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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.

Town Meeting ’16 – Session 4

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.

The Board of Selectmen ran late – we were having a vigorous discussion about the language for the debt exclusion vote to be held on June 14th. I arrived a few minutes late, just as the anthem started.

Eric Helmuth lead the meeting in the National Anthem.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Diane Mahon moved that we reconvene on May 9th.


  • Chairman Mahon thanked the meeting for their patience while we held our vote.
  • FinCom Chair Al Tosti – Minuteman vote is Monday, and school building vote for Gibbs is Wednesday.
  • Adam Chapedelaine – He announced a Mass Ave Rebuild Phase 2 “Walkshop” for Thursday May 12.
  • Mr. Chapdelaine apologized for an incorrect answer he gave on Monday. The removal of the exterior lines did create another buildable lot. Later the moderator said that notice of reconsideration had been given by Christian Klein, and anyone who wanted to reverse their vote should talk to him. He has the option of moving reconsideration, and if he does, Town Meeting could reverse the approval vote.  We would first have to approve the motion to reconsider (a 2/3 vote, I think), and then we’d re-do the debate and final vote.
  • Jane Howard announced May 14 is Spy Pond trail days – come help maintain the pond.

The moderator announced that the owner of the electronic voting system was here to supervise.  On Monday, the system kept losing connection with the clickers.  It seemed to work without incident tonight. We held a test vote, on this May (the) 4th (be with you): Are you a Star Wars fan? 134-60-14.

Article 3 – Reports
Charlie Foskett announced that the Capital Planning Committee report was available.

Article 3 was tabled.

Article 8 – Residential Zoning
Patricia Worden introduced Chris Loreti and made a substitute motion. After fixing a typo, he argued that the change had minor effects and made for larger yards, and should be supported.  He alleged that the ARB pulled their support from pressure from the selectmen, who “have close connection with the developers.” I couldn’t help but smile – this allegation is so absurd.  I work and socialize with geeks, engineers, venture capitalists, and even hedge fund managers.  I don’t have anything against developers, but to suggest that I am somehow beholden to them, or inappropriately acting on their behalf – it’s a laugher.  Maybe he meant that I have connection with software developers, in which case he’d actually be right.  I’ll add it to the list of false allegations he has made about about me over the years.  Diane Mahon introduced Lynne Lowenstein. She said that zoning changes shouldn’t be done piecemeal. She is in favor of zoning changes, but not pick-and-choose, unvetted changes. They have unintended consequences. Nicole Knobloch is a realtor, she spoke and then introduced Mr. Niberg. He said that we’re dealing with puzzle pieces, and we need to look at the full picture. John Worden is fine with a committee to consider a zoning overhaul, but only if there is a moratorium on building. He doesn’t think zoning is confusing, but he thinks the anonymous propaganda was incorrect and confusing. ARB chair Andrew Bunnell agree with previous speakers that it is on the ARB to make zoning understandable. That is why they voted no action – the feedback was that the proposals weren’t clear and needed more work. Andrew Fischer clarified what we were actually voting on. He thinks the 7-foot rule is reasonable and he was voting in favor. Gordon Jamieson moved the question – terminated on voice vote. Ted Paluso tried to continue the debate, and was ruled out of order.  The vote to terminate debate was questioned, so we had a counted vote.  By 135-71-5 not terminated. Ted Paluso then was permitted to speak, and he demanded an apology for the insults by Chris Loreti to the selectmen. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate again. 160-57-3 we terminated. 70-146-1 we did not substitute the motion. No action approved on voice vote.

Article 8 – Residential Zoning
No action.

Article 10 – Residential Parking Zoning
Elizabeth Pyle moved the original ARB suggested language (which they had withdrawn). She argued that steep driveways are a public safety issue. Steve Robilak isn’t convinced this is a safety measure. Gary Tibbets is opposed to the change. He introduced Mr. Copperthorne who advocated to follow the ARB, and that it is not a safety issue any more than usual. Janice Weber is opposed – she lives on a hill and the proposed rule would impact her negatively. Christian Klein gave examples of various grade percentages in practice. He noted that more special permits cost money, and ZBA would need more budget if this pased. John Hoppe is in favor – his street has new houses at 30% grade, and they are holes in the streetscape.  Phil Goff asked the ARB why they pulled support at the last minute? ARB Chair Andrew Bunnel answered that the ARB decided that all of the residential articles needed more work; the commercial ones were fine, but the residential ones were not clear and did not have consensus.  Goff is concerned with the “pit houses,” the ones with below-grade garages.  I see a lot of merit in this proposal.  I’m particularly concerned with flooding. In the lower, flatter parts of Arlington the downslope driveways into a dugout garage have terrible flooding problems. The people buying the houses don’t understand that their new garage is actually a flood control cistern. But this is exactly why I voted against it. It might be a bad idea in East Arlington, but a good idea on the side of Mt. Gilboa. We need a more comprehensive approach, not a one-size-fits-all restriction. Mustafa Varoglu asked about what the effect on existing driveways would be. If you have an existing non-conforming driveway, there wouldn’t be a restriction on repaving, but there would be on extension, renovation, or other new building. Annie LaCourt asked about the source of the idea – it came from Master Plan Implementation Committee. There was no data about how often these driveways happen. She asked when the ARB would consider the residential questions – Andrew Bunnell said a timeframe is forthcoming, and his goal is to have something for next year’s Town Meeting.


Several speakers passed. Mr. Worden noted the support of the Master Plan Implementation Committee for the ARB language. He said that if this is voted down, and anyone is hit by a car, it would be on our conscience. I was reminded of what political debate looks like in Springfield. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate. 160-37-4 terminated. 74-126-3 motion failed. No action approved on voice vote.

Article 11 – New Residential Construction
Adam Auster moved a resolution to refer residential building to a committee appointed by the Town Manager to report back to Town Meeting. He talked about some of the rebuilding in East Arlington, how some of it was positive, but how some of it wasn’t fitting. ARB Andrew Bunnell is in favor.  Patricia Worden was in favor. John Belskis wasn’t sure if he was in favor, but was concerned with the power of developers. Gordon Jamieson is opposed; he thinks we have the committees in place already. Len Kardon said that people should vote yes only if they think there is a problem to be addressed. Andrew Bengtson had questions about getting visualizations from an intern. Steve Robilak wondered about committee overlaps. Adam Chapdelaine, in answer to a question, said he would likely use the Master Plan Implementation committee to do this. Debbie Edelstein was uncomfortable with some of the editorializing in the motion. She’s opposed. Mark McCabe moved terminate debate. 174-22-4 terminated. Adam Auster’s substitute motion passed 107-95-2. 118-85 final approval.

Article 30 – Gilboa
No action

Article 31 – Local Option
No ation

Article 32 – CDBG Expenditures
I gave an explanation of Community Development Block Grants, our process, and recent updates.  There was a request for more historical data. There was a question about administration costs.  Approved.  Someone was opposed, but I’m not sure what they were opposed to . . .

Article 33 – Revolving Funds
Adam Chapdelaine noted there is report and an extended report. Approved unanimously.

Article 34 – Position Reclassifications
Approved unanimously.

Article 35 – Budgets
There was question if we should postpone the budgets- Adam Chapdelaine said that several department heads were here for budgets, and we should go forward.  We went forward with the budgets.  Every budget name was read, and some were tacitly approved, while some were “held” for discussion.

FinComm Budget – Mostly wasn’t questions – there were people who approved or disapproved of some of the choices FinComm has made.

Town Manager  Budget – John Leonard – deputy town manager was vacant for several months – where did the money go? Unused money returned to free cash (aka unrestricted funds). John Leonard had questions about the assistant and deputy town manager roles and costs. Carl Wagner asked about the decision to give the Town Manager a raise. John Deyst spoke in favor of the Town Manager’s budget. Zarina Mamon asked why the expenses didn’t go up. She had questions about salaries, steps, and longevity. I answered about why we gave a housing allowance. I noted the allowance was for this manager, not future ones. Al Tosti spoke in favor of the assistant town manager position.  Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate, done on voice votes.

Remaining budgets with holds: IT, Treasurer, Assessors, ZBA, Public Works, Facilities, Community Safety, Inspections, Education, Libaries, Retirement, Insurance, Reserve Funds, Ed Burns Arena.

We adjourned.

I believe the plan for Monday is to table the remaining budgets and take up the Minuteman annual budget, then go into the Special Town Meeting and vote on the Minuteman building project.

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
No action

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.

Town Meeting ’16 – Session 2 (And Special TM Session 1)

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.

8:02 call to order.

The moderator announced that the electronic voting operator wasn’t present. We have no electronic voting until he comes! The moderator said that we will run under the “old” meeting rules – use a voice vote most of the time, and if 5 people rise to doubt the ruling on the voice vote there will be a standing vote, etc.

Eric Helmuth played the National Anthem on the piano. I think he did a great job! Fast and energetic.

The Moderator swore in the one new member. He was applauded.

The Special Town Meeting was called to order.

We voted to return for the Special on Monday May 9th if it is not completed tonight.

The Special Town Meeting was called because we thought we might need very fast resolution on some school building projects.  That has turned out to not be the case.  Still, it was the right move at the time – it kept our options open while we considered the school building needs.

Announcements and Resolutions

  • Steve Decourcey announced the High School Girl Tennis team is selling baked goods.
  • John Maher noted that he has been here for more than half the 79 Town Meetings under the current system. He invited application to the Symmes Foundation for medical uses of the community.
  • Jacoby?. Early voting will be available in Massachusetts. Educate your neighbors!
  • (I missed the name!) from Arlington Cultural Council spoke about arts in the town. Arlington Center for the Arts, ACA. Commision on Arts and Culture ACAC. Arlinton Culturual Council ACC.  ACC gave 17 grants for $22,000 to support the arts in town.


  • Andrew Bunnell of the ARB: Letter on the chairs explaining the last-minute change in recommendation on Articles 8-10.
  • John Leonard: – Dissolve the CPA Study Committee. Question on the Building Maintenance Committee. Maintenance Study Committee dissolved – again.

Article 1 of Special Town Meeting – FY2016 budgets. No action

Article 2 Transfer Special Ed
$200k approved on voice vote.

Article 3 Capital School Capacity
Al Tosti explained that the School Enrollment Task Force has a hearing tomorrow night to hear from the architect. On Monday the Task Force will meet again and make recommendations. FinComm will meet and consider the recommendations and get a report to Town Meeting. He moved postponement to May 11 or earlier at the call of the moderator. Postponed on voice vote.

Article 4 Stratton
No action.

Article 5 Arlington High School Feasibility Study
Al Tosti: this is a first step for a new High School. Superintendent Kathy Bodie described the history of our application with the MSBA and outlined some of the problems with the current facility. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine walked through the MSBA process, where we are in it, and what Town Meeting’s role is. Gordon Jamieson asked about the LABB collaborative and the role of the Permanent Town Building committee. The appropriation was unanimously approved, contingent on the success of the Proposition 2.5 debt exclusion vote set for June 14th.

Article 6 Minuteman Building
Al Tosti reported that the Selectmen’s Minuteman Task Force had voted on Tuesday morning 8-1 to support the building. Later Tuesday FinComm voted 10-8 to support the building. He said that it was a tough question with a difficult discussion. He asked that this be postponed to May 9th. Postponed.  I support the Minuteman building project.  I haven’t fully written out my thoughts, but the framework of my argument can be read here.

Adjourned Special Town Meeting.

Article 11 – Regular Town meeting – Garage Entrance Locations
Adam Auster put in a substitute motion, but moved to postpone until after Article 10.  Postponed.

Article 12 and 13 were already approved on the consent vote, so we moved on:

Article 14 – Increasing Space Between Buildings
John Belskis proposed a substitute motion. He wants to make a change in the side yard setbacks. He wants to keep larger buildings from being built and encroaching on neighbors. Gordon Jamieson is opposed – it’s too restrictive, particularly for those parts of towns with housing on small lots. ARB Chair Andrew Bunnel said the ARB had no opinion. Gregory Christiana – there isn’t enough information about what is affected. Another speaker was opposed. Mark Lombard was opposed, and showed pictures of his renovation. Tom Caccavaro introduced Don Westwater. He is opposed. There was an outbreak of rude mocking from the upper gallery. The moderator asked the meeting to act with civility. There was confusion about the content of the substitute motion. The moderator himself was confused. Mr. Belskis re-explained the motion. Andy O’Brien is concerned that these changes could lower property values. Kevin Greeley introduced Steve McKenna. McKenna was unhappy with some of the negative comments about the ARB on Monday. He thinks the zoning bylaws are too complex, and we need to start from the beginning. He wants to rewrite from the beginning. Mustafa Varoglu moved to terminate debate. Terminated on voice vote. Substitution failed on voice vote. No action approved on voice vote.

Article 15 – Large Additions
John Worden moved a substitute motion. He thinks there is an epidemic of “teardowns and mansionization.” He wants to protect neighborhoods. He would like to make it much harder to do a teardown. He said that much of the opposition information being distributed wasn’t true. Elizabeth Pyle supports the substitute motion. She thinks teardowns should be treated the same as additions. She pointed out that a teardown is easier than an addition, and that isn’t sound. I think that her argument was a compelling one. However, the substitute includes additional restrictions on additions and teardowns that I think were excessive.  Worden wants to restrict development much more than I do, and this language that he proposed went farther than I’m comfortable with.  I would support a “clean” change that treats teardowns the same as additions.  But I didn’t support the multiple changes in the substitute motion.

7 minute break

The moderator brought the Special Town Meeting back into session and certified that there was a quorum. I think this was an “oops” that needed to be corrected.

Patricia Worden spoke against tear downs. Steve Robilak noted the increasing complexity of the zoning regulations. Andrew Bunnell said the ARB doesn’t have a formal opinion on this article. He is opposed to the change. Annie LaCourt asked questions about the permits and the hearing processes – 120 days on the outside, and often close to that. She doesn’t think we have enough data about the current actions and the effect of these changes. She is opposed. Christopher Moore asked about ARB timing. He asked if there is a methodology for evaluating the effects of sun and shadows. Bob Jefferson is opposed. He thinks the ARB should be the ones to work on this. He introduced Mr. Niberg who said that houses should be evaluated on their finished state, not the unfinished pictures put up Mr. Worden. He thinks this change would impact small lots and homeowners particularly. Gordon Jamieson is opposed to the substitute motion. Carl Wagner is in favor of the substitute motion because it shouldn’t be easier to tear down. Guillermo Bahamon likes his neighbors, and would like this to be decided by the ARB. Bill Kaplan spoke in favor of his neighbors building larger houses. He pointed out that all of that new building will defray future tax increases. Joe Tully doesn’t think that this article should be lumped in with other articles. He wants to close the loophole. He commented on the effect of new building under Proposition 2.5. There was confusion about the effect of new building under Prop 2.5, but Bill Kaplan got it right.  Any new building – renovations, additions, teardown/rebuilds, building on vacant lots, anything new – is taxed and the revenue is in addition to the limits of Proposition 2.5.  That’s why towns with high growth rates don’t need overrides.  Their new buildings increase their revenue in excess of Prop 2.5 limits.  Kaplan was right: when your neighbors expand their houses, then the pressure on your tax bill is reduced.  Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. Standing vote. 162-42, debate was terminated. The standing vote and the delay it caused was a good reminder of why we love electronic voting! 92-114 the substitute motion failed.  No action approved.

Article 16 Revision of Height Calculations
Elizabeth Pyle made a substitute motion. The substitute motion is different from the original proposal. She said her proposal is fair to all property owners. She thinks that the previous language could be taken advantage of, and the new language is more consistent. Steve McKenna was opposed. Gary Tibbets opposed to the change. He thinks the ARB is the right group to generate these changes to keep them clear and consistent. Bill Kaplan had mixed feelings. Gordon Jamieson asked if it was in scope – the moderator ruled that it was. Jamieson is opposed.  Allan Reedy moved to terminate debate.  Pyle’s vote went down by majority vote.  No action was approved.

Meeting adjourned.

Town Meeting ’16 – Session 1

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.

We started very close to on time!

The Menotomy Minuteman marched in and led the body in the National Anthem.

Moderator John Leone called the meeting to order. He reminded the body of several of the rules of Town Meeting and made several announcements. Particularly:

  • If you want a copy of Town Meeting Time, see the Moderator.
  • If you want to be on the Town Meeting email list, join on the Town Meeting section of the town website.
  • You are restricted to 7 minutes, but you shouldn’t use more than 3 for your speaking time.
  • He encouraged us to stick with civility in our discourse.
  • He gave a quick training on the voting clickers. 199 people voted in the test vote, out of 252 representatives.
  • He announced that this year we will be using a “consent agenda” for certain non-controversial articles.
  • There is a bake sale run by the tennis club in the hallway.

The moderator administered the oath of office for newly elected and returning town meeting members. They were greeted with a round of applause afterwards.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Diane Mahon made the traditional motion about permitting town officials and employees to sit “on the floor” with town meeting members. Non-members are seated in the viewing gallery on the 2nd floor.

Town Clerk certified that the meeting was properly convened.

We voted to return on Wednesday for the rest of the business.

Article 2 – State of the Town. Diane Mahon gave the state of the town. She talked about the major events of the past year. She talked about the challenges including Mugar proposal. She also talked about the forthcoming June 14, 2016 Proposition 2.5 debt exclusion vote that the Board of Selectmen voted earlier tonight. I encourage everyone to read the proposal, and to educate themselves about the upcoming vote.

Article 3 – Announcements and Reports

  • The Nagaokakyo student exchange visitors were recognized, and the head of their school system thanked the town for hosting.
  • Chairman Diane Mahon submitted the report of the Board of Selectman.
  • Finance Committee Chairman Al Tosti introduced the members of the Finance Committee. FinCom will report next week on the school building proposals and on the Minuteman building project. He also announced the intent to have all of the Minuteman votes on Monday May 9th.
  • Chairman of the Arlington Redevelopment Board Andrew Bunnell gave the report of the ARB. He noted that the ARB is amending its report to put forward a recommendation of no action for Articles 8, 9, and 10. This was an interesting development. Articles 8, 9, and 10 are generating some controversy, and I thought it would a lot of that controversy off the table.  As later events revealed, the controversy came back strong.
  • Ann LeRoyer of the Master Plan Implementation Committee noted that the report is in writing and available in the back of the room.
  • Diane Mahon and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine introduced the various department heads in the town.
  • Most reports can be found on the town website.

At Tosti moved that the motions contained in the reports be the main motions for each article. For new town meeting members the importance of this motion is not obvious, though the conversation around the ARB’s report will make it more obvious than usual! If we didn’t make this motion, at the start of every article, the Moderator would have to call on someone to start the debate process by making a motion under that article, then find a second for the motion, etc. Instead, through this vote, we automatically start each article with a motion already made and ready for debate. That becomes key later on – the first motion sets the debate, and other amendments and substitute motions alter the debate.

Article 3 was placed on table.

Article 4 – Measurer of Wood and Bark. Elsie Fiorie was re-appointed without opposition.

Article 5 – Assistant Town Moderator. John Belskis nominated Jim O’Conor and he was elected without opposition.

Consent Agenda
Articles 11, 19, 20, 27, 30, 39, 47, 55 were held, and were not included in the consent agenda. Articles 12, 13, 17, 21, 24, 25, 44, 45, 46, 48, 49, 52, 54, 58 were all placed on the consent agenda. The consent agenda was approved 166-12-5. With a single vote we disposed of 14 articles. I think this was a nice procedural improvement to the meeting.

Al Tosti gave notice of reconsideration of the finance articles approved in the consent agenda. What that means is that later on in the meeting, he has reserved the right to make a motion of reconsideration. He would use this if some development made the financial votes inappropriate; with a motion of reconsideration, the meeting can take an item back up and revise it.

Article 6 – Mixed Use
ARB Chair Andrew Bunnell introduced the article. He noted a clerical error, that the minimum lot size change on page 8 is still 5000 square feet. He noted that mixed use exists in Arlington today – in the Heights and in the Center. The ARB wants to permit mixed use on all commercial corridors in town. That means that it’s permissible to have commercial and residential and retail under the same roof. It wouldn’t affect residential zones. He noted that it should increase the availability of housing for households that are downsizing and other users. He noted that it permits higher buildings than currently allowed. Michael Ruderman and Chris Loreti proposed an amendment to modify the ARB’s proposal. Loreti believes that the ARB wants to permit too much. Barbara Thornton is in favor of the ARB’s proposal. She thinks that growth is inevitable and we must grow in smart ways. Kaplan was opposed – he thinks we are densely settled enough. Andy O’Brien was opposed. Andrew Fischer thinks it should be multiple votes, not one, and he’s voting no. This argument wasn’t compelling to me. It is sound practice to put zoning changes into a bundle; they are interlocking and have to be at adopted as a package. John Worden is opposed to the amendment – he thinks it relies too much on the judgement or ARB. Gordon Jamieson asked a series of leading questions. I find the question back-and-forth to be confusing – the person answering the question isn’t always answering the question that was asked, and the dialogue is imprecise. He is in the favor of the ARB’s proposals and not the amendments.

7 minute break – closer to 13 minutes in actuality.

Brian Rehrig noted that the way to create retail space, to lower the price for retail space, is to increase inventory. He supports the ARB’s changes, and is opposed to Loreti’s amendment. On his request, ARB Chair Bunnell reviewed each business district by height. Paul Schlichtman said that the current zoning bylaw is causing commercial space to flip to residential – it’s where the money is. He said that mixed use is the way to change zoning to retain the commercial space that we need. I couldn’t agree with him more on this point. We need to relieve the pressure on housing prices and retain our commercial space. Mixed use is the best option we have available. Mike Cayer repeated the correction on page 8 about 5000 square feet.  This was a key point. The chairman needed to make that point more clearly up front; it’s a good thing we got to it. Mike Cayer walked through a series of points about the importance of revising the current zoning.  Steve Revilak asked about the special permit process. Selectman Steve Byrne spoke in favor. Zarina Mamon didn’t think it opens up enough space for businesses and was opposed to it.  Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate, approved 168-51. Loreti’s amendment failed 65-152 with 2 abstaining. ARB article was approved 186-35.  This was a highly-attended town meeting, and a resounding approval of the zoning change.

Article 7 – Parking in Business Districts. This would permit lower amounts of parking in places where alternate transportation is available. It will permit more varieties of redevelopment. Ed Trembley thinks that this would reduce out-of-town commerce. Scott Smith was in favor and noted the change in transportation choices in Arlington. Phil Goff reflected on the previous debate remarked it was the best that he has seen. He supports the parking change. He talked about the effectiveness of this kind of program in Kendall Square. John Leonard wanted to know about enforcement. John Deyst was in favor. Gordon Jamieson moved to terminate debate. 189-23. Zoning change approved 180-34-2.

Article 8 – Residential Zoning Changes. John Worden moved to postpone to May 4th. By 127 – 69 it was postponed. In my opinion, Mr. Worden had the ARB’s vote in front of him, and he had his intended amendment in front of him, and he should have just moved his desired article forward.  I think he saw how badly he was beaten on the previous two articles and was buying time to try to figure out a new strategy.  I think that the ARB correctly gauged that the town is no where near consensus on the issue and moved no action.  I don’t think Mr. Worden is going to find that consensus in the next week, and I expect to support a vote of no action.

Article 9 – John Worden moved to postpone to May 4th. Charlie Foskett asked if Mr. Worden’s substitute motion would be the same as the ARBs. The answer was that it would be roughly the same. There were several questions. Michael Quinn encouraged support for the postponement given the last-minute vote of the ARB. 164-44-3 it was postponed

Article 10 – John Worden moved to postpone to May 4th. 167-37 it was postponed.

We adjourned at 10:54.


Town Meeting ’16 – January Special Town Meeting

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.

Town Meeting Member Jane Howard played the Star-Spangled Banner on the piano and the meeting sang along.

The Moderator announced the passing of Town Meeting Member Roly Chaput and recalled his history of activity in the town. We had a moment of silence. Roly was a stalwart, a relentlessly upbeat, can-do volunteer who dedicated hours and hours to our community. I mourn his passing.

The moderator said that Elsie Fiorie had fallen and broken her arm, but was healing.

The Town Clerk certified that the meeting was properly called.

Kevin Greeley, chair of the Board of Selectman moved that if we don’t finish tonight, that we come back Wednesday. This was a moot vote, thankfully.

The moderator conducted a test vote on snow fall amounts. Vote was: 91-43-8. That was a surprisingly low number of votes, but the later, real votes had a much higher total.

Selectman Kevin Greeley introduced four new town employees.

Article 1 – Reports

The reports of the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, Capital Planning, and Permanent Town Building Committee were received.

Finance Committee Chairman Al Tosti moved that the recommended votes of the various reports be before the meeting without further motion. This is a very important motion, and it is often not well understood. If we didn’t make this motion, then at the start of every article, the Moderator would have to call on someone to start the debate by making a motion under that article, and then find a second for the motion before debate can begin. Instead, through this vote, we automatically start each article with a motion already made and ready for debate. This is key – the relevant town authority makes a motion, that first motion sets the debate, and other motions alter or replace the main motion.

Article 1 was tabled.

Articles 2 and 3 – Stratton.

The Moderator said the two articles will be debated together, and voted separately. School Committee Chairman Paul Schlichtman asked Town Meeting to finish the rebuilding job started 19 years ago. Superintendant Kathy Bodie laid out the problems with the current Stratton school and the plan to fix them. Permanent Town Building Committee Chair John Cole went into further detail of the proposed building project. He explained that the funding schedule needs to match the required construction schedule. He explained the phasing of the project. Capital Planning Chair Charlie Foskett spoke next. He explained that the state has declined to participate in the funding. He walked through the debt and asset sale mechanisms to fund the project. Stratton PTO President Jane Horgan (sp?) spoke in favor of the proposal, and praised the modulars as a smart solution. Stephen Harrington asked if the Public Safety building renovation is done – it will be in August was the answer. Harrington questioned several of the numbers in the Capital Planning Committee’s report, and expressed support for the project. Gordon Jamieson had questions about capacity. Ted Paluso spoke in favor. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. 176-20 debate was terminated. Article 2 was approved 194-4. Article 3 was approved 199-0. There was a large-ish gallery of East Arlington parents watching, and they applauded.

Article 4 – Thompson.

Al Tosti asked for extra 3 minutes to speak, and it was granted. Amazingly, some people didn’t think he deserved the extra 3 minutes. He explained that Stratton’s bids had come in over budget, and the money in the capital budget went to Stratton. That left Thompson without an obvious funding source. The finance committee has determined that the reserve budget is the appropriate source. That fund can be expended by FinComm, but they are seeking the judgement of Town Meeting whether or not to use the reserve fund to obtain modulars for Thompson School. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine gave the recent history of the School Enrollment Task Force. He explained the modulars would be a solution for this year, and there would be further recommendations at the regular Town Meeting. Stephen Harrington said that he thinks the funding is inappropriate. He moved an amendment to make the appropriation out of the capital budget. This amendment was problematic on several technical levels, and on the policy level. Given that FY16 is more than half done, and the capital budget is significantly expended already, it’s not clear where he specifically thought the money should come from. Furthermore, since it was a resolution, it’s not clear that it actually had any effect. The reserve fund is explicitly under the direct control of FinComm, so a resolution is an appropriate vehicle. But the capital budget is set by Town Meeting, so a resolution isn’t a sufficient motion to change the capital budget. He made a second amendment to ask that the expenditure come from the Community Preservation Act funds. This amendment has the same challenges as the first one, plus it sought to short-circuit the CPA vetting process that Town Meeting put into place this past spring. Mariah Terrel Pct 7, Thompson parent, spoke next. She supports the modulars, and did not approve of Task Force’s choice to forgo a more permanent solution this year. She detailed the class sizes that her children are experiencing. She walked through the future projections of enrollment. Steve Ligget, Thompson parent, expressed support for the modulars. He detailed the problems with enrollment that are coming. John Leonard was confused by the difference between the warrant and the recommended motion. This is a regular point of confusion. The warrant is a form of notification. It is sent to every home in town. It serves notice of the topics of discussion that are to come before Town Meeting. The motion is the expression of action, it is the way Town Meeting actually executes. A motion must be within the scope of the warrant. In this case, the warrant was broadly written (“any of the Town’s school buildings”) and the motion was far more specific (“for the Thompson School”). John Deyst explained that the reserve fund’s purpose is to manage unexpected short-term needs. This enrollment growth is exactly such a situation. P. J. Harris asked about the CPA, and whether the money can be directed. Not a clear answer. He learned that the rough amount of money for the modulars is $250k. The available funds are $1m in the reserve budget. Charlie Foskett explained the reserve fund, and said that it was a very appropriate source. He explained that this was not a withdrawal from the override stabilization fund, but was a transfer from the reserve fund (budget 26) of the annual budget. He explained that the capital plan already had taken into account the CPA, and the resulting unspent money had been applied to Stratton.

We took a 7 minute break.

Adam Auster moved to terminate debate, approved 172-15. First we voted on Harrington’s proposal to use the capital budget. Failed 27-163. Then voted on Harrington’s proposal to use CPA money. Failed 26-166. Main motion of finance committee approved 182-11.

Article 5 – Collective bargaining

All units under agreement through July 2018. Linda Hanson, president of AEF (teachers’ union) expressed support for the agreement, but is concerned by how some of the jobs in this union might be outsourced. Her point was cut off by the moderator and ruled out of scope. I understand why the moderator wanted to move on, but I wish there was more time to talk about this. The underlying facts of this situation are not well known in town, and I think that we’d benefit from getting all the facts out and discussing them. The expenditure was approved 182-0.

Article 6 – Minuteman Bond. No action unanimously.

Article 7 – Minuteman, Wayland withdrawal. No action unanimously.

Article 8 – Minuteman Regional Agreement

I presented the main motion. I gave some of the history of the issue and outlined some of the important points of the proposed agreement. I said it deserved and up-or-down vote. Bill Hayner made a substitute motion that would create a study committee. He wanted the Town Meeting to recess, not adjourn, and come back before the March 1st deadline. Town Meeting votes are not final until after adjournment. This procedure would have meant that the school funding we voted in articles 2, 3, and 4 would have been on hold for weeks. Paul Schlichtman was opposed to amendment, in favor of main motion. Dean Carman supported the main motion, and gave a lengthy and impassioned speech in support of it. He said the time for study was past. Annie LaCourt moved to terminate debate, done by a 168-17 vote. 23-161 Hayner’s motion failed. 178-5 the new agreement passed.

Town Meeting was dissolved .

Town Meeting ’15 – Session 5

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.

Town Meeting Member Jane Howard played the Star-Spangled Banner on the piano and the meeting sang along.

The Moderator John Leone posted a test question using voting clickers: Will we finish tonight? 72-53-16. I was one of the 72. I was too optimistic! We got there, but it was a long slog.


  • Kevin Koch – May 16 Ice Cream Scooper Bowl fundraiser for cancer research. noon-4 in front of Cyrus Dallin Museum in the center.
  • Roly Chaput – Hidden Treasure program – Old Schwamb Mill this weekend, noon-3pm both days.

Article 3 – Reports

Laurie McKinney gave the report of the Uncle Sam Committee. It was more of a diatribe than a report. Mercifully, it was limited to four minutes by rule.

Article 3 placed on the table.

Article 22 – Budgets, continued

Education, continued

Gordon Jamieson thinks that it is inappropriate that the long-term planning committee, which isn’t even created by our bylaws, is setting the rate of increase of the school budget. There is confusion about the role of the long term planning committee. The long term planning committee doesn’t set any budgets, and doesn’t set any policy. It’s a group of town officials that discusses ideas and concerns with the Town Manager. In the end, only the Town Manager proposes a budget – the committee can’t (and doesn’t) dictate what that budget should be. Finance Committee reviews that budget, adjusts the budget as it sees fit, and sends it to Town Meeting. Town Meeting adjusts the budget as it sees fit and the vote of Town Meeting is the final decision. I know there are many people who think that the the annual increase in the school budget should be maintained at 3.5%, or even increased, while the Town Manager thinks it should go to 3.25% next year and 3.0% in subsequent years. I’d suggest that the path for those people is to lobby the town manager, the finance committee, and other town meeting members. Those are the people who can actually change the budget. Of course, it makes sense to lobby the members of the long-term planning committee, too, because they give advice to the Town Manager. But it’s a mistake to think that the power of the budget lies with the long-term planning committee. The power of the budget lies where it always has – with the town manager, the finance committee, and ultimately, town meeting. There were questions about what purchases aren’t being made because of budget restrictions, including slowing the pace of curriculum improvements. John Leonard had a detailed question about using insurance money to cover a deficit. After a very confusing discussion, it was explained that the FY15 budget was supplemented with $25,000 voted by Special Town Meeting for repairs. This was seven minutes that Town Meeting will never get back. It was just a long, meandering, vaguely confrontational exploration of confusion. Jennifer Susse talked about two big financial stressors on the school budget. 1) state/federal stresses. The state keeps cutting money in little ways. Unfunded mandates keep being added – teacher training and evaluation, common core, and others. 2) student growth is second stressor. 450 student surge in the last 3 years. She explained that as enrollment increases, 25% of the per-pupil enrollment growth is covered by budget increases. She believes there is more analysis necessary to see if 25% is the right number. She said that cutting the rate of growth on the school budget is another stress on the budget. She is thankful and respectful of the financial team in the town who are looking to carefully control expenses. She made the argument that every time we have asked the voters in recent history, they have agreed to pay more and keep and/or expand services. She wants to make sure that is acted upon. Stephen Harrington thinks the school budget is going up too much. He proposed an amendment to reduce the budget by about $1 million. He estimated the school salary increases at 5%, and compared it to the municipal budgets (aka town budgets) which are increasing 2.5%. It’s an interesting comparison, but what he didn’t consider in his calculation is the increase in the number of students. The CFO further explained that some of the budget increase is “lanes and grades” as opposed. Len Kardon put up a slide that showed how our per-pupil expenditures are falling further behind the state average. He said that he looks forward to a robust debate next year on the school budget. Paul Schlichtman went into detail about the 3.7% increase in enrollment, the state funding process, and their impacts on the budget. Annie LaCourt quizzed the Superintendent about the school department’s 5-year plan. Linda Hanson thought the debate was doing well at looking at the big picture. She encouraged further, wider conversation about budgeting and compensation. McCabe terminated debate, vote was 175-37.

Jennifer Susse talked about future renovations of Fox Library by private funds.

Health and Human Services
Zarina Memon had a series of detailed questions on the budget for this department.

Gordon Jamieson reviewed the history of the performance of the retirement system’s investment. He said we should keep track of it carefully.

We had a break.

Stephen Harrington said that we shouldn’t make investments based on fear. Both previous speakers were waxing philosophical, but I don’t think their comments actually were on the budget. It was here that I gave up hope that we were going to get Town Meeting done tonight.  We must be funded for our pension by 2040. Our goal to be budgeted by 2032. Our OPEB liability is much larger.

Reserve Fund
There was no special ed reserve fund article placed on the warrant. FinComm and School department made an agreement for the schools to have $200,000 come back to the general fund at the end of the year, and $200,000 go into the reserve fund. It’s a wash for the town.

Water and Sewer
There was confusion about indirect costs and how they work.

Recreation – pass

Ed Burns Arena – pass

Harrington’s amendment lost 24-164-6.

Final budget approved 192-4-1.

Article 20 – Collective Bargaining was taken off the table.
At Tosti moved a substitute motion with updated numbers based on successful collective bargaining results. John Maher congratulated the town manager and unions on reaching an equitable conclusion so quickly. 194-3-1. Passed.

Article 23 – Revaluation
Director of Assessments Paul Tierney said that this is for the three-year cycle of revaluation.

Article 29 – Committees and Commissions.
Approved unanimously.

Article 30 – Town Celebrations.
Approved unanimously.

Article 31 – Miscellaneous
Approved unanimously.

Article 32 – Public Art East Arlington
Town Manager. This is to fund the planning, but not installation of the art. Sean Harrington noted that two years ago the Public Art Fund was created without appropriation and with no intent to fund. There were speakers in favor, describing the amount as modest. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate, and it was by voice vote. 130-62-3 it was approved.

Article 33 – Human Rights Commission
Al Tosti explained that $4500 for staff work for this committee is sufficient. He explained the recommendation of FinComm to have the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager look at the need for his positions. Stephen Harrington thinks that the study should be done by a committee of 5 people. There was a question about elevated suspension rates for minority student groups. The moderator told the speakers to stay on the scope, the question of whether or not to create a committee of one type or another. There were speakers in favor and opposed of further review of the committee’s work. Deshler moved to terminate debate, done on voice vote. Harrington’s amendment failed 42-151-2. Tosti’s language amendment approved by voice vote. 161-24-7 main motion passed.

Article 34 – Water bodies

Article 35 – Harry Barber
Stuart Cleinman is concerned that the program doesn’t have enough publicity.

Article 36 – Scenic Byway
John Leonard thinks we should repair the signs for Paul Revere’s ride. Budget passed by voice vote.

Article 37 – Pension Fund Adjustment
Passed unanimously.

Article 38 – Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB)
Passed unanimously.

Article 39 – Survivor Benefits
No action.

Article 40 – Long Term Stabilization
Passed unanimously.

Article 41 – Overlay Reserve
Passed unanimously.

Article 42 – Transfer Cemetery Funds
Passed by voice vote.

Article 43 – Use of Unencumbered Funds (free cash)
Passed unanimously.

Article 44 – Fiscal Stability
Passed unanimously.

Article 45 – Town Meeting Member Removal Process
Selectman Diane Mahon spoke for the majority of the board, a 3-2 vote. The board wants to have the discussion on Town Meeting floor. Jim O’Conor asked for a sense of the meeting. There were speakers opposed to the idea of removal. Swilling terminates debate on voice vote. 107-79-5 the committee was created to study the issue.

11:02pm. Motion to adjourn failed on voice vote. Despite certain long-winded town meeting member’s attempts to send us to a sixth session, the body was intent on completing the business of the town tonight.

Article 46 – Master Plan
ARB Chairman Andrew Bunnell gave a detailed explanation of how the Master Plan was written, what it’s impact is, and what the vote of Town Meeting means. Brian Rehrig explained the importance of the Mugar parcel for wetlands and noted how the Master Plan renews and repeats the town’s public policy of preserving the site. He proposed a resolution to endorse that. Stephen Harrington proposed a further amendment that the resolution call for the use of CPA funds to preserve the space. League of Women Voters in favor of the Rehrig resolution. Michael Ruderman was opposed to the resolution. He thinks that the wetlands might be improved by development. He thinks the Master Plan will have too much negative budget impact. A second motion to adjourn failed. I was part of the vote to keep us going.  I think we had a decent conversation about the Master Plan and the Mugar property.  We could have had the same conversation on Wednesday.  I preferred to do it tonight, however, because I think it kept a lid on some of the repetitive comments.  People were more judicious in choosing whether or not to speak. It was noted that Mr. Harrington’s amendment would not be a binding vote. John Worden was in favor of both amendments. He wants zoning to protect us from McMansions. He said it was the latest we had run town meeting since before he was town moderator. Bill Kaplan noted that there are good and bad things in the Master Plan, and that no one will be in favor of all it. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. 128-43-7, Rehrig’s amendment was approved. 62-114-3, Harrington’s amendment failed. 136-41-3 the Master Plan was adopted.

Town Meeting was dissolved by vote.

I’m tempted to add a new feature to my notes next year. I should keep score on how many times each town meeting member stands to speak. If I’m really ambitious, I’ll time them. I love town meeting, and I love a good debate. But I believe there are some repeat offenders who quickly pass the point of diminishing returns and speak far too many words for too little contribution to the debate.

Town Meeting ’15 – Session 4

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.

The moderator started us up a minute or two before 8. We watched a video of a mock Town Meeting of Thompson School students moderated by Bill Hayner.

The AHS Madrigal Singers sang the National Anthem and several other songs.

The Town Moderator swore in one new town meeting member.  He was applauded.

The Town Moderator asked for a moment of silence for the man who died in the condo fire on Arizona Terrace early Tuesday morning.

We voted to return for the next session on May 11.


  • Jason Donnelly announced that on May 16 Thompson Arlington Eats fundraiser. They have provided 7500 meals for Arlington kids this year.
  • Stuart Cleinman thanked police and fire for their service in the crisis.
  • Pam Hallett announced a fund to support the families displaced by the fire. Donate on the HCA site and type “fire” in the note field.
  • John Maher – Symmes foundation makes grants for medical purposes. Contact him for more information.
  • Jane Howard gave four announcements. 1) Saturday, at Spy Pond Park. Elements art illustration. 2) May 16 9-1. Spy Pond Trails Day. 3) 30th 1-4pm Spy Pond Fun Day. 4) On the 2nd floor of town hall, see the public school art show, k-9.
  • Bob Tosi – May 9 postal food drive.
  • Paul Schlichtman – Pct 9 doing their organization at the break.

Test question for the clicker: Will we finish Town Meeting on Monday? 101-76-18 I think we can finish Monday, but it will be close.

Article 3 – Reports

  • Susan Stamps and Ed Trembly – Tree Committee. They talked about tree replacements and policies.
  • Ann LeRoyer – Open Space Committee. She referred to the new Open Space plan.  It’s the 4th version of the plan. I read this plan earlier this spring, and I found it to be fascinating. Bring it to bed with you later this week – it’s good reading.
  • Juli Brazile – Vision 2020 report. Survey results are available. She ran through the activities of the different task groups.

Article 3 was tabled. We finished announcements at around 8:45 – I forgot to note the exact time. It was the latest we’ve run this year so far, I think.

Article 17
No action.

Article 18 – Community Development Block Grant
Kevin Greeley reported the history and process on the allocation of these federal funds. There was a question on the brown fields cleanup that is contemplated. We discussed the “program income” that is the money that comes back from loans, and is re-applied to the program. There was a question if the grant money will be used for the Housing Corporation of Arlington when that group is doing a 40B development in town. I think it is important to note that not all 40B applications are bad. Some 40B applications are attempts to bulldoze town zoning. Those plans are wildly oversized in order to maximize developer profits, and the actual benefit to affordable housing is limited. On the other hand, the 40B proposal being put forward by the HCA for Westminster Ave is an appropriate use of the property in question, it is making the affordable housing perpetual, and there are no profits being reaped. I encourage people to investigate the details of the various 40B proposals in town – they are very different in their qualities and impact. It was noted that the Community Preservation Act will take some pressure off the CDBG program. Motion to terminate debate was made, by 107-90-6, debate was not terminated. There was a question about the size of the budget. Mr. McCabe moved to terminate again. Terminated on voice vote. CDBG endorsed by 190-14-2

Article 19 – Revolving Funds
Question on town hall receipts and balance. Stephen Harrington had a question on ambulance and billing contract. He says it isn’t fair and the town is getting a bad deal. Chief Jefferson replied and explained the details of the deal and why it was a good one. Frank Ciano asked for a Patriot’s Day parade – planned for next year. Approved 199-4-2.

Article 20 –
Tabled to Monday, hoping all negotiation will be done.

Article 21 – Position Reclassification
One question about an acronym. Passed unanimously 199-0-3

Article 22 – Budgets

Board of Selectman
Stephen Harrington thinks that the staff in the Board of Selectmen’s office should report to the Town Manager. Sean Harrington wanted to know the price difference of having election on Tuesday instead of Saturday. He opined that they should be moved. Kevin Greeley noted that it’s 3.5 full-time employees in the department, not 4.5. He said they should be congratulated for the work they do. Ted Peluso wondered what we’re actually talking about. Paul Schlichtman noted there are costs to schools when the election is on Tuesday.

We took our break.

Town Manager
Question about the Water and Sewer line item. It was explained that this is the charge to the Water and Sewer fund for the services to the fund from the Town Manager’s office. Annie LaCourt gave an extensive speech about long-term planning, and is concerned that we’re not doing enough work to prepare for future needs as our town evolves. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine replied with some planning exercises. He believes that there is a growing gap in the service level expectations of town residents and what the town can provide. Al Tosti and John Deyst talked about the difficulties in planing. Annie spoke again about the importance of thinking not just about how much money we have, but what it is that we want. A motion to terminated debate on budgets 3 through 16 failed to get a second. I think a motion to terminate debate on just this budget might have carried, but people weren’t willing to skip over so much of the budget without discussion.

Gordon Jamieson – have you considered outsourcing the software needs of the department? Deputy Treasurer talked about the consulting process and needs analysis that are in process.

Stephen Harrington asked what the cost of Chris Loreti’s lawsuit against the town was. The answer is that the law firm who defended the town was paid for by our insurance policy. I think that Mr. Harrington was trying to make the argument that Loreti’s lawsuit against the town was “free” and didn’t cost the town money. However, there are many costs that aren’t covered by the insurance policy. There were dozens of hours spent on the lawsuit by town counsel, by the town manager, by other town employees, and by volunteer boards. I can’t prove it, but I firmly believe that we lost a valuable employee who chose to resign rather than deal with further attacks by Mr. Loreti. The lawsuit was dismissed in the town’s favor. And yet, we’re still paying for it today.

Mr. Langone had a question about overnight parking. He disagrees with the overnight parking policy. He further disagreed that the spots in front of the high school be allocated to the schools. He accused the Board of Selectmen of sending the police into his neighborhood, and said that he’s not coming back to Town Meeting next year. In case you were wondering – no, the Board of Selectmen did not send the police into his neighborhood. . . .

Planning and Community Development
There was a question on a title change.

Public Works
There was a complaint about road condition. DPW Director Mike Rademacher explained the process for utility digging in a recently paved road. The contractor does the work and does a temporary patch. That patch is left in place for a year while the earth underneath settles. The contractor is then required to come back and do a permanent “infrared patch” which means the pavement is heated and a melted seal is placed. A change in the parks and cemetery position was noted. We used 9455 tons of salt, which was less than the previous year. Snowplow damage happens most on roads with bad surfaces. There were several references tonight to open checkbook. It makes me so happy to know that the town made that information, and it’s being used. There were several questions about snow and ice. Question on Gray Street rebuild – not yet. Recycling position question. Terminate debate by Moore.

Sean Harrington asked for information on the facilities department. This group centralizes our building maintenance for long-term conservation of town assets. There was a discussion about why fields and parks weren’t included, and when they might be included in a process.

Public Services
Stephen Harrington asked if there are any electronic devices such as license scanners used by the APD. Chief Ryan answered that there aren’t. There was a question about fire alarm system maintenance – it’s the radio boxes in the schools etc. on the pull boxes. Annie LaCourt asked several questions. She asked how well we’re handling electronic fraud and identity theft, and the answer is that we’re getting better at it using regional resources. She asked about the school resource officer and how they were being used. She asked how much overtime was being done, on average. She also made a spectacular joke about the police being well-rested when they visit her house – jaws dropped all over town hall.

Sean Harrington had a question about special ed budget – is the rate of increase too high? Tosti: the long term average is still 7%. Bill Hayner: no one can predict special ed year to year; a single child moving in or out of the town can make the difference. There was a question about the money held aside for contract negotiations. There was another question about administration costs.

We adjourned for the night.  The burning question is: can we get it all done on Monday?

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.

Town Meeting ’15 – Session 1

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.

We started a couple of minutes late as members came through the line to check in and get their electronic voting “clickers.”

The Menotomy Minuteman marched in and led the body in the National Anthem.

Moderator John Leone called the meeting to order. He reminded the body of the rules of order and several of the rules of the body. Notably:

  • Any proposed amendments should be in writing and on the chairs of members two meetings before the article is considered. Also they should be emailed to the moderator.
  • He noted that announcements and reports of committees are now limited to 4 minutes.
  • He gave a quick training on the voting clickers. In the test vote there were 193/252 votes cast, but I recognized some people were here who didn’t vote. The actual number of members present is somewhere north of 200.

The moderator administered the oath of office for newly elected town meeting members. They were greeted with a round of applause afterwards.
The oath was then given for returning members, who were also applauded.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Kevin Greeley made the traditional motion about permitting town officials and employees to sit “on the floor” with town meeting members. Non-members are seated in the viewing gallery on the 2nd floor.

Town Clerk certified that the meeting was properly convened.

Article 1 State of the Town. Kevin Greeley gave the state of the town.

Announcements and Reports

  • Nagaokakyo student exchange visitors were recognized, and their adult chaperone (who I think is also a city official?) thanked the town for hosting.
  • Gordon Jamieson announced that the art show “Recycled Beauty” is on display in the hallway on the 2nd floor of Town Hall until Friday.
  • John Maher, chair of the Cable Advisory Committee, noted that the ascertainment hearing is still open for written testimony until May 1.
  • The Arlington Redevelopment Board report was received.
  • The poet laureate committee was announced by Jeff Boudreau.
  • The Town Meeting Procedures committee report was given by Jim O’Conor.
  • The Board of Selectmen report was given by Kevin Greeley.
  • Charlie Foskett gave the Capital Planning Committee report, and said that he would ask to take it out of order on Wednesday to accommodate travel.
  • Sheri Baron gave the report of the Human Rights Commission. She did not read their annual report, but she did note some of the accomplishments of the Human Rights Commission.
  • John Leonard asked that we dissolve the Maintenance Study Committee. He noted that we had previously dissolved it, but it was still on the warrant. He also wanted to know what the town was doing about fatalities on Mass Ave. The moderator told him that wasn’t an announcement and he could bring it up under the budget.
  • At Tosti gave the Finance Committee report. He requested 10 minutes and was given it. He walked through key points of the committee report.
  • Roly Chaput is a member of the electronic voting committee, and reminded everyone to drop their clicker off in the bin before they leave.

Kevin Greeley introduced elected officials and department heads at the front of the room.

At Tosti moved that the motions contained in the reports be the main motions for each article. This vote is very quick and easy, but it’s very important. For new town meeting members the importance is not obvious. If we didn’t make this motion, at the start of every article, the Moderator would have to call on someone to start the debate process by making a motion under that article, then find a second for the motion, etc. Instead, through this vote, we automatically start each article with a motion already made and ready for debate. That becomes key later on – the first motion sets the debate, and other motions alter it.

Article 3 was tabled. The moderator appears to be comfortable with mixing reports and announcements together, in contrast with some past practice. It works, I think, simply because there are no votes, just listening. At the end of them all, we table this article until the next meeting for the next round.

Article 4 – Measurer of Wood and Bark. Elsie Fiorie was re-appointed without opposition.

Article 5 – Assistant Town Moderator. Mike Cayer nominated Jim O’Conor and he was elected without opposition.

Article 6 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment/Documented Zoning Reviews
The ARB recommended no action. Michael Ruderman moved a substitute motion that would change how the ARB received information about special permits. He introduced the author of the article, Chris Loreti, who spoke in favor. Loreti would like the ARB to use independent review from the building inspector. He said, in part, that this was needed because some lawyers before the ARB have close ties with the selectmen. Yes, he really said that. He argued with the written comments from the Finance Committee. Director of Inspectional Services Michael Byrne asked for clarification about what exactly had been moved. He got clarification from the moderator. Mr. Loreti had moved a smaller set of changes than had been discussed in other venues. That led to some confusion through the debate. Mr. Byrne said that this proposal was contrary to the state law. He argued that this would be a larger increase in the amount of the work by his department than one would think – one or two full-time employees additional. John Maher was opposed. He reviewed the implications of the proposal and called it a solution in search of a problem. He called the article an invitation to litigations. He noted that the proponent, Loreti, had sued the town and employees of the town. I have mixed feelings about what John Maher said here. I think everything he said was completely accurate.  My problem is that he’s stooping to Loreti’s level. I know that one sometimes needs to bring up some unpleasant truths. I would prefer that we’d just get through this issue without the personal politics. Ryan Ferrar said he thinks of this differently. He thinks the role of town meeting is to tell the enforcement bodies what we want as a town. He said that this is about how, not what we want, and is micromanagement. Paul Bayer of Finance Committee explained the discussions that committee had had, and urged a no-action vote.

Moved into a break for 10 minutes.

Stephen Harrington spoke next and said that the amount of work was much less than had been stated, “5 2-page reports per year is all.” He asked for an opinion whether the Attorney General would approve this bylaw, if passed. Town Counsel Doug Heim answered “maybe” and went into detail about the merits of two different sub-questions. Harrington asked what lawyers represent clients before the ARB. Town Moderator John Leone and Assessor Mary Winstanley O’Connor were named as two. Paul Schlichtman is opposed because it increases the chances of litigation. The question was called. By a vote of 26-171-4 Loreti’s motion failed. Stephen Harrington then challenged that Selectman Steve Byrne shouldn’t have voted because his father is the building inspector, and that is a financial conflict of interest. Town Meeting is, in general, productive and worthy of the responsibilities that it must meet. But sometimes, it’s petty, ugly, and vile. This was one of those times. The moderator replied that there was no financial interest and no rule violated.

No action was voted, 147-45-6. There was confusion about this vote. I think the moderator understood the problem and later votes were articulated more clearly.

Article 7
Christian Klein is out of town, postponed to Wednesday.

Article 8 – Limit Time for Reports
Selectman Kevin Greeley was confused about which article this was, and Town Counsel Heim rescued him with an explanation of the board’s support of the 4-minute limit. John Worden proposed a substitute motion with alternate language on behalf of the Town Meeting Procedures Committee, but urged that the change be voted down. Original proponent Paul Schlichtman noted that last year announcements took as much as 87 minutes and that change was needed. Jim O’Conor supported the procedures committee. Gordon Jameison moved the question. By 164-35-5 Worden’s version was made the main motion. His version was approved 104-95-6. In general I’m sympathetic to the judgement of the moderator, but in my opinion the moderator’s judgement could benefit from bylaw support. We need shorter meetings, and the long announcements are a good place to cut.

Article 9 – Human Rights Commission
Chairman Greeley reported that there was no proposal given at hearing, and the board recommended no action. The board supports the Human Rights Commission. Stephen Harrington proposed a substitute motion to make a Town Meeting committee to study the Human Rights Commission. EJ Harris started by expressing his respect for the HRC. He went on a winding and sometimes amusing speech about needing a lawyer to protect human rights. Kevin Greeley spoke again and noted the proponent hadn’t asked for anything at hearing. Stephen Harrington claims that he answered the questions, and he had made a proposal. At that hearing, I told him that I had read his warrant article, and I asked him what motion he thought we should be supporting under that warrant article – he didn’t answer the question. Several of the other selectmen asked him the same question. If you don’t know who to believe at times like this, I invite you to watch the video of the meetingMolly Flueckiger said that she has mixed feelings, because she is concerned that the ADA is not being followed closely enough. John Deyst moved to terminate debate. By 55-149-4, Harrington’s motion failed. No action was moved by voice vote.

Article 10
To fix an error in the physical description of a historic district. Approved unanimously.

Article 11 Community Preservation Committee.
Kevin Greeley gave the selectmen proposal. Lots of amendments proposed on this one! There are a lot of ways to constitute this committee, and we’re going to debate a lot of them. Sean Harrington proposed an amendment that would impose a 6-year term limit on at-large members. I don’t think this is good policy. Furthermore, as written, it has some real functional problems. For instance, a member could server for 5 years and 364 days, then resign, then be re-appointed, and it would be permitted by the proposed amendment. Bill Hayner proposed an amendment to make appointment of the at-large members not be by the Board of Selectmen, but be 2 by the Town Moderator, 1 by Finance Committee, and 1 by the Town Manager. Dean Carman had prepared two amendments, but he decided not to propose them. He supported Hayner’s amendment instead. John Worden would have 2 by Town Moderator and 2 by the Selectmen. Ruderman supports Hayner’s motion because he wants the finance committee to have a seat at the table. Susan Stamps noted that most other towns use the board of selectmen appointment model for the CPA. John Leonard wants the committee members to be elected, not appointed. John Deyst preferred Dean Carman’s amendment which makes the at-large members appointed in the same way as the Finance Committee. He moved Carman’s amendment (which Carman had not done himself).

We adjourned for the night. I heard no notices of reconsideration.