Town Meeting ’16 – Session 5, and Special #2
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 lead the meeting in the National Anthem.
Moderator John Leone lamented that Wednesday’s debate had lacked civility. During debate, some speakers made insinuations made about meeting members’ and volunteer boards’ motives, and other inappropriate language. He called on the meeting to behave better going forward.
- John Maher spoke about the Salvation Army programs.
- Bob Tosi – Saturday is the Postal Service food drive – leave non-permishable items, carrier will pick it up.
- Mark Spengler – Upcoming Schwamb Mill events
Sarah Burks – Cyrus Dallin supplemental report available in back. Renovations at Jefferson Cutter House. Updates.
Test question for the electronic voting system: Is Lake Superior the world’s largest lake by surface area? Yes, was the answer. But the vote was 50-109-18.
- Clarissa Rowe put in the Community Preservation Act (CPA) report, and moved the motions within the reports. She introduced her committee members.
- Finance Committee Dean Carman – Gave a supplemental report of FinComm, Article 3 of the Special Town Meeting – School Enrollment.
- John Cole – Permanent Town Building Committee. He gave a report on fire station renovation, police station renovation, and stratton renovation.
- Jennifer Susse Chair of the School Committee – She asked for 7 minutes of time, and was granted. She gave a report on the successes of the school and the challenges. She kindly provided me with a copy of her remarks.
- Ann Leroyer – Open Space Committee – State approved our Open Space plan last Septemeber. She announced the “Experiencing Open Space” site/app.
Article 3 was tabled
Articles 35 through 42 were tabled.
Article 43 – Minuteman Appropriations
FinComm Member Steve DeCourcey asked for 15 minutes to speak, was granted. Superintendant Ed Bouquillon gave the presentation – he noted that the budget is lower this year than last. He talked about achievements and budget forces. Gordon Jamieson asked about student applications. Other questions, OPEB is only partially funded. Retirement fund is 95% funded. John Deyst asked about special ed – half of the students at Minuteman are on an IEP, highest in the state. 14% of the budget is focused on special ed. 100% passed on English, 95% math on MCAS. Paul Schlichtman noted that the state continues to fail to meet its commitment to fund transportation costs. Janice Weber asked if Minuteman has robotics program – it does. 195-2-3 budget was approved
Tosti moved to adjourn to the special town meeting.
Special Town Meeting Article 6 – Minuteman Building
Al Tosti said to follow the language approved by FinCom last week, not the amendment that he’d prepared. The FinComm motion would approve the building, contingent on the debt exclusion vote on June 14. Steve DeCourcey asked for 25 minutes. Several people were opposed to giving the extra time, but it was granted by a vote of 134-59-6. Steve DeCourcey: reported on that the approval of the FinComm was 10-8. Belmont has said no, so the current debt proposal is dead, but we still want an informational vote here. He ran through the costs of the building, the funding sources. Dr. Bouquillon spoke next. He described the MSBA process, the 9 options considered, the building project proposed, and the physical campus. He talked about the academy plan. He talked about student role in the design process, the cost savings measures of the building, and asked for Arlington’s support. Charlie Foskett opposed, as himself. He asked for 10 minutes, got it. He is opposed to the building on the issues, and the form of the article. I understand Charlie’s arguments, though I disagree with most of them. My only beef with his remarks was that he appeared to use 120 Arlington students for some calculations, but 144 students for others, depending on what point he was trying to make.
We took a break.
I spoke for 7 minutes – here are my slides. Al Tosti asked Town Counsel Doug Heim about the contingency on the debt exclusion. Heim responded that the bond votes presents no risks to Arlington. Michael Ruderman spoke favorably of Minuteman and in favor of the project. Andy O’Brien talked about his experience with vocational education and how it’s changed. Leba Heigham spoke against the building. She brought in a red herring about the plan depending on bringing in other towns – no one had made that argument. It was mentioned as a possibility, but not as a part of the plan. She pointed out that if enrollment goes up, our costs go up. John Deyst noted that Minuteman was expensive, but it is in the range of reasonable. He voted against the building in FinComm, but he has changed his mind, and he is now supporting it. I was delighted by this development. As I said in my speech, reasonable people can disagree, and I respected Deyst’s vote at FinComm. But his change of heart to support the project was most welcome. Steve Gilligan is opposed to the building. He thinks we should move vocational education into Arlington High School. This argument was not at all well-thought out. The number of programs you could put together with just Arlington’s students is maybe 5. And then, for every student who wants a program Arlington doesn’t have, by state law, we would have to pay for out-of-district tuition when that student goes to another school. Simply “bringing the students home” is not a viable strategy. He said that voting “no” didn’t kill the building. I was boggled by the number of factually incorrect or totally confused statements Gilligan made. Reasonable people can disagree – but still, there are some facts that are incontrovertible. He totally misunderstood what I said during my speech about the role of bond counsel. The cost numbers for the schools that he put forward were so far out of whack as to be nonsense – we’re not spending $20 million on portables. And, voting no does kill the building project – there’s no pencil-sharpening recovery step as he suggested. I think that the meeting as a whole was equally confused by what he said. Julia Ruderman, a student at Minuteman and a Town Meeting member, addressed the issues as a student, and urged support. Ed Trembley asked about the remediation expenses if there is renovation – they are high. Annie LaCourt asked about the alternatives we have considered. She agrees the risks are real and correctly considered, and she supported building within that consideration. Thomas Michelman asked if Minuteman could build if we vote no – the answer is not for a long time. Michelman also wanted to understand the economies of scale at different enrollments. Helmuth moved to terminate debate, and it was 138-45-3. Foskett’s motion: 41-151-2 against. Main motion: 165-31.
I’m obviously very pleased with this result, and I thank Town Meeting for its vote, and I thank everyone who has worked and volunteered for Minuteman for their time and effort. There’s still a lot to do to get this done. We need approval at the ballot box on June 14th. And then we have to figure out how to get Belmont to reconsider.