Town Meeting - Apr 28th, 2021
Second night of town meeting, conducted via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/town-governance/town-meeting.
Article 7 - Rock Removal
We resume deliberation on article 7.
(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim states that the fire chief will be joining us tonight. Blasting permits are administered by the Arlington Fire Department. Mr. Heim says he looked for similar bylaws in other communities, and wasn't able to find any, aside from bylaws governing large industrial sites. The denser a community is, the closer that instruments are placed to the blast site, and more care has to be used.
(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon is nervous about voting for this article, because of Arlington's density. She thinks more study is needed.
(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar moves the question.
Motion to terminate debate fails, 134--86 (two-thirds vote required). So, debate continues.
(Carol Band) Ms. Band asks if the fire department has ever denied a blasting permit.
(Kevin Kelly, Fire Chief) Mr. Kelly isn't aware of any denials.
(Carol Band) Ms. Band asks if there are places in town where blasting would be in appropriate.
(Kevin Kelly) Mr. Kelly isn't sure.
(Josh Lobel) Mr. Lobel believes the article is probably well-intentioned, but he doesn't think mandating a pre-blast survey is the best approach. He asks how much these surveys cost.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that blasting companies usually subcontract this work, which involves taking pictures of all houses within 250' of the blast site. He expects the cost to be thousands of dollars, at most. There are several things required: getting the lay of the land, developing a blast plan, and putting up blast signs. The blasting plan is a seismological study.
(Josh Lobel) Precinct 8 has a project with blasting. There are unknown impacts to bedrock, which could direct underground water flows into basements. Mr. Lobel would prefer annoyances to permanent damage to houses.
(Elizabeth Carlton-Gyson) Ms. Carlton-Gyson asks if there's any environmental research on the impacts of blasting vs chipping.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that town meeting adopted a new stormwater bylaw Monday night, and the town also has a wetlands bylaw. He says these bylaws contemplate the end product of construction rather than the methods used to get there.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson says people can chip, which takes a long time. Or, people can blast. Mr. Jamieson's brother has a company that specializes in site preparation. He doesn't like to blast. Most sites cover blast areas with wire mesh, in order to trap flyrock. Regarding making the notification area larger, Mr. Jamieson says that going 250' around a 5000 square foot lot is several acres; that distance is fine. He thinks most contractors will chose not to blast.
(Deborah Butler) Ms. Butler says that Arlington has a lot of subterranean water. For example, houses have been built on top of artesian wells. She thinks the impacts of blasting on underground water is very unknown. She's also aware of lawsuits related to blasting, and is not in favor of this article.
(Lynette Culverhouse) Ms. Culverhouse is concerned about damage to abutting homes. She thinks that damage might not show up in the 30 day period where it must be reported.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden thinks that people who've invested in houses shouldn't have to put up with chipping or blasting. He thinks the town should protect rock outcrops. We're almost fully developed, and this should go to a study committee.
(Chris Moore) Mr. Moore makes a motion to terminate.
Motion to terminate passes, 189--27.
Vote on the article fails, 62--172--5.
Article 15 - Domestic Partnerships
Article 15 offers provisions that would formally recognize domestic partnerships.
(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey supports the article. He says the proponents were made aware of validity concerns if the definition included more than two people. He recommends that town meeting votes in favor of the motion contained in the Select Board's report.
(Amos Meeks) Mr. Meeks has an amendment to Article 15, which would allow domestic partnerships to have more than two people.
This article would create recognition of domestic partnerships. The idea is to indicate a commitment to family for a household. Domestic partners would have access to school records, and the word "spouse" in town bylaws would include domestic partners. The amendment would allow domestic partnerships with more than two people. Mr. Meeks is unaware of state regulations for domestic partnerships; it's generally left to the municipalities. He believes there will be no financial impact to the town. He's lived with two domestic partners for years, and considers them family.
(Adam MacNeil) Mr. MacNeil thinks the amendment is a civil rights issue, even if it only affects a small number of people. He knows numerous people in poly-amorous relationships.
(Guillermo Hamlin) Mr. Hamlin says that Cambridge and Somerville allow domestic partnerships with more than two people, and we have the opportunity to be the first town to do so. Regarding plural relationships, this isn't asking for (say) health insurance for multiple partners.
(William Brooks Harrelson) Mr. Harrelson thinks clause seven is overly restrictive; he asks why it's there.
(Michael Cunningham, Legal Department) Mr. Cunningham says it's intended to make sure the bylaw doesn't run afoul of marriage or civil union laws.
(Betty Stone) Ms. Stone has a question about the termination language, if the partnership involves three or more people. If three people are in a relationship and one terminates, do the other two still have a domestic partnership?
(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says the entire partnership would be terminated.
(Betty Stone) Ms. Stone has a question about notification in the event of termination. She thinks it's unclear if the individual terminating the partnership has to notify one member, or all members.
Amos Meeks and the moderator agree to a small change, which makes a singular word plural. We'll accept this administratively.
(Dan Dunn) Mr. Dunn supports the article and an amendment. He remembers when his rights as a gay man were not protected. Love is love, and the power of town meeting comes from saying what we want.
(Ian Goodsell) Mr. Goodsell asks if town meeting could adopt the amendment, but vote down the article?
(John Leone) Yes, if town meeting votes that way.
(Ian Goodsell) Mr. Goodsell asks if the attorney general could reject the article.
(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says it's not clear what the Attorney General's office would do. There aren't any towns in Massachusetts that allow domestic partnerships with more than two people.
(Ian Goodsell) Mr. Goodsell supports the article and asks people to vote in favor.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson recalls that Cambridge and Somerville allow domestic partnerships with more than two people. He asks if their ordinances were reviewed by the Attorney General.
(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says that Cambridge and Somerville are cities. As cities, their local laws aren't subject to review by the Attorney General.
(Steve DeCourcey, Point of order) Mr. DeCourcey says that Cambridge started out by allowing domestic partnerships with two people. Later, they amended to law to allow more than two people.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks if city ordinances are reviewed by the Attorney General.
(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says no. City ordinances have to be challenged via legal challenges.
(missed a bit)
(Peter Gast) Mr. Gast moves the question.
Motion to terminate debate passes, 202--29--1.
Meeks amendment adopted, by a vote of 197--37--1.
Article (as amended) passes, 222--11--6.
Article 20 - Public Remote Participation
Steve DeCourcey introduces the article which as about forming a study group to look at ways to offer remote participation in public meetings, once the pandemic is ended and meetings are held in person.
(Steve DeCourcey) Mr. DeCourcey says the goal is to form a study committee to look at remote hearings. The main motion was modeled after the language for the election modernization committee. The committee will investigate a specific issue, with a defined time limit.
(Adam Auster) Mr. Auster has proposed an amendment, which would expand the committee's charter. He'd like them to consider the various ways that committees make material available to the public, and if there are improvements than can be made. Some committees are spotty about posting material. There's also a long time between committee meetings, and when approved minutes are posted.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray has two amendments. Amendment 1 asks the Select Board to enact changes that can be made right away without budget impact. She thinks that hybrid meetings are here to stay, and that people will want the ability to participate remotely.
Amendment 2 would change the committee membership. Three of the town meeting member seats would be reassigned. One would go to a representative from the Council on Aging, and the remaining two would be appointed by the town's DEI director. Ms. Dray believes that seniors have unique needs for remote participation, and that two DEI director appointees will add more diversity than we'd get from two town meeting appointees. She believes the committee should be formed through a DEI lens.
(Bill Berkowitz) Mr. Berkowitz supports the article and the amendments. Participation is a good thing, both morally and practically. Having more people involved means better decisions, more buy in, and better outcomes.
(Mustafa Varoglu) Mr. Varoglu supports the main article. We'll ask for a budget override in a few years, so access will be a good thing. He supports all three amendments. He thinks one of the goals should be to identify committees that could go hybrid in less than a year. He thinks that a wide view of voices is valuable.
(Stacey Smith) Ms. Smith strongly supports the article. She's the director of a non-profit that focuses on stakeholder engagement. Remote participation has exploded. She's concerned about Dray Amendment 2, because she feels more expertise is necessary. She cautions against narrowly prescribing DEI participants.
(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo supports the article and the amendments. She's concerned about disabled people having trouble with access.
(Roderick Holland) Mr. Holland supports the article and the amendments. He used to do research on collaborative environments for government operations. There turns out to be a lot of social science involved. He says technologies are adopted if they allow each role to do the things they need to do. Getting people with some distinction of life experience matters. Dray Amendment 1 also speaks to things he's seen work; rapid prototyping and limited experiments.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson points out that the committee will have four months to complete its work. He suggests lengthening the committee end date to January 2022, rather than October 2021. He asks if January 2022 would leave enough time for them to introduce warrant articles.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that January 15, 2022 would be okay, if the committee is keeping him posted.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson moves an amendment, to replace 10/21/2021 with 1/15/2022. He notes that the committee will still have the option of making recommendations earlier.
(Elizabeth Dray, Point of order) Ms. Dray asks if amendments can be offered from the floor.
(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone says that trivial changes can be allowed at the moderator's discretion.
(Elizabeth Dray, Point of order) Ms. Dray thinks the change in end date is a big amendment, and she wasn't able to speak about it earlier.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says he'll accept the amendment. He advises Ms. Dray to get in the speaking queue if she'd like to speak about it.
(Rebecca Gruber) Ms. Gruber says there was great consideration behind the original article. She asks why October 2021 was recommended in the original report. She'd like the committee to make recommendations as soon as possible, without waiting for the next town meeting. She's anxious to move as quickly as possible. She asks what the implications for extending the end date are.
(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine believes the Select Board will start this work before the committee forms, and that the Select Board is committed to adopting changes that allow hybrid meetings. He can't guarantee that every committee will establish hybrid meetings immediately. Changes will happen in parallel with the study committee's efforts.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman has a question regarding Dray Amendment 1. He asks what authority the Select Board has to require other boards to have hybrid meetings.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says the Select Board is a policy making entity. This can be a forum for discussing goals. The Open Meeting Law doesn't require things beyond what the law requires. It will be a matter of prioritizing.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman is against Dray Amendment 2. He says it removes the appointing authority from the moderator (who is an elected official) to a town employee.
(Anna Henkin) Ms. Henkin supports the article and the amendments. She's a disabled grad student, and couldn't comfortably sit in a chair in a town meeting room. She thinks the earlier due date is important and town meeting should stick with that earlier date.
(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham opposes the second Dray Amendment, which makes a town employee an appointing authority. She says that town meeting members have to learn about articles, and reducing their opportunity for participation reduces their ability to do their jobs as elected representatives.
(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar supports the article. It's a study group, and he looks forward to seeing their results. He's surprised at the number of amendments, and wonders if the Auster amendment is in scope. As a committee chair, Mr. Yontar can't stand online meetings, but he supports the idea of remote participation.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says he finds Mr. Auster's amendment in scope.
(Alexander Franzosa) Mr. Franzosa moves the question.
Motion to terminate passes, 186--46--3.
(Ian Goodsell, Point of order) Mr. Goodsell asks that each amendment be shown as we're voting on it.
Auster amendment passes, 207--19--7.
Dray amendment 1 passes, 197--37--5.
(Patricia Worden, Point of order) Ms. Worden says that her husband John lost his connection to the portal 20 times, and wasn't able to vote. He has a right to vote, and there should be better tech help. She tried to use Zoom's chat feature to submit her vote, but that didn't work. She asks the moderator to please wait for their votes in the future.
Dray amendment 2 fails, 98--131--10.
Jamieson amendment passes, 118--106--7.
Article as amended passes, 230--6--1.
(John Worden, Point of order) Mr. Worden says that his screen says "connection error" every time he goes to vote, and he hasn't been able to vote. He says there should be more people to take votes by phone, and not just the town clerk.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that he and the Town Clerk will look at this for the next meeting.
(Terrence Marshall, Point of order) Mr. Marshall asks if it would be possible to submit votes via text.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says the clerk's phone is a land line in town hall; you can't send text messages to it.