Town Meeting - May 4th, 2022
Night four 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 Announcements
- 3 Article 3 - Reports
- 4 Article 12 - Single Use Plastic Water Bottle Regulation
- 5 Article 13 - Prohibit the Use of Face Surveillance
- 6 Article 14 - Establish a Committee on Insurance Costs and Issues
- 7 Article 15 - Noise Abatement
- 8 Article 16 - Noise Regulation on Gas Powered Leaf Blowers
(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana would like to raise a few points, with the goal of improving the flow of the meeting. First, there have been many points of order raised each night. He reminds the meeting that points of order should be used for very narrow purposes; like preventing the meeting from going off the rails, or clarifying what we're voting on. Second, at our current pace, we will not finish town meeting until sometime in July, which is after our deadline to approve the budget. He hopes the meeting will be conscious of this and pick up the pace. Third, he suggests that town meeting members prepare their remarks before speaking, so they can be brief and succinct. Finally, he says there's been an upgrade to the voting portal, to provide better support for "wave" voting.
(Note: Having everyone vote at once sometimes results in Database Connection errors from the portal. Wave voting refers to the practice of having groups of precincts vote at a time, rather than everyone at once.)
(John Worden) Mr. Worden would like to say something regarding Article 14. The article has to do with insurance regulation. Mr. Worden held the article on the assumption that the proponent would want to bring a substitute motion. He wasn't aware that the proponent wasn't re-elected to town meeting and did not intend to pursue the article further. Mr. Worden doesn't have a substitute motion, and says the proponent intends to bring the article back at a future time.
Article 3 - Reports
(Mustafa Varoglu) Mr. Varoglu submits the report of the Remote Participation Study Committee. The committee was formed last year to study options for hybrid meetings. The committee started meeting in September 2021 and obtained support to pilot hybrid meetings in the fall of 2022. Remote participation has benefits: it takes less time to attend, and it's easier for parents who'd need childcare. There are concerns about access to technology. The committee has reached out to state representatives about the legal status of remote meetings; the laws which allow us to hold them are scheduled to expire later in the year. The committee has suggested the Select Board and School Committee for the initial pilot, and identified other boards to approach. These pilots will inform recommendations to next year's town meeting.
There are no more reports this evening, and article three goes back onto the table.
Article 12 - Single Use Plastic Water Bottle Regulation
This article proposes to ban the sale of single use plastic water bottles, of one liter or less.
(Len Diggins, Select Board Chair) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board recommended favorable action on the article, by a vote of 5--0. Mr. Diggins acknowledges that a state ban would be the most effective way of dealing with plastic pollution.
(Larry Slotnick) Mr. Slotnick is speaking on behalf of Zero Waste Arlington, who submitted this article. Zero Waste Arlington was originally formed as the recycling committee. China stopped accepting plastic waste some years ago, and our plastic is currently being incinerated. There is an earmark in the state budget to help us fund outdoor water fountains and filling stations. Mr. Slotnick says we can't recycle our way out of plastic waste. Mr. Slotnick turns the presentation over to Jennifer Campbell.
(Jennifer Campbell) Ms. Campbell says the article proposes to reduce single-use plastic water bottles. There are 400 billion tons of plastic produced each year, and half of that is single use. Plastic lasts nearly forever, and tends to break down into small pieces in the environment. Plastic water bottles emit greenhouse gases at every stage of their lifecycle, from manufacturing to transportation to disposal. This article would prohibit the sale of non-carbonated, non-flavored water in quantities of one liter or less, becoming effective on September 1, 2022. Containers larger than one liter, carbonated beverages, and flavored water will be exempt. We throw away about one billion bottles every year, and but only 20% of them are recycled. The best alternative to bottled water is tap water. Zero Waste Arlington is starting a campaign called "Arlington on Tap". The committee has been speaking to business owners about this, and there are already 21 communities in Massachusetts who've banned single-use water bottles.
(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner has submitted an amendment to the main motion, which would allow the sale of one-liter bottles, but prohibit smaller ones. He believes that one liter bottles aren't single-use and serve a useful purpose. He believes they're not sold very often, and allowing sales of one-liter bottles will help businesses.
(Josephine Babiarz) Ms. Babiarz has an amendment. She's in favor of reducing plastic waste, but wants to defer the effective date for a year. She says there will be an impact on food takeout.
(John Worden, Point of Order) Mr. Worden says he wanted to get on the speakers list, but the button wasn't there.
(Mark Rosenthal, Point of Order) Mr. Rosenthal says he's having the same problem.
(Greg Christiana) Since several people were having this problem, Mr. Christiana will insert Mr. Worden and Mr. Rosenthal in the middle of the speaking queue.
(Leba Heigham, Point of order) Ms. Heigham says that we all had that same issue, and she recommends the moderator not change the speaking order.
(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim would like to make town meeting aware of an administrative change to the main motion.
(Kirsi Allison-Ampe) Ms. Allison-Ampe said she also had trouble getting on the speakers list, and submitted her request to speak via the Q&A function.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim informs the meeting that if passed, this will be Article 11 in Title 8 of the town bylaws, rather than Article 10. There's also a typo in section 5, where the word "or" should be "of".
(Frank Ciano) Mr. Ciano says he also had a problem getting into the speakers queue. He doesn't understand why the federal government doesn't enact something. He wonders why other types of plastic aren't being regulated, and asks if the proposed bylaw would run afoul of the commerce clause in the constitution.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says the Attorney General's municipal law division vetted this idea with a 27 page decision when Concord enacted a single-use plastic water bottle ban. They believed Concord's bylaw didn't violate the commerce clause because it dealt with a specific, localized environmental issue.
(Larry Slotnick) Mr. Slotnick would like to recognize that plastic water bottles have a lower recycling rate than other non-carbonated beverages.
(Frank Ciano) Mr. Ciano says that small stores will be affected, so he'd favor having the law go into effect in September 2023.
(Al Tosti) Mr. Tosti says there's no section 5 in the Select Board report.
(Juli Brazile, Town Clerk) Ms. Brazile says this was noted during the first night of town meeting. The printed version of the Select Board's report is missing sections five, six, and seven of the main motion. However, these sections do appear in the annotated warrant on the town website.
(Priya Sankalya) Ms. Sankalya says the article takes steps to educate people about how the effects of our consumption will be felt for generations to come. She invites Jonathan Forbes, a student at Arlington High School to address the meeting.
(Jonathan Forbes) Mr. Forbes runs an environmental club at Arlington High School. They organize trash cleanups, and a lot of the trash they collect consists of single-use plastic bottles. There are significantly fewer plastic water bottles in the AHS recycling bins, and he believes that's due to the presence of water fountains. Mr. Forbes says we don't have the infrastructure to ban all plastics, but we can stop participating by banning plastic water bottles. This needs to go along with expanding access to water.
(Sheri Baron) Ms. Baron is wondering about other beverages. She says the bottles for sports drink and soda produce 50% more CO2 than water bottles. She asks "why not ban those instead?".
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana believes that question is out of scope, since the article is specific to single-use plastic water bottles.
(Sheri Baron) Ms. Baron says the University of Vermont tried to ban plastic water bottles, and people ended up buying other beverages instead, and those bottles had a higher carbon footprint.
(James Ballin) Regarding sources of drinking water, Mr. Ballin believes we have very good tap water, and Arlington is planning to add water refill stations. The Arlington on Tap program will include maps of water sources, and will ask restaurants that offer takeout to provide tap water. We're reserving a bulk water dispenser and planning to expand the number of indoor water filling stations in town. We're working with the DPW and Parks department to replace old water fountains with new refilling stations. Mr. Ballin says we're looking at local and state funds to move this effort forward, and that Representative Garballey got us a $50k grant in the state budget.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein says we're exhausted with mandates like the plastic bag ban. He suggests we put the bubblers in first, and says that bans don't help residents. He asks if any plastic bag from Arlington has ever gotten into the ocean, and believes that plastic pollution is an Asia problem and not an Arlington problem. He sees no proof that Arlington's plastic waste is polluting the ocean. He says "If we want to do more virtue signaling"
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana stops Mr Kaepplein and says that remarks about virtue signaling are out of scope.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein would like to yield the rest of his time to Mr. Worden.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that 50 years ago, the Arlington Conservation Association brought an article to require deposits on beverage bottles, and passed a deposit bylaw. He says we're a pioneer then, and we can be number twenty-two now. He supports the article to get litter under control.
(Sheri Baron, Point of order) Ms. Baron says that when she was speaking, she asked a question of the proponents and it wasn't answered.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christian says that's not a point of order.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that's all he wanted to say.
(Paul Schlictman, Point of Order) Mr. Schlictman doesn't believe our rules allow town meeting members to yield time to other members.
(Mark Rosenthal) Mr. Rosenthal says he's concerned about plastics, but thinks this solution is discriminatory and will shift product use. It's discriminatory because it reduces options for diabetics. He'd support a ban, after bottle filling stations were installed.
(Kirsi Allison-Ampe) Ms. Allison-Ampe opposes the article, and she thinks the detrimental effects to health outweigh the benefits of the environment. She believes a bottled water ban will lead to more consumption of sugars. Soda consumption increases diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. A one-day stay in a hospital generates 33 pounds of medical waste. She thinks a systematic approach that addresses all beverages will be better. She urges a no vote.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman moves the question.
Motion to terminate debate passes, 197--37--3.
Vote on the Wagner amendment fails, 95--145--1.
(Kristin Pennarun, Point of Order) Ms. Pennarun says the portal doesn't make it look like we're voting in waves. She asks if the moderator could clarify the procedure.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says portal will go straight to voting for the first wave, but the second and third waves will see a message.
Vote on the Babiarz amendment fails, 77--162--1.
Vote on the article passes, 199--42--0.
Article 13 - Prohibit the Use of Face Surveillance
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the select Board supported Article 13. He notes that it's a resolution, and does not change actual policy.
(Ezra Fischer) Mr. Fischer is the article's proponent. He explains that facial surveillance software is any software that's designed to recognize faces. These systems tend not to be accurate, particularly in identifying people of color.
(I missed a few minutes of Mr. Fischer's presentation.)
The state issued recommendations for the use of facial surveillance software, and this article urges the legislature to meet them. He thinks we should codify our values, especially regarding the limits of what the government is able to do.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana apologizes for not recognizing that Article 13 is a resolution, noting it's not categorized or numbered as such.
(Guillermo Hamlin) Mr. Hamlin expresses support for the article.
(Ed Trembley) Mr. Trembley says he's concerned about the use of facial recognition, but mostly by state and federal agencies. He asks if this only applies to the town, and who are we asking to ban the use of facial recognition software.
(Ezra Fischer) Mr. Fischer says the resolution calls for restrictions at the state level, and for policies to be set by the town manager.
(Anna Henkin) Ms. Henkin thinks it's a great idea to state our values by not tracking town residents. Compiling that much data has its costs and risks. She doesn't want surveil our most vulnerable people.
(Josephine Babiarz) Ms. Babiarz has a question about emergency situations. She asks if facial recognition could be used to find missing children, or adults who are suffering from dementia.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim doesn't believe the resolution contemplates preventing the finding of a lost child. He says it's more about a prohibition on passive collection.
(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein shares Ms. Babiarz's concerns. He asks if there are any documented incidents of Arlington residents being harmed by facial recognition.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says that Arlington currently doesn't use the technology, so he's not aware of any harms.
(David Levy) Mr. Levy motions to terminate debate.
Motion to terminate passes, 213--21--2.
Main motion passes, 213--16--7.
Article 14 - Establish a Committee on Insurance Costs and Issues
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says this issue has a recommended vote of no action but was removed from the consent agenda. Mr. Worden spoke to this earlier, and there is no substitute motion.
Vote on the main motion of no action passes, 213--11--12.
Article 15 - Noise Abatement
This article would require the DPW to notify abutters of non-emergency work, at least 48 hours in advance.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board unanimously supported Article 15. He hopes that two days of notice for non-emergency work will be enough.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman says he brought this article forward due to utility work that happened near his house, at 4:00 am. He asks town meeting to vote in favor.
(Elisabeth Carlton-Gysan) Ms. Carlton-Gysan says there was utility work done on her road, and all abutters received notice. She's surprised this wasn't standard practice, and ask why we need this bylaw change.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman says it's because DPW did overnight work without the permission of the town manager.
(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine says this article would codify current practices. He acknowledges that there have been a limited number of cases where notice was not provided.
(Ed Trembley) Mr. Trembley asks how much this will cost.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine doesn't anticipate an expanded cost, since the notifications are already town practice.
(Al Tosti) Mr. Tosti moves the question.
Motion to terminate debate passes, 223--7--1.
Article passes, 216--15--2.
Article 16 - Noise Regulation on Gas Powered Leaf Blowers
Article 16 proposes to phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers by 2025 for commercial use, and by 2026 for residential use.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board unanimously supported this article, to phase out the use of gas powered leaf blowers and transition to electric powered ones.
(Beth Ann Friedman, Point of Order) Ms. Friedman believes there's an administrative error in Section 5, where it refers to June 15th.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim explains that the mention of June 15th is part of the existing bylaw, and is not being changed by Article 16.
(Alicia Russell) Ms. Russell is one of the article proponents. She was going to give a presentation to town meeting, but it appears she's having connection problems.
(Anne Goodwin) Ms. Goodwin steps in to make the presentation. She says this article is an amendment to the existing regulations for gas powered leaf blowers. There would be a complete phase out for commercial use by 2025, and for residential use by 2026. She says that leaf blowers are noisy, affect people without their consent, can create health issues, and create risks for workers who operate them. The two cycle motors are very polluting, especially with respect to hydrocarbon emissions, and they also produce greenhouse gas emissions.
Ms. Goodwin says the proponents have spoken to several commercial landscapers. The three-year transition period was modeled after a similar ordinance passed in Washington DC. This equipment usually wears out in 2--4 years. Electric equipment is available now, and getting cheaper. The town Facilities department is already doing a transition to electric. The current law is complicated and difficult to enforce. It's urgent to stand by our declaration of climate emergency. Ms. Goodwin envisions a quieter, healthier, Arlington.
Ms. Goodwin has also proposed two amendments.
The Goodwin 1 amendment fixes some confusing wording in the main motion. The transition period is stated to start in May of 2022, but it will likely take longer for the Attorney General to review the bylaw. It also changes the seasonal restrictions regarding when leaf blowers can be used.
The Goodwin 2 amendment allows gas powered leaf blowers to be used on municipal lots of 1 acre or more.
(Beth Ann Friedman) Ms. Friedman's amendment would eliminate the seasonal restrictions for residents. She has a leaf blower and often uses it in the summer.
(Michael Jacoby Brown) Mr. Jacoby Brown's amendment would prohibit the use of gas powered leaf blowers on Saturday, in addition to the Sunday prohibition. Some religions celebrate on Saturday rather than Sunday.
That's it for amendments; we'll start deliberations next Monday.
There are no notices of reconsideration this evening.
Meeting adjourns until Monday night.