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Town Meeting ’19 – 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.  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.

Eric Helmuth played the national anthem on the piano. Helmuth Sock Watch: still striped, but more muted in color than the last report.

We tested the voting clickers with this question: The Sea of Tranquility can be found on the moon? 152 true (and correct), 14 false, and 15 abstained.

Select Board Chair Diane Mahon moved for us to return May 13.

Announcements

  • Michael Quinn – May 23 2PM at the Senior Center, seniors can hear about the various financial programs available to seniors. The program is sponsored by the Council on Aging and other organizations.
  • There was an announcement about Arlington Restorative Justice. I was briefly distracted and didn’t capture the announcement. My apologies.
  • John Leonard gave a token of appreciation to John and Patricia Worden – a road sign saying “Worden Way.”
  • Girls Tennis had a bake sale at the break

Art 58 – Capital Budgets Continued

Timur Yontar rose with a point of order; he asked if any of these late amendments were in order.  The moderator ruled one amendment in order, and two out of order. Patricia Worden moved an amendment to increase the flow of water through the Mill Brook pipe. David Levy is opposed to the DPW building and the Senior Center because the town is spending too much money on building, and he moved to postpone both of those projects to 2022.  David Levy’s math around capital budgets and the override was suspect. I think he was mixing annual revenue numbers with total-project numbers. Gordon Jamieson is opposed to tabling the budget to accommodate late amendments. He had a question about why we were transferring previously-borrowed money to new project. He also had a question about how the sale of the Mass Ave building would be accounted for. He had another question about why we were buying so many trucks. He had a question about voting machines, but didn’t wait for an answer. He didn’t think we heard enough about the new building projects. Greg Dennis had a question about voting machine. I spoke in favor of the main motion and against the amendment to divert the money for the Minuteman/Lake Street intersection. I argued that it was necessary because of the high volume of accidents and total traffic. I briefly described the process that TAC, the town, and Select Board went through. On Monday night I suggested that Mustafa Varoglu was working with a few bicycle advocates to kill the Lake Street light project. I absolutely accept him at his word (see comments at bottom) that he made his proposal independently.  And I agree that the drainage he wants fixed is a problem.  But  I strongly disagree with his prioritization of drainage over a traffic light.  Chair of the Capital Committee Charlie Foskett asked Director of Public Works Mike Rademacher to speak, and he explained why he can’t change the Mill Brook culvert. Adam MacNeill, member of the Arlington Bike Advocacy Committee spoke in favor of the Lake Street intersection. Bill Hayner is in favor of the traffic light. Beth Ann Friedman asked questions about the override’s impact on the budget and the tax rate. I will gladly refer questions like this to buildarlingtonsfuture.org. Andrew Fisher asked about the loss of a practice field to the DPW building – Adam Chapdelaine explained that the town will gain a net of one field between the DPW and High School projects. Alex Bilsky is in favor of the Lake Street/Minuteman project. He talked about the related problem at Brooks/Lake intersection that is involved in this project. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate on Article 58. There was a contested voice vote on termination, and we voted 150-57-4 on clickers to terminate debate. The amendment failed 20-189. The main motion was approved 198-14. Note this vote requires 2/3 approval for bonding, because it binds future town meetings which ordinarily is not allowed.  We often take separate votes for the majority-only spending, but we just did it all by 2/3 this year.

Tosti moved to table Articles 59-67 so that we can discuss the CPA.

The moderator noted that amendments need to be available 48 hours beforehand, and that he and Town Counsel Doug Heim are available to help in their drafting.  He was referring to late and badly-drafted amendments without naming them.

Article 68 Community Preservation Act

CPA Committee Chair Eric Helmuth described the projects that the CPA intends to fund. Beth Melofchik is opposed to the Whittemore Park project because of tree removal, and moved to strike it. Town Counsel Doug Heim noted that the park is the property of the town. The jurisdiction of the property mostly Select Board, but the back of the parcel is under ARB jurisdiction. Melofchik used her full 7 minutes without waiting for an answer to her questions, and if I was moderator, I’m not sure I’d have asked Doug Heim to answer them.  That said, the meeting did get useful information from the answer.  Clarissa Rowe cited her credentials as a tree hugger and a landscape architect, and supports the Whittemore project. Paul Schlichtman is in favor of the Whittemore project. Ed Trembly thinks we are overspending on the Whittemore project and is opposed. Naomi Greenfield spoke in favor of the reservoir project. She had a question about the Spy Pond playground.

9:30 break
9:39 return

Bill Berkowitz asked about trees in the Old Burying Ground – there are 15ish of 57 that will be removed from the lot. Berkowitz wants to retain the atmosphere we have today.  David Levy had a question about the impact on the beer garden and fees for the Robbins Garden. John Leonard had a question about the state CPA fund. Susan Stamps is in favor of the Whittemore project. John Worden is opposed to the Whittemore project. Debate was terminated. 20-191 Melofchik amendment was defeated. 199-15-1 the CPA proposal was approved.

Article 35 Short Term Rentals

Town Counsel Doug Heim presented the contents and impact of the bylaw. Christopher Moore asked a question about inspection and certifications. Annie LaCourt asked about implementation. Jennifer Susse was opposed to the 31-day restriction, but it turns out to be a state requirement. Timur Yontar moved to terminate debate. 202-10-1 the rules were approved.

Article 36-49 were tabled

Article 50 Local Option Short Term Rental Fees

Peter Gast asked which fee option were we approving – Doug Heim answered that we’re adopting both. 202-12.

Article 36-49 were taken from the table.

Article 36 Election Modernization Study Group

Select Board Chair Diane Mahon discussed the committee. Christa Kelleher is the originator of the proposal. She supports the motion, and offered a modest adjustment to the composition of the committee. I welcomed her amendment. Christopher Moore moved a different amendment to reduce the restrictions on the appointees. I disagree with Christopher Moore’s motion. We have a real need to get more than the usual suspects on this committee. Several of the named slots have knowledgeable, involved people. The careful descriptions were aimed at getting people outside the regular voting body to the committee.  Paul Schlichtman is opposed to the Kelleher amendment. Timur Yontar had a question about the charge to the committee. Lesley Waxman works for the Cambridge Election Commission and is very excited about the committee and wants to participate. She is in favor of the looser restrictions for appointment. Angela Olszewski said the League of Women Voters supports the article in all forms. Debate was terminated. Kelleher amendment approved 109-84-1 Moore amendment approved 152-47-2. Main motion approved 188-9-1.  I’m glad this got done, and I’m sure the committee will work well (even if I didn’t get exactly what I would have preferred).  The town is not doing things entirely right for voting.  We’re not open enough to off-hours voting, to answering voter questions, to providing visibility into the voting process.  We do things that were good choices back in the day, but I don’t think we’ve changed as fast as the town’s citizens have.   It’s sometimes hard (even when you’re an elected official!) to drive change.  I hope this committee shines a lot of lights in a lot of corners, and accelerates the pace of change in the way elections are run in Arlington.

Article 37 Remove Police Chief Position from Civil Service

As Vice Chair of the Select Board I spoke in favor of the change. My main points were 1) that the civil service process is too limiting to our hiring process.  It limits the applicant pool too sharply, and applies criteria that are not appropriate. I argued that civil service in Massachusetts is antiquated and needs to be brought up to date, despite the political obstacles to change.  I noted that the Town Manager has committed to hiring the next police chief from within the current department.  I argued that 2) we need good management control of the police chief.  If a future police chief were to work in opposition to Town Meeting’s sanctuary town resolution or any number of sensitive policing issues, the Manager would not be able to make remove the chief under civil service.  I am very pleased with our past chief and our current acting chief. I am more concerned about a future chief. Select Board Chair Mahon spoke in opposition to the change, and thinks the chief should be more protected from politics. She recounted some of Arlington’s history putting the position in and out of civil service. Brian Gallager, resident and ranking officer, spoke on behalf of the Ranking Officers Association. He and his organization are opposed to the change, and argued it was necessary for the strong leadership of the department. John Maher, former Town Counsel is in favor of the change. He explained why the situation in 2002 (a Director of Public Safety position) was different than 2019.

We adjourned shortly after 11.  Some people wanted to vote immediately, and I understand the motivation.  But I think this article is a significant change and I prefer to let the debate run it’s course.

The meeting was adjourned after notices of reconsideration were accepted.

Will we finish on Monday? We didn’t move fast today, but there is still a way to finish Monday if we want to. But I moved my odds to later rather than earlier. 5/13: 60%; 5/15 35%; 5/20 5%.

Comments

Comment from Peter Fuller
Time: May 9, 2019, 9:31 am

Article 36 Election Modernization Study Group: Christopher Moore’s successful amendment, de-restricting who the Moderator can appoint, offers opportunity to add an election worker to the group. This could add a useful perspective on the mechanics of elections from someone who actually works “on the ground” in the polling places.

Comment from Joe Tully
Time: May 9, 2019, 10:11 am

I want to make the wild west intersection that is the bike path/Lake Street safer for everyone. I think a signal there makes sense. I voted for Mr. Varaglou’s amendment because I wanted to ask a couple questions that seemed important to consider and debate was terminated before I could get those answers. I also suspected that the town could in fact afford to do both projects, so my vote was more of a silent protest against the town not doing all it could to solve BOTH problems and causing an unnecessary fight between the two projects. (1) Why does it cost 750k to put in one traffic signal? The town manager answered this question for me. Essentially we have to replace/reconfigure the other signal a block away, as well as do all the underground work that goes into wiring same, and there will also be some reconfiguring of the bike path itself. (2) How much would it cost to fix Mr. Varaglou’s drainage problem? Answer from town manager: approx 10k. Seems like we could have found a solution for both.

Comment from Joe Tully
Time: May 9, 2019, 10:21 am

With respect to the election article. I, and I think a lot of others were unclear what Ms. Kelleher’s amendment was all about, so i didn’t want to vote for something that I didn’t entirely understand. I voted for Mr. Moore’s amendment because I think it was eminently reasonable. I’m all for diversity in these working groups but Kelleher’s language was so restrictive it foreclosed the opportunity to have so many different types of qualified people serve. For those who may be reading but don’t know what I’m referring to, the article stated that the 3 moderator appointees must be (1) a highschool student, (2) someone who has lived in town fewer than 5 years and (3) a “green card” holder. I think it’s fine to have people like that on the committee but to limit participation to ONLY people that fit one of those categories is ridiculous.

Comment from M. Curren
Time: May 9, 2019, 10:26 am

Unfortunately, cable transmission was lost during much of Mr. Maher’s comments on Police Chief position. Is there a way to access them now?

Comment from Adam Auster
Time: May 9, 2019, 10:57 am

I do not think that the vote against the Minuteman drainage amendment was a vote against addressing the drainage problem.

Suppose the Town had come to TM and said, hey, there’s this problem with drainage on the bike path. We don’t know exactly what’s going on or how much it would cost to fix, but give us 3/4 of a million and we will take care of it.

TM would say no.

That’s not how the Town does things, of course. In the case of the Lake St. project, there were different scoping processes and and engineering report and a design process. By the time it came to TM there was an actual design and cost.

Probably the drainage problem is small enough to be addressed without a line item in the capital budget.

Comment from Michael Watson
Time: May 9, 2019, 11:12 am

The letter below was part of the supplementary material made available to TMM yesterday so it is possible that few people saw it. But it strikes me as a “good faith effort” by Arlington DPW Mike Rademaker to address the flooding concerns. Copies & pasted in its entirety.
Memo to: Town Meeting
From: Michael Rademacher, DPW Director
Date: May 8th, 2019
Subject: Minuteman Path Flooding Concerns
Town Meeting Members,
I would like to address the issue which came up at Town Meeting on Monday May 6th.
A few years ago, flooding in the area discussed on Monday, was brought to the attention of DPW and the
Engineering Department. At that time we addressed it by noting the location of the flood waters and installing a
leaching catch basin (CB) in the area. For the most part this has addressed the situation with the exception of
flooding which occurs during cold weather months. When the ground is frozen or a snow bank exists along the
edge of the path, water will not infiltrate or cannot find its way to the CB.
I believe DPW can further study and resolve this issue without the use of funds being requested for the Lake
Street Crossing. I intend to have the Engineering Department perform a ground survey of the path in this area to
define the limits of the problem. Once we have a better understanding of the area’s topography, we can locate
additional drain structures to alleviate the problem. The additional structures will either need to be installed in the
path itself or on a paved shoulder which we can keep clear in the winter to allow for melting snow to access to the
drainage.
I will be available to answer any questions regarding this matter.
Sincerely,
Michael Rademacher

Comment from Mustafa Varoglu
Time: May 9, 2019, 4:53 pm

I saw the note from Mr. Rademacher on the TMM list serve before the meeting and I had my hand up to speak again to ask Mr. Rademacher to come up and share this with the TMM. We terminated debate before my turn to speak came up. At the end of vote Mr. Foskett did say that the town would look into the problem and try to address the issue.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 10, 2019, 10:51 am

M. Curren, the ACMi broadcast of Wednesday’s town meeting is posted online at https://acmi.tv/videos/annual-town-meeting-may-8-2019/. Mr. Maher’s comments are near the very end. I found them very informative as to his rationale then, and now.

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