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Town Meeting ’15 – Session 3

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.

Unfortunately, I missed Wednesday’s session, and I have no notes. I don’t miss a lot of meetings, but I went out of town for this one.

A local chorus group, Vocal Revolution, sang the National Anthem in barbershop-quartet style.

A handful of new town meeting members were sworn in and applauded for their new membership.

Next meeting was set for May 11.


  • Paul Bayer made an announcement about the “motion to terminate debate on all matters.” He noted that on Wednesday town meeting had a motion to terminate debate on all matters when only one of the several amendments had actually been discussed. He noted that town meeting didn’t talk about several of the amendments. He reminded town meeting members that they might move to terminate debate on only a few amendments at a time so as to permit a fuller debate.
  • Steve Decourcey announced that baked goods were for sale in the hall from AHS tennis. They are vying for entry into the state tournament.
  • Jeremy Marin – May 7th Rot and Roll

Article 3 was removed from the table.

  • Barbara Costa – She noted that the Committee on Arts and Culture update is in writing. She noted in particular the calendar and website.
  • Stephen Gilligan gave the report of the Treasurer. He noted the for closure program and the revenue that it is getting.

Article 3 was tabled.

We did a test vote on the clickers – the result was 135 – 38 – 18. That’s 191 votes. Later vote totals were higher.

Article 7 – Regulating Posted Event Notices, continued

I missed the start of this debate on Wednesday, so I didn’t know exactly what was the state of debate.

Bob Radochia: He noted that sign clutter has already been against the law, and this change doesn’t fix the problem. He showed some examples of signs that were long past their expiration date. Paul Bayer moved a two-word amendment that would make the signs permitted only if posted for non-commercial. A resident was unhappy with lack of enforcement with current rules. He wants to protect the decorative poles. There was a concern that lost pet signs would be taken down too quickly. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate on all matters. 172-25-5, debate was terminated. There were two parts to the vote, the zoning change and the bylaw change. The zoning was first because it required 2/3 vote. Sean Harrington’s amendment – add “town committee and student groups” passed 142-63-3. Bayer’s amendment add “non-commercial” passed 143-59-6. Vote on main motion passed 171-35-1. BoS bylaw vote was the same list. Harrington’s passed 162-39-2. Bayer’s amendment passed by voice vote, the main motion passed.

Al Tosti moved to table Articles 12-23 so they could bring up Minuteman Vocational School budget.

Article 28 – Minuteman Vocational School budget

Minuteman Superintendent Bouquillon reported that the overall Minuteman budget was up 0.9%. Arlington’s assessment is up 5.89%. He noted that the school is getting smaller and closing a few programs. Town assessments are up a lot because the state is lowering the tuition Minuteman is permitted to charge the out-of-district students. Stephen Harrington complimented Minuteman on having a small budget increase and wondered why Arlington schools couldn’t do the same. At least part of the answer is enrollment growth – Arlington has growing enrollment, and Minuteman has declining enrollment. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.  The per-pupil costs are informative, but they aren’t perfect either – vocational education is typically a lot more expensive than general ed. There was a question about why non-member towns get lower costs, and the short answer is state law. Barbara Thornton asked a question about medicare reimbursement; it’s not used anymore. She asked about how to fix the free rider problem for out-of-district students. The Superintendent said there is a new program where non-members towns will have to pay for part of the capital costs. What he didn’t say is that those towns are free to come and go every year – they are not on the hook for a long term commitment like Arlington is. Dean Carman spoke. He said that Minuteman’s financial situation is bad and it’s getting worse. Arlington is paying more as the school is shrinking. The new regional agreement is not getting passed. There was a question about which programs are being opened and closed. Several speakers support the school’s programs. The point was made that per pupil cost is much higher in this budget, even as the budget is smaller. There was a question about the proposed building project: she asked what it meant to have 8% annual enrollment increases predicted. That was a very astute question! I don’t think the Superintendent really answered it.  He certainly didn’t answer how he thinks he can increase enrollment by 36% over 4 years. There was a question on when it will be built. All the votes that would have to happen were described.

We did a 10-minute break.

Questions on cost of the new building. Prices were discussed. Sean Harrington moved to terminate debate. 129-34-3 terminated, 156-16-2 budget passed. I was on the list to speak. I believe that Minuteman is in an unsustainable situation. Arlington should not and will not vote for a new building without the district first approving a new regional agreement. Town Meeting, FinCom, and the Board of Selectmen have all voted to send that message. Unfortunately, several towns have not approved that regional agreement, and in the April meeting the Minuteman School Committee voted to table the pursuit of the agreement “indefinitely.” I am a strong supporter of vocational education, but that support has limits. It isn’t fair for Arlington to shoulder the costs that are outlined in current regional agreement. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the district can negotiate it’s way to a solution. I believe that state intervention is required.

Articles 12-28 were untabled.

Article 12 – Vision 20/20

Juli Brazile explained the structure of the Vision 2020 committee. She walked through the proposed changes to the Standing Committee. 178-2 changes approved.

Article 13 – Sell 1207 Mass Ave

There were questions about what deed covenants might be imposed. There were concerns about leasing and how it might interfere with selling the property. We carefully built the RFP for the lease to cover that – the lease won’t interfere with the sale, and may aid the sale. It was asked how did we got the property: we got it in the mid-1920s, but we didn’t know that we owned it until we were research the owner of the property after the residents, the DAV, was busted for alcohol violations. It wasn’t a shining moment for the town, for sure. We did check to make sure there are no other properties like this. Zarina Memon was opposed to sale – we can get more as rental property. “Monopoly is a great game for me,” she said. Sale approved 184-11.

Article 14
No action.

Article 15 – Change to Director Assessments

Board of Selectmen recommend vote of no action. Peter Howard moved a substitute motion from Chris Loreti. Chris Loreti argued that moving the Director of Assessments under the Town Manager would work better. He listed several reasons to support it, including increased transparency and more integration with the Town Manager. Assessor Kevin Feeley spoke against the change, saying that the current system works well, and cited other examples of the management structure in the town including the BoS hiring the Town Manager and the Superintendent hired by the School Committee. Gordon Jamieson was in favor, saying it would be a more professional organization. Stephen Harrington was in favor. Adam Auster was in favor. EJ Harris was opposed to the change, saying that the political oversight of assessments was appropriate. Steve Smith moved to terminate debate, approved 104-73-8. Change passed 116-76-2. It now goes to the General Court to be considered as a home rule petition.

Article 16 – Complete Streets

The Town Manager explained that this is a step towards meeting the state designation as a Complete Streets town. That will make us eligible for state grants. Ed Trembley was opposed – he thinks that roads should be more car friendly. He doesn’t think we should take the money. Scott Smith spoke in favor and showed some examples of complete streets, good and and bad. Annie LaCourt was in favor, as this will not impede driving, but make it easier to use other forms of transportation. John Deyst noted that this vote only makes us eligible, it does not commit us to anything. There was a question about whether or not Town Meeting will vote on the final policy, and the answer is likely not. There were other speakers for and against. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. Terminated on voice vote. 157-33 in favor.


Comment from Peter Fuller
Time: May 5, 2015, 2:28 pm

Paul Bayer’s commented to the meeting, in the wake of the CPA committee debate, urging members to consider making targeted motions to terminate debate only on well-discussed amendments, in order to refocus debate to the underlying main motion. I’m always in favor of a fuller debate, so Bayer’s comment was right on target and I thank him for it.

And a small correction: the Article 7 amendment attributed to Stephen Harrington was in fact offered by Sean Harrington.

Comment from Wes Beal
Time: May 5, 2015, 2:55 pm

The Moderator I thought took more electronic votes when the motion to terminate debate came up last night.

I’ve thought about the issue of how soon debate should be terminated a fair amount.

When I arrive at Town Meeting, I’ve done some homework, and have a pretty good idea how I will vote before the session begins.

Of course, debate can reveal reasons to vote one way or another that I haven’t thought of before.

I have an issue with people getting up and speaking when they aren’t adding any such information to the debate.

We’re accustomed to hearing too many people get up and give a reason for voting one way or the other that we’ve already heard. It’s tricky, as sometimes you might feel that a speaker has not expressed your point very well, and you think you can do a better job.

I don’t think we need to sit through a half hour of how person X thinks we should vote against Y for the same reasons as the previous 3 speakers.

When I think I know what my vote is going to be, I usually vote in the affirmative when a motion to terminate debate comes up. There were a couple times last night when I chose to abstain on the motion to terminate, because while I’d made up my mind I could see how some members might still be waiting to figure out where they stood on an amendment.

Otherwise the vast majority of time, I vote to terminate.

We’re pretty good about letting a string of people get up and speak first before terminating.

My guess is that other members also vote in the affirmative only when they know how they’ll vote.

I lay more blame at anyone that takes up speaking time to make some point that doesn’t add to the issue.

Pingback from Town Meeting adopts ‘Complete Streets’ handily | The Word on the Street
Time: May 5, 2015, 8:05 pm

[…] Dunn has a quick summing up of last night’s vote and discussion at the end of his unofficial report on the session (see “Article […]

Comment from Rich
Time: May 5, 2015, 8:20 pm

A recent Globe article about Minuteman said there is an alternative to the requirement of a unanimous vote of the member Town Meetings — that Minuteman could instead call an election in all the member towns and the “majority” would win.

However, the article did not explain what “majority” meant. Is it “majority of everyone voting in the election”? Or is it “compute the election results town-by-town, and whatever took a majority of towns wins the election.”

Comment from Rich
Time: May 5, 2015, 8:21 pm

When I was in TM I had pretty much the same position as Mr. Beal.

Comment from Sean Harrington
Time: May 6, 2015, 12:11 am

Correction to your notes Dan. I presented the amendment to Article 7, not Stephen.

Comment from william logan
Time: May 6, 2015, 2:11 am

I voted against complete streets because it didn’t include provisions for my horse and buggy! =)

Comment from Michael Ruderman
Time: May 6, 2015, 9:58 am

Regarding the election option for deciding the issue of a Minuteman rebuild, “majority” means, of the votes cast throughout the school district [Mass. General Laws chapter 71, section 16(n)]. The present and proposed regional agreements are posted at

Comment from dunster
Time: May 7, 2015, 9:26 am

I agree with Wes Beal about terminating debate, and I often support votes to terminate. I think Bayer’s comment, though, was about a very specific kind situation where, like that night, there are 5? 7? amendments on the floor. There are times when it makes sense to do the debate in chunks. We’re just not practiced at it.

Error corrected.