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Town Meeting ’14, Session 1

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.

Precinct 21 had a Town Meeting vacancy with the passing of Harry McCabe. Our precinct voted to fill his seat before the meeting. That meeting kept me out in the hall up to 8pm, and I slipped into Town Meeting a couple minutes late, after the meeting was gaveled open.

The Menotomy Minutemen lead the meeting in singing the National Anthem.

The invocation was given by the leader of the Boston Church of Christ. Their congregation is moving to the church being renovated Pleasant Street, opening this summer.

Selectman Kevin Greeley introduced the guests from our sister city, Nagaokakyo. He and the Mayor of Nagaokakyo spoke about the program and its impact. They invited everyone to view the memorial bench for Dick Smith, a founder of the program.

Moderator John Leone gave several remarks. We had a moment of silence for the members that pass. He talked about the importance of civility. He reminded everyone that proposals and amendments be on the seats 48 hours before the next session. He said there was too much paper on the seats, and suggested that non-motions be in the back of the room, not on the seats.

The moderator gave an extended explanation of how electronic voting would work using the handset. He reminded everyone that you can only vote for yourself – there is no proxy voting permitted. He noted that all recorded votes will be on the town website tomorrow.

For Article 16, John Leone said he will step down and not moderate because he’s involved in the issue. He also noted that he was proposing a resolution for Article 54 so we can discuss whether or not we like using electronic voting.

The moderator swore in new members.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Steve Byrne made the traditional motion about officials and guests who are permitted to sit on the town meeting floor (as opposed to in the gallery).

The Town Clerk certified that the town was duly notified about the meeting.

We moved to return on Wednesday April 30th.


  • John Worden proposed a motion in memory of Harry McCabe. He listed his history and accomplishments. The resolution was passed.
  • John Maher, a leader on the Symmes charitable fund ($1 million) requested submissions for grants for healthcare organizations.

Article 2

Steve Byrne gave the State of the Town.

Article 3 – Reports of Committees

  • Steve Byrne gave the report of the Selectmen and introduced the BoS and department heads.
  • Charlie Foskett gave the physical Capital Planning report, but saved the explanation for the capital article.
  • John Leonard asked if there would be a report of the utility pole working group. He was told there would not – the utility pole working group is a Selectmen committee, not a Town Meeting committee. I’m sure Mr. Leonard was looking for a follow up to last year’s Article 15.  I’m happy to say that we made a lot of progress last year with the utilities, increased the tracking of the problem, and reduced the number of double poles in town. It is, however, a never-ending job, as poles are constantly replaced.
  • Al Tosti gave the Finance Committee report. He asked for 15 minutes. He introduced the committee members. He walked through the budget overview, revenues, and expenditures. He talked about 5-year projection and the gap in 2019-20. He mentioned the additional money for schools this year to manage the enrollment increases.

Al Tosti moved that all motions in the report be the main motions that we discuss. Leone walked through what that means. It means that virtually every article has a starting motion already on the floor, and every discussion starts from that motion – whether it is to adopt it as made, amend it, or substitute it.

Article 3 was tabled.

Art 4 Measurer of Wood and Bark

Elsie Fiorie was appointed.

Article 5 Assistant Town Moderator

Jim O’Conor was the only nominee for assistant moderator, and was elected.

Article 6 – Medical Marijuana Dispensary Zoning

Redevelopment Board Chairman Mike Cayer walked through the history of the medical marijuana issue in Arlington. Our one-year moratorium on marijuana dispensaries expires at the end of this Town Meeting. The ARB proposed permitting them in the zoning districts B3 and B5, which are the business districts of East Arlington, Arlington Center, and Arlington Heights. There will be Special Permits required for a dispensary. Michael Ruderman asked why all business districts were not being proposed, why just B3 and B5. He was not satisfied with the answer. He pointed out that the town is dense and zoning changes affect residents. He is not happy with the process or the proposal. He urged everyone to vote “no” so as not to restrict where dispensaries might happen. The Town Moderator asked Town Counsel what happens if we vote no. Town Counsel Doug Heim said that it wasn’t clear yet what the result would be. This was the first Town Meeting for Doug Heim, and this question was baptism of fire. It’s a question with a lot of wrong answers, and a lot of simply bad answers that are technically correct.  I think he did this one reasonably well.  Andy O’Brien is opposed to dispensaries in Arlington entirely.

We took a 10 minute break

Kevin Koch noted that the 500-foot radius takes out a lot of the proposed area. Molly Flueckiger noted that this is unlikely to come up. She wants to work with someone who comes to the town with a proposal, not exclude options now. Sean Harrington asked for elaboration about if we vote no, could there be a dispensary in a residential area. The Town Counsel said it was a nuanced answer, and if it’s not zoned, then it depends on interpretation of the other bylaws within the town. Gordon Jamieson asked for Chief Ryan to explain why he preferred this solution. Chief Ryan explained that by putting it in a business district it brings peer pressure to keep the business responsible. A speaker talked about the benefits of medical marijuana. Peter Fiorie said we should vote for this so we can control where they go. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. We had our first electronic vote! Debate was terminated by a vote of 157-49. The zoning change was passed 160-49.

On the ballot question two years ago I voted in favor of permitting these dispensaries, as did 2/3 of Arlington. I think the ARB had a sound proposal, and I was happy to support it.

Article 7 No Action unanimously.

Article 8 – Dark Skies
Steve Byrne gave the introduction. Paul Bayer proposed an amendment to make it “nearby” not “abutting” properties. Paul Schlichtman, the proponent, walked through the impact of the change – making it so that it applies to light cast on residential properties. Bill Hayner was concerned that “nearby” isn’t clear enough. There were two questions about parks – they are exempt. Ed Trembly was concerned that we are over-regulated. Sean Harrington moved to terminate debate. 159-49 terminated debate. 145-63 approved the amendment. 159-52 the main motion passed.

Article 9
No action.

Article 10 – Elected Cemetery Trustees
Steve Harrington moved to postpone discussion of his substitute motion to give time to read it. By a vote of 147-64 we postponed to the 5th.

Article 11 – Electronic Voting change
Steve Byrne explained the language change. Adam Auster made a correction to which sentence is being deleted. He explained that this is to show votes, show the roll call, if the vote result is very close in all situations. There were questions about the math, and some questions about electronic voting in general. Passed 208-1-2. One effect of electronic voting – those are some of the highest vote totals I can remember. High attendance and participation.

Article 12.
Stephen Harrington moved a substitute motion. He thinks the current parking situation isn’t acceptable. He showed a number of pictures of parked cars in the cemetery. Adam Chapdelaine noted that one of the pictures included stones that were placed in the past to prevent parking on the grass. He talked about the challenge of the density of parking in the area. He noted that the upcoming capital plan of $230,000 includes a rebuilding of the cemetery roads, and a berm on the edge of roads. There was a question about enforcement – Chief Ryan didn’t know, he hadn’t been approached by Mr. Harrington. A speaker asked about things about park cleanup. She thinks the language is very harsh. A speaker was in favor because of civility. Gordon Jamieson: is this enforceable or not. He’s not sure if this is over regulation. I thought this wasn’t as clear as it could have been. If I understand it right, ticketing isn’t an option in the current bylaw, but towing is. The proposed bylaw would enable ticketing. That’s something that I hadn’t heard before. I would be in favor a motion that extended the power of ticketing to the cemeteries. However, I would leave the power of regulation in the hands of the cemetery trustees.

It being 11, we moved to adjourn. The moderator made this an electronic vote – there definitely a few people who had left early. I suspect some were on the way out the door and didn’t realize this was an electronic vote.


Comment from Mark Kaepplein
Time: April 29, 2014, 5:18 am

Many TMMs, Town Manager, and Town counsel seemed confused by article 6. Existing bylaws would not allow a pot shop in residential areas. Residential zoned areas only allow home businesses without employees, signage, or traffic impacts, hence too restrictive for such a retail business. Simply voting NO would have allowed other business and industrial zones, not residential. Given the additional burden of environmental review, the bylaw passed is prohibitive to any dispensary, thus hurting businesses who would benefit from food sales, dining, entertainment, and tourism. The end result for a town who voted to allow medical pot, is to virtually prohibit dispensaries in our own back yard. NIMBY. Too bad when such a thing could bring more visitors to Arlington than even our theaters.

Article 12 is a good idea, allowing for ticketing of people using the cemetery as a parking lot because they are too lazy to walk a little further to the Community Safety Building from further spots. Chief Ryan seemed displeased that he and fellow coworkers might have to follow parking regulations like mere residents. What is most needed to discourage illegal parking is a gate across Sachem at Mystic with no pedestrian opening – there are plenty of other entrances and exits people can use.

Comment from Rich Carreiro
Time: April 29, 2014, 7:55 pm

What if anything is seen in real time by the meeting when electronic voting is done? Do you see totals? Names? Do they show up as the voting is happening or only once the vote is declared over?

Comment from Wes Beal
Time: April 29, 2014, 8:34 pm

In answer to Rich’s question: while voting is taking place, members see a screen that has a running count of votes received – not whether they are “yes” or “no” votes, but just that votes are being cast.

Then once voting has ended, the meeting sees the total number of “yes,” “no,” and “abstain” votes cast, as well as an indication whether the vote passed or not, for those of us more mathematically challenged.

Sometimes screens are then displayed, showing the individual votes of all members, 3 precincts per screen.

In some cases the screens with the individual votes must be displayed (such as a roll call vote, or a vote that is very close), but most of the time it is shown it doesn’t have to be.

So members only see what the outcome of a vote is after voting has closed, and members only see who voted how after the voting has closed, for some votes.

Until the next day, when all votes taken electronically are put up on the town website, regardless of whether the screens were shown during the meeting or not.

Comment from Mike
Time: April 30, 2014, 6:46 pm

The electronic voting is great and long overdue. Thanks to those who worked to make it happen.

Voting down Article 6 for the second year in a row ran the risk of a judge concluding that a dispensary could set up anywhere in town. The NIMBYs who spoke wanted it rejected, not passed.

Pingback from Dan Dunn » Town Meeting ’14 Session 2 – And Special Town Meeting
Time: May 1, 2014, 1:33 am

[…] motions of the meeting. They are important, but no need to repeat them here – you can just read them from Monday. Why are we having a special town meeting? For the purpose of speed. Votes of the regular town […]