Precinct 2 Meeting - Nov 15th, 2020

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Meeting held via video-conference. Approximately 25 people attended.

Article 5 - Fossil Fuel Infrastructure. Alan Linov talks about air source heat pumps, and the desire to prevent gas (heating) hookups in new buildings.

There's a question about that cost of ASHPs and how this might effect affordable housing development. The cost of an ASHP is similar to that of a gas heating system and air conditioning. They're widely used in affordable housing projects, including those by the Housing Corporation of Arlington.

Steve Revilak says that Arlington sees an average of 27 home replacements per year. Given that 60% of Arlington's greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and most of that from residential heat, he's concerned that gas heat and leaky old houses are a liability, and that we won't be able to get to net zero quickly enough. He supports the article though.

Steve DeCourcey says that Article 6 would take effect on July 1, 2022, or six months after the home rule petition passes.

Article 6 - Police Civilian Advisory Board Study Committee. Rajeev says this group will study the possibility of creating a civilian review board (CRB) for the Arlington Police Department. This article will not create the CRB itself. Instead, a study committee will consider what an effective CRB might look like and make recommendations later. He says that CRBs are a core plank of racial and social justice movements.

Bill Hayner asks what enforcement power a CRB would have. He supports the idea and would like to see accountability. But, he doesn't want something that will divide the town.

Rajeev says there's a disparity in how people see police departments. This group is going to study CRBs, identify best practices, and make recommendations.

Steve DeCourcey says the timeline has the study group producing a report in 2022, so they'll have time to do their work. The select Board supported this article 5--0.

William (?) suggests including an attorney in the group, preferably one with civil rights or constitutional law experience. He hopes the article proponents will consider that suggestion.

Steve DeCourcey says there will be a substitute motion to change some members from voting to non-voting. He believes that town employees who serve on committees should have voting right.

Article 8 - Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Max Palmer supports article 8 as a way to fund affordable housing development. He says that 113 communities across Massachusetts have affordable housing trust funds (AHTFs). They can purchase and refurbish homes, or help buyers with financing. This article will just establish the trust and form the board of trustees.

Jennifer Lewis-Forbes used to work for the Housing Corporation of Arlington. She sees an AHTF as a useful tool.

Steve Revilak supports having an AHTF. He doesn't like the substitute motion that would prevent the fund from working with 40B projects. If a good 40B project is proposed and the trustees can make it better by working with the developers, then they should have the opportunity to do so. He'd prefer to give the trustees more flexibility.

Jenniffer Lewis-Forbes thinks the fund should be allowed to fund 40B projects. She hopes town meeting won't take the teeth out of it.

Wynelle Evans says that 40B developers get enough benefits, and don't need any help. She believes there are often irregularities around how 40B projects are done.

Steve DeCourcey says the select board voted in favor of Article 8, 5--0. He notes the AHTF could receive money from the CPA.

Bill Hayner says he doesn't want to see 40B developers getting money through a backdoor.

Steve DeCourcey suggests it would be better to keep the AHTF flexible.

Bill Hayner says that 40B developers are big organizations. He doesn't want to see Arlington getting into legal trouble by giving them money.

Article 12 -- Consolidation of Town Meeting Member Elections. Max Palmer says Article 12 would make a change to the way town meeting members are elected. There would be a single contest for all seats, instead of separate contests for partial terms. It's the same process we use every ten years, after redistricting.

Bill Logan notes that we had several recounts in our last town election, because voters voted for a write-in candidate in different contests.

Article 25 - Black Lives Matter Banner at town hall. Rajeev says this article proposes the BLM banner be placed back on town hall. He says the banner was taken down after a white supremacist rally, which has caused a lot of anxiety in the community. All of the signatures for this article were gathered in one day, and it's gotten a variety of endorsements.

Bill Hayner says he'll vote in favor. He asks who will have jurisdiction over the sign. Bill says he's a first amendment absolutist, and asks what will happen if a different group also wants to hang a banner on town hall.

Steve DeCourcey says the Select Board will maintain control over any banners hung on town hall. He says there could be a constitutional issue if we allow other groups to display signs on town property.

Steve Revilak asks if the moderator plans to handle this like past resolutions, with each side given ten minutes to state their case. Steve DeCourcey believes the moderator intends to handle it that way.

Ginna Reeder asks about the language in the article, which says the banner should stay up until town meeting votes to take it down.

Rajeev says the warrant article language was suggested by town counsel.

Ginna Reeder asks if the Select Board could decide to take the banner down on their own.

Steve DeCourcey says the select board wanted to give town meeting the opportunity to weigh in on this issue. When the board voted to display the banner on town hall, they discussed how long to display it. The decision to take it down was made well in advance, and before the Back the Blue rally was scheduled.

Bill Hayner asks about the language of the warrant article.

Steve DeCourcey refers Mr. Hayner to the commentary in the Select Board's report to town meeting. The report points out that even if this resolution passes, the Select Board will still have the authority to determine if and when the banner is taken down. The board didn't want to change the language of the proposal. They were more interested in allowing the discussion to take place.

Peter Gast asks if there should be a substitute motion to amend the language, because it seems like the language is wrong.

Steve DeCourcey points out that Article 25 is a resolution. It's an advisory vote.

Peter Gast asks what kind of message the select board was hoping to get.

Steve DeCourcey responds with somewhere between "keep it up permanently" or "don't keep it up". He says we'll need to continue this discussion afterwards.

Alex Bilsky says he's heard from a lot of people in support of putting the banner back. Putting the banner back seems like the least we could do, because it means a lot to people. We may need to give more thought to how symbols are treated in the future.

Steve DeCourcey says there are people who want the banner up, people who don't want the banner up, and people who want the banner up only periodically. We might decide to display it annually, or hang it somewhere else in town. He'd like input on those considerations.

Rajeev suggests that before removing the banner, the select board should consider how that removal will be perceived. He says the banner reminds people that the town cares about this issue.

Peter Gast asks if the Select Board is contemplating any other actions.

Steve DeCourcey says the town manager is reaching out to different groups, and planning another series of community conversations around race and equity. The select board has tried to make changes in this direction. For example, by changing the set of information requested for license applications. Four other communities in Massachusetts have put black lives matter banners on their city or town hall: Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and North Hampton. We put up the banner as a way of recognizing that there's work to do.

Ginna asks if the select board will continue these processes, even if town meeting votes in favor of putting the banner back.

Steve DeCourcey says that yes, efforts will continue, regardless of whether the banner is displayed on town hall.

Ginna thinks it makes sense to keep the banner up while that work is going on.

Article 15 - Retired Police Officer Details. Ginna Reeder has a question about the language in the article, which states that police officers will "serve at the pleasure of the town manager".

Steve DeCourcey says that the police chief can make recommendations, but this is ultimately the town manager's decision. We've had a shortage of detail officers in Arlington, and have had to hire them from other communities.

Will Logan asks if we'll continue to have police details, even if Article 15 is voted down.

Steve DeCourcey says yes. He notes that utility companies, etc. pay for the details. The town does not.

Brendan Sullivan asks if detail pay includes overtime.

Steve DeCourcey says that detail pay is a separate category. In the last few weeks, there have been instances where Arlington has had to cancel utility work because there wasn't a detail officer available.

Peter Gast asks if the officers would be armed, and if they'd have full police powers.

Steve DeCourcey says yes, they'd be like any other police officer.

Brendan Sullivan asks if there are training requirements for detail officers.

Steve DeCourcey believes that the town manager and police chief will have to make that determination. He notes that retired officers can only serve for five years after retirement (assuming that they haven't gone back to work in another municipality).