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Town Meeting ’14 – Session 6

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. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Selectman Kevin Greeley played the Star-Spangled Banner for us to sing along to.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Steve Byrne moved that we reconvene on Monday if needed. The hall was notably more empty tonight than the previous 5 nights. I think there were two factors. First, the items remaining on the warrant were non-controversial. Second, the competition was Game 7 of Bruins-Canadiens.

Moderator John Leone noted how late we have been to getting started the last couple of days because of all the lengthy announcements anre reports. He ran two non-binding votes about putting time limits on announcements. In the first vote, 126 wanted to limit, 21 not limit, 2 abstain. In the second vote, 58 people wanted a limit of 5 minutes, 31 wanted a limit of 4 minutes, and 51 people wanted a limit of 3 minutes. There was no way to abstain. My personal opinion is that reports should be given a reasonable window – 5 or 7 minutes. But announcements and resolutions should be much shorter, perhaps 30 seconds. Upcoming events just don’t need 3-minute infomercials.

The Moderator said he had recovered several pairs of lost glasses. He noted that emergency lights had been installed in the hall after the power outage last week.

Announcements:

  • Angela Olszewski – The tourist welcome booth is up.
  • Bill Berkowitz – Tar sands petition is in lobby during break.
  • Ed Trembly gave the report of the Tree Committee. He noted the memorial tree for Brian Murray.
  • Director of Library Ryan Livergood – Get out of jail free card for late books and materials.

Article 30 – Capital Budgets
Capital Planning Chair Charlie Foskett presented the capital plan. Among other points. John Leonard was concerned that we the high school was not sufficiently secure. He asked Bill Hayner. Stephen Harrington thinks there is insufficient spending on road work in the cemetery. He thinks we shouldn’t pay for a columbarium and moved to strike it from the budget. Moderator Leone noted that this type of motion should be distributed beforehand. Town Meeting does not benefit from surprise motions. One of the things he said was that town meeting had rejected the columbarium before. What he didn’t say was that town meeting had rejected putting the columbarium in a park, outside the cemetery. This proposal is to put the ashes of dead people in the cemetery, which is a very different question.  His argument was a bit of logical misdirection that didn’t work. He was concerned that we were renovating a church space for the food pantry. Adam Chapdelaine noted that the source of funds for the pantry would be private donations. Peter Fuller asked about the new phone system. He asked about the RFID for library. Ryan Livergood explained how this technology helped the library staff serve more people with fewer employees.  Fuller asked about windows in the Hardy School. He cheered the replacement of the parking meters. Terminated by a vote of 131-46. Amendment lost on voice vote. Voice vote was doubted, so we did electronic. 40-127-8. 172-7 the budget passed.

Article 33 – Water Mains Construction
No discussion. 178-0.

Article 35 – Committees and Commissions
Peter Fuller question about Transportation Advisory Committee. They got $25,000 in 2001 drawn down slowly. $5000 in account today.  Unanimous voice vote.

Article 36 – Town Celebrations
Unanimous voice vote.

Article 37 – Miscellaneous/Legal
Unanimous voice vote.

Article 38 – Reduce School Fees
We blew through this with a voice vote of no action. But Bill Downing had put forward a substitute motion in writing. The moderator recognized a motion to reconsider the article. I was strongly opposed to the substitute motion, but I voted to reconsider the question – it wouldn’t have been fair to just run past the issue. Bill Downing made a motion to appropriate another $205,000 for school fees. Al Tosti reminded the meeting that we had increased the school budget by more than $3 million this year. It’s up to School Committee to decide how to use it.  Stephen Harrington is in favor of the substitute motion. Nathan Swilling moved to terminate debate. 125-56 terminated debate. 77-105-1 the substitute motion failed. No action vote carried.

Article 39 – Water Bodies
Unanimous voice vote.

Article 40 – Harry Barber Program
Unanimous voice vote.

Article 41 – Uncle Sam Signage
Lawrence McKinney moved a substitute motion that would direct Arlington Tourism and Economic Devleopment (ATED) committee to put up an Uncle Sam sign. There was confusion about which slide show was on the screen. He gave a long argument about why he wanted this particular sign. Dean Carman challenged if the motion is in scope, the moderator ruled that it was. His ruling did not sound enthusiastic. John Deyst moved termination. 157-20-2 to terminate debate. McKinney’s substite failed by voice vote. No aciton was approved.

Article 42 – Uncle Sam Stationery
There was no substitute motion. No action approved.

Article 43 Holiday Lights
No action approved.

Article 44 Historic Town Sites’ Signage
No action approved unanimously.

Article 45 Old Burying Ground
No action.  At this point we were moving too quickly for me to take good notes about unanimous or not.

Article 46 Scenic Byway
Approved on voice vote.

Article 47 Accidental Disability
Approved unanimously

Article 48 Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB)
Approved unanimously

Article 49 Increase Minimum Allowance
Approved (unanimous?)

Article 50 Long Term Stabilization Fund
Unanimously approved

Article 51 Overlay Reserve
Approved on voice vote.

Article 52 – Transfer of Cemetery Funds
Stephen Harrington was opposed to this. He thinks this is not a legal expenditure of the Perpetual Care fund. Al Tosti defended the motion from a legal and from a financial perspective. Andy O’Brien asked opinion of Town Counsel Doug Heim – he said yes it was legal. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. yes on voice vote. Motion voted in favor. 129-46

No break was taken on vote of the meeting.  We were rolling and ready to finish.

Article 53 – Unencumbered Funds
Approved unanimously.

Article 54 and 55 – Electronic Voting
The moderator said we would discuss the motion and the appropriation at the same time.  Eric Helmuth proposed that we endorse electronic voting and appropriate money for the future use of electronic voting. Al Tosti amended the appropriation to be $35,0000. Kevin Greeley was in favor of the change, and wants to use the technology for the speaker list as well. 125-53-4 debate was terminated. Approved on voice vote. Appropriation also approved on voice vote.

Article 56 – Fiscal Stability
Amended and approved by voice vote.

Article 3 taken from table.

Town Meeting was dissolved.

Comments

Comment from Wes Beal
Time: May 15, 2014, 2:00 pm

Procedure stuff: my opinion is that reports from committees should take however long they need, to go over stuff that IS NOT provided in a written report.

Generally, reports should be written up and distributed to Town Meeting members beforehand.

Time at the mic reporting to Town Meeting should be limited to a) informing Town Meeting that they have been provided a report, b) directing Town Meeting in how best to interpret said report (“pay close attention to where we say blah blah blah”), and c) addressing anything not covered in the written report, as it did not reach consensus until after the report was printed, or for whatever reason couldn’t be printed out.

I say this as someone who has been informed in the past that a meeting should never be held when a memo would accomplish the same thing. In other words, I say this as someone inclined to go off onto tangents, talk a lot, and otherwise waste peoples valuable time.

Knowing this fault in myself, I try to only take up people’s time when I have something to say that really impacts them and cannot be conveyed through writing which they can read at their convenience.

In general, if the information can be conveyed in writing, then don’t take up mic time. Further, only take advantage of a captive audience when there is no other way to accomplish your objective.

Hence I generally feel that the only time to speak on an article is when my speech would affect the outcome of a vote. Otherwise I’ll blog about it, or send an email out to the people it is relevant too, if I feel strongly enough about it.

I hate the idea of stifling speech, and people are pretty good about saying important and valuable things, but there are just so many important and valuable things to say that it impedes us from doing our actual job.

Session 5 was a sad example of this, where we were trying to complete a lot of work at the end of the meeting, rushing through things, that had we possessed the 50 minutes we spent on announcements and reports at the start of the meeting would not have been rushed.

Human nature encouraged us to realize we needed to get more done, when had we felt that urgency at the start of the meeting we wouldn’t have been so rushed at the end.