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Town Meeting ’14 Session 2 – And 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. 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.

Jane Howard played the piano as the meeting sang the Star Spangled Banner.

Moderator John Leone swore in a handful of new members of Town Meeting.

We opened the Special Town Meeting. We took the same votes yesterday setting the rules and 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 meeting don’t become valid until many weeks after the meeting closes, and that is generally mid- or late summer. We do the special town meeting so that the decisions in the meeting can be effective more quickly. Because of timing this year it might not be a significant difference.

We voted to return on May 5th.

The moderator made several announcements:

  • Precinct organization is in progress, reminder to attend precinct meetings.
  • On electronic voting, he asked us to wait until the clock starts before we vote. “Wait until Simon says go” he said. I think the first night of electronic voting went really well. It was interesting to see the votes posted the next day. By the time you read this, tonight’s votes will probably be posted on the town website.
  • 99.5% return on clickers on Monday – one went home with the owner, but came back today.
  • He announced there was information on the Community Preservation Act info in back of the hall.

Announcements

  • Jane Howard announced two art exhibits. One is Sunday through 26th of may. The other is Chairful Where You Sit – Jefferson Cutter Green July 18-July 20.
  • Annie LaCourt – Tech Initiative Showcase. Monday 6-8PM.
  • Sheri Baron – Human Rights Commission. Sunday 10th anniversary of marriage equality. 2-4. Video screening and speakers from wedded couples.
  • Christian Klein – Friends of Robbins Farm Park. May 3 in morning is park cleaning. Afternoon is kite day.
  • Al Tosti – May 7 will be the night for Minuteman votes because that is when Dr. Bouquillon can be here.
  • Jim O’Conor – Go to town website to sign up for Town Meeting email list.

STM Article 1 Reports of Committees
Only two reports – Selectmen and FinCom.

STM Article 2 – 5 More All-Alcohol Restaurant Licenses, Total of 20
John Leonard asked: do we have a drunk driving problem. Chief Ryan – we don’t have a trend in offenses from any establishments. It was noted that we get revenue, more annually, from meals tax. Do we have too many alcohol incidents? Answered no.  Eric Helmuth asked a question on alcohol source density that no one had the answer to. Diane Mahon noted the town has received a request for a license from a resident. Questioner: does this permit bars? No. It was noted this is just to put it on the ballot. John Worden thinks we have enough licenses, and doesn’t think you need hard liquor with dinner. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate, which passed. Main motion passed. 187-22

STM Article 3 – FY14 Budgets Change
Unanimous passed without discussion.

STM Article 4 – Police Patrolmen Union Contract
Dean Carman spoke. He wanted to point out in FY15 2.75% raises translate to a  4.02% increase in personnel costs. John Deyst and Al Tosti both spoke on the issue as well. Carl Wagner moved to terminate vote which passed. Motion passed 194-17-1.

STM Article 5 – Central Fire Station
Al Tosti said we are waiting for bids to be opened on May 8th.  May 12th we’ll have the bids. Table to 12th

STM Article 6 – Insurance Transfer for Peirce Elementary
John Leonard had questions about the cause of the failure and who we could go after to get the money. Mr. Burke gave his opinion that the town wasn’t building buildings well. Peter Fuller noted it was 5th graders who restocked the library, and their efforts were applauded. The building committee was praised. The motion was approved by voice vote.

STM Article 7 – Special Education Stabilization Fund
We deposited this money last year, and we need it this year. 209-2

Adjourned the Special Town Meeting to May 12.

We resumed the Annual Town Meeting.

Article 12, continued, Cemetery Parking.
John Maher said that he thinks parking will be resolved when the construction is done. He asked the opinion of Chief Ryan. Chief Ryan said the cart is before the horse. This is a blunt solution for a delicate problem. We should not legislate parking problems. If we do, there will be a flood of special warrant articles. He asked that we wait for normalcy in the area, then evaluate it and make decisions rather than make decisions now based on an unusual situation. Some person(s) hissed while Chief Ryan was speaking. That is totally inappropriate and disrespectful. I was appalled.  We are better than that – and thankfully, we are. Such a gross outburst is rare. Michael Ruderman is sure enforcement won’t be a problem, doubted the opinion of the police chief, and is in favor of the substitute motion. Peter Fiorie thinks parking should have a time limit, not full ban. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate, 127-87 failed. Roly Chaput asked people to vote no – he enjoys birding and other activity in the cemetery. He thanked Mr. Harrington for bringing it up. He wants a 2-hour limit. Christopher Moore – not clear how to fix the parking problem. Joe Curren said that the cemetery was sacred ground and should be gated.

10 minute break

Jim O’Conor – will the BoS make a change? Steve Byrne responded: given the discussion, agree with Chief, after it settles down we should look at it. Steve was in a tough place on that question because he can’t speak for the board unless we’ve taken a vote, but I think he handled it well.  I was on the list to speak and if I’d gotten to the podium I would have gone a bit farther.  As I mentioned Monday, I didn’t know we couldn’t ticket in the cemetery; I had assumed that power already existed. We need to fix that.  That new information didn’t change my opinion of the substitute motion.  The parking problems exist on just one stretch of road, not the whole cemetery.  It was too much of a change.  I also agree that it wasn’t the right venue. Town Meeting isn’t a great place to debate individual parking regulations.  Peter Fuller is in favor. Ted Peluso said to put it on the books. Sean Harrington proposed an amendment to change “conducting cemetery business” to “visit the cemetery.” Two speakers who live nearby said they don’t think there is a parking problem. John Deyst in favor of waiting a year. Andrew Fischer is worried we are doing a bad law, and moved to postpone. That motion failed on voice vote. Phil Goff tried to terminate the debate, but he gave a few words as preface, and was ruled out of order. He then asked a question about how long the problem has been, and got contradictory answers. Len Kardon moved, and by a vote 184-23-1 terminated debate. There was confusion about which motion to vote first, but it was cleared up. Sean Harrington’s amendment passed 161-48. The substitute motion failed 90-115-4.

Article 13 – Poet Laureate
Chairman of the Board of Selectman Steve Byrne introduced the article. There was a question about the length of terms. Is it really a poet? Yes.  Terminate debate?  Terminated and approved.

Article 14 – Public Music
Ted Sharpe talked about the benefits to a community for public performance. Ed Trembly wants to rid of the bylaw entirely. Sean Harrington asked a question about amplification.  I’ll quote the printed report of the board, which had already answered the question explicitly: “The Board expressed its commitment to developing regulations and enforcement measures to protect residents and businesses from unreasonable performances, such as those employing sound amplification at inappropriate hours or otherwise disrupting and disturbing the Town.” Moore terminated debate.  Motion passed unanimously.

Article 15 – Cultural Commission Name Change
Name change to alleviate confusion. It is now CultureComm.

Article 16 – Venner Road
John Leone stepped down because of a conflict of interest. Jim O’Conor moderated. Town Manager Chapdelaine explained the negotiated agreements.  The abutters are buying part of the property as a buffer. The town is agreeing to release the land in exchange for $30,000 in value, plus $35,000 of the taxes that could have been collected.  Leone explained that the resulting land can have 2 houses, not 3. Denise Long spoke and explained the history of her family on the land, and why they needed this in order to sell the house. A speaker was passionately opposed to the price, and wanted to give the land back for free. A speaker was in favor. Scott Smith move to terminate, 134-52-1. Motion passed 162-17-9.

Meeting was adjourned.

Comments

Comment from Mark Kaepplein
Time: May 1, 2014, 2:03 am

Concerning Article 12 and Mt. Pleasant parking lot, you wrote above “I didn’t know we couldn’t ticket in the cemetery; I had assumed that power already existed. We need to fix that.” That is exactly what you voted against Dan. The article solves a hole in Title IV of town bylaws. Article 1 allows ticketing in Park Department areas like the town beach lot. Article 2 allows ticketing in school parking lots. Article 3 is missing ticketing provisions for cemetery properties. The article is also more reasonable and gentle than enforcement without it where the only enforcement option is to tow vehicles. Town Meeting wants that, because that’s what they got.

Chief Ryan failed to explain why his personnel, contractors, or Winchester details could not park in the Russell Commons lot and get some exercise as promoted by the town for everyone but town employees. This is more hypocrisy like the impossibly difficult pot shop zoning passed in a town favoring medical use.

Several TMMs worried about getting tickets for what might not be cemetery business. They should not worry as no enforcement now take place for any use. Second, they need to blame the cemetery commission for their limitation of cemetery business and ask them to change it. Town meeting is the only body able to allow parking ticketing and it failed to do that.

Comment from Douglass Taft Davidoff
Time: May 1, 2014, 3:50 am

Dan, as a newbie in Town Meeting (Precinct 4), I nearly made my maiden speech to Town Meeting over the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery issue. My friend Andrew Fischer beat me to the punch and offered a far better solution than I was going to offer. I’m sorry his motion to postpone was voted down. He had the right idea, maybe the best tactical suggestion of the night.

I am quite supportive of the current Select Board and the Town Manager. But I think Mr. Steve Harrington made his case on the issue of cemetery care and parking abuse. I wish Manager Chapdelaine could have offered the curb & berm treatment sooner in the capital budget. That it isn’t being done immediately is kind of the signal of the blind spot I’m afraid has developed around this matter.

I was going to speak to say that I would favor Steve Harrington’s motion on parking precisely to cause an imperfect but fairly innocuous situation in the hope that the Board and Manager would bring a solution to Town Meeting in a year that would convince TMMs to repeal the Harrington motion. Andrew Fischer’s motion to postpone would’ve had the same effect but even better … no adoption of the Harrington motion but create some pressure on the Board and Manager to bring an improved plan to the Meeting within a matter of weeks.

Given the conversations I was having on the sidelines, I’m surprised the Meeting voted with the Board. Perhaps the prevailing side is saying, rather wisely and with cooler heads, “Point made. ‘Nuff said.” I’m learning the wisdom to the aphorism, “Town Meeting gets it right.”

I do not favor imposing an election for Cemetery Commission members on the voters of the town. I think that legislatively, the Cemetery controversy has peaked … even though we have yet to consider the election matter (which will now fail) and even though the p.r. fallout will continue for some time.

Comment from Douglass Taft Davidoff
Time: May 1, 2014, 4:07 am

Chief Ryan’s comment about seeing his future when he looks out his office window onto Mount Pleasant Cemetery was a well-placed laugh line in a tough debate. But it was also an eerie reminder of a tragedy at the beginning of the cemetery’s history.

Histories of Mount Pleasant and its predecessor, The Old Burying Ground off Pleasant Street behind First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, record that it was Rev. David Damon of First Congregational Society (now First Parish UU) who advocated for a new town cemetery as the Burying Ground filled up — a situation that naturally would have caused him great distress.

Rev. Damon spoke at dedication of Mount Pleasant on June 14, 1843. Days later, he suffered an attack of apoplexy — a stroke, in other words — and then died. Thus, he became the first person buried in the cemetery he had just dedicated. This story is in the history of First Parish written by Rev. Charles Grady and also on the website of the Arlington Historical Society at:
http://www.arlingtonhistorical.org/learn/articles/old-burying-ground/

I wish Chief Ryan a long and healthy life as he contemplates his view of Mount Pleasant!

Comment from Sean Harrington
Time: May 1, 2014, 8:59 am

Dan, maybe if the Board of Selectmen listened to what Stephen Harrington proposed before shutting it down and voting no action then you would have known.

Article 12 was your opportunity to do exactly what you said, ticket the abusive parking in the cemetery.

However I feel that any attempt is all for not after tonight. Kingdon Model says last night was the night.

Sorry for my pessimism but I have no reason to believe the Board of Selectmen and the Cemetery Commission do not even admit that there is a problem. I expect it will be, by the hopes of many, ignored and no change will come, and non-Arlington residents who visit Mt. Pleasant will see the way in which Arlington cares for its dead.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 1, 2014, 2:02 pm

Mark – You are in error on several of your statements. I also don’t think you’re grasping the salient differences between what I think we should do and the substitute motion last night.

Doug – I look forward to your maiden speech. I also agree that Town Meeting got it right. I always learn things in Town Meeting debates, and it will continue to affect what I think. I definitely think the board needs to revisit the parking rules and orders as they relate to the cemetery. I also greatly enjoyed that bit of Arlington history, thank you.

Sean – I had to google Kingdon Model. It was an interesting read. Having read it, I don’t share your pessimism. I think the three streams are still aligned. I would say the “window” in Kingdon’s model is still open.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 1, 2014, 2:35 pm

My question about the alcohol outlet density on STM Article 2 is a classic example of the kind of issue Town Meeting Members should alert town officials to in advance when possible, so they have a chance to prepare an answer. However, Steve Byrne was actually able to provide an answer courtesy of someone else at the front tables by the end of my question time – I believe he said the ABCC recommends no more than 61 alcohol outlets for a municipality of Arlington’s size. I was pleased that we continue to take a cautiously progressive approach that balances public health with economic development.

Comment from Rich Carreiro
Time: May 1, 2014, 6:03 pm

Were there no e-votes in this session, or is the Town webmaster being lame about putting them up? The text of the votes has been posted but not any of the e-vote info.