Town Meeting - Apr 26th, 2023

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Second night of town meeting. Background material is available from


(Angela Olszewski, Menotomy 250) Ms. Olszewski says that planning is under way for commemorating the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. The committee has two meetings coming up: one on April 30th, and one on May 11th.

Article 3 - Reports of Committees

Christopher Moore presents the Capital Planning Committee's report to town meeting.

Article 12 - Three-Year Moratorium on the Installation of Artificial Turf on Town Land

This article proposes a three-year moratorium on the installation of artificial turf, so that a committee can be formed to study its environmental impacts. The Select Board recommended no action, but the proponents are bringing it back with a substitute motion.

(Eric Helmuth, Select Board Chair) Mr. Helmuth moves to postpone the article until May 12th, by agreement of all parties involved.

(note: the town is hosting a panel on May 2nd, to discuss the pros and cons of artificial turf).

Motion to postpone passes, 143--49--16.

Article 13 - Appointed Clerk

Arlington has an elected town clerk. This article proposes a ballot question for the next town election, asking the voters to choose between having the clerk be an elected position, or an appointed one.

(Eric Helmuth, Select Board) Mr. Helmuth says the Select Board supports converting the Town Clerk to an appointed position. He reminds town meeting that this will require a town-wide vote next April. The job has become more professional and technical, and less political. He says that no problems have been reported by the 120 communities that have converted to an appointed clerk.

(John Worden, Point of order) Mr. Worden understands there was supposed to be a study about this, and he hasn't seen it. He doesn't think the article can proceed without the study.

(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth states that the study was done, and the report is attached to Article 13 in the annotated town meeting warrant.

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler is in favor of an appointed Clerk. He says that the Town Clerk is a professional position, which involves managing public records, voter registration, licenses, and elections. He sees a need for professionalism and says this isn't a political position. None of the duties require electoral accountability. Lots of departments have great levels of responsibility, even though the department heads aren't elected.

Mr. Pooler says the town had a lot of success transitioning to more professional staff. He thinks the Clerk's office needs to be subject to departmental budget controls and performance accountability. He notes that our Clerk asked to have the study done. The study had 17 findings, and recommends changing to an appointed Clerk. He believes that a professional Clerk's office would be able to take on more responsibility, such as handling public records requests. Mr. Pooler has heard people call this a "power grab" by the Town Manager's office. He disagrees, and thinks it's in the town's best interests.

(Carl Wagner, Precinct 15) Mr. Wagner is concerned about having an appointed Clerk; he feels the Clerk has a unique position when it comes to voting. He thinks there were problems with the reprecincting process that took place after the last census. He says that voters will only be able to choose five members of the Select Board, and we'll lose control if we the Town Clerk is appointed.

(Asia Kepka, Point of order) Ms. Kepka says that Mr. Worden pressed the button on his handset to be added to the speaking queue.

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana asks the have the speaker queue displayed, and notes that Mr. Worden's name appears on it.

(Steve Moore, Point of order) Mr. Moore requests that the speaking queue be shown with a larger font.

(Christopher Moore, Precinct 14) Mr. Moore would like to hear the Town Clerk's thoughts on the matter.

(Juli Brazile, Town Clerk) Ms. Brazile says she's for it, and believes that an appointed position is best for the town. She says that previous Clerks were not really accountable between elections, and there's no recourse if the Clerk decides not to make certain voting options available. For example, if the Clerk didn't want to hold early voting on weekends, then we simply wouldn't have it, and there'd be no recourse for the public. She says we have to think about accountability.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore thinks we should go forward with the article, and that voters aren't the best work supervisors. He notes that a non-elected position gives us a wider pool of candidates, as the Clerk wouldn't need to be an Arlington resident.

(Mark Kaepplein, Precinct 9) Mr. Kaepplein says we've seen a power grab in the naming of Magliozzi way, and that democracy doesn't work well when things are kept secret. He says that issues with the previous Clerk were kept under wraps, and there were problems with the building inspector too. He says that 1/3 of the towns in Massachusetts have appointed clerks, which means that 2/3's do not. He says it's important for people to voice their choice. Other towns have more elected officials than Arlington does. He thinks that problems with the previous Clerk would have been addressed, if people knew about them.

(Annie LaCourt, Precinct 15) Ms. LaCourt reminds town meeting that we're not voting to make the decision; we're voting on whether to let the voters make the decision. Regarding accountability, Ms. LaCourt says the Select Board and School Committee are elected bodies, and they hold public meetings roughly every two weeks. The Clerk is elected every three years, and that's the only time feedback is given. The Treasurer's office used to be the same way. Ms. LaCourt says that collaboration between the Clerk and other town bodies is voluntary. Elections were previously run by the Select Board, and they've only recently been transferred to the Clerk's office. She says this is a question of what we'll allow Arlington voters to do.

(Dean Carman, Precinct 20) Mr. Carman supports the article, which just asks that the question be put on the ballot. Opponents will say this is a loss of democracy, and the same arguments were made six years ago, when we started the process of converting the Town Treasurer from an elected to an appointed position. Appointed positions have a better pool of candidates, and having a professional Treasurer allowed the town to form consolidated finance department, which improved efficiency. He asks town meeting not to be scared by hypothetical abstract problems.

(note: Mr. Carman was Arlington's final elected Treasurer. He campaigned on converting the office to a professional position.)

(Andrew Greenspon, Precinct 5) Mr. Greenspon moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 186--32.

Article passes, 186--31--2.

Article 14 - Strategic Plan for New Growth

Article 14 asks town meeting to form a study committee to develop a strategic plan for new growth. The Select Board recommended no action, but the article's proponent is offering a substitute motion.

(Eric Helmuth, Select Board) Mr. Helmuth says this article was submitted by one of his colleagues on the Select Board, who recused themselves from the Select Board deliberations. Mr. Helmuth says that both the Redevelopment Board and Planning Department were concerned about duplicate effort. He says that new growth is important but thinks the topic will be covered by the Master Planning process that Arlington will start next year. Again, there were concerns about duplication of effort, and the possibility of contradictory findings. He questions whether the study group can function effectively without town resources. Mr. Helmuth says the spirit of this is fantastic, but it's better to leave the work until next year.

(Len Diggins, Proponent, Precinct 3) Mr. Diggins would like to introduce his substitute motion. Although Mr. Diggins is a member of the Select Board, he's standing here tonight as a resident and Town Meeting member. He wishes the substitute motion had been the original proposal. He's not offering the substitute in defiance of the Select Board, nor does he wish to usurp the authority of other town bodies.

Mr. Diggins originally envisioned this as a collaboration, but appreciates the concerns raised by the ARB and town staff. He says the substitute motion removes mandatory participation from the ARB, ZBA, Board of Assessors, and Department of Planning and Community Development. He thinks that will allow the committee to explore bolder options, and do more outreach. He'd encourage the master planning process to build on what the committee learns. The desire is not to duplicate effort, but to learn more. He wants to improve the financial well-being of the town in the long run. The substitute motion tried to avoid duplicate effort, and allows the Town Manager to ask the committee to suspend its work. He's not worried about the possibility of contradictory findings; that likely means there are differences which need to be sorted out.

(Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12) Mr. Jamieson Chairs the Board of Assessors, and they work hard to capture new growth. Mr. Jamieson heard opposition to new growth when he started participating in town meeting, but if you don't like new growth, then you have to like overrides instead. He says Mr. Diggins's proposal has merit, and it brings up the topic for discussion. He suggests that now is not the time, and thinks the town should focus on complying with MBTA Communities instead. He says the idea is important, but recommends against doing it at this time.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti asks what the phrase "in cooperation with the Envision Arlington standing committee" means.

(Greg Christiana, Moderator) Mr. Christiana understands it to mean "in collaboration with".

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti asks why Envision Arlington can't form the study committee.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that Envision Arlington can form task groups, but not study committees.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti thinks that new growth shouldn't be considered in isolation.

(Guillermo Hamlin, Precinct 14) Mr. Hamlin asks why the substitute motion has a provision that allows the Town Manager to suspend the committee's work.

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins says he wanted to make that option available, in case the Town Manager felt the Committee's work was having a negative impact on the Master Planning process. He says it was meant as a stop-gap.

(Guillermo Hamlin) Mr. Hamlin asks if there's a new master planning process forthcoming.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says the process will kick off as early as January of next year, after we get the MBTA communities zoning passed.

(Aram Hollman, Precinct 6) Mr. Hollman likes the idea of having two separate groups thinking about new growth, but is concerned about duplication of effort. He asks if the ARB and Select Board will be involved.

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins says their participation is optional.

(Aram Hollman) Mr. Hollman says he's puzzled by this unequal status, and the main motion's emphasis on education.

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins says this would be a different effort than the master planning process, and done by a different group. The study committee would be subordinate to the master plan committee. He says the goal is to explore and supplement.

(Aram Hollman) Mr. Hollman asks why the study committee won't be making explicit recommendations.

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins says there may be implicit recommendations in the findings, but they won't be official recommendations.

(Aram Hollman) Mr. Hollman asks who the committee will be educating.

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the committee will produce a report of findings and facts, but it won't be making recommendations.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 189--29--0.

Substitute motion fails: 75--142--1.

Recommended vote of no action passes by a voice vote.

Article 15 - Board of Youth Services Updates

This article proposes to rename the Board of Youth Services, and to make a number of changes to the board's enabling bylaw.

(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth says this article was requested by the Board of Youth Services, which functions as the board for the Arlington Youth Counseling Center (AYCC). The board has been around for 61 years.

(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim says the changes were drafted by the Board of Youth Services, which has evolved over the last 60 years. Their current focus is on supporting the AYCC, which has provided 5053 hours of youth counseling in the last year. He says the board wants to change it's name, and add some flexibility to the board membership, including a provision to allow participation by non-residents with experience in youth services. The article would also establish term limits for board members.

(Zach Grunko, Precinct 13) Mr. Grunko says the article seems to exclude residents who aren't registered to vote. He asks if that was intentional.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that language was part of the charter bylaw, and was fairly common at that point in time.

(Mark Rosenthal, Precinct 14) Mr. Rosenthal says the warrant article lists things that aren't included in the main motion's text, and asks if that's okay. For example, the warrant article mentions the possibility of dissolving the board, but the main motion doesn't.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says the only action before town meeting is the main motion. When the warrant article was drafted, the Board of Youth Services was considering the option of becoming a non-profit. The main motion reflects their decision not to do this, but the warrant language left it as a possibility.

(Lauren Boyle, Precinct 16) Ms. Boyle says she's a previous board member, and that it would be common sense to vote in favor of this article. She thinks it's definitely needed.

(Carl Wagner, Precinct 15) Mr. Wagner moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes via voice vote.

Article passes, 217--1--3.

Article 16 - Appointment of Town Manager or Temporary Town Manager

This article proposes changes to the process by which the town can select a new town manager, or temporary town manager. It's a home rule petition, which means it also needs favorable action by the state legislature in order to take effect.

(John Hurd, Select Board) Mr. Hurd says this article requests changes to Arlington's Town Manager Act, in particular, the way we fill a vacancy when the town manager leaves during their contract period. The current law gives us 90 days to fill a vacancy. Our last town manager resigned shortly after signing a new contract, and we had to use temporary town manager rules to fill what was nearly a full contract period.

No one asks to speak on article 16.

Article passes, 213--1--1.

Article 17 - Allow Digital Legal Notices

Massachusetts state law requires that legal notices be posted in a "newspaper of general circulation". This article proposes home rule legislation to provide additional options.

(John Hurd, Select Board) Mr. Hurd says this article is asking town meeting to allow legal notices to be published digitally, rather than only in a newspaper.

(Michael Ruderman, Precinct 9) Mr. Ruderman says he's a board member of ACMi and he thinks it would be great to get a piece of that business. Mr. Ruderman thinks our local paper, the Advocate and Star, is effectively dead.

(Larry Slotnick, Proponent, Precinct 7) Mr. Slotnick says that article is designed to allow legal notices to be published digitally. Currently, we have to have legal notices printed in the Advocate and Star. The Advocate and Star is owned by Gannet publishing, who terminated 19 of their local papers last year. Bedford was one of those communities, and they now publish notices in the Lowell Sun.

Mr. Slotnick says it costs around $190 to publish a notice in the Advocate, and it would cost more if we had to use the Globe or Herald. He obtained pricing from the Globe, which came out to around $900/advertisement. Having to publish notices in the Globe would cost around $40k/year. He didn't obtain pricing from the Herald.

Fewer people subscribe to the Advocate and Star these days. The article would provide five options for publishing legal notices, including: print, a newspaper website, a website that reports local news, a town website, or a state website.

(Roderick Holland, Precinct 7) Mr. Holland supports the article. He thinks it will bring legal notices in line with contemporary publication processes.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti opposes the article. He doesn't disagree with the assessment of the current situation, but there are 350 other cities and towns in Massachusetts with the same problem. He doesn't think we should be filing local legislation to fix a statewide problem. He thinks the fix should come from the state legislature.

(Barbara Thornton, Precinct 16) Ms. Thornton supports the article. She thinks we should be using town money to support institutions like ACMi and YourArlington.

(Guillermo Hamlin, Precinct 14) Mr. Hamlin fully supports the article. He worked for a PEG station in Malden, and the city also struggled with publication requirements for legal notices.

(Xavid Pretzer, Precinct 17) Mx. Pretzer moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Article passes 205--10--0.

Article 19 - Repeal MBTA Prohibition

Chapter 439 of the Acts of 1976 is MA state legislation that prohibits the MBTA from constructing a mass transit facility within a certain distance of Arlington Catholic High School. This was one of the measures taken to prevent the MBTA from extending the Red Line into Arlington. Article 19 asks town meeting to approve a home rule petition to repeal this prohibition.

(John Hurd, Select Board) Mr. Hurd explains that Article 19 requests the repeal of a piece of legislation from 1976, which says that the MBTA can't built a transit station near Arlington Catholic High School.

(Paul Schlichtman, proponent, Precinct 9) Mr. Schlichtman says he proposed this article because state legislation prevails over anything that we as a town can do. In 1976, opponents of the red line extension objected to the construction of parking garages, so the MBTA planners removed the garage proposed for the Russel Common Lot. That was seen as a compromise, but the opponents intensified their position. Mr. Schlichtman says that rejecting the red line was the second most consequential thing that Arlington has ever done; the first was separating from Cambridge. He thinks that Arlington should have a chance to reassess their desire for an MBTA station in the future, and residents should have the opportunity to revisit this decision.

(Peter Fiore, Precinct 2) Mr. Fiore says he has a hard copy of the original red line extension report, and the town manager's report on the red line extension from 1977. He says the president was talking less about public transportation, and more about buses. He says the environmental studies never looked at bus garages, and parking garages on the border of our community. He says there were lots of reasons why people were opposed to the red line. He'd like to know if anyone has spoken to Arlington Catholic High about this.

(Paul Schlichtman) Mr. Schlichtman says he hasn't.

(Josephine Babiarz, Precinct 15) Ms. Babiarz says she recently attended an open house and spoke with Arlington Catholic's principal about the MBTA. She says the principal was concerned about bus routes being taken away, due to MBTA cut backs.

(Peter Fiore) Mr. Fiore says he won't vote for this article. He's concerned that the students of Arlington Catholic will find out, and think that we hate them because of their religion.

(note: Mr. Fiore's mother, Elsie Fiore, was an opponent of the red line extension in the 1970's.)

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti asks who's being harmed by the current legislation.

(Paul Schlichtman) Mr. Schlichtman says that people have told him that the law hurts the T's ability to extend the red line.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti says he's not interested in re-litigating the past. He says it's not a trivial matter to get home rule legislation passed, and he thinks we shouldn't burden our legislators with these kinds of requests. He asks if there's any concrete examples of, say, the town not getting a grant because of the existing prohibition.

(John Hurd) Mr. Hurd isn't aware of any specific examples. He says the majority of the Select Board supported this article because they think the 1976 legislation is unnecessary. He thinks it's appropriate to ask the legislature to repeal it.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti says he's troubled by seeing these kinds of articles come before town meeting.

(Steve Revilak, Precinct 1) Mr. Revilak supports the article. He believes that the opponents of the red line in the 1970s were acting in their own best interests, but as someone who's moved here since then, he thinks that blocking the red line was a mistake.

Earlier tonight, we talked about the importance of new growth. Mr. Revilak says that commercial growth around mass transit stations is common. One can see this in the transformational changes happening in Union Square, around the Green Line extension. He thinks the T will bring a lot of new commercial growth to Somerville.

Mr. Revilak says there have been several occasions where he's told someone that he lives in Arlington, only to have them say "oh, you're the ones who killed the red line". Although it was nearly half a century ago, people still remember us for that. While the 1976 law may not be doing any harm today, it's certainly not doing us any favors. Mr. Revilak asks for town meeting's support, and hopes that someday in the future, we might still see the red line come to Arlington, Massachusetts.

(Chad Gibson, Precinct 4) Mr. Gibson wants to move the question, but he started to say something else before that. (The fact that he said something else disqualifies him from making that motion.)

(Daniel Jalkut, Precinct 6) Mr. Jalkut moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes on a voice vote.

Article passes, 169--41--1.

Article 20 - Acceptance of MGL. c. 32B sec. 20 OPEB Trust Funds

Article 20 asks town meeting to adopt a piece of local option legislation, which would provide additional flexibility for our retirement board. ("OPEB" stands for "other post-employment benefits").

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says this article is about acceptance of state law related to OPEB funds. Passing it will provide us with additional investment flexibility, and we'll be able to use state PRIM funds.

(Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12) Mr. Jamieson recalls that Arlington pro-actively filed state legislation, at a time when there was no mechanism to pay costs. He asks if we'll need to make appropriations into the OPEB fund each year.

(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says we've been transferring $300k/year into the OPEB fund.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson says he's asking more about annual transfers going forward.

(Mr. Hughes, Retirement Board) Mr. Hughes says nothing in this area will change if we adopt the state legislation. Last year, the retirement board was looking at investment opportunities, and this article asks to have the retirement board affirmed as a board of trustees. If it don't pass, we won't be able to invest in PRIM funds. If the article passes, we'll be able to choose from three custodial options.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks about the current membership of the retirement board.

(Mr. Hughes) Mr. Hughes says there aren't any union members.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson supports the article, but he hopes we can change the structure of the retirement board in the future.

(Guillermo Hamlin, Precinct 14) Mr. Hamlin moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes on a voice vote.

Article passes, 209--0--5.

Article 21 - Transfer of Property, 23 Maple Street

The Arlington Redevelopment board owns and manages the property at 23 Maple Street. This article proposes having it owned and managed by the town.

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says that articles 21, 22, and 23 all involve transferring control of properties from the Arlington Redevelopment Board (ARB) to the town. The three properties are 23 Maple Street, 20 Academy Street, and 611 Mass Ave. The articles request the transfer so that the facilities department can be the landlord and property maintainer, rather than the ARB.

Mr. Pooler says that 50% of the Central School building is used for town offices. The ARB doesn't charge enough rent to pay costs, so the boards have to pay the ARB. He says the town and ARB will enter into a memorandum of understanding regarding who the properties will be rented to. These articles are about making sure the facilities department runs the buildings.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti opposes the transfer. He says the board doesn't spend a lot of time managing these buildings, and the ARB has the power of a redevelopment authority. He says the original plan for the Central School was to have the building sold. Then, the plan was to rent to commercial tenants. The ARB was pressured into renting to non-profits at below-market rates. He says that keeping these buildings under the jurisdiction of the ARB will make it clearer who the tenants are and what they're paying. He thinks the town doesn't run in a transparent way.

(John Worden, Precinct 8) Mr. Worden says he was here when the three buildings were assigned to the ARB, and he thinks the ARB has done a good job at managing the properties. He says that members of the ARB must be residents of the town, but the town manager doesn't have to be. He thinks these three buildings are important historical structures.

(Eric Helmuth, Precinct 12) Mr. Helmuth informs town meeting that the ARB is in favor of transferring the properties.

(Xavid Pretzer, Precinct 17) Mx. Pretzer moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Article passes, 184--24--1.

Article 22 - Transfer of Property, 20 Academy Street

Article 22 is similar to Article 21, but it involves the property at 20 Academy Street, which is also known as the "Central School Building" or "Arlington Community Center".

(Eric Helmuth, Select Board) Mr. Helmuth urges a positive vote.

(Kirsi Allison-Ampe, Precinct 13) Ms. Allison-Ampe moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Article passes, 183--25--0.

Article 23 - Transfer of Property, 611 Massachusetts Avenue

Article 23 is similar to Articles 21 and 22, but it involves the property at 611 Massachusetts Avenue, also known as the Jefferson Cutter House.

(Eric Helmuth, Select Board) Mr. Helmuth asks town meeting for a positive vote.

(Charles Blandy, Precinct 6) Mr. Blandy moves the question

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Article 23 passes, 186--21--0.

Meeting adjourned until Monday, May 1st at 20:00.