (w.r.t. to alleged wisdom (or not) of the changes) — if the AG believes that under state and federal law the Town has the power to make those changes, the AG has to approve them.

Then after the AG approves them they have to be published in the local weekly two or three times (I can’t remember which). *Then* the changes go into effect.

So technically I would expect that the changes approved last night won’t actually go into effect until late May or sometime in June (or maybe even later, depending how long the AG takes).

But I would also expect the police would exercise prosecutorial discretion and not bother attempting to enforce the existing bylaw, knowing that it’s a dead man walking.

Comment from Rich Carreiro
Time: April 25, 2013, 3:26 pm

It should also be kept in mind that the Moderator has near-absolute power to govern most aspects of the meeting, including who has the floor. As (I’m sure) the current moderator and (I know) the prior moderator have pointed out, the list (which the Moderator isn’t required to use in the first place) is only advisory and the Moderator is not bound by it — he can choose to recognize anyone in whatever order he wants.

Comment from Nathan Swilling
Time: April 25, 2013, 5:39 pm

While I voted in favor, I have to admit I had a great deal of uneasiness about the temporary visitor’s center. I certainly whole heartedly support the idea of trying to enhance Arlington’s tourism. But, I also understand Stephen Harrington’s point that that whole area is going to be torn up for the mobility improvement section anyway – so what is the value of putting in the temporary center right now? Wouldn’t there be some wisdom in thinking through this a little more holistically?

Also, while I certainly respect the work of A-TED, the image of that Home Depot shed just didn’t leave me with a very good feeling that this is the way to bring more tourists to town. In addition, from a practical standpoint, that location is really only strategic for people travelling on the bike path. Rather than a little shed, I would think that some bike racks and some nice big maps showing people where they can then walk around Arlington Center would be more effective. Just my $0.02.