Town Meeting - Apr 26th, 2021
Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/town-governance/town-meeting. Official voting records are available there too.
Attendance is 241 of 252 at the beginning of the meeting.
We begin with a vote to authorize town meeting to be held virtually. This passes 235--1--0.
Article 3 - Reports of Committees
The Select Board, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee, Redevelopment Board, and Community Preservation Act Committee present reports.
Vote to receive reports passes, 238--0.
Article 2 - State of the Town Address
Select Board Chair Steve DeCourcey gives the state of the town address.
(Steve DeCourcey) Mr. DeCourcey thanks Joe Curro for his nine years of service on the Select Board, and Marie Krepelka for her 62 years of service as board administrator. 51% of Arlington residents have been vaccinated. Mr. DeCourcey acknowledges people who have passed from COVID, essential workers, and the staff of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS has administered over 6000 vaccine doses and managed the town's COVID relief fund. The town has also helped with youth counseling, worked with food banks, and distributed PPE.
Mr. DeCourcey is encouraged to see the new high school going up on Mass Ave.
George Floyd's murder brought systemic racism to the forefront, and forced us to address it. We have much work to do there. Mr. DeCourcey recognizes the work of Jillian Harvey, the town's DEI coordinator. The Arlington Police Department has adopted a policy of duty to intervene, and updated their training standards.
Town Meeting will receive a balanced budget in 2022, but we can expect a deficit in 2024. We'll need to work to minimize the impact of that.
(Charlie Foskett) Finance Committee Chair Charlie Foskett provides a statement on the Finance Committee report. This year, we have a $187M balanced budget, but our long-range projections anticipate a $7M shortfall in FY 2024. We would need a 13% override in June 2023 to balance the budget. Our expenses have grown 4.8%/year versus a 1.9% rate of inflation. The growth in school costs exceeds growth in school enrollment. Mr. Foskett urges fiscal restraint. He says the economy has reaped the benefits of technology, but he can't recall any town productivity gains due to tech. He believes that technology can help us escape our structural deficit by lowering the cost of services.
Article 4 - Measurer of Wood and Bark
Article 4 nominates the ceremonial position of measurer of wood and bark, which traditionally goes to the longest-serving town meeting member. John Worden is nominated. Town meeting accepts the nomination with a vote of 222--5--5.
Article 5 - Election of Assistant Moderator
Under Article 5, town meeting selects an assistant moderator, who will fill the moderator's role if necessary. Brian Rehrig nominates Adam Auster and Peter Fuller nominates Michael Ruderman. Each nominee is given a few minutes to ask for town meeting's vote.
(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says he's been a town meeting member for 21 years, and has watched and studied the process. He says he has experience moderating and conducting meetings.
(Adam Auster) Mr. Auster has been a town meeting member since 2006, and he's worked to bring electronic voting to town meeting. He values the institution of town meeting as a means of civic engagement and as a means of governing.
Town meeting is instructed to vote "1" for Mr. Auster and "2" for Mr. Ruderman.
(Naomi Greenfield, Point of Order) Ms. Greenfield wants to confirm the numbers assigned to each candidate, which the moderator does.
Adam Auster is elected moderator, by a vote of 126--108.
Next, we work through the consent agendas. The consent agenda consists of articles that are housekeeping administrivia, or where the moderator feels the recommended action should be non-controversial. There are two consent agendas: one for articles that require majority votes, and one for articles that require two-thirds votes.
(Timur Yontar, Point of Order) Mr. Yontar asks whether article 77 should be on the majority or super-majority consent agenda.
(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone says it belongs on the majority consent agenda; it's putting money into the stabilization fund, rather than taking it out.
(Beth Ann Friedman, Point of Order) Ms. Friedman asks about typos in the Select Board Report.
(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim acknowledges three Scribner's errors. These are addressed administratively.
(Nancy Bloom, Point of Order) Ms. Bloom says the Finance Committee report for Article 13 uses the word "eighteenth" when it should say "eighteen".
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says the controlling action on Article 13 comes from the Select Board, rather than the Finance Committee.
(Gordon Jamieson, Point of order) Mr. Jamieson states that he put together the annotated consent agenda. Earlier, the moderator credited this work to Paul Schlictman.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone apologizes to Mr. Jamieson for his error.
(Beth Ann Friedman, Point of order) Ms. Friedman has some questions about Article 33.
(Zarina Memon, Point of order) Ms. Memon asks if Article 78 should be on the consent agenda.
No, it shouldn't.
Article 6 is removed from the consent agenda.
(David Levy, Point of order) Mr. Levy asks if people need a substitute motion in order to remove an article from the consent agenda.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says he'll need substitute motions if the recommended vote is no action.
Article 81 is removed.
(Beth Melofchik, Point of order) Ms. Melofchik wants to verify that Article 78 is not on the consent agenda, because she's planning to file a substitute motion.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone confirms that article 78 is not on the consent agenda.
Article 53 is removed.
Article 62 is removed.
Article 88 is removed.
(Gordon Jamieson, Point of order) Mr. Jamieson asks if there's a substitute motion for Article 88, since the recommended vote was no action.
(Lori Leahy, Point of order) Ms. Leahy says she wanted to remove Article 87, not article 88.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone asks Ms. Leahy if she has a substitute motion, because article 87 also received a no-action vote.
(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy doesn't have a substitute motion, and wasn't planning to file one. So, articles 87 and 88 both stay on the consent agenda.
(Timur Yontar, Point of order) Mr. Yontar asks if there was a substitute motion for article 84. It received a recommended vote of no action.
(Joanne Preston, Point of order) Ms. Preston would like article 84 removed from the consent agenda. She opposes the article and plans to file a substitute motion in the next few days.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone notes that Article 84 asks for a representative of the Arlington Housing Authority to present to town meeting. He's already extended an invitation to the Housing Authority.
(Joanne Preston) Ms. Preston asks to have article 84 left on the consent agenda.
Articles removed: 5, 53, 62, 81, 90
(Beth Ann Friedman, Point of order) Ms. Friedman asks if Article 33 is still on the consent agenda.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that article 33 isn't on the majority vote consent agenda.
(Emily Sullivan, Town Staff) Ms. Sullivan points out that Article 33 is on the two-thirds consent agenda. We're still working on the majority consent agenda.
(Sophie Migliazzo, Point of order) Ms. Migliazzo asks what "yes" and "no" votes mean when voting on the consent agenda.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that a yes vote means you agree with the recommended actions for the various articles, and a no vote means you disagree.
Town meeting adopts the majority vote consent agenda, 222--1--2.
Next, on to the two-thirds vote consent agenda.
Article 28 is removed.
Article 33 is removed.
Town meeting adopts the two-thirds consent agenda, 228--1--1.
(Patricia Worden, Point of order) Ms. Worden says she lost her connection to the voting portal website three times. Her husband also lost his connection, and wasn't able to vote.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone advises Mr. and Mrs. Worden to call the town clerk with their votes if this happens again.
Article 6 - CPAC Member Term Limits
This article proposes to remove term limits for at-large members of the Community Preservation Act Committee.
(Steve DeCourcey) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board voted 5--0 in favor of removing term limits for at-large members. These term limits were added when Arlington adopted the Community Preservation Act in 2015. The CPA has been successful in Arlington. The committee reports to Town Meeting each year, and their process has been transparent. He points out that no other town committee has term limits on membership.
(Rebecca Gruber) Mr. Gruber took Article 6 off the consent agenda because she wanted to discuss it. She thinks that in-perpetuity membership doesn't allow other residents to step up and serve. She spoke with Eric Helmuth (former chair of the Community Preservation Act Committee), who said he valued longevity and institutional knowledge. She thinks that new members would add value, and should be given a chance to serve.
(Beth Melofchik) Ms. Melofchik opposes article 6. She'd like to preserve the term limits, and thinks new members can be brought up to speed. She says many residents are interested in what this committee does, and that diversity and turnover are important.
(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth is no longer a member of the CPAC; he had to step down when he was elected to the Select Board. He says there's no currently-appointed member to whom these term limits would apply. Other members rotate, so there is benefit in longevity for at-large positions. Three Select Board appointees have resigned over the years, so there has been turnover. No other board has term limits. If we want to talk about term limits for members of boards and committees, Mr. Helmuth thinks they should apply more broadly.
(Clarissa Rowe) Ms. Rowe says the Community Preservation Act Committee currently has two openings. She'd like people to apply for these positions, and urges a yes vote on Article 6.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks if an at-large member could serve again, after reaching their term limit.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says the bylaw requires them to wait three years.
(Lynette Culverhouse) Ms. Culverhouse thinks more committees need term limits. She thinks that having people serve too long is not good for democracy.
(Anna Henkin) Ms. Henkin supports having term limits on more committees. She thinks that new people bring new perspectives, and that helps to meet changing needs.
(Matthew Reck) Mr. Reck moves the question.
(Zarina Memon, Point of order) Ms. Memon asks if it takes a two-thirds vote to terminate debate.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says yes, it requires a two-thirds vote.
Motion to terminate debate passes 190--39--13.
Article 6 passes, 164--70--0.
Article 7 - Rock Removal Requirements
Article 7 would require a builder or developer to perform a pre-blast survey in any project that requires removal of 50 or more cubic yards of rock.
(Steve DeCourcey) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board recommends favorable action on Article 7.
(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim presents the substance of Article 7. The town has received complaints about construction projects that involve chipping away at rock ledge. He says our bylaws can regulate noise and require abutter notification, but they can't stop work, pursue damages, or require specific excavation processes.
Article 7 would require a pre-blast survey any time more than 50 cubic yards of rock are removed. The builder will have to engage abutters and follow fire safety guidelines that pertain to blasting. This article will not prohibit excavation, nor will it require blasting.
There are costs associated with a pre-blast survey, which the builder would pay. There will be additional costs if they decide to proceed with blasting, such as borings and geological surveys. Blasting tends to be faster than chipping and it employs an existing regulatory scheme. Blasting is currently allowed in the town, and some residents have complained about blasting in the past.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray says that a lot of residents in precinct 8 are concerned about blasting. She asks for no vote. She's concerned that there aren't any protections for abutters. She thinks that a pre-blast survey requirement will open the potential for more blasting. The state regulations require blasting damage to be reported within 30 days, and she doesn't feel that's enough time. This puts the burden on abutters to know their rights. She says that precinct 8 is concerned about blasting, but not about chipping.
(Kevin Koch) Mr. Koch asks why people complain about chipping, if blasting is so great.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says the fire department, inspectional services, and planning department were consulted for this warrant article. He says there are expenses associated with blasting that are not associated with chipping. Builders often assume that chipping will go faster than it actually does.
(Kirsi Allison-Ampe) Ms. Allison-Ampe is concerned about this article pushing builders toward blasting. She lives 1000' feet from the Symmes site. When it was redeveloped, the blasting made her think that part of her house had fallen off. She was outside the 250' abutter notification area. She says there are cracks in her ceiling, but she can't prove they're the result of blasting. There's a lot of rock around here, and 250' is not adequate for notification. She understands the concerns about chipping, but is more concerned about houses being damaged due to blasting.
(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon asks how many blasting permits are issued each year, and if other communities require pre-blast surveys.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says he can't answer these questions off the top of his head, but will find answers for Wednesday night.