Town Meeting - May 1st, 2023

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Third night of town meeting. Background material is available from

Opening Remarks

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says we'll need more diversity in the speaking queue if we want to have more diversity in voices. He advises town meeting that if they think debate has been going on too long, that it's because no one has gotten in queue to terminate debate. Plan accordingly.


(Eric Helmuth, Select Board Chair) Mr. Helmuth says "not all heroes get capes, some get a proclamation". He announces that the Select Board voted to give a proclamation to Ann Leroyer.

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler tells town meeting that a forum about Artificial Turf is scheduled for 7pm tomorrow evening. It's being sponsored by the Conservation Commission and Parks and Recreation Department.

(Vince Boudoin, Precinct 1) Mr. Boudoin is part of a group of neighbors that live near Broadway, and are concerned about safe streets. He says that streets are precious, essential, public spaces and should be safe for everyone. He'd like to see the town plan for a safe and prosperous Broadway corridor, and is forming a group called the Broadway Neighbors Coalition.

(?, Precinct 2) A Town Meeting member from precinct 2 welcomes friends from our sister city of Nagaokakyo, Japan. Our student exchange program started in 1995 and we'll send a delegation to Japan this fall. The program was suspended for the last three years, due to the pandemic. Sixteen kids from Nagaokakyo are with us this year.

(Laura Fuller, Precinct 11) Ms. Fuller works with the Arlington Education Foundation, and they're having a 5k road race on May 21st.

We do a test vote: Do you enjoy discussing budgets? The result was 122--71--19.

Article 3 - Reports of Committees

(Mustafa Varoglu, Precinct 10) Mr. Varoglu presents the Remote Participation Study Committee's (RPSC's) report to town meeting. The RPSC was formed in 2021, with the goal of improving access to public meetings. They surveyed members of boards and committees about their needs for remote and hybrid meetings and generated a how-to technical guide. Eleven bodies considered participation in the pilot, with eight going on to participate.

Hybrid meetings have worked okay for groups that are deliberative in nature. The ARB and ZBA opted out of the pilot; these boards are more adjudicatory. Hybrid meetings are the most challenging to run. There are numerous options and factors which require extra consideration. Mr. Varoglu says the committee will dissolve at the end of this town meeting.

(Jeff Thielman, Precinct 12) Mr. Thielman presents the Arlington High School Building Committee's report to town meeting. He says that students and staff thank us all for our support. He says the project is currently on budget.

The project consists of four phases. Phase 1 involved the STEM building, which is now open. Phase 2 is under way, with completion expected in October 2023. It involves the humanities wing and central spine of the school. Phase 3 will start in January of 2024, where work will proceed on the gym and amphitheater. Phase 4 will involve site work, landscaping, fields, and a connector to the Minuteman Bikeway. There will be tours when phase 2 is complete.

(Kirsi Allison-Ampe, Precinct 13) Ms. Allison-Ampe submits the Arlington Public Schools budget summary.

Article 37 - Town Budgets

(Christine Deschler, Finance Committee Chair) Ms. Deschler wishes to clarify part of the Ed Burns Enterprise Fund budget. The $50k transfer listed there comes from retained earnings.

(Julie Wayman, Budget Director) Ms. Wayman would like to talk about staff salary increases that come from the timing of contract settlements, changes in hours, and changes in steps. She gives examples from budgets B-4 and B-7. One of our unions settled about a year ago, and the late settlement causes the salary changes to appear later. This means that we see large jumps in one year, rather than gradual increases over several years. She says the budget takes these retroactive changes into consideration, and we're likely to see a similar think for SEIU employees next year.

(Greg Christian, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana reads the list of budgets. He asks town meeting members to say "hold" if there's a particular budget they'd like to discuss.

There are holds put on budgets for the Town Manager, Legal, Planning, Public Works, the reserve fund, the water and sewer enterprise fund, Facilities, the Police Department, the Fire Department, Inspectional Services, Education, Libraries, Health and Human Services, and retirement.

Town Manager

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says this budget represents staff in the Town Manager's office. He says the expenses really haven't changed since last year.

(Beth Ann Friedman, Precinct 15) Ms. Friedman had a question about a new position, but she now understands it was funded through ARPA.


(Mark Kaepplein, Precinct 9) Mr. Kaepplein asks what liabilities the town has for legal actions, like workers compensation. He also asks if we're looking at lawsuits from bad building inspections.

(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim says he's not aware of any lawsuits coming from building inspections.

(Mike Cunningham, Legal Department) Mr. Cunningham says that workers compensation is covered in the insurance budget. There are worker's comp claims, on the order of $6600/week.

Planning and Community Development

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti says that the total personnel expenses in the Planning Department are just shy of $800k. He says that figure was $237k in 2011, and asks how the town justifies a 2.3x increase.

(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says that the Planning Department provides essential services that residents ask for. They do work on zoning, planning, transportation, provide staff support for the Conservation Commission, energy management, and economic development. He thinks it's clear that these are services the town wants, and notes that the department's budget is increasing less than 2.5% relative to last year.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti thinks we got by just fine 12 years ago. He plans to vote against the budget, and says these spending increases can't be sustained.

(Annie LaCourt, Precinct 13) Ms. LaCourt says that at least one position is funded by community development block grants (CDBG). She advises town meeting to look at the taxation total, which is $637k. Positions for the Environmental Planner and Sustainability Manager didn't exist 12 years ago.

(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says that CDBG-funded positions are shown under the departments where the positions are. He says that the Sustainability Manager helped the town secure a number of grants, and he believes the Environmental Planner and Economic Development Coordinator are essential positions.

(Claire Ricker, Planning Director) Ms. Ricker says that in the amount of time she's been here, her department has brought in more money from grants than they've paid in salaries. Several salaries in her department are offset with CDBG funds. She says the community is involved in work that the Planning Department does, so high quality staff are essential.

(Adam Auster, Precinct 20) Mr. Auster asks how much grant money the department has brought in.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker doesn't have the exact number off the top of her head, and offers to report back to town meeting with a list. Offhand, she says they've gotten a $300k grant for transportation design, $1M from representative Clark's office, along with grants for Electrify Arlington.

(Adam Auster) Mr. Auster says he knows the department is a grants powerhouse, and he thinks it would be a false economy to pick away at their budget.

(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says that page 102 of the Town Manager's budget contains a full list of grants.

(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman says this is a high-value department, and every cent we spend here is worthwhile. He's been advocating for safety improvements on Chestnut Street, and the Transportation Planner was a huge help in that regard. He says the Transportation Planner position is currently vacant.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the Transportation Planner position was just filled, about a week ago.

(Carl Wagner, Precinct 15) Mr. Wagner thinks the department can do more, and save more money. He says some of their work relies on outside consultants, and he thinks that should be done in-house instead.

(Mona Mandal, Precinct 9) Ms. Mandal asks what we're doing to invite new businesses into town.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says the town hired an Economic Development Coordinator. He recently left, but was very adept at talking to businesses. She intends to work diligently on economic development. The Chamber of Commerce has told her that there are businesses interested in coming to Arlington, but it's a matter of finding the right spaces.

(Mona Mandal) Ms. Mandal asks about the kinds of businesses we're trying to bring in.

(Claire Ricker) Ms. Ricker says that everything is on the table. She thinks we could do a good job with the master planning effort that will start after MBTA communities zoning is passed. Her department is working with the ARB to bring a set of business amendments to town meeting in the fall. She's like to find a permanent space for the Women's Market. Arlington has several small storefronts that could be good for small businesses.

(Daniel Jalkut, Precinct 6) Mr. Jalkut moves to end debate on the planning budget.

Motion to terminate debate passes on a voice vote.

Public Works

(Beth Ann Friedman, Precinct 15) Ms. Friedman held the budget due to the large increase in salaries, but she acknowledge that was explained earlier.

(John Worden, Precinct 8) Mr. Worden has a comment about last fall's leaf collection. He says it took a long time for the leaves to be taken away.

(Mike Rademacher, DPW Director) Mr. Rademacher says that last fall was the first year for a new vendor, and there was a bit of a learning curve. He says they're contracted for a specific number of truckloads, and there are times when they can't get everything. He plans to work with the vendor to improve collection.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says the sidewalk on his street has ten places where someone can trip and fall.

(Mike Rademacher) Mr. Rademacher says the number of sidewalks in town is a challenge to maintain, given the funding we have. He says that DPW prioritizes work based on population and location.

(Susan Stamps, Precinct 3) Ms. Stamps says the new Broadway Plaza is wonderful, but very hot in the summer. She says that other cities have shade structures, and asks if there are any plans for this at Broadway Plaza.

(Mike Rademacher) Mr. Rademacher says there's no funding for such a structure.

(Sanjay Newton, Precinct 10) Mr. Newton moves to terminate debate on the DPW budget.

Motion to terminate carries by voice vote.


(Barbara Thornton, Precinct 16) Ms. Thornton says that Facilities is the newest department in town, and it was created in response to urgent maintenance needs. The Select Board approved the department in 2015, and it started from nothing. They've recorded the age and expected lifetime of town properties, they ensure that we get the full expected lifetime of use, and plan for replacement.

Town buildings were valued at $300M in 2014, and that value is substantially higher today. So far, there have been five department heads, but no status report to town meeting. She asks if the town manager can provide a facilities report to town meeting, going back five years. Ms. Thornton thinks the facilities budget may be too focused on custodial needs, and she fears it's missing the preservation piece.

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler recognizes Ms. Thornton for playing a key role in setting up the department. He says the reports are in the town annual report and the town manager's financial plan. He says the facilities director meets regularly with the Capital Planning Committee, and most of their budget goes to preventive maintenance.

(Stopped taking notes for a few minutes, to give my hand a rest.)

Police Budget

(Jennifer Mansfield, Precinct 9) Ms. Mansfield thinks amount of money budgeted for social workers is low.

(Julie Flaherty, Police Chief) Ms. Flaherty says the position is specifically for outreach to homeless populations. 75% of the position is paid for by the police department, and 25% is paid by health and human services.

(Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12) Mr. Jamieson asks about the fulfillment rate for police details.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says it depends on the time of year. The fulfillment rate is 80--100% during the summer, when most construction work tends to happen, and 100% during the winter.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson wants to make sure detail requests are fulfilled, in order to help support new growth. He was also happy to see the number of firearm ids specified in the town report.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says there were 229 licenses renewed, and 1300 licensed in total.

(Betsy Carlton-Gysan, Precinct 9) Ms. Carlton-Gysan asks if there are plans to add a social worker for mental health and substance abuse cases.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says there's a clinician in the police department who co-responds with police officers. They also have a part-time recovery coach.

(Betsy Carlton-Gysan) Ms. Carlton-Gysan asks if the department has sufficient capacity for that.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says the position is stretched, and they're looking for funds for a second clinician.

(Betsy Carlton-Gysan) Ms. Carlton-Gysan asks for an update on body cameras.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says there isn't a policy in place, and body cameras haven't been deployed yet. She says the department is still in negotiations with the police unions.

(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler adds that the town is in arbitration with the patrolman's union, but those talks are in limbo at the moment.

(Carl Wagner, Precinct 15) Mr. Wagner motions to terminate debate on the police budget.

Motion to terminate debate carries by voice vote.

Fire Services

No one wishes to speak on the Fire Services Budget.

Inspectional Services, Health and Human Services

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says we'll take the Inspectional Services and Health and Human Services budgets together, since there's an amendment that would affect both.

(Mark Kaepplein, Precinct 9) Mr. Kaepplein introduces his amendment. He's trying to cut spending to delay overrides, which he feels is pushing people out of town. He'd like to remove funding for the DEI positions within health and human services, and move that money to Inspectional Services and free cash. He says there's an identity issue here; we're a town, but we're spending more like a city. Getting rid of DEI is part of that. He says that Arlington is more homogeneous than many cities, so the need for DEI is less urgent here. Although his goal is to see the DEI positions eliminated, Mr. Kaepplein realizes that town meeting can only make amendments at the department level, and department heads can choose how to implement the adjustment.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana affirms this. Town meeting can only amend the overall totals of department budgets; they cannot change the funding for specific positions.

(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein thinks there's no visibility into the employment budget.

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler urges town meeting to vote against Mr. Kaepplein's amendment. He thinks Mr. Kaepplein's comments speak for themself. He reads a portion of Mr. Kaepplein's amendment -- "Massachusetts has survived 400 years without DEI Departments". Mr. Pooler says that Arlington was one of the first communities to establish a DEI department, and we have one of the strongest ones in the state. They're one of the most fair-minded departments in town.

(Christine Deschler, Finance Committee Chair) Ms. Deschler says that town meeting cannot micro-manage departments. She acknowledges that four Finance Committee members voted against the DEI sub-budget, but notes that four also voted against field maintenance. Overall, the DEI budget had high support.

(Sanjay Newton, Precinct 10) Mr. Newton moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate on these departmental budgets passes, 146--54--4.

There's a vote on Mr. Kaepplein's amendment. Amendment fails, 8--199--4.


(Kirsi Allison-Ampe, School Committee) Ms. Allison-Ampe requests ten minutes for the budget presentation. She says the School Department's report includes their new strategic plan for public schools.

Town meeting agrees to the request for a ten-minute presentation.

(Liz Homan, School Superintendent) Ms. Homan says the school department adopted a strategic plan in March. There are four priorities, and three initiatives associated with each priority. The effort started with 60 stakeholders, and it supports belonging, equity, and enjoyment. This year's budget is designed to support year one of the strategic plan.

Enrollment is the main pillar of school planning, and the department uses multiple factors to estimate it. The enrollment curve has basically followed predictions given in the McKibben report. The school's main funding source is the town's contribution. They also receive chapter 70 funding from the state, and that portion has been growing faster than the town contribution. This year, the school budget will increase 5.3%, across all funding sources.

Ms. Homan moves to budget efficiencies -- finding places to make cuts, because they no longer align with the strategic plan. She says this isn't so much about reduction, but more about reallocation.

(Beth Ann Friedman, Precinct 15) Ms. Friedman believes two columns in the Education budget may have been transposed.

(Michael Mason, Assistant Superintendent) Mr. Mason says that yes, columns for the FY 2023 budget were transposed, but ones for the FY 2024 budget were not.

(John Maher, Precinct 14) Mr. Maher asks where we stand with teacher's pay, relative to comparable communities.

(Liz Homan) Ms. Homan says the school department uses the Town Manager twelve for comparison, and we've been trying to make our salaries more competitive. But we're still behind. She says that part of the strategic plan is to close that gap over several years.

(Christopher Moore, Precinct 14) Mr. Moore moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate on the Education budget passes by voice vote.


(Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12) Mr. Jamieson says the town manager's budget has a section on other post-employment benefits. He'd like to see something similar in the town's annual report.

Reserve Fund

No one wishes to discuss the reserve fund.

Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund

(Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12) Mr. Jamieson says that a large portion of our water and sewer expenses used to be paid by taxes, but that's been shifted to water bill rates. He asks if the shift has had any impact on water conservation.

(Michael Rademacher, DPW Director) Mr. Rademacher says it's too soon to make a determination, as there are lots of factors which influence water use.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks if conservation would impact costs.

(Michael Rademacher) Mr. Rademacher says it's hard to say, because a lot of the MWRA costs aren't related to consumption.

(Mark Kaepplein, Precinct 9) Mr. Kaepplein thinks that the reward for water conservation will be higher rates, as the infrastructure costs dominate.

That's it for discussion, so we vote on the overall budget.

Budget passes, 200--8--4.

Article 38 - Capital Budget

(Timur Yontar, Capital Planning Committee Chair) Mr. Yontar starts by expressing his appreciation for members of the Capital Planning Committee and the groups who've worked with them. The Capital Planning Committee's report lists what items the town will buy, and how they'll be paid for. It also includes five years of projection. The $13.3M budget is paid via cash, bonds, and other sources of funding. This year, 61% goes to the DPW, 28% to the schools, 10% to town buildings, 8% to fire and police, and the rest to other departments.

$3.7M of the budget will be financed with bonds. $19.2M goes to debt service; this is mostly cash from the general tax, and it includes both exempt and non-exempt debt. He says our policy is to have the capital plan at 5% of the overall town budget.

(Judith Garber, Precinct 4) Ms. Garber offers an amendment that would reduce the overall Capital Budget by $15k. Her intention is to remove the police department's $15k expenditure on Bola Wrap devices. She believes there hasn't been enough discussion about this. The devices are marketed as non-violent but they're still dangerous, and she's concerned that using them will erode trust. She asks the Police Chief if these devices were necessary, and the chief cited incidents in other communities. She'd prefer to see the department spend more on mental health clinicians.

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler notes that Town Meeting can only adjust the total amount in the capital budget. The town could still purchase the Bola Wrap devices, even if Ms. Garber's amendment is adopted. He will defer to the police chief on whether to purchase.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar says the Capital Planning Committee was in favor of this expense. They saw it as a better alternative to discharging a firearm.

(Julie Flaherty, Police Chief) Ms. Flaherty says that Bola Wrap is a de-escalation tool. The device ejects a cord, which wraps around the arms or legs. She says it's safer than tasers, bean bags, or batons. She's been bola-wrapped and says it isn't painful. She says that officers have had to de-escalate by force in Burlington, Lexington, and Cambridge. That's what motivated her to ask for the devices.

(Anna Henkin, Precinct 6) Ms. Henkin says that Bola Wraps are intense, have hooks at the end, and can gouge skin. If used improperly, they can wrap around the target's throat and cause strangulation. The person wrapped can fall or be hurt. She doesn't think this is the right option for Arlington. She says the bola wraps are deeply dehumanizing, and advocacy groups advise against them. Ms. Henkin appreciates that the Police Chief wants de-escalation tools, but she doesn't think this is it.

(Lynette Culverhouse, Precinct 11) Ms. Culverhouse says she spent many years working with kids with disabilities, and she believes this is the last thing that will provide a safe space for de-escalation. She says the proper way to de-escalate is by creating a safe emotional space. Ms. Culverhouse says she'd freak out if a person in uniform threw a lasso around her.

(Sarah McKinnon, Precinct 20) Ms. McKinnon says that the Bola Wraps looks like a small harmless device. It discharges two cables with hooks on each end, and the device should be used below the elbows. She says they're as loud as a gunshot, which isn't the de-escalation she'd like to see. She has enthusiasm for more social workers and suggests the money could go to more training. She's concerned about the people this could be used on, and says it's very difficult to use the device if the target is moving. Ms. McKinnon says that LAPD officers used this device nine times, and in eight of them it was ineffectively deployed. She thinks we can do better.

(Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12) Mr. Jamieson asks if the cost of the high school is fully reflected in the tax rate.

(Sandy Pooler, Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says no -- we still have about $12M of borrowing to do.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks why were replacing mechanical systems and a cooling tour.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar says the mechanical system was rebuilt in 2005, with an estimated 10-year lifespan. The cooling tower wasn't replaced when the police station was rebuilt.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks about the capital expenses for the community center.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar says the envelope improvements and elevator replacement were not part of that building's recent renovation.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson understands that the new DPW facility will allow trucks and equipment to be stored indoors, and he hopes that increases their longevity. He asks about the expense for the Bishop School roof.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar says the roof is 20 years old, and due for replacement.

(Xavid Pretzer, Precinct 17) Mx. Pretzer supports Ms. Garber's amendment. They appreciate the police department's desire to build trust with the community, but think this isn't the way to do it. They believe that less lethal weapons tend not to de-escalate situations, and they don't want to see a crisis exacerbated.

(Sanjay Newton, Precinct 10) Mr. Newton asks if the list of items in section 2 is a suggestion to the town manager.

(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler thinks they're good ideas and he'd direct spending on them. Right now, the Police Department has guns and batons. If $15k were removed from the capital budget, he'd have to make a decision.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton asks how much training will officers receive with the bola wraps.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says it will be four hours each year.

(Annie LaCourt, Precinct 13) Ms. LaCourt asks about the grants that are supporting items in section 4.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar lists the grants.

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

Vote on the Garber amendment passes, 105--87--19.

Vote on the amended capital budget passes, 204--7--0.

It's a little after 23:00, and town meeting adjourns until Wednesday.