Arlington Human Rights Commission - Feb 20th, 2019

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I attended the AHRC's meeting with several members of Tenants for a Livable Arlington, who were seeking the commission's support on Article 80. Article 80 is a resolution that seeks to establish an off-street parking voucher program for low-income residents, and residents with disabilities.

With seven of us there, the AHRC offered to move the public comment portion of their meeting earlier in the agenda.

Laura Kiesel spoke first, and provided an overview of the article. She moved to Arlington six years ago. Her landlord told her there would be parking available, and that turned out not to be the case. A number of TLA meeting attendees have reported similar experiences. Laura isn't a fan of cars, but she has a disability such that public transit and cycling aren't viable options. For lower-income individuals, having a car is a big factor in maintaining a job, getting to medical appointments, and living in a good community. She'd hate to see someone not live here because of parking.

A commissioner asks Laura what she's seeking from the AHRC. She's seeking support.

A commissioner states that the AHRC is generally supportive of the article, but has some concerns about it being a non-binding resolution. Laura explains that the article is non-binding because town meeting doesn't have the authority to enact changes to the parking ban; only the select board can do that.

A commissioner asks if the AHRC can send Laura a list of questions, so they better understand what they're endorsing. At this point the commission is looking for more information, and wants to understand the pros and cons of the issue.

I encouraged the commission to follow the multi-family zoning articles coming before town meeting, and to attend the ARB hearing on March 11th. I expressed some concern about our zoning laws. One cannot draw a line on a map and say "upper-class people on this side, lower-class people on that side', or "black people on this side, and white people on that side". However, one can draw a line on a map and say "this side is zoned single-family housing and this side is zoned for apartments buildings", and that will effectively produce the same result. Back in 1975, we put a lot of restrictions on multi-family housing and apartments in particular, while zoning over 70% of the town for single-family.

At this point, a commissioner asks if I could put my comments in writing and email them to the commission. I agree to do so. Another commissioner asked why I was bringing this issue to them. I stated that my goal was to raise awareness.

A fellow from the Diversity Task Force spoke next. He's interested in bringing active bystander training to town, as part of an anti-bullying campaign. He knows of a group that conducts active bystander training, and also has a train the trainer's program. He'd like to bring these programs to Arlington public schools. There are fees for the training, and he's seeking funding assistance from the AHRC.

The public comment section ended at this point, and we left the commission to conduct the rest of their meeting.