Town Meeting ’13, Session 5
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.
Town Meeting Member Charles Gallagher played the national anthem.
The moderator noted we might finish Wednesday. I had been hoping that we finish tonight – but it wasn’t meant to be. We took our time with the budgets over the last two nights.
- Marvin Lewiton announced a large cancer study that Arlington is an enrollment center for and invited others to participate. cancer.org/cps3ne
- Patricia Worden gave the report and history of the Affordable Housing Task Force. It has not met in five years. She asked that the task force be dissolved.
- Sean Harrington Monday May 13th benefit show for Krystle Campbell Memorial. regenttheatre.com
- Barbara Costa gave the report of the Arlington Cultural Commission.
- Angela Olszewski was confused about whether we were in reports or announcements. She’s right; we have not been careful about the delineation.
- Bob Tosi announced that May 11 US Postal Service food drive. Arlington Food Pantry.
Article 3 taken from the table.
- Brucie Moulton gave the Vision 2020 report.
Article 31 – Budgets continued
Education, continued: Stephen Harrington moved to increase the education budget by $300,000. He said he also intended to move to place less in the stabilization fund as well in order to balance the budget. He suggested the money be used to reduce student activity fees. FinComm Chair Al Tosti spoke. He requested that substantive amendments be provided in advance – it would be appreciated. Tosti noted that in past years changes in state aid, good and bad, are shared by the town and school budget. Tosti noted the history of school budget increases. He noted that this motion would violate the agreements and commitments of the 3-year plan. Carl Wagner asked if a motion to terminate debate was in order. He was told that it was in order, but he was not permitted to make the motion because he had said other words. I disagree with the enforcement of this rule. The spirit of the rule is that you shouldn’t be able to both speak to an issue and terminate debate; you can only do one. Carl Wagner did not speak to the issue, even obliquely, so his motion to terminate should have been in order. Gordon Jamieson asked for the rationale for the amount of $300,000 – Mr. Harrington said it was the amount of unexpected revenue. Superintendent Kathy Bodie was asked what she’d do with the money, and she feels bound by the 3-year plan. Mr. Harris disagreed with some of the arguments of both sides. “The last time we reduced fees we had a plan. This time, we’re apparently hoping for a visit from the magical fee fairies” – it got a chuckle from the crowd. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate, which carried 142-45.
Tosti moved to table Articles 31-33 so that the Minuteman Superintendent could speak. A loud minority forced a standing vote on the motion to table. 145-41 we tabled.
Article 34 – Minuteman Vocational
Tosti asked for 10 minutes for the presentation which was granted. Superintendent Bouquillon gave a presentation on the school district’s budget. He also gave an update on the school rebuild feasibility study. In answer to a question, we found that Arlington is 34% of the operating budget. Six towns have approved the budget, and 6 are voting tonight, so the budget will probably get it’s 11 required votes tonight. Dean Carmen talked about the problems with the regional agreement – we have 1/16 of the votes but 1/3 of the budget. Bouquillon noted that the feasibility study is looking at two numbers for school size – a member-only version and a version that includes non-member students. Chris Loreti asked about marketing money – the answer is that they market to students, and not about the school rebuild project. There was a question about enrollment numbers. Michael Ruderman asked about whether or not Dr. Bouquillon was going to leave the school district, and it was ruled out of order. Swilling moved to terminate debate. Budget approved.
Break for 10 minutes.
31-33 came back from the table.
Article 31 – Budgets continued
Libraries. The budget does meet state requirements. John Deyst talked about the finance committee process.
Reserve Fund. Ted Peluso thinks the budget process within Town Meeting is broken. I can’t say that I agree with him on this point. As time goes by, the process has to keep changing, and there are improvements that can and should be made. But broken is a strong word. I think Churchill said it best: ”Town Meeting is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” Or, at least, that’s what he should have said.
Water and Sewer. We don’t borrow all the money we could because we don’t have the revenue to repay it.
Stephen Harrington’s amendment went down 42-127. He asked for roll call, but he did not have enough support to force one. I note that next year this won’t be an issue. Electronic voting will get us roll call records for votes like this without any additional effort. Of course, I voted against it. The integrity of our multi-year planning process depends on us sticking to our commitments to spending limits.
Budgets were approved.
Article 32 – Special Education Reserve Fund
Transferring funds from last year to this year – no new appropriation. Approved unanimously
Article 33 – Capital Budget
Charlie Foskett gave the report of the committee. He outlined the people, process, and major projects that are in progress. Chris Loreti moved that the money proposed for the parking study be changed to pay for new trees instead. There were questions on the school fire alarm and the school clocks. I spoke about parking and the trees, and I tried to explain how one of the problems is already managed and the other one isn’t. We need to manage parking better. Question about ADA. Question about leases and software licenses being capital – they are. My notes are thin here as I was listening more than taking notes. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. It was terminated. Loreti’s amendment defeated by voice vote. Capital budget approved through the several procedural votes.
We adjourned. I feel like we came up about a half-hour short of a 5-night meeting. We’ll finish Wednesday, and hopefully early.