Town Meeting - May 20th, 2024

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Night eight of Arlington Town Meeting. Materials were available from


(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says that the length of our meetings influences the number of meetings required. He reminds Town Meeting of the purpose of announcements -- they should focus on things and events happening in Arlington. He reminds Town Meeting to turn in their clickers at the end of the evening.

Our test vote: Are we predicted to have temperatures above 90 degrees this week? Vote was 59--97--3. (The answer is yes, we are forecast to have temperatures in the 90s on Wednesday.)


(Michael Ruderman, Precinct 9) Mr. Ruderman says that the Arlington Historic Society will give a presentation on Civil Rights in Arlington. It will take place on Tuesday, at 7:30 pm.

(Grant Cook, Precinct 16) Mr. Cook says that St. Athanasius Church will hold their Greek Festival on June 6th through June 9th.

(Beth Melofchik, Precinct 9) Ms. Melofchik says the Alewife are running in Mill Brook, and can be seen from Cook's Hollow.

(Eric Helmuth, Precinct 12) Mr. Helmuth says there will be a musical concert on June 9th at 3:00 pm. It will showcase western classical music from an Arlington composer.

(Joe Barr, Precinct 5) Mr. Barr says the Select Board approved the closure of Eastern Ave on Saturday June 8th, for an annual soap box derby.

Article 54 - Private Way Repairs Revolving Fund

(Christine Deshler, Finance Committee Chair) Ms. Deshler says this vote will appropriate money to refresh the private way revolving fund. Money taking out of this fund is ultimately reimbursed by residents who've chosen to make repairs to their private ways. The Finance Committee recommends adding $100k to the fund.

Article passes, 177--0--0.

Article 55 - Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program Match

(Christine Deshler, Finance Committee Chair) Ms. Deshler says this appropriation would go towards an analysis of the Fox Library rebuild. State funds are available, contingent upon matching funds from the town. The Finance Committee recommends an appropriation of $75k.

(Anna Litten, Director of Libraries) Ms. Litten says that the Library submitted a letter of intent to apply for funds in April 2023, and the library trust will fund $75k. The Fox Library doesn't meet the current or projected needs of the community. 20% of all Arlington library visits are to the Fox. The Fox is not accessible, has poor ventilation, and the basement is prone to mold. She wants to see an accessible space that meets the community's needs. It should provide space for work, study, and play. This project is in the pre-planning and application phase. If approved, we'll move into planning and design. A yes vote will make us eligible for planning, design, and construction funds.

(Carl Wagner, Precinct 15) Mr. Wagner appreciates the Fox Library, but he's concerned about the town having a huge deficit. He suggests using the money to install a ramp and escalators. He asks Town Meeting to support this article, but says we shouldn't give away public buildings to private developers.

(Annie LaCourt, Precinct 13) Ms. LaCourt asks if there have been discussions about a joint venture, to add affordable housing to the new library.

(Anna Litten) Ms. Litten says this article is solely about the library space. Co-locating housing above is not part of the article.

(Annie LaCourt) Ms. LaCourt says that passing this article will allow us to leverage money for planning, to bring the library to modern standards. She says the Fox is one of the most heavily-used libraries in the state of Massachusetts. The goal is to get millions of dollars in construction funding from the state. Town funds used for construction would have to go through the capital planning process; that's separate and would not increase the town budget. Ms. LaCourt says that not passing this article would leave money on the table, and she urges a yes vote.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti asks if there are plans to expand the size of the library.

(Anna Litten) Ms. Litten says they've developed a layout for the space, based on community input. They hope to have more usable space within the library.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti asks if this will require more staffing.

(Anna Litten) Ms. Litten answers in the negative.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti thinks that a larger library will mean increased costs to the town. He asks if the town is responsible for providing places for people to work.

(Anna Litten) Ms. Litten says that libraries have always been important spaces for people to work.

(Andy Greenspon, Precinct 5) Mr. Greenspon moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Article 55 passes, 178--6--0.

Article 56 - Acceptance of M.G.L. Chapter 203C the Prudent Investor Rule

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board recommends favorable action on Article 56. The town's three trust fund boards are supportive, and the town Treasurer also recommended favorable action. Right now, there are only 22 funds we can invest in. The state publishes this list annually, but it hasn't changed since 2009. The prudent investor rule isn't new; it was enacted in 1998 and 45 different states use it. Mr. DeCourcey acknowledges that the Finance Committee doesn't support this article, but he disagrees with them on the issue. The Finance Committee has raised issues like "Arlington doesn't need to be first", but we're not; Brookline enacted this by home rule petition in 2009. The Finance Committee would like us to update our investment policies before adopting Chapter 203C, but our investment advisors say it's better to adopt the legislation, and then update our investment plans. He'd like to be able to incorporate the prudent investor rule the next time the town puts out an RFP for an investment advisor.

(Julie Wayman, Treasurer) Ms. Wayman says the town has three trust funds with a total of $28M. All three funds plus the Select Board voted in favor of adopting the prudent investor rule. Rockland Trust has managed our trust funds since 2021, using the Massachusetts Legal List. Passing this article would give us access to a larger and more diversified set of stocks. Not passing would mean that we'd remain restricted to the 22 stocks on the Massachusetts Legal List, which only represent a small portion of the market. She says that prudent investors must follow the fiduciary standard, and that boards and commissions have asked Town Meeting to support this measure.

Ms. Wayman says that the next steps would involve updating the town's investment policy, which the Select Board, Finance Committee, and Trust Fund boards would review. Once that's done, we'd put out an RFP with the new investment policies. Ms. Wayman says this doesn't affect the general fund.

(Christine Deshler, Finance Committee Chair) Ms. Deshler says the Finance Committee voted to oppose Article 56. She doesn't oppose expanding the list of available funds, but thinks we need to take the time to update our investment policy first. She asks "why don't we just wait?", and thinks this will make little difference in our earnings. She says we should have a policy for Arlington, by Arlington, and that we must prepare for our investment policy to change over time. She says the Finance Committee discussed this at three separate meetings.

(Angela Olszewski, Precinct 17) Ms. Olszewski asks why the proposal is to accept the legislation and then update the investment policy. She asks if that's the order we were advised to use.

(Mike Cunningham, Town Counsel) Mr. Cunningham says yes, the advice was to adopt the legislation and then update the investment policies.

(Angela Olszewski) Ms. Olszewski says that her first job was as an investment manager, and that retirement boards were allowed to come out of the legal list in the 1980s. She says that other municipalities have done this, and our retirement board is not working from the legal list.

(Joe Solomon, Precinct 16) Mr. Solomon asks if we can get an overview of the sequence of events.

(Jim Feeney, Town Manager) Mr. Feeney says that after adoption, we could reference the prudent investor rule in the town's investment policies. We'd update the policies, have them reviewed by the relevant boards and committees, and incorporate the new policy into an RFP.

(Joe Solomon) Mr. Solomon asks if there would be any changes before these steps were completed.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney answers in the negative.

(Zachary Grunko, Precinct 13) Mr. Grunko asks if we'd be allowed to invest in index funds.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney answers in the affirmative. We'd be allowed to invest in index funds, as well as individual stocks.

(Zachary Grunko) Mr. Grunko thinks it would be risky to limit ourselves to the 22 stocks on the legal list. He supports the article.

(Elane Crowder, Precinct 19) Ms. Crowder asks how often we re-bid for investment managers.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney says we typically do this every three years. It's a one-year contract, with options for renewal. He says we'd be able to re-issue guidance after one year.

(Pat Hanlon, Precinct 5) Mr. Hanlon asks what guiding policy we'd assume, if this were not passed.

(Jim Feeney) Mr. Feeney says we'd be restricted on the equity side of how we can invest.

(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon says the prudent investor rule has been a standard for over a century, and that limiting ourselves to the Mass Legal List violates the general principal of diversification. The Massachusetts list is weighted very heavily towards pharmaceuticals, and this is a matter of looking at an appropriate level of diversification. In terms of timing, Mr. Hanlon says that the Finance Committee seems okay with moving forward. He doesn't see what we'd gain by having a policy that focuses on 22 stocks, and the re-doing it. He thinks we should start from the assumption of being prudent.

(Leba Heigham, Precinct 16) Ms. Heigham moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes by voice vote.

Article 56 passes, 137--39--5.

Article 57 - Master Plan Update

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says that Article 57 has a recommended vote of no action, but was removed from the consent agenda by Mr. Worden. No one has submitted a substitute motion, so the recommended vote is still no action.

No action passes by unanimous voice vote.

Article 59 - Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund

(Christine Deshler, Finance Committee Chair) Mr. Deshler says it's the town's practice to allocate at least $605k to OPEB; this year, the Finance Committee is recommending $805k. She says this amount is consistent with the promises made to voters during the last override.

(Chris Loreti, Precinct 7) Mr. Loreti asks what HMO share the Select Board voted to adopt in 2006.

(Al Tosti, Precinct 17) Mr. Tosti says the Select Board was asked to reduce the share paid by the town, from 90% to 85%. The difference was put into the OPEB funds.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti asks if town retirees are required to go on Medicare at age 65.

(Alex McGee, Deputy Town Manager of Finance) Mr. McGee answers in the affirmative.

(Chris Loreti) Mr. Loreti asks if the town pays a similar share of medicare premiums.

(Caryn Molloy, Director of Human Resources) Ms. Molloy says the town doesn't contribute money towards medicare premiums.

(Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12) Mr. Jamieson says this article is about the health care pension for town retirees. He urges a positive vote.

(Barry Jaspan, Precinct 18, Point of order) Mr. Jaspan asks if there's a typo in the main motion. The override vote was in 2023, not 2024.

(?) Yes, that's a typo.

Article 59 passes, 175--1--4.

Article 65 - Collective Bargaining

(Christine Deshler, Finance Committee Chair) Ms. Deshler says the town has finalized collective bargaining agreements with several unions. Article 65 asks Town Meeting to fund wages associated with these contracts. She says the Finance Committee recommends favorable action.

(Aram Hollman, Precinct 6) Mr. Hollman asks why there's $573k included for "various other contracts".

(Alex McGee, Deputy Town Manager for Finance) Mr. McGee says that money is set aside for other collective bargaining units that we haven't settled with.

Article 65 passes, 174--4--1.

Article 64 - Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund

(Christine Deshler, Finance Committee Chair) Ms. Deshler says this is the vote that balances the budget. Money from overrides goes into the Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund, and is used to balance the budget in subsequent years.

Article 64 passes, 179--0--1.

Article 66 - Resolution/MBTA Service

(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says the Select Board voted to support Article 66, 3--1. Contributing concerns included the relative unfairness of Arlington's MBTA assessment, as compared to other communities.

(Paul Schlichtman, Precinct 9, Article proponent) Mr. Schlichtman asks Town Meeting why we spend our Monday and Wednesday nights sitting here in brown plastic chairs. We're here to make a difference and address challenges. Arlington developed around the Boston Electric Rail, and four Boston-Maine Railroad stations. He says we're building a more transit-oriented community, but are missing the transit. We passed a similar resolution last year, and are trying again because Monica Tibbets-Nutt and Philip Ng have proven to be responsible leaders. We have a responsibility to advocate for voters, and a no vote dilutes our voice. What we believe is possible is what we're willing to work for. So let's believe, and do the work.

(Eugene Benson, Precinct 10) Mr. Benson has an amendment to Mr. Schlichtman's resolution. The amendment tries to paint a more complete picture of the reductions in bus service to Arlington. For example, there's no more 67 bus to Alewife Station. The goal is to paint a complete picture of the baseline now, and what it was before. Mr. Benson says he used to be an attorney for a transit advocacy group, and he hopes we can take the resolution as a starting point for talking to the MBTA board. He says we need to make a case for ourselves.

(Len Diggins, Precinct 3) Mr. Diggins presents an opposition view. He asks "if aliens landed and offered us world peace or a better MBTA, which would we choose?". He's a member of the Transportation Advisory Committee and holds a seat on the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The MPO directly selects transit projects, and over the last 24 years, he's become familiar with how transit works. The heart of success is a high level of collaboration that's not required elsewhere in the country. We need to look out for each other, and cooperation is necessary. Mr. Diggins says that Arlington is recognized as a leader, but we must realize the needs of others and when their needs should have priority. The MBTA is put in an awkward situation, and without more funds, it will be impossible to increase service. Mr. Diggins knows that many Arlingtonians feel slighted by the Better Bus Project, but the MBTA looked at the alternatives and prioritized equity. He'd rather send a letter to the MBTA, asking for the town to work with them to mitigate effects. Mr. Diggins says he won't be voting on this resolution.

Benson amendment passes, 152--13--5.

Article 66 passes, 155--9--12.