Town Meeting - Apr 29th, 2024

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Night 2 of Arlington Town Meeting. Materials were available from


(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says this is the 40th anniversary of Arlington's sister city relationship with Nagaokakyo, Japan. Our exchange student program began in 2005, and Nagaokakyo's mayor will speak to us later tonight.

Mr. Christiana informs Town Meeting that Precinct 1 TMM Marian King recently passed away.

We have our test vote question: is the number of stars, stripes, and circles on the Japanese and American flags equal to 64? (The answer is yes).

On Wednesday evening, we'll begin by taking up the Minuteman High School budget.


(Samit Chabra, Precinct 2) Mr. Chabra says we've had a 40-year relationship with our sister city in Japan, and it's been 20 years since we started an exchange program. He welcomes the students and their chaperons, and says we also have the mayor's delegation here tonight. Mr. Chabra says the program is a great experience for students and host families, and he wants to acknowledge how special the program is.

(Kengo Nakakoji, Mayor, Nagaokakyo) Mayor Nakakoji says he's come here to celebrate our sister city bond. The friendship started nearly 50 years ago, when Nagaokakyo's Mayor -- Mr. Nakakoji's grandfather -- signed an agreement. Residents of both cities have gained valuable experiences. This is the first visit in five years, due to the pandemic. The delegation visited Arlington High School, where they met with students who were very excited. He hopes the relationship will continue for many years to come.

(Charlie Foskett, Precinct 10) Mr. Foskett says the flags for heroes season is upon us again, and there's information about how to participate on the table in the back of the room. There's a $40 donation per flag, and the money goes towards scholarships.

Article 3 - Reports of Committees

Town meeting receives reports from the Capital Planning Committee and Community Preservation Act Committee.

Article 14 - Focused Residence Picketing

Article 14 would prohibit targeted picketing in front of an individual residence.

(Jim Feeney, Town Manager) Mr. Feeney says there have been multiple targeted demonstrations in front of the Governor's house. It's on a private way, and residents have asked why the town couldn't do anything about it. Town staff reviewed existing bylaws, and it wasn't clear what we could do with the laws on the books. We researched proposals in an attempt to provide relief to the neighborhood. Mr. Feeney says the prohibition doesn't apply to any specific group.

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says Article 14 received a 4--1 vote from the Select Board. There have been three protests since October, and in each instance, protesters targeted the governor's home. The basis for this bylaw was something taken up by the Supreme Court, and the goal is to balance free speech with the privacy rights of the targeted individual. The Supreme Court said there's no right to free speech into the home of an unwilling target, and the right to privacy in your own home takes precedence over the right to speech. Of the three protests, two were at night, with the protesters using flares. The right to privacy trumps speech at all hours of the day, and Mr. DeCourcey opposes the amendments that would create time of day restrictions. The neighbors concerns about noise and disturbance are relevant, but they don't rise to the level of constitutional concerns. He thinks this is a limited, important restriction. Mr. DeCourcey plays a video of one of the NSC-131 protests outside the governor's house, and says that attorney Cunningham is here to answer questions.

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana asks Town Meeting to take the matter seriously, and notes that Town Meeting will not decide what is constitutional or not.

(Colin Bunnell, Precinct 5) Mr. Bunnell says we're all horrified by the arrival of Nazis, but we won't stop them by infringing on the right to protest. The Frisbee decision wrote a two-part test into the ordinance, and this amendment makes that two-part test explicit. Mr. Bunnell also supports the Pretzer amendment and Loreti substitute. Time of day limits reduce the infringement. He thinks the Lewicke amendment is well-intentioned, but has the effect of creating a two-tiered system. If Article 14 passes, Mr. Bunnell wants the bylaw to reflect the law. He says he'll vote no on the main motion. He says that police are allowed to sue protest organizers in some states, and people are being arrested and thrown out of schools for advocating for foreign policy positions. Mr. Bunnell says the boundaries of this law are not clear, and that the supreme court has decided on a number of cases that infringe rights.

(Xavid Pretzer, Precinct 17) Mx. Pretzer feels the protest video is shocking, and he agrees the town could do more. They think the proposed bylaw is very broad and it could be used to ban vigils or someone holding a sign. We allow commercial speech at homes via solicitors. If we restrict protests, we shouldn't do so more heavily than other types of speech. Mx. Pretzer doesn't want to ban a wide swath of quiet respectful speech. They'd favor banning specific uses of flares. Mx. Pretzer thinks the police will enforce this strictly, and that all three amendments need to pass.

(JP Lewicke, Precinct 2) Mr. Lewicke says his amendment is intended to accommodate tenant protests at 840 Mass Ave. He think the Bunnell amendment addresses targeted protests, but he wants to allow tenants to protest their landlords, if residents of the multi-family building approve. Mr. Lewicke says he was struck by Mr. Helmuth's comments during the Select Board hearing. There are lots of ways to protest without bringing it to an individual's house.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti says his substitute motion is based on Boston's ordinance, and would allow targeted residential protests from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. He thinks the Select Board's proposal goes too far. He says Frisbee involved picketing of a private individual, and not an elected official. The Select Board's article would prohibit protests in front of every elected official's home, and potential picketers would do so at their own peril. None of the motions to amend would help residents who are scared, and the proposed bylaw won't stop scary people from coming into neighborhoods. He says the government could regulate the number of picketers, the hours, or the volume. He says town meeting should vote the whole thing down, if they prefer to do no evil.

(Michael Cunningham, Town Counsel) Mr. Cunningham says these kind of regulations have to be content-neutral, and they'd apply the same way to picketing from dramatically different points of view.

(Lenard Diggins, Precinct 3) Mr. Diggins says that if there were a group protesting the Select Board in front of town hall, he could come in and be affected for a short period of time. He says that time limits would prohibit overnight vigils, and he doesn't support that.

(Ezra Fischer, Precinct 4) Mr. Fischer says that when Nazis come to town, we should support our neighbors. Don't respond by limiting civil rights or liberties.

(Paul Bayer, Precinct 13) Mr. Bayer asks what would happen if someone were picketing a store in a mixed-use building, where residents lived on the upper floors.

(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says it would depend. Frisbee didn't address multi-family buildings. He thinks it would be okay, if the demonstrators were targeting the the business and not the residents.

(Adam Auster, Precinct 16) Mr. Auster says this really isn't a first amendment issue. The Supreme Court allowed it, and Brookline has a similar bylaw. Mr. Auster doesn't see a major civil rights violation but he thinks this isn't wise. He says that hate groups rely on media attention, and claiming the narrative of the victim. Mr. Auster says there are many ways to answer hate, and a public response can be stronger than a legal one.

(Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21) Mr. Weinstein asks what part of the motion would be added to the bylaw.

(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says everything after the title would become part of the bylaw.

(Jordan Weinstein) Mr. Weinstein ask where "before and about" is measured, and who decides what the measure is.

(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says there no absolute right to free speech. The bylaws applicability would depend on someone targeted residents.

(Jordan Weinstein) Mr. Weinstein asks if the police decide that initially.

(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham answers in the affirmative.

(Jordan Weinstein) Mr. Weinstein asks who decides if the protest was intended to target residents.

(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham says it would be law enforcement, and then the courts.

(Jordan Weinstein) Mr. Weinstein says this is very vague, and it all depends on the decisions of law enforcement. He says there's no specific criteria and this article would make it illegal to protest any business where there are residences nearby, like the corner of Mass Ave and Park Street. Mr. Weinstein thinks people would be prohibited from targeting the UPS store because there are residents above. He thinks there needs to be more specific language, and he suggests we give the Select Board and the town manager time to come up with a better solution.

(note: Town Counsel's earlier answer to Mr. Bayer's question contradicts Mr. Weinstein's assertions)

(Robert Hupp, Precinct 6) Mr. Hupp says this article was created in response to specific incidents, and many examples have been offered. He suggests it's too broad and vague. Mr. Hupp says that protest is designed to make people feel uncomfortable. He says that protests may threaten sensibilities, but should not threaten any one person. Once we start equating protest with threat, then we're one step closer to outlawing it.

(Beth Melofchik, Precinct 9) Ms. Melofchik says she's horrified by this article, and impressed by the openness expressed by her colleagues. She says we lose freedom when we defer to the police department to make decisions with fake language. She not willing to rely on judgments with fake language. She says that April 19th is an opportunity for reflection. She says "this is the people's meeting" and "where's the study committee", and "is there really no alternative to ill-conceived laws". She says the Supreme Court takes away our right to vote. She says her father spent four years in combat, and he sacrificed because imperfect ideas are worth defending.

(Elizabeth Dray, Precinct 10) Ms. Dray has concerns about vagueness. She asks whether the ability to protest evictions from a multi-family apartment is unsettled.

(?) Ms. Dray's question is answered in the affirmative.

(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray says we can't count on future police chiefs having the same positions as the current one. She says there's nothing in the bylaw that guarantees protests will end quickly. She says we have lots of laws, and should use the ones we have. Ms. Dray says we're being asked to give up the right to protest. She say that just because something is constitutional doesn't mean it's right for Arlington.

(Lynette Culverhouse, Precinct 11) Ms. Culverhouse strongly opposes article 14. She says it's a move towards censorship and criminalizing protest. Without protest, women wouldn't have the right to vote. She says this is an escalating threat. She says we erode rights by taking away the right to protest. She says that taking away rights is unconstitutional, and not progress.

It's around 9:30 pm, and we take a ten-minute break.

After the break, several new town meeting members are sworn in.

(Eric Helmuth, Precinct 12) Mr. Helmuth is speaking as a member of the queer community, whose rights were won via the first amendment. He says that free speech is a precious right, but not an unlimited right. He says that people have a right to protest, but the families, children, and neighbors didn't sign up for this. He doesn't believe this article would take away people's right to protest, and people regularly protest at the state house. Mr. Helmuth says the tactic of targeting people in their homes has an ugly history in this country, and it's happening again. He wouldn't support this article if he felt it were a slippery slope. Mr. Helmuth says this is a balance. The wording may seem vague, but Town Counsel explained that it isn't. He says we can't limit a protest to holding signs, because that's not content neutral. Imposing time limits doesn't solve the problem. Mr. Helmuth says this isn't a perfect tool, and he encourages people to ask the police chief and Town Counsel if they have specific questions. He says the article isn't perfect, but it's more than what we have now.

(Carmine Granucci, Precinct 21) Mr. Granucci moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate fails, 140--80--5 (two-third's vote required).

(Andrew Fischer, Precinct 6) Mr. Fischer urges a yes vote, with Mr. Bunnell's amendment. He also recommends that Police Advisory Committee work with the police on how the bylaw works in practice. Mr. Fischer says there were demonstrations that targeted Governor Baker, and they took a toll on the residents in Swampscott. Some demonstrations targeted black residents of Swampscott. Mayor Wu was targeted for weeks in Boston. He says that when the goal becomes taking away a community's right to sleep, then it's harassment. He says we've seen the same story play out in several communities, and the right to privacy is more important than allowing strangers to target individuals. He says that marching through a neighborhood would not be prohibited, only protests that target a particular home. Mr. Fischer says we don't need a measuring tape for this. He tried to contact the ACLU about the Frisbee case. The ACLU didn't get back to him, but he found supportive references to the case in several of the ACLUs briefs.

(Robin Bergman, Precinct 12) Ms. Bergman has no love for white supremacists, but she worries about the broad language. She thinks the article is too vague. Next Saturday is the 54th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. The problem isn't picketing, it's behavior. She doesn't think that taking away the right to picket is the way to go. Ms. Bergman reads a letter that was sent to her by a resident.

(Christopher Moore, Precinct 14) Mr. Moore asks if there are other laws that can be used. Or, why are these laws not sufficient?

(Julie Flaherty, Police Chief) Ms. Flaherty says this article would provide clarity for officers. In order to charge someone with a disturbance, that person must engage in disruptive behavior and someone must be disturbed. She says the police received a lot of 911 calls from the protests at the governor's house. 911 calls are public records, and many people would not leave their names because they were afraid to have their ID made public.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore asks if he'd be prohibited from holding a campaign sign in front of Mr. Helmuth's house.

(Michael Cunningham) Mr. Cunningham said it would only be prohibited if was directed as his residence.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore thinks the Frisbee decision sets boundaries. He supports the Bunnell amendment, and doesn't see this preventing terrible people from coming to town. He thinks it's limited and balanced, but maybe not enough.

(Arthur Prokosch, Precinct 4) Mr. Prokosch moves the question.

Motion to end debate passes by voice vote.

Bunnell amendment passes, 187--39--2.

Pretzer amendment passes, 132--95--0.

Lewicke amendment passes, 124--90--13.

(Robin Bergman, Point of order) Ms. Bergman asks the moderator to summarize how the main motion has been amended.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana summarizes the changes.

Loreti substitute motion fails, 77--139--8.

Article 14 fails, 87--142--0.

Article 15 - Prohibition of Fair-Trade Restrictions - Fur Products Sales

Article 15 would prohibit the sale of animal fur products in Arlington, subject to certain exceptions.

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board voted 5--0 in support of Article 15.

(Elizabeth Dray, Precinct 10) Ms. Dray says that Arlington is a leader in passing laws for animal protection and environmental health. She says that fur is defined as animal skin with hair attached, and the article would not prohibit the sale of leather, used items in second-hand stores, hunting and trapping, or taxidermy. There are currently no stores in Arlington that sell fur products. She says the article won't affect resale stores, and there are no businesses that would be affected by the passage of article 15. Ms. Dray says we have a record of supporting animal welfare. The fur industry is cruel to animals, and leg hold traps can crush bone, often resulting in amputation or death. She says the fur industry takes a toll on the environment and that fur farms consistently violate environmental regulations. She says that fur is the most environmentally impactful textile product and there are numerous eco-friendly faux fur options.

(Grant Cook, Precinct 16) Mr. Cook moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 168--50--5.

Article passes, 194--18--8.

There's a motion to adjourn. Motion passes, 127--86--4.