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Town Meeting 2003
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My 2002 TM notes

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Preface: These are my personal notes of the 2002 Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listened to people speak, I scribbled notes - more than 50 pages over 9 days. I'm sure that, at times, I misheard or misunderstood the speaker, but my notes represent what I heard at the time.

I did not try to reproduce my entire notepad for this online version. Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Most of the time I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

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Town Meeting 2002

4/22/02 - First Meeting

The meeting opens with drums, fife, the national anthem, and a Lutheran prayer.

Moderator John Worden thanks us for caring about government and laments that so few share the sentiment.

New members (including me) are sworn in. The applause of the old members is moving. Old members are sworn in.

A vote is taken to permit town employees to sit "on the floor" as opposed to in the balcony.

The warrant opening is read.

Article 2 - Committee Reports
Selectman Kathleen Kiely Dias - report, introduction of department heads Redevelopment board, planning board, planning director.
Freeland Abbot - Zoning Bylaw Review committee. Talks about Special Places code, duplex houses, and ZA height limit reduction. Disagrees with Redevelopment board.
Noise Abatement Study Committee is down a member.
Al Tosti, Finance Committee - God knows what the state will give this year. There is a formula for reductions. Keep in mind that one-shot reserves are dangerous when used for continuing expenses. Governor, House, Ways and Means budget all different. We should do our work except for money and come back in June, and moves to lay Article 2 on the table.

Article 3 - Wood and Bark - passed.

Article 4 - Businesses in garages - passed unanimously.

Article 5 - Redevelopment Board. Catering definitions. Several questions, passed unanimously.

Article 6 - Redevelopment Board. Open space definition. Passed 173-1.

Article 7 - Bicycle parking. 9 different speakers about different bikes, definition of new construction, effect on car parking, voluntary compliance, and effect on Symmes. Debate was terminated with 13 on the list. Failed by 80-50. Personal note: I voted against this. It was far too much regulation for too little effect. It only served to make building in Arlington harder and more painful. It's worth noting that my bicycle was the only one parked in front of Town Hall that evening. I regularly choose businesses based on whether or not they have a place for me to park my bicycle. This seems more effective than any regulation.

The moderator reminded speakers of the 10-minute time limit. There were people who were talking for too long in the last item.

Article 8 - Summer St. right-of-way issue. After a single question, this passed unanimously. Personal note: this question came up again later because people were confused about what they had already approved! I had walked the parcel the previous week, and I thought it was a fine decision.

Article 9 - Duplex definition. This was a long discussion by more than 20 members. The benefits of architectural creativity were weighed against possible increased population density. The relationships between the ZBA and the bylaws were discussed. Fire risk, privacy, and aesthetics were all discussed. By a vote of 105-34 the new bylaw was adopted. Personal note: this seemed an easy way to expand the rights of property owners with little possible downside.

Article 10 - Special Places. Freeland Abbot gave the presentation. The plan is based on Indian land on Martha's Vineyard. Several questions, including from where the 200-foot limit is measured, whether it is confiscation of property rights, whether it is an end-run around zoning, and why it isn't being done as a "district." Discussion was closed for the night.

Several motions for reconsideration were recorded.

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Precinct meetings held tonight, before or during break.

Selectman Diane Mahon spoke about Autism Month.

Article 2 was taken off the table. Charles Foskett gave Symmes report. Purchase is done. RFP for consultants. Outreach group doing surveys. Roland Chaput precint 12, telecommunication committee - no report.

Article 10 continues. Several speakers both for and against. Voted 83-73. Personal note: I was opposed to this. It seemed apply to more property than it needed to. No one even seemed to know how much property it applied to (as in, where is the distance measured from). It seemed to be not fully thought-out. It seemed onerous on many levels, and without sufficient benefit.

Article 11 - no action, unanimous vote.

Article 12 - no action, unanimous vote.

Article 13 - Zoning building height amendment. Zoning Board Review Committee wanted to make the change, redevelopment board said now, ZBRC back anyway. Abbot spoke in favor - it effects little now, prevents future. Half-dozen speakers in both directions - the article is too idealistic, too late in some situations, etc. Substitute motion failed, no action taken. Personal note: We were talking about whether or not a '1/2 story' was permitted, basically a sloped roof or not. It seems to me that 3-story buildings on Mass Ave are just fine, and requiring 2.5 doesn't help the town in any meaningful way.

Article 14 - no action, unanimous vote.

Article 15 - non-profits to advertise on town property. This was basically written by the Little League for the Little League. Joe Hart was the presenter. Many speakers fear that it is too broadly written. Failed motion. Personal note - I agreed with the prevailing theory that it was a decent idea, but it was too broadly written. Different text next year, and it sounds decent.

Lyman Judd made a point of order that he had been given an unsigned piece of paper. The moderator directed Town Meeting to ignore unsigned paper. Personal note - this seems over-done to me. The moderator, quite simply, does not get to tell me what facts I can and can't consider while I make a decision. Anonymous speech can be very valuable (see Ben Franklin's pamphlets, for instance). I'm perfectly capable of evaluating anonymous paper.

Article 16 - bylaw about bond requirements. Passed without discussion.

Article 17 - bylaw about wetlands protection. The motion was to re-define what a wetland was by including land that was "formerly connected" but now "hydrologically isolated" and "presently drained" be classified as wetland. There didn't seem to be any real proponent of this. Town Counsel pointed out that it is essentially already in the bylaws. An hour-long discussion with more than 15 speakers ensues. An amendment was proposed, which I failed to record the actual text of. The amendment passed, 80-67, but the motion failed 50-92. Personal note: what a waste of time! I don't think anyone there knew why we were discussing this issue and what it would actually do if it passed. I voted against.

Article 18 - Affordable Housing Resolution. The motion, in general, says that Arlington has made large efforts towards affordable housing, including requiring developers to dedicate 15% to "affordable," but we are still threatened by 40B. We ask the legislature to reconsider. 8 speakers debate the relative effectiveness of 40B and whether Arlington has done enough for affordable housing. Jacqueline Harrington proposes an amendment, as does Abbott. 29 people on the list, the night ends.

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Article 2 - According to my notes, I was 6 minutes late. TM dissolved a committee, but I don't know which one!

Article 18 continued. Only 1 speaker. Harrington's amendment passes, Abbott's fails. Motion passed, 91-61. Personal note: I was in favor of this. As one speaker put it, 40B is a blunt instrument. It punishes where it shouldn't, and its effectiveness is doubtful.

Article 19 - no action.

Article 20 - Civil Service for Police and Fire Chiefs. The motion was to request that the state government dissolve the Community Safety Dept and designate the chiefs as part of the Civil Service. This discussion was quite long, with more than 20 speakers, including Town Manager, Police Chief, Town Counsel, and Selectman Charles Lyons. Several speakers disliked the Civil Service, while others pointed out that CS was accepted by town ballot. The results of a study of the police department, and how they wanted a leader, were pointed out. The history of the community safety department was reviewed. There was vote to terminate debate that failed 115-63. In the end, it passed 154-6.

Article 21 - Tax hotels. Several people spoke, questioning the amount of revenue expected, if it applies to bed and breakfasts, and if it applied to assisted living. Article passed. Personal note: I spoke and voted against this. There seemed to be a sentiment that because we CAN tax something, then we should. I argue that we should have kept the price low. Bring the guests to our restaurants and shops. We'll benefit more that way than some tiny income from the room tax.

Article 22 - Fuel-efficient town vehicles. This article was about advice, but had no requirements. Half-dozen speakers, one failed amendment. Passed.

Article 23 - postponed.

Article 24 - postponed.

Article 25 - Water Street parcel. The town has an option on a piece of land that is being developed. The developers offer $25k to buy out the option. The history of the parcel was reviewed. The law surrounding deed restrictions was reviewed. The history of the adjacent land (including a 2000 TM vote) was discussed. Several speakers: some thought town should get more, others said town should take money, others said we should exercise and take the land. There was significant heated argument about Town Counsel's role. Adjourned for the night; discussion continued the next day.

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Pastor of Bible Church, with Senate Chaplin's prayer. Quotes Daniel Webster.

Article 2 continued. Director of Planning and Community Development Alan McClennen gave CDGB report and a memo on 30 Water Street issue. Jane Howard of Precinct 10 on Vision 2020 report. Personal Note: I think the committee does good work, but there was just no need to give such a long oral report. I wish the moderator had held her to 10 minutes - she went longer than 20.

Article 25 continued. Some 20+ people spoke on this topic. The scarcity of land, the tax base, the price of the buildings in eminent domain, exposing Mill Brook were discussed. An amendment to increase the asking price to $125,000 was made. People questioned the role of Town Counsel, who replied. The Park Commission and their possible uses of the land were discussed. Eventually, the amendment was voted down, and the original motion passed 113-44. Personal note: I had written a 2-paragraph speech talking about the difference between owning something and having an option to buy the same thing. Many speakers acted like we already owned the property, and that perception was impacting the debate. Someone ended up giving the exact same speech, so I passed when my time came. I voted for this. We would not have exercised the option - it would cost too much for too little value to the town. In that case, selling it for something was far better than letting it expire for nothing. I was really appalled by some of the foolish arguments made during this debate, but I was quite pleased with the final vote and outcome.

Article 23 - pickup fee for white goods. Recycling Committee Pamela DiBona made presentation. 4 people spoke talking about possible illegal dumping and overall taxation rate. Article passed.

Article 24 - Community Preservation Act. There was no vote scheduled this year, but they are thinking about it for a different year. Two speakers about the act, both in favor. Foskett of the planning committee spoke against it. Moderator tried to shut him down, saying that he was off topic. Personal note - Definitely was within the topic. Lot of talking for no real vote, but if the proponents get to speak, then opponents should get their shot too.

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Started meeting with an oblique rant about documents without return addresses.

Article 2 continued - Bikers? Notes not clear. Maintenance Study Committee.

Article 24 continued - Moderator urges people to remember this is only a study. 2 more speakers, then debate was closed.

Article 26 - no action

Article 27 - Update TM rules to the new version of Town Meeting Time. Passed unanimously (though I heard a voice of dissent that the moderator did not).

Article 28 - TMM must disclose financial interests before they speak to an issue. Some discussion passes 100-53. Personal note: I was in favor of this. It doesn't have much in the way of teeth, which is fine. It is an articulation of the general "honor system" people should stick with.

Article 29 - Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). TM doesn't control how this is spent, but we sure can discuss it. Lifeline service, effects of census, and affordable housing all discussed.

Article 30 - Permission to pursue grants - passed unanimously.

Article 31 - Early retirement legislation. Tabled pending legislation.

Article 32 - no action

Article 33 - no action

Article 34 - study the establishment of municipal light and power committee. Presenter Paul Schlichtman, no speakers. Passes.

Article 35 - Arlington Reservoir. Res committee of 2020 lists goals. Some discussion of trees in the earthen dam. Motion amended so that TM endorses goal, not management plan. Amendment passes, motion passes.

Howard Winkler moves to reconsider article 23, the recycling. There was a motion made to exclude retired people from the pickup fee. There was some discussion, both procedural and issue-related. By 48-65, voted to not reconsider.

Article 36 - tabled.

Article 37 -To authorize revolving funds. 2 minor amendments, passed unanimously.

Many articles tabled.

Article 58 - Pleasant St. Historic District. 2 speakers in favor. Passed 116-2. Personal note: Every property owner involved signed the petition in favor - that was good enough for me.

Article 59 - Mt. Pleasant cemetery - vote to table lost 60-74.

Several motions to reconsider were made.

Meeting adjourned to "the call of the moderator" in June.

4/22 - 4/24 - 4/29 - 5/1 - 5/6 - 6/10 - 6/12 - 6/17 - 6/19 - home


Greek Orthodox prayer.

Moderator exhorts us to be fast.

Article 2 continued. Capital committee gives report. Finance committee requests 20 minutes. He speaks to level funding v. cuts, the increasing relative size of the school budget, and trends for the future. Permanent town building committee report. Conservation Committee and Emergency planning reports given.

Article 31 - no action

Article 36 - Uncle Sam trust approved.

Article 38 - no action.

Article 40 - disability benefits. Unanimous.

Article 41 - tabled

Article 42 - Collective bargaining NAGE. Passed unanimous.

Article 43 - Collective bargaining library. Passed unanimously.

Article 50 - job labels. Passed unanimously

Article 51 - the budget. Discussion started with confusion and complaint about formatting and number sources. It gets testy.

Discussion within the article by section: #2 Selectmen - out of state travel - separate from Town Manager budget
#3 Town Manager - salaries of Town Manager department. Question of merit raises, where changes came from, discussion of other financial processes.
#4 Personnel - M-schedule raises within Town Manager discretion. Half-dozen speakers on wisdom and authority of the raises. Comptroller - Discussion of webmaster and number of hours. Motion to increase the line. 14 speakers on the relative merit of this item. Personal note - I'm not surprised, but not happy, that we spent this much time on $2000.

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Open with chorus.

Moderator gives a long-winded speech about working faster.

Several errors in finance committee report corrected.

Article 51 continued. #7 Postage - A TMM encouraged the town to use email more.
#9 Legal - There is a question about a $2000 merit raise for Town Counsel. A long and acrimonious discussion ensues about who gives raises, why, and where the money comes from.
#10 Town Clerk - Someone rose to speak, but it didn't have anything to do with the Clerk.
#13 Planning = Raises discussed again. COLA raises, merit raises. Raises started on Jan 1. Means the salary line is bigger, but other cuts made bottom line even. There is argument over who has the authority to do this, if anyone. Personal note: Town Manager and FinComm could avoid a lot of pain by being more clear about these things in the beginning. The level of acrimony and suspicion seems unwarranted, though.
#14 Redevelopment - Question about building craftsmen. A speaker stood up to sing the praises of McClellan.
#16 Public Works - Different format from the past. Community liaison for new customer services issue, janitor change with Town Hall. Recycling and BFI contract were questioned.
#17 Community Safety - Holidays and contracts were discussed. Dispatch department supervisor. Education was moved into salary. Raise of chief was discussed.
#18 Inspection - Wiring inspector is expansion of responsibilities. A streetlight was discussed, that may actually be a state road.
#19 Education - Presentation by Superintendent Donovan and Finance Guy Kale. Moderator actually cut them off at 20 minutes. Personal note: Both good speakers, but the visual slides were just awful. Distracting art, tiny print. Discussion: Superintendent's contract negotiation was discussed. Questioned the experience of the new HR director. The role of the board in hiring was discussed. Fees for various programs were discussed.

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Article 2 cont. Symmes Advisory Committee.

Article 51 #19 Education continues. Hiring practices again, MCAS line item, drama and lit fees, were discussed. A motion to close discussion fails. The teacher/administrator ratio was questioned. The flight of children to private schools was discussed. A question was asked about the renovations in the guidance department. The debt service overage was discussed. There was discussion about the financial uncertainty and its effects on layoffs. The school building overrun was the result of bad soil that had to be removed. Motion to close debate carries.

#21 Human Services - Motion to table is shot down. Questions for council on Aging, tobacco educations, veteran affairs caseload, and the splitting of a nurse job.

#24 Insurance - the effects of 9/11 are in the indemnity rise. It was asked if we pay insurance for people paid by CDGB - the answer was yes, mostly. It was remarked that this is the real budget buster, and something needs to be done. Probably 60% is for retirees. Self-insurance was discussed.

Budgets were closed by voice vote.

Water and Sewer enterprise fund: Several questions about changes in the budget were asked and answered.

Recreation - New program manager and hourly rate changes.

Veteran Rink - Volunteerism and insurance increase were discussed.

Aging - The source and size of retained earnings were discussed.

Youth - Revenue up from new billing.

Funds were closed.

Article 54 - Minuteman. Supt. Fitzgerald spoke about the state not paying for transportation any more. The different formulas for computing the fraction owed by each town were discussed. Arlington uses the method that is cheaper for Arlington. The different formulas affect all towns, but affect Arlington most. The various plans to change the formula were discussed. Passed.

Article 52 - Capital Planning. Foskett gave a substitute motion from the report. The state is not paying what it should for schools. There is lack of flexibility in infrastructure. Speakers rose in favor and against the line item for the Park Circle fire station. Those in favor spoke of the deplorable conditions there. Those opposed pointed to the consultant report that Arlington only needs 2 fire stations. An amendment was proposed to strike the words "Park Circle." Emergency response times were discussed. The possibility of joint departments with Belmont or Winchester was discussed. Ottonson's phone system was discussed. Discussion continued the next day.

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Prayer from Park Congregational.

Article 52 cont. The fraction of total budget for each station was discussed. Fire Chief Richard Maimone gave a long speech. Other speakers talked about Park and its benefits. There were broader questions about the level of debt Arlington has - manageable, is the answer. The amendment to strike Park Circle fails. Most sections of the capital budget pass unanimously, except the fire section that passed 137-1.

Personal note: I spoke and vote against the "Park Circle designation" (the second time I spoke over the 9 days). The consultant's report brought up many important points that I think were just skipped over. There are new regulations (NFP 1710?) coming that every piece of fire equipment that rolls will need more personnel. If we have our current station and equipment count, that requirement will break the budget. The other side of the argument was very anecdotal and didn't address these points. I know that the Park Circle station serves people. Pointing that out doesn't help. The question is, can they be reasonably served by OTHER fire stations? No one talked about that.

I believe that we might need 3 fire stations. I do not believe that question has been adequately considered. It is just foolish to pour money into a building that you might not really need. There are 2 other fire stations that need renovation, and we're sure we need them. Start there, then consider Park more closely. The order we chose is just foolish. I was the only person to vote this way, however.

Article 53 - rescind borrowing authority. Passed unanimously.

Article 56 - transfer of funds to conservation committee. Passed unanimously.

Article 57 - amend wetlands bylaws. These changes basically change fees and collections. Passed.

Article 62 - buy land near Lexington. Passed unanimously.

Article 63 - Hardy school appropriation. Amendment proposed to remove this from prop 2.5. Amendment fails, article passes 138-4.

Article 64 - Athletic facility. Finance committee recommended no action. Supt. Donovan posed a question. There is money coming to the town to clean up behind school, and part is for athletic facility. Arlington can't afford a field house, but what if the rest was given by a private donor, for a new hockey rink? 20 speakers rose for this question. It came out that this was a take-it-or-leave-it, and action had to be taken immediately. However, TM didn't really matter in the question - we weren't going to spend money, so out of our hands. There are two amendments proposed. Both strike "field house" and say "hockey rink" or "athletic facility." There is confusion as to which amendment is voted on first, but article passes. Personal note: I was very irritated to have such a poorly researched article for discussion. With zero information and zero effective role, the TM had nothing useful to say. And, we wasted an hour on the question.

Article 65 - no action.

Article 66 - transportation study. 2 speakers, passed.

Article 67 - no action.

Article 68 - water facilities - passed.

Article 69 - healthcare trust - passed.

Article 70 - tip fee stabilization. Minor amendment, passed.

Article 71 - cemeteries. Meadow Brook Park was discussed. Passed unanimously.

Article 72 - Overlay reserve appropriation. Passed unanimously.

Article 73 - Free cash. Passed unanimously.

Article 74 - Pierce school. The waiver has not been sought, but will be. Passed unanimously.

Articles 41, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48 all voted no action. These are bargaining issues that will have to come up next year.

Article 49 - collective bargaining. A reserve to pay for what we will do next year. Passed.

Article 2 cont. Passed.

Meeting adjourned.

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