Town Meeting - Apr 27th, 2022
Night two of town meeting. The meeting was conducted via remote participation and materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/town-governance/town-meeting/2022-town-meeting-warrant.
228 people voted in the attendance vote.
(Greg Christiana, Moderator) Mr. Christiana apologizes for not giving town meeting members the opportunity to object to the motion for adjournment at the previous meeting. He thanks town staff for the wonderful job they've been doing.
(Jeff Thielman, School Board) Mr. Thielman says the High School Building Committee invites the public to tour the new wings of the Arlington High School between 10am and 2pm on Saturday. Members of the public should enter using the Mass Ave entrance.
Article 3 - Receipt of Reports
(Greg Dennis) Mr. Dennis moves receipt of the Election Modernization Committee's report.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett moves receipt of the Finance Committee report. He says the amount in the recommended action for Article 72 should be $3,046,137. He attributes this to funds released by the assessor's office, which weren't accounted for before the report went to print.
Mr. Foskett says this is a time of transition. Adam Chapdelaine will be leaving us as town manager. The Minuteman Superintendent has also left. Several finance committee members retired after years of dedicated service.
Last year, Mr. Foskett warned town meeting about the need for a future override. The override date has been moved out a year. There were two $5M revenue items in FY23--24 that can be covered by ARPA funds, and we gained back a $1M contingency fee set aside in 2023 for school growth. On May 11th, we'll be asked to return this money to the general fund.
Mr. Foskett notes that the closing remarks of the finance committee report suggest an alternate scheme of revenue planing. He proposes holding expenses flat for one year, banking the savings, and then increasing expenses after that.
(John Mahr) Mr. Mahr moves receipt of the Permanent Town Building Committee report. The PTBC's major projects have been the Central School and DPW yard renovations.
(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore moves receipt of the Capital Planning Committee report.
With these reports received, article 3 goes back on the table.
Article 6 - Updating Human Rights Commission Bylaw
Article 6 proposes updates to the town bylaw that created the Arlington Human Rights Commission (HRC).
The Moderator invites Ed Tremblay to speak first (Mr. Tremblay made the first motion to remove Article 6 from the consent agenda).
(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay said he was reading through the main motion and scratching his head over why. He had a conversation with Christine Carney of the HRC, and that answered most of his questions. He'd like to know why the article proposes changing the word "equal" to "equitable".
(Christine Carney) Ms. Carney attempts to explain the difference between equal and equitable, and how that can lead to different outcomes.
(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay says that somewhere he got the idea that equitable has to do with outcomes and equal has to do with creating a level playing field. He's concerned with the outcome nature of the word equitable. He asks how a whole commission can be based on outcomes.
(Len Diggins, Select Board Chair) Mr. Diggins says it's not that an outcome is guaranteed, but there is a threshold we should try to reach. He uses the example of three people of different heights that are trying to see over a fence. Equal treatment might mean giving each of them a box to stand on, though one of them still might not be able to see. Equitable means giving each of the people a box that's tall enough to allow them to see over the fence. The smallest person needs a bigger box than the tallest person.
(Charlie Foskett, Point of Order) Mr. Foskett says there's no "Raise Hands" button showing in the portal right now.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board understands where the Human Rights Commission is coming from and trusts their judgment.
(Angel Mozina) Ms. Mozina supports the article. She suggests amending the language to "equal and equitable", and asks if that can be done administratively.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says he's not inclined to take that as an administrative amendment.
(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham moves the question.
(Brooks Harrelson, Point of Order) Mr. Harrelson says he didn't see a second on the motion to terminate.
(Charlie Foskett, Point of Order) Mr. Foskett says there were three seconds.
(Nancy Bloom, Point of Order) Ms. Bloom asks if the moderator would like the meeting to vote in waves.
(Note: when too many of us try to vote at once, a number of people see database or internal server errors from the web portal. In the past, we've worked around this by having groups of precincts vote at a time).
Motion to terminate debate passes, 206--25--1.
(John Worden, Point of Order) Mr. Worden says that Ms. Worden isn't able to get a voting screen, but she'd like to vote yes on the article.
Article passes, 234--7--0.
Article 7 - Youth and Young Adult Advisory Board
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board is in full support of Article 7, and he turns it over to the Committee co-chairs for a presentation.
(Alex Franzosa) Mr. Franzosa says he's speaking on behalf of a committee called the Young Arlington Collaborative. Last year, Article 17 created a study committee to find ways to increase youth and young adult participation in governance. Their first charge was to look at models for youth participation, and whether to create an advisory committee. They believe the answer to the latter question is yes.
Mr. Franzosa says that youth issues are increasingly prevalent. He thinks it's important to have young people participating, and doing so will help them build skills. The committee found several communities with similar groups. They wanted a more general model that would last.
The structure of the Advisory board would be modeled after Envision Arlington, with 21 voting and 21 non-voting members. There will be two members from each precinct. Youth and young adults can apply or be recommended by town meeting members. Members will serve two year terms. There will be a Select Board liaison who will act as the board's secretary. That's the initial selection process. Once the group has formed, the member selection process will be determined by the collaborative.
(Josephine Almond) Ms. Almond really believes in youth activism, because issues with degenerative effects will have more effect on young people. She thinks and advisory board will help young adults to be heard. She says our country is currently stagnating due to division and misunderstanding, and believes a collaborative can help with that.
(Guillermo Hamlin) Mr. Hamlin concurs with the Select Board report, and views this article favorably.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein feels that forming a youth advisory board will codify age discrimination into the town bylaws. He asks about the case of a person who is older but feels young at heart, and whether that would be equitable.
(Alex Franzosa) Mr. Franzosa says there will be a place for people outside the ages specified for the Advisory Board. They just won't be able to be voting members.
(Josephine Almond) Ms. Almond thinks the advisory board would contribute to equity. She says that adults already have a voice in town meeting. She doesn't see the you advisory board as discriminating against adults.
(Patty Muldoon) Ms. Muldoon is enthusiastic. She says the election modernization committee was unable to make progress in the area of youth votes. She hopes this collaboration can move forward. She asks how town meeting will chose the initial set of members.
(Alex Franzosa) Mr. Franzosa said they wanted to keep the initial selection process administratively light. Town Meeting Members will be able to choose representatives from their precinct.
(Patty Muldoon) Ms. Muldoon asks how that will happen.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says that town meeting members will put forth candidates and members will be chosen randomly. He says that candidates can present themselves to the TMMs or to the select board office.
(Jo Anne Preston) Ms. Preston is very much in favor of the article. She says she was prevented from voting on article 6 and hopes that won't happen again. She says this didn't happen last year, and that she was elected to vote.
(Greg Christiana) Ms. Christiana says Ms. Preston's comments are not in scope of the article.
(Peter Fiore) Mr. Fiore asks if the people working with these young adults will be subject to CORI checks.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the school has processes for conducting CORI and SORI checks, and the intent is to follow those processes for this advisory board.
(Al Tosti) Mr. Tosti moves the question.
(Carl Wagner, Point of Order) Mr. Wagner asks about people who still wanted to speak. He asks which trumps, the right of a person to speak or a motion to terminate debate.
(Greg Christian) Mr. Christiana says he'll move forward with the motion to terminate.
Motion to terminate debate passes, 217--22--3.
Article passes, 241--3.
Article 8 - Civilian Police Advisory Commission
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board wants to express their deep appreciation for how the study committee functioned; they were inclusive and thorough. Mr. Diggins says the Select Board voted 5--0 in favor of recommending Article 8, and he reads an excerpt from the Select Board's report.
(Sarah McKinnon) Ms. McKinnon presents an amendment to article 8 that would specifically require commissioners to undergo continued equity and cultural training. She says this amendment originated through conversations with the Diversity Task Group (DTG). The DTG was impressed with the committee's research and consultation. The DTG believes that implicit assumptions should be made explicit, and that these skills will support members as they interact with the public. She says this will be a challenging task and feels that commissioners should have every appropriate tool available to them.
(Sanjay Vakil) Mr. Vakil has an amendment to Article 8 that comes from himself and Christian Klein. It restores the eligibility requirements that were originally proposed by the study committee, which means that retired police officers from other municipalities would not be eligible to serve on the advisory commission. He thinks we need to understand why people are not comfortable talking to the police.
(Laura Gittleson) Ms. Gittleson is chair of the study committee that proposed article 8. She says the article has been endorsed by numerous groups. The study committee met fifteen times over the course of twelve months, and conducted sixteen listening sessions during a six week period. They collected survey feedback via a google form. They also met with the police chief and leaders from the police union.
Ms. Gittleson says that Arlington has a well-deserved reputation for excellence, and that Arlington was the first police department in Massachusetts to adopt the "eight can't wait" policies. Although the Arlington Police Department operates at a high level of excellence, there have been some very negative interactions. She says the current reporting process is ad-hoc and doesn't meet the needs of all residents. The best way to build trust is through the Civilian Police Advisory Commission. The advisory commission will educate residents, and will support them in the feedback process. The commission will also work with the Arlington Police Department to analyze the effectiveness of the department.
(Nancy Bloom, Point of Order) Ms. Bloom asks if we have to debate each amendment in turn.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says were doing to discuss the article and amendments as a whole. Then we'll vote on each amendment separately, and then the main motion as amended.
(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay says his initial concern was that there didn't seem to be any connection to the police department on the Commission. It struck him as curious why there'd be no police input at all.
(Julie Flaherty, Chief of Police) Ms. Flaherty thanks the study committee, and says she was very grateful to be a part of a committee who were so dedicated to improving policing in the town of Arlington. She supports the recommendation of the study committee, but thinks that a retired officer on the advisory commission could offer valuable experience and knowledge, which would be considered a best practice. She lists several examples of where this has been done.
Ms. Flaherty says this is an advisory committee and not an oversight commission. Their goal is to improve the process for handling complaints and accommodations, and to analyze data. She asks town meeting to allow someone in law enforcement to serve on the committee.
(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay thinks that someone on the commission should have a police background.
(Frank Ciano) Mr. Ciano is in favor of the article and supports the police department. He asks if members of the commission will be unpaid volunteers.
(Laura Gittleson) Ms. Gittleson answers in the affirmative.
(Frank Ciano) Mr. Ciano wishes to confirm his understanding that the commission doesn't hold hearings or decisions, but helps members of the public to file feedback.
(Laura Gittleson) Ms. Gittleson says yes, that's a substantial part of what they'll do. They'll have no say in discipline or investigations.
(Frank Ciano) Mr. Ciano asks how the public will become aware of the commission. Will it be through the town website? He says the members will sometimes ride with officers, and asks what insurance will cover them.
(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim says the town carries limited insurance, and is self-insured for most things.
(Frank Ciano) Mr. Ciano asks for someone to look into the coverage for these volunteers. He supports the article.
(Guillermo Hamlin) Mr. Hamlin notes the committee is not investigative, but is review focused. He asks what does "former officer" mean?
(Laura Gittleson) Ms. Gittleson says there's language in the article, which was developed in consultation with town counsel.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says there are specific definitions of law enforcement officer. If someone carries a firearm, that's a good indication they're a law enforcement officer. Corrections officers are also law enforcement officers, but district attorneys are not. Mr. Heim says that law enforcement adjacent positions would be okay, and that the committee wanted to avoid any potential conflicts of interest with co-workers. He says the article doesn't guarantee a seat for a law enforcement officer.
(Guillermo Hamlin) Mr. Hamlin asks for clarification about what "oversight" means.
(Laura Gittleson) (I missed Ms. Gittleson's answer)
(Bob Radocia) Mr. Radocia says that one of the requested charges was to collect data, and he gathered data on eleven other communities. He says we're the fifth smallest in terms of area, the fourth largest in terms of population, and fourth in terms of safety. He says the department has been at the forefront of crisis intervention. Mr. Radocia says that Cambridge has a police oversight commission, but Arlington is not Cambridge. He believes the town has avenues for handling complaints, and there was no overwhelming consensus in the responses to the study committee's survey. He thinks the advisory commission will be debilitating and demoralizing, and that it's not appropriate.
(Inez Zuckerman) Ms. Zuckerman agrees with article 8 and the McKinnon amendment. Regarding language access, Ms. Zuckerman is a professional translator. She's surprised that we don't have translations for web pages on the town website, and says that other towns do this. She thinks it's important to have training in the area of language accessibility.
(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer thinks this is an excellent article, but without the amendments there could be the appearance of a conflict of interest. He asks if the DEI director could comment on the Vakil/Klein amendment, which would prohibit retired officers from serving on the advisory commission.
(Jillian Harvey, DEI Director) Ms. Harvey says she doesn't believe having a retired police officer on the commission would be appropriate at this time, but that should be re-evaluated further down the road. She's concerned that a retired officer would hinder trust building right now. She thinks trust building should be the immediate concern. Part of the commission's job will be to re-evaluate itself. She recognizes that a retired officer could bring a valuable perspective, but thinks we should hold off until the future.
(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer believes that the appearance of trustworthiness is very important.
(Ezra Fischer) Mr. Fischer says this is a civilian advisory commission, where we're using the term "civilian" to mean non-police. Supports the Vakil/Klein amendment.
(Note: My hand is very tired at this point, so the notes will be abbreviated for a while.)
(Lynette Culverhouse) Ms. Culverhouse speaks in support of the article.
(Brooks Harrelson) Mr. Harrelson speaks in support of the article.
(Mustafa Varaglu) Mr. Varaglu speaks in support of the article.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray speaks in support of the article.
(Juli Brazile, Town Clerk) Ms. Brazile says there's a need for an administrative amendment, given the passage of Article 7. If passed, the main motion would become Article 16 in Title II of the town bylaws, rather than Article 15.
(Mark McCabe) Mr. McCabe moves the question.
Motion to terminate debate succeeds, 205--31--3.
We'll vote on the McKinnon amendment first.
(Sheri Brown, Point of Order) Ms. Brown asks if the moderator could review what the amendments are.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says the McKinnon amendment adds a line to the list of qualifications for serving on the committee.
(Rebecca Gruber, Point of Order) Ms. Gruber wants to clarify that the McKinnon amendment adds to the training requirements, rather than qualifications.
(Carl Wagner, Point of Order) Mr. Wagner asks if the amendments can be displayed full screen.
McKinnon amendment passes, 202--33--5.
(Nancy Bloom, Point of Order) Ms. Bloom says that when too many screens are being displayed, she can't see who's voted.
The Vakil/Klein amendment is next.
(Angel Mozina, Point of Order) Ms. Mozina wants to clarify the name of the amendment we're voting on.
(John Worden, Point of Order) Mr. Worden asks a question about what a "yes" vs a "no" vote would mean for this amendment.
(Sheri Brown, Point of Order) Ms. Brown says it would be helpful if the moderator could read the text of the amendment before we vote on it.
(Mark Kaepplein, Point of Order) Mr. Kaepplein thinks the first amendment expands the scope of the original article, by requiring additional training. He asks where the money to pay for the training will come from.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana believes the amendment is in scope, via the "or take any action related thereto" language in the warrant article.
(Mark Rosenthal, Point of Order) Mr. Rosenthal says that every time someone has tried to explain what the Vakil/Klein amendment does, his understanding has flipped around. He asks if the moderator could explain this in terms of "a yes vote means ...".
Vakil/Klein amendment passes, 156--75--5.
(James McSweeny, Point of Order) Mr. McSweeny thought the amendment did the opposite of what it's actually doing.
(Carl Wagner, Point of Order) Mr. Wagner thinks there's confusion being added by what each speaker is saying. He asks people to refer only to the amendment, and not to anything else.
Article passes, 214--18--3.
(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein makes a motion of reconsideration on Article 8.
(Jo Anne Preston, Point of Order) Ms. Preston says she wasn't able to vote again. She asks the moderator to allow more time for people to vote.