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Town Meeting ’16 – Session 7

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.

I skipped Wednesday’s meeting – went on a little vacation.  Sorry for the hole in the notes!

Jane Howard lead the meeting in the National Anthem.

Test question: Is corn the most produced grain? Answer was yes, corn then wheat then rice. But we got the vote wrong 26-95-6.

We voted to come back on Wednesday if necessary. It won’t be, thankfully.


  • Jim O’Conor asked for a sense of the meeting about when precinct organizational meetings should be. On voice vote, the meeting indicated a preference for doing all of the organization on the first night.
  • Moderator John Leone announced that the special legislation for the change in the director of assessments had been approved and signed by the Governor.

Articles 35-42 were taken off the table.

Article 35 – Budgets, continued

Steve Revilak: Is the number of permits going up? Head of Inspections Michael Byrne: yes. Do you have the resources you need? Yes.

Al Tosti: He moved the FinCom proposed modified education vote, with more money from Chapter 70 funds. He noted that the education increase is 6.7%. He said that it was generous – maybe even too generous. Peter Fuller with a question about Arlington Community Education. Last year we said we were going to reduce the rate of education budget increase – he’s glad we’re not. He was pleased with the detail in the School Committee’s report. Linda Hanson revisited Arlington’s high performing schools for low costs. But she noted that part of that was that school salaries are very low. Gary Tibbets: do we go for grants? Yes, full time grant writer. Brendan O’Day Pct 14. He showed how our projections have been wrong for the last few years – we’ve out performed several years in a row. Al Tosti: no recession. I spoke on O’Day’s points. When you build a model, financial model or otherwise, you think about how you want it to fail – you want it to fail in a “safe” way. Our model is inherenty conservative so that if there are errors in projection, they are manageable. We’ve been lucky, and the errors have moved in our favor. That’s not bad forecasting – it’s safe forecasting.  Janice Weber – are the teacher salaries relatively low? Kathy Bodie: yes there are. Override would cost $250 per year? Yes. Carl Wagner moved termination, done on education. Budget amendment was approved.

Len Kardon: Weekend hours were successfull. We should get away from formula budgeting, and make sure we’re delivering good things like this. Jennifer Susse: Friends of the Fox want to have more hours in the east; she encouraged the town to take the money. Jalka: Not clear why the Fox Library is being treated differently.

Gordon Jamieson spoke about retirements. Zarina Memon spoke about nuclear weapons and retirements.

No questions.

Reserve Fund
Gordon Jamieson: question about management of snow-and-ice budgets.

Ed Burns Arena
no questions.

Voice vote. Approved. The electronic voting clicker failed again here – but it got better towards the end of the meeting.

Article 36 – Capital Planning
Chairman Charlie Foskett gave the report of the committee. John Leonard found out the Senior Center Feasibility study will be available in a couple weeks. He had questions about Town Hall Work. Susan Stamps asked about the plan for the DPW renovation. There is rehab/renovation in the future. Gordon Jamieson was not happy with the use of CPA funds. Zarina Memon was confused about how many water heaters there were in the new fire station. Andrew Fischer – Lombard bleachers? Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine: will try for CPA funding next year for them. Peter Fuller: Stratton funding from selling the DAV? Going to RFP. Danuta Forbes on DPW: Can we put the high school there? Unlikely, but will be looked at. Schlichtman moved terminate. vote 1: approved. vote 2: approved unanimously. vote 3, the bonding: 193-4 approved. Votes 5 and 6 Yes. We moved on, then realized we forgot Vote 4 and came back. Vote 4: Unaninmous vote.

Article 37 – Rescind Borrowing
Voted yes

Article 38 – Mugar Application Fees
What is the current status? Waiting for them to file. Fuller: under what jurisdiction will this be spent? Amended to be the Town Manager. Amendment approved. 173-6

Article 39 – Public Art
No action. Approved.

Article 40 – School Capacity
Handled in the special. No action approved.

Article 41 – Sewer Facilities
Worden: Lead in pipes? Rademacher: Our records aren’t great. We don’t see a lot in the field. We’re looking for it as we replace the home meters. Andy O’Brien: Arlington has very low dissolved solids – never looked specifically at the lead though. Carl Wagner said he found lead in his house’s water in the morning samples. Gordon Jameison thinks we should spend more money on testing in schools. Schlichtman terminate on voice vote. 188-1 approved.

Article 42 – Water Facilities
188-0 approved. I think I missed getting my vote in on that one because I was typing!

Article 47 – Water Bodies Funds
182-2 approved.

Article 50 – OPEB

Article 51 – Long Term Stabilization Fund

Article 53 – Special Ed Stabilization
Tosti: Money taken from this year’s budget: $135,000. Only be spent by vote of Town Meeting.

Article 55 – Use of Free Cash (Unencumbered Funds)

Article 56 – Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund
Tosti: set the number. 191-0

Article 57 – Community Preservation Fund
Vice Chair Eric Helmuth: vote on each question separately. Approved on voice vote. Chairman Clarissa Rowe explained the 5 proposed projects. Helmuth explained the votes. Jalka is in favor. Michael Ruderman wanted to know why so much money was planned for administrative expenses. Rowe: to manage the projects and to relieve the pressure from other budgets, like Town Manager. Ed Trembley had a question about the Kimball House – answered by AHC Executive Director Pam Hallet. Christian Klein is in favor. Phil Goff moves to terminate on all articles. Terminated on voice vote. Vote 1: Approved. (7 against, forgot to write down the votes in favor). Vote 2: approved 171-15-1. Eric Helmuth moved to amend the 3rd vote to no action. Pedantically, I’ll note that the moderator had accepted a motion to terminate debate, so this motion should have been ruled out of order.  But the will of the body was done even if the rules are slippery sometimes..  Amendment approved. 185-1-1.

Article 59 – Resolution Parking
Darcy Devney gave presentation. 183-4

Article 60 – Precinct 17 to Highland.
John Leonard moved a substitute resolution – he would like the polling location to be in Highland fire station. Chief Jefferson explained why using a garage for voting was a bad idea. Stuart Cleinman is in favor of the resolution. He proposed an amendment to remove the words “Highland Station.” Amendment passed. Motion to substitute 108-69-5 passed. Substituted motion passed 109-67-9.

Town Meeting was dissolved.


Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 17, 2016, 12:02 pm

On Article 57, the purpose of moving Separate Consideration at the outset was to enable the necessary amendment on vote 3 so we didn’t appropriate or reserve more money than we actually had. But perhaps that strategy did hinge on more precision in terminating debate. There is probably a smoother way to do it next year, thanks for the observation.

Comment from Daniel Jalkut
Time: May 17, 2016, 2:46 pm

As somebody still learning the ropes with respect to Town Meeting, I’m curious to know how article 57 could have been handled more “by the book.” Would the thing to do be to move separate consideration, AND move to amend the 3rd vote to no action, so that there would already be an open motion for it when debate terminated? It seems like a balancing act to maintain the rules of order precisely when debate can be decisively terminated so abruptly.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 17, 2016, 6:26 pm

Daniel, better parliamentarians than I should correct me, but: Moving separate consideration — similar though not identical to dividing the question, per Town Meeting Time — allows each separated section to be considered (i.e. debated and voted) separately. Perhaps the Moderator could have separated the debate on the 3 votes, although as Dan noted, the intent of Town Meeting was still plenty clear. Conversely, moving to change the 3rd vote to No Action before we knew whether we needed to might have inhibited clarity. Fortunately, we have another year to think about the best method to ensure Town Meeting meets the legal requirement to spend or reserve at least 10% of annual CPA revenues to each of the 3 funding areas.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 17, 2016, 6:52 pm

Correcting myself after consulting Town Meeting Time – what we actually did was divide the question, not separate consideration. I’ll let someone else take it from here.