Envision Arlington Precinct Meeting Brainstorming - Oct 2nd, 2019

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(Juli Brazile) Based on town surveys, a lot of residents are interested in town meeting, and how our system of government works. They're also interested in meeting their town meeting members.

(Len Diggins) Len moved here from New Orleans. He noticed that people referred to Arlington as a "town", and thought that was kind of cute. But he didn't have a good idea of how a town system of government worked. Eventually, Len ran for town meeting, and thinks it's a great form of governance. Sometimes we have low participation, but that might be because the town runs pretty well in general. He'd like to see precinct meetings a couple of times per year. These might not be well-attended at first, but over time, they can become an institution. Len sees Envision Arlington as a way to help organize these meetings.

Roderick Holland talked about precinct 7 meetings. Town meeting organized some, but so did the ARB.

(Bill Berkowitz) Precincts 8 and 10 have held regular meetings for the last six or seven years. They typically put up posters and drop off literature at doors. Mr. Berkowitz believes every precinct should have meetings. The question is who drives that.

(Carol?) Precinct 18 has been meeting at the Dalin school for about six years. When mixed-use zoning articles were brought up, a prominent real estate agent came in and spoke too much. There should be an identified moderator, and time limits on speaking. During another meeting, a former resident of the precinct -- who had since moved out of town -- came back and spoke at length. He wouldn't stop talking.

(Greg Christiana) Last spring, many town meeting members felt the organizing help was nice. However, some residents thought the town was trying to take over precinct meetings.

(Juli Brazile) Would it make sense to have combined meetings, where precincts go to vote?

(Rod Holland) The skill of running a meeting can be learned. Lots of people are able to do it. Precinct meetings don't vote, and they don't have to follow a warrant.

(?) I also felt like people from outside our precinct came to lobby on zoning articles, rather than provide information.

(Juli Brazile) During the fall, it might be useful to focus on town meeting and how it works. It can also be a place to generate warrant articles for the next annual town meeting. It's a good time to start the process, and to figure out who to work with. April precinct meetings are logistically tricky. There's not a lot of time between elections and when town meeting starts.

(Pat Hanlon) In the fall, we don't have a warrant. It's hard to express views when you don't know what's being proposed. People might not turn out for a civics lesson.

(?) I think people would like to meet their town meeting members, and build relationships.

Juli asks for suggestions on how to publicize precinct meetings. Suggestions include: Facebook groups, neighborhood email lists, the Advocate, flyers, and door knocking. It might be useful to have an orientation session for meeting chairs, so they're equipped to deal with that one person who won't stop talking.

(Danuta) Perhaps we can have a broader meeting on how government in Arlington is done.

Juli suggests building in time to debrief after precinct meetings.

(?) I feel like we're missing the opportunity to shape issues as they're being developed.

Juli suggests getting email addresses of attendees. That allows you to follow up with them, on how issues are going.

(Sue Doctorow) In the fall, we should teach people that the warrant is just an agenda.

(Rod Holland) Town meeting is really a process that unfolds over several months. A month-by-month timeline might be helpful.

(Christa Kelleher) With respect to civics lessons, a couple of spots on ACMi might be helpful. Some people learn well by watching short videos.

(Len Diggins) The fall can also be a time to figure out who isn't running for election. That gives you more time to recruit candidates.

(Pat Hanlon) It might be worth putting up lawn posters: precinct meeting on such and such a day. If people see the signs a couple of times, it might sink in, and they might turn up.

(?) Recruiting people to run for town meeting is critical. The process should be clearer and more accessible.

Someone suggests having all of the precinct meetings during the same weekend. Juli thinks it could be hard to get ten meeting venues during the same weekend.

(Greg Christiana) Last spring, most of the organizing took place over email. There were some issues regarding cost. Envision wasn't sure what it would be able to cover. Some TMM's were okay with covering the cost of a meeting place, but some were adamantly opposed.

(Adam Badik) Some banks have community rooms. We might be able to book them.

(Pat Hanlon) In the past, we've tried to hold meetings at the schools. But there's a lot of bureaucracy involved in that.

(Peter Fuller) Some precincts have organized meetings at schools, coinciding with PTO meetings.

(Steve Revilak) It can be hard to predict meeting turnout. Some precinct 1 meetings have been well-attended. Others have had as few as four participants.

(?) Could we hold precinct meetings at the high school, on nights they're doing community education programs?

(Brucie Moulton) Perhaps we could hold meetings at locations that have been designated MVP resource centers. That could make the public more aware of our municipal vulnerability planning efforts.

(Wendy) What about having all of the precinct meetings at once, with breakout spaces?

(Juli Brazile) We've tried that in the past. Only town meeting members showed up.

(Danuta) Could we ask realtors if they have function rooms?

(?) What about meeting outside in parks?

Outside meetings are an option. But the acoustics are challenging, and the weather doesn't always cooperate.

(Peter Fuller) The public safety building has a meeting room.

(?) What about churches?

(Peter Fuller) In the past, we've organized town civics fairs.

(Betty Stone) We could use town day to publicize these meetings.

(Wendy) There's also patch, Next Door, and different apps. A lot of people get all of their information from their phones.

(Brucie Moulton) Perhaps we could have a table at Feast of the East, to announce precinct meetings.

(Rod Holland) There's also the Arlington List.

(Bill Berkowitz) It's important to have a structure for ongoing communications. These can take a variety of forms.

(Juli Brazile) It might be possible for the town to set up email aliases. That would allow a resident to send an email address to the precinct TMM alias, and reach all of the TMMs for that precinct.

(Kelly Lynema) Some towns set up town email addresses for all town meeting members. That makes every town meeting member accessible via email, even if they don't want to give out their personal email address.

(Steve Revilak) Could our town elections be held at the same time as state and federal elections? That might increase participation.

(Juli) No, that's not an option for a town.

(?) Perhaps we could allow residents (who aren't TMMs) to subscribe to TMM notices.

(?) Perhaps we could require proponents to provide pro/con summaries for each article, similar to what's done for state ballot questions.

(Beth Malofchik) This year, I was confused about recommended votes and the consent agenda. Town meeting members should be educated about these mechanisms.

(Betty Stone) Fall precinct meetings are not necessarily a training session for town meeting members.

(Pat Hanlon) What about special precinct meetings for special town meetings?

(Betty Stone) I think we should have a simple effort this fall, due to time constraints. Next year, we can do something more thought out and more fully-formed. Also, facilitator training is very important.

(Kelly Lynema) Google "New Hampshire Listens". You should find several guides to facilitator training.

(Brucie Moulton) Talking about the importance of precinct representation would be a good topic.

(Pat Hanlon) The League of Women Voters has a clear guide on running for town meeting.

(?) We also need to consider language. English isn't everyone's first language.

(Betty Stone) Food helps get people to meetings.

(?) Perhaps we could have bake sales in conjunction with precinct meetings.

(Catherine Farrell) What's the best way to get in touch with schools?

(Juli Brazile) It's best to have one person as a contact person for the schools. Juli is willing to be that contact point.

(Elizabeth Carr-Jones) What's the rough time frame for having these meetings?

(Juli) Late October, or early November.