Town Meeting ’16 – 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. 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.
Jane Howard played the “Star Spangled Banner” and the meeting sang along.
We did a test question on the vote clickers: Will the Red Sox win the pennant this year 76-50-16, the vote was yes. That’s a pretty low number, but I think people were still arriving. Later vote totals were much larger.
Many people were still at the School Enrollment Task Force meeting, including Board of Selectmen Chair Diane Mahon. So, I made the motion for us to reconvene May 4th.
- Ted Paluso talked about the many tourist attractions in town and showed a handout from ATED.
- John Worden noted that in 1921 Arlington adopted “Limited Town Meeting” which we call “Representative Town Meeting.” That’s 94 years under that format – and Mr. Worden has been here for half of them.
- Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominatinons for citizen of the year.
Article 3 – Reports of Town Committees
- FinComm Chair Al Tosti – supplemental report available. Minuteman votes will be held on Monday the 9th.
- Treasurer Stephen Gilligan announced his written report was available. And, presumably, in time, on the town website.
Art 3 was laid on table.
Article 18 – Expanding Equal Protection
Vice Chair of the Human Rights Commissioner Mel Goldsipe spoke in favor of the change. Unanimously approved on voice vote. So last week we didn’t have the contractor to run the electronic voting system. The new guy was here, but he wasn’t ready – we couldn’t get the vote running, hence the voice vote.
Article 19 – Human Rights Committee Executive Director
Moderator Leone noted that this had been on the consent agenda, and someone asked to take it off the consent agenda. But then no one spoke! Adopted unanimously.
Article 20 – Human Rights Committee Chair
Consent agenda again – unanimously approved.
Article 22 – Tree Bylaw
Selectman Chair Diane Mahon related the history of the three hearings on the issue. Susan Stamps gave the presentation. She noted the bylaw does not affect taking down a tree in your back yard. It only affects trees in the setback, and only during major construction. Two changes came from Town Counsel Doug Heim. Gary Tibbets spoke in favor. He proposed an amendment to change the deadline from 90 days to 180 days to allow for seasonal difficulty in planting trees. Bill Berkowitz in favor. He spoke on the importance of trees. Daniel Jalkut was in favor, and had a question about the correction. Zarina Memon with a question on invasive species. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminated debate. It was terminated after some confusion on the clickers. The amendment passed, 203-5. The amended motion passed 200-9-1.
Article 23 – Electronic Distribution of Town Meeting Materials
Karl Wagner started with some prop comedy about all the paper, spoke in favor. Eric Helmuth – in favor. Barbar Boltz was confused about the process of opting in v. opting out – you must opt yourself in, and once in, you may opt yourself out.. Molly Flueckiger reminded everyone to keep their messaging ADA compliant. Daniel Jalkut had a question about document standards. Marian King had a question about how electronic documents would work in meetings. Steve Liggett is in favor. He advocated putting a version number on every document. Ted Sharpe thinks that the opt-out solution (once you’ve opted in) is too bureaucratic, and suggested during implementation that people be opted out if there are too many email bounces. Greg Christiana tried to terminate debate – but he spoke a few words first, and is not allowed to terminate debate if he does that. Zarina Memon moved to terminated detabe. Debate is terminated on voice vote. 202-7 in favor of the change.
Article 26 – Email Address for Public Bodies
Elizabeth Pyle introduced Chris Loreti who made a substitute motion. He wants certain boards to have town email addresses and have them listed on the website. It’s worth noting that the substitute motion was different from the original proposal that we heard at the selectmen’s hearing. The original proposal included a requirement that town email must be used for all emails by the various board members. The response of the board was to recommend no action on the bylaw, but to agree with the usefulness of town email addresses, and to ask the town manager to make emails available to town volunteers. The language was proposed tonight is much more relaxed than the original proposal. The comments in our selectmen’s report were referring to the original proposal, not the one we voted on tonight. Paul Schlichtman asked the Town Manager his opinion. Adam Chapdelaine said that it is possible, and it would make public records requests easier. Schlichtman asked what would happen if he replied to questions about a debt exclusion on a ballot question using town email. Town Counsel Doug Heim said an email probably wasn’t a problem, but distributing political documents would be against campaign law. Schlichtman said he will be abstaining. Annie LaCourt is in favor. Gordon Jamieson asked if it was a resolution – no, it’s a vote of town meeting. Michelle Durocher thinks it would help some board members. John Maher believes that it would inhibit volunteers. Zarina Memon compared town officials to Hillary Clinton, and then noted that the motion was about “pubic” records, not “public” records. As was quoted to me: “It puts a whole new meaning on combing through the records.” The change to the typo was accepted administratively.
We took a break.
Joe Tully spoke in favor. He thinks it is easy to implement. Christiana – opposed. Not clear division between “work” v. home email in this case. Karl Wagner terminated debate. By 96-92-11 it was substituted. 105-95-6 the motion carried.
Article 27 – Lobbying Public Officials
Article 28 – Community Choice Aggregation
Selectman Diane Mahon noted the Selectmen’s notes and FAQ. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine walked through the steps of how community aggregation would be adopted. Town Meeting authorizes the process, a plan is created, and then several state authorities and the Board of Selectmen have to approve the plan. He noted that if pricing isn’t favorable, we wouldn’t exercise a contract. Jacqueline Chakrabarty spoke in favor on climate protection arguments. Kevin Koch asked what happens if the costs change over the longer term – the answer is to adopt short contracts so you can reset if prices change. There was a question about Belmont’s Municipal Light Plant – not an option at this time. Flynn Monks asked and heard that 11% of the town uses competitive power already. He’s in favor of the plan. Town Meeting Member Tom Michelman works for an energy broker and he’s in favor. Michael Quinn related some history of the Municipal Power Aggregation Commiittee – a committee I served on with him. He is concerned that there are no guarantees that the price would be favorable. He also noted that this is Town Meeting’s only chance to vote on the issue. Andrew OBrien supports the article. John Deyst is in favor because he trusts the Town Manager to get it done properly. Deb Butler asked if you can still use utility budgeting and you can. Steve Ligget is in favor. He asked for some usage numbers that were not available. Charlie Foskett had a question about how cost can be lower, if renewable energy is more expensive. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said that bulk negotiation enabled lower rates. There was an interplay about whether or not there were subsidies and whether they should affect the debate. It was clarified that the aggregation being contemplated was 5% more than the Eversource basic. Karl Wagner moved to terminate debate. Terminated on voice vote. 177-22-5 it was approved. More than 200 voters at 10:30! Attendance is stronger this year.
Article 29 – Removal of Easement on Pleasant View Road
Moderator John Leone stepped down as Moderator for this article because he negotiated on behalf of the property owner. Adam Chapdelaine explained that the exterior lines were for a road that was never built. He negotiated with the property owner in similar consideration of the 2014 agreement on the adjacent property. He described how he came to a price using a “rollback” tax calculation indicated by a related section of state law. Michael Ruderman asked a question about how the cost was computed. John Worden was opposed to the last exterior line sale, and he’s opposed to this one. It permits development that he doesn’t approve it. Dean Carmen is in favor. He thinks that the 2014 solution was a good example to be followed. William Burke was confused about which property was in question. Christian Klein is concerned that we don’t have a written plan and asked some questions about the lot dimensions. Christopher Moore moved to terminate debate. After more failures of the electronic voting system, the debate was terminated and the agreement was approved on voice vote.