Town Meeting - Jun 8th, 2022
Night thirteen of town meeting, held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/town-governance/town-meeting/2022-town-meeting-warrant.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Article 3 - Reports of Committees
- 3 Article 74 - Support of the Mass. Fair Share Constitutional Amendment
- 4 Article 75 - Commitment to Increase Diversity in Town Appointments
- 5 Article 76 - Alewife Brook is a Valuable Natural Resource
- 6 Article 77 - Establishing an Integrated Pest Management Policy for Town Land, Prohibitions, and Public Education about Rodenticide Hazards
- 7 Article 62 - Motion to Reconsider
169 voted in tonight's attendance vote.
(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana acknowledges that this has been a long-running meeting, and he hopes we'll be able to do the next town meeting in person. He wants the meeting to be a collaboration between himself and town meeting members, and will send a survey after the meeting dissolves.
(Karen Kelleher) Ms. Kelleher wishes to make an announcement on behalf of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) board of trustees. She invites town meeting members to participate in the development of the AHTF's action plan. The trustees plan to solicit feedback from many boards, commissions, town meeting, and the public.
(Calypurnia Roberts) Ms. Roberts is a member of the AHTF's board of trustees, and she outlines their plans for a public engagement process. She invites residents to participate in a survey, which can be filled out on-line or in person. They'll hold targeted listening sessions after July 4th; the idea is to reach out to residents who need affordable housing the most, and meet them where they are. Finally, there will be open forums to get input from the general public. Ms. Roberts says the trust fund hasn't secured a reliable source of funding yet. She urges town meeting to contact our legislators, and urge them to pass our home rule petition for a real estate transfer fee.
(Robert Jefferson) Mr. Jefferson personally wants to acknowledge and thank Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine for his work over the last twelve years. He says Mr. Chapdelaine has been professional, open minded, and has brought Arlington to new places.
Article 3 - Reports of Committees
Article 3 is removed from the table so town meeting can accept additional reports from committees.
(Prya Sankalia, Zero Waste Arlington) Ms. Sankalia moves receipt of Zero Waste Arlington's report. She appreciates town meeting's support for Article 12.
(Susan Stamps, Tree Committee) Ms. Stamps moves receipt of the Tree Committee's report. The Tree Committee and Tree Warden continue to use the tree inventory and tree management plan. We've planted an average of 300 trees/year over the last five years. Ms. Stamps says that one goal is to target tree planting in environmental justice and low income areas, as well as where there are heat islands. The tree canopy program sells trees to residents at a discount. They've started a program to water trees and need volunteers for this effort. The tree committee's website is https://www.arlingtontrees.org/. Ms. Stamps reports that the Conservation Commission has appointed a liaison to the tree committee.
There are no further reports, so Article 3 goes back on the table.
Article 74 is a non-binding resolution to support the Fair Share amendment to the Massachusetts constitution. The Fair Share amendment would add a 4% income tax on income of over one-million dollars. It was submitted by Linda Hanson and ten registered voters.
(Len Diggins, Select Board Chair) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board voted 5--0 in favor of the article. He says it will increase overall wealth in our commonwealth. He reads a haiku in support.
(Linda Hanson, Proponent) Ms. Hanson says she supports Ms. Slutzky's amendment as a friendly amendment, and asks that her pre-recorded video be played.
(Linda Hanson, via video) Ms. Hanson says the fair share amendment will be on the state ballot this November 8th. The Massachusetts state constitution prohibits a graduated income tax. This amendment would add a 4% surtax on income over one million dollars, and the proceeds would be used to improve education and transportation. This would improve public transport, allow investment in alternative forms of transportation, and help fund road repair. It would make more money available for public schools and state higher ed. Ms. Hanson says this surtax would affect less than 1% of Massachusetts residents -- the top 1% income bracket is $600k/year. It would increase state aid for public schools.
(Amy Slutzky) Ms. Slutzky has an amendment to address two individual issues related to early childhood development. The first is the importance of early years. Second is the importance of playgrounds and playscapes to build social and cognitive development.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein wishes to speak in opposition to the article. He says it's always popular for other people to pay more taxes, and he thinks this will hurt many people in Arlington. He says it's a populist, bad idea that refuses to die. He says that state funding is fungible; while the additional tax money would go to education and transportation, the state could cut other sources of funding to those areas. He says the state has a budget surplus and there's no need for a new tax. He says it won't deliver as much money as expected and will lead to an exodus of jobs and workers. Rather than simply moving a company headquarters to Virginia, as Raytheon is doing, the top earners will move along with it. This will reduce home turnover until trusts are set up. Mr. Kaepplein thinks there will be lots of tax implications, and it will hurt residents that have one-year windfall events, like selling a house. He says this is a tax without a need and urges a no vote. He believes this is an equality vs equity issue that penalizes higher earners.
Vote on the Slutzky amendment passes, 147--46--22.
Vote on the article passes, 165--28--20.
Article 75 - Commitment to Increase Diversity in Town Appointments
This non-binding resolution asks the town's appointing bodies to endeavor to fill appointments with underrepresented groups, so that committee composition is more diverse. It was submitted by Elizabeth Dray and ten registered voters.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board voted 5--0 in favor of this resolution, but the challenge is how to implement the policy. He says the resolution encourages us to work harder.
(Elizabeth Dray, Proponent) Ms. Dray says that resolutions are statements of the town's values and aspirations. She says this resolution focuses on creating a community where everyone is heard and valued, by creating spaces on boards for underrepresented groups. She says that public bodies don't reflect the true diversity in town; this led to the Select Board approving an equity audit and considering DEI when redrawing precinct boundaries. Ms. Dray says this will make Arlington more welcoming and inviting to more residents, along with creating an on-ramp for civic engagement. She says that Boston and Somerville have similar initiatives.
(Greg Christiana) As outlined in his memo on procedures for handling resolutions, Mr. Christiana says there were several written questions submitted, which he'll read. These come from Annie Lacourt. First, what steps will the Select Board take in the approval pipeline?
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins believe the Select Board would start by advertising committee openings more broadly, and have a more transparent selection policy.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana reads another question: what are the metrics for success and how will they be reported?
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says this is something the Board will have to work on; he can't give a satisfactory answer right now. He says this is serious business, and we need to figure out how to advance the cause.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks: why weren't these goals mentioned in the Select Board's report to town meeting?
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board should have done that.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana reads the final question: why will this change anything?
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says that doing nothing is not a preferred course of action.
(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein moves the question.
Motion to terminate debate passes, 189--14--2.
(Nancy Bloom, Point of order) Ms. Bloom has a question about the wording of the article. She asks if "priorities" should be "prioritize".
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana agrees and will make that change administratively.
Article passes, 177--12--17.
Article 76 - Alewife Brook is a Valuable Natural Resource
Article 76 is a non-binding resolution that asks Town Meeting to declare the Alewife Brook as a valuable natural resource. It was submitted by Kristin Anderson and ten registered voters.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says that 80% of the Select Board lives or grew up in East Arlington, and the US EPA seems to be on the side of Alewife Brook.
(Kristin Anderson, Proponent) Ms. Anderson founded a group called Save the Alewife Brook, which is an activist group concerned about Alewife Brook pollution and flooding. She says there are two things to do tonight: pass this resolution, and sign her group's email petition.
(via video) Ms. Anderson says that Somerville and Cambridge have old combined sewers, and when there's enough stormwater these discharge untreated sewage into the Alewife Brook. She says the Alewife basin is prone to flooding and there are documented cases of people becoming sick due to flooding. Half of the CSOs were closed but there's been little reduction in the amount of discharge due to increased rainfall. Ms. Anderson says we're at a point where we might see improvements made, and we need a regional solution. She says this resolution seeks to collect political support.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana reads the first question he's received: why will passing this resolution help?
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board supports the proponents goals of working with the MWRA to close combined sewer overflow (CSO) outlets into the Alewife Brook. He says the resolution might not help anything, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Mr. Diggins says the EPA made comments to the MWRA, to the effect of closing the CSOs. We're making progress and should join the effort.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks another question: how will the Select Board hold itself accountable to town meeting, given that this is a non-binding resolution?
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Board will have to figure out how to hold itself accountable, if it wants to do that. Otherwise, it will be up to residents.
(Clarissa Rowe) Ms. Rowe makes a motion to terminate debate.
Motion to terminate debate passes, 200--8--2.
Article passes, 197--1--12.
Article 77 - Establishing an Integrated Pest Management Policy for Town Land, Prohibitions, and Public Education about Rodenticide Hazards
This non-binding resolution asks town meeting to encourage the adoption of an integrated pest management policy for town-owned lands, and to educate residents about the hazards of second generation anti-coagulant rodenticides. It was submitted by Elaine Crowder and ten registered voters.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says this is a counterpoint to Article 18, which Town Meeting adopted. He hopes that residents will do all they can to avoid the use of rodenticides. He closes by wishing town meeting members the very best.
(Elaine Crowder, Proponent) Ms. Crowder says wildlife protection is the combined goal of articles 18 and 77, including bald eagles and owls. She says the only way to protect wildlife from rodenticides is to reduce its use. We can't be sure the legislature will pass our home rule petition to regulate rodenticide use. She wants to see the least toxic forms of rodenticides used.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana reads the first question he's received: why does the Select Board need a resolution, as opposed to adopting policies for the departments of Health and Human Services and Public Works to follow?
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the resolution lets the Select Board know that the public is on board. The Select Board and Town Manager set goals and evaluate the progress on achieving them; we're working towards this. Mr. Diggins says the Select Board asks residents to be engaged and see themselves as part of government. There might be a better way to do this; if so, let's figure out what that is.
Article passes, 185--3--20.
Article 62 - Motion to Reconsider
Town Meeting Members Michael Ruderman and Jordan Weinstein have filed a motion to reconsider Article 62 - Community Preservation Act Funds. They've also filed an amendment to remove the grant of historic preservation funds to a church.
(Note: Reconsideration is the process of asking town meeting to go back and revisit its decision on a particular article. The first step is voting whether or not to consider. If that vote succeeds, then you basically re-hear the article).
(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman wishes to move reconsideration on Article 62.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says we'll start by having a debate on whether to reconsider the article. If the motion passes, we'll re-debate the article and the proposed amendment.
(Robin Bergman, Point of order) Ms. Bergman says the the moderator needs someone to second the motion.
(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says that a motion to reconsider needs to be based on new evidence, and there needs to be a way of acting on it. The new evidence is that there's knowledge that Town Counsel consulted with the Community Preservation Act Committee regarding what were allowable uses of CPA funds. Town Counsel's memo outlines a three part test. Mr. Ruderman believes the second part should disallow funds that substantially aid the church. Mr. Ruderman says that he and Mr. Weinstein have conferred with members of Covenant Church, to see if the grant would further their religious goals of reaching out to the community. Member of the Covenant Church congregation have every intent of offering their space to the public, but no history of doing so. He says this lack of history constitutes a failure of the three-point test. Mr. Ruderman says there's also an avenue to act upon this new information. CPA funds are used for a series of grants, and town meeting can take action on that by amending the main motion. Mr. Ruderman says they'd like to take out the grant to Covenant Church, because he feels the grant is improper.
(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim isn't quite sure what the new evidence is. He says the town can't exclude a house of worship from CPA funds simply because they're a house of worship, and the anti-aid amendment in the Massachusetts state constitution must be considered within that context. The three factors of the test are purpose, substantiality, and risks of improper entanglement. He says there have been lots of historic preservation projects involving churches and synagogues.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks Mr. Heim whether he agrees or disagrees with Mr. Ruderman's conclusion.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says his memo outlined what the Community Preservation Act Committee needed to do, and he understands they've performed those steps. He's not sure what new evidence Mr. Ruderman uncovered.
(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore says he's reviewed Town Counsels memo to the CPA committee, and sees that it lays out a path for the committee to follow. He asks if the CPA committee reviewed their memo, and what their conclusion was.
(Clarissa Rowe, CPA committee chair) Ms. Rowe says the committee did review the memo, though their meeting minutes don't necessarily reflect that. She says the committee was concerned about whether the church would be doing work that wasn't related to accessibility or historic preservation. She says the building is on both local and state historic registers. When discussing CPA grants, the committee always discusses accessibility and whether there's a public purpose. This is a nine member committee, and we're careful about the separation of church and state. The church provided a list of things they've done in the community, and the committee concluded that it was a community-based church. Some members of the committee were skeptical, so we took a close look at this. The committee listened to Town Counsel and to the church, and chose to issue the grant. Ms. Rowe says that no committee member is part of the church congregation, and she urges a "no" vote on reconsideration.
(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore believes there hasn't been any new information provided. He says we delegated this work to the CPA committee, and he doesn't believe that town meeting should second-guess their decision. He says they've done a detailed job.
(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says the new information is that there is a test to see if a religious institution is an appropriate recipient of CPA funds. The CPA committee's report only alludes to this test without saying specifically what it is. He believes there's no evidence this grant establishes a public purpose, except for one instance. He says we're not fixing historical architecture. The new information is the way of testing, which wasn't included in the CPA committee report. Mr. Ruderman asks if this is support and maintenance, and says there are no historic tours of the church. He says the committee's analysis isn't reflected in their minutes and he thinks it's not an allowable grant.
(Leba Heigham, Point of order) Ms. Heigham believes nothing in Mr. Ruderman's statement was informative, or involved information that she didn't have access to already.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that's not a point of order.
We've been discussing whether to reconsider for about 40 minutes. Mr. Christiana asks town meeting members to raise their hands in zoom if they wish to terminate debate. If enough people do, Mr. Christiana will invite one to make a formal motion to terminate debate.
(Carl Wagner, Point of order) Mr. Wagner says he's surprised that the rules of the meeting are changing based on what time it is. He doesn't think this is the way to proceed.
(Greg Christiana) Enough people raised their hands, so Mr. Christiana will entertain a formal motion to terminate debate.
(Anna Henkin) Ms. Henkin moves the question on reconsideration.
Motion to terminate debate passes, 168--28--5.
(James DiTullio, Point of order) Mr. DiTullio has a question about the standards for reconsideration.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says the standard is whether there's new information that wasn't considered in the original debate, and whether town meeting feels it's worth considering.
(Mark Rosenthal, Point of order) Mr. Rosenthal asks about the number for calling in a vote.
Motion to reconsider fails, 79--121--4.
There are no more articles to hear, so town meeting is dissolved.