Town Meeting - Nov 23rd, 2020

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Third night of Arlington MA's special town meeting, conducted via remote participation.

Announcements. (Steve DeCourcey) Mr. DeCourcey reports that last Saturday, the Somerville Homeless Coalition organized a cleanup of the encampment in the Mugar Woods. They collected two dumpsters worth of refuse. The goal was to make the area safer for the homeless population, and for Arlington's outreach team.

Article 4 - Minuteman Bikeway Hours. Deliberations continue on Article 4, which proposed to change the hours of operation for the minuteman bikeway.

(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone asks if the Select Board discussed Article 4 at their meeting earlier tonight.

(John Hurd, Select Board Chair) Mr. Hurd says the Select Board met, but did not discuss article 4.

(Patricia Muldoon) Ms. Muldoon submitted an amendment that would eliminate time of day restrictions on the minuteman bikeway; it would strike the section of the town bylaws that establish hours of operation. She's ridden the bikeway at night, and had no idea she was breaking the law. Ms. Muldoon says the bikeway is a transportation corridor, and people should be able to use it when needed. She believes the police have other tools to deal with issues on the bikeway. Neighboring communities don't restrict hours on the bikeway. Removing Arlington's restrictions would eliminate the opportunity for uneven enforcement. Ms. Muldoon says that Bicycle Advisory Committee members have wanted to accomplish this for years.

(Adam MacNeil) Mr. MacNeil is the citizen sponsor of Article 4. He says the bikeway is a heavily-used thoroughfare, and the most frequent time-of-day violations come from people walking their dogs. It's frequently used outside of curfew hours, even during winter. The original goal was to align the bylaw with actual bikeway usage. He spoke with the police department about his original proposal and they were supportive. He thinks Ms. Muldoon's article makes a lot of sense, and agrees with the idea of aligning Arlington with neighboring communities. He says that bikeway hours don't make sense because it isn't a park. He supports Ms. Muldoon's motion, but hopes we can extend hours either way.

(Juli Brazile) Ms. Brazile is not comfortable with the amendment. She's open to reducing restrictions, but she's concerned about bikeway abutters, and the idea of introducing a substantial change in a floor amendment.

(Phil Goff) Mr. Goff supports the original motion, and he supports Ms. Muldoon's amendment. He thinks it makes sense for the bikeway as a transportation facility. In 1992 the bikeway was thought of as a recreational facility, but that's changed over the last 28 years. Demand from Alewife station has increased use, especially during the morning and evening commutes. He thinks that keeping the bikeway open at night is fair for people traveling. It wouldn't make sense to close streets during the overnight hours, and the bikeway should be given the same treatment.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that Arlington was one of the first communities to adopt a representative town meeting, when the state legislature authorized it in 1924. Mr. Worden says that any resident is allowed to address a representative town meeting, and he'd like to read a message sent to him by a friend about the substitute motion. The friend says that Article 4's substitute motion will leave residents and businesses along with bikeway as victims of nighttime gatherings, ruckus, and shenanigans. The police department needs the ability to order people away at night. Finally, towns to our West don't need to restrict bikeway use, because they're much less dense.

(Roderick Holland) Mr. Holland supported the original article 4, as a step in the right direction, towards what's proposed by the Muldoon amendment. He supports Ms. Muldoon's motion.

(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray says that a bylaw which isn't consistently enforced runs the risk of being selectively enforced. She thinks we don't need bylaws that aren't consistently enforced.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks if someone from the police department could speak to concerns they have about the substitute motion.

(Julie Flaherty, Police Chief) Ms. Flaherty says the police department typically advises people who are breaking the curfew, rather than enforcing and issuing a citation. They treat this as an issue of community safety and public order. In 2017 there were very few calls for noise complaints and youth gatherings. She has no issue with the original article or the substitute motion.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says he has some of the concerns that Ms. Brazile raised, but recognizes that the police department thinks it won't be an issue. He also understands the problem of bylaws that aren't evenly enforced.

(Michele Durocher) Ms. Durocher raises a point of order. She asks if the amendment is within the scope of the original article.

(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone believes it's in scope.

(Robert Martin) Mr. Martin motions to terminate debate.

Vote to terminate debate passes, 217--19--1.

Muldoon amendment is adopted, 211--29--2.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon has a point of order. She'd like to verify that Ms. Muldoon's amendment will remove the fine from the town bylaw. It will.

(Susan Stamps) Ms. Stamps has a point of order. She'd like clarification on what town meeting is about to vote on.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says we're voting on Article 4, as amended by Ms. Muldoon's motion.

Article 4 passes, 228--14--2.

Article 9 - Election Modernization Committee. This article would extend the life of the election modernization committee, add several seats to the committee, and extend voting rights to all committee members.

(David Levy) Mr. Levy moves the question.

(Thomas Michelman) Mr. Michelman raises a point of order. He asks how we can be terminating debate.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that Mr. Levy made a motion to terminate.

(Sheri Baron) Ms. Baron raises a point of order. She thinks its not necessary to terminate debate before debate has started.

(James O'Connor, Election Modernization Committee Chair) Mr. O'Connor raises a point of order. He wishes to clarify the intent of the main motion.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone interrupts, saying that's not a point of order.

Motion to terminate passes, 195--39--5.

Article 9 passes, 234--5--4.

Article 10 - Gold Star Family Tax Exemption. This article proposes to adopt MGL Ch 59 Sec 5(22H), which provides a property tax exemption to parents or guardians of armed services members who die while on active duty.

(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo has a point of order. She asks if there's a recommended vote for article 10.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone refers Ms. Migliazzo to the recommended vote in the Select Board's report.

(John Hurd) Mr. Hurd says this article would allow a full property tax exemption for parents of soldiers who died in service.

(Peter Howard) Mr. Howard asks how much this will cost the town.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone believes there's only one family in Arlington that qualifies.

(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine expects the funding to come out of the abatement overlay.

(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham moves the question.

(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo has a point of order. She informs the moderator that four people have raised points of order.

(Michael Quinn) Mr. Quinn has a point of order. He wants to verify that we're voting on a motion to terminate.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone confirms that we're voting on a motion to terminate.

(Leah Broder) Ms. Broder has a point of order. She thought the moderator said we were about to vote on the article. She says that people may need time to change their vote.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says voting is still open, and town meeting members still have time to change their vote if needed.

(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo has a point of order. She says we already have an exemption on record.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that's not a point of order. Nonetheless, he'll see if Mr. Pooler can answer her question.

(Sandy Pooler, Deputy Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says there's a partial exemption on the books, which is worth about $500/year. There are currently no full exemptions.

Motion to terminate passes, 207--33--1.

(Michael Quinn) Mr. Quinn raises a point of order. He asks the moderator to clarify what the next vote will be.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says the next vote will be on the Select Board's recommended action for article 10.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson has a point of order. Mr. Jamieson asks for the definition of local property taxes, and whether that includes commercial property taxes.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that isn't a point of order. Nonetheless, he asks if someone can answer the question.

(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says the tax exemption applies to homeowners, and would not include commercial taxes.

(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo has a point of order. She asks if this article would remove the partial exemption.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that's not a point of order. He's unhappy that town meeting members are attempting to continue debate after debate has been terminated.

Article 10 passes, 229--6--8.

Article 11 - Justin Brown. This is a home rule petition to allow Justin Brown (who is over the age of 31) to take the civil service exam.

(John Hurd) Mr. Hurd summarizes the article. It would allow Justin Brown to take the firefighter's exam, despite the fact that he's over the age of 31.

(Joe Tully) Mr. Tully says he anticipates some opposition to this article. He doesn't know Mr. Brown but will support the Select Board's 5--0 vote in favor of positive action. Not everyone finds their vocation early in life. As Mr. Tully understands, passing this article is not a guarantee that Mr. Brown will be hired. If he's not hired, the article won't make a difference. If he is eventually hired, that probably means he was a good candidate. In Mr. Tully's experience, articles like this are very rare, and this will not send us over a fiscal cliff. Firefighting is a dangerous job, and the people who do it are brave. He asks for a favorable vote.

(Michelle Durocher) Ms. Durocher says the language in the select board's report mentions "civil service law as applied in Arlington". She asks if we can change the way it's applied in Arlington.

(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim says yes. Some communities don't have limits on the age when a civil service exam can be taken. These rules could be revisited at a future town meeting.

(Michelle Durocher) Ms. Durocher suggests we revisit way civil service laws are applied in Arlington, and not just in the case of Mr. Brown. She thinks this is a capricious means for making exemptions, and goes against efforts to be inclusive. She hopes we can consider changing the law.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon asks why this law was put into place (referring to the age limits on taking a civil service exam).

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim believes that at the time the civil service laws were passed, there may have been concerns about the ages of police and firefighters at the start of their terms of service. Municipalities were given some discretion for control.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon asks if there's a limit on the maximum age of a firefighter.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine isn't familiar with a mandatory retirement age for firefighters.

(Kevin Kelly, Fire Chief) Mr. Kelly says there's a mandatory retirement age of 65.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon wants to verify that the article expires on June 1, 2023.

The answer is yes.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon supports the article, and thinks we should revisit our civil service laws. She asks if there are women in the Arlington Fire Department.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says there's one woman in the Arlington Fire Department.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon asks if there are any diversity statistics for the fire department.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says he doesn't have any diversity statistics at hand.

(Kevin Kelly) Mr. Kelly says the fire department has one female and two hispanic employees.

(Dan Dunn) Mr. Dunn moves the question.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says there are a number of communities that don't place age limits on the civil service exam. Brookline and Cambridge are two examples.

Motion to terminate passes, 221--20--0.

Article 11 passes, 214--24--4.

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins would like to raise two points of privilege. First, understands the moderator's desire to have the meeting move efficiently. He asks if town meeting members can be given the opportunity to submit written comments on Article 25.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that Article 25 is a Select Board issue, which the Select Board punted to town meeting. He thinks the select board can hold all the hearings it wants, and the question has nothing to do with town meeting's prerogative. But he will consider Mr. Diggins' request.

(Lenard Diggins) For his second point of privilege, Mr. Diggins says that an abstain vote on Article 25 will have a different meaning than a 'no' vote. He asks if the abstains can have seven minutes to present their case.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says no. He intends to give seven minutes for the yes side, and seven minutes for the no side.

Article 12 - Consolidation of Town Meeting Member Elections. Currently, one-, two-, and three-year town meeting terms appear as separate contests on the ballot. Article 12 will consolidate them into a single contest, where longer terms go to candidates with the greater number of votes.

(Jennifer Susse, Election Modernization Committee) Ms. Susse appears in a pre-recorded video presentation. Currently, mid-term vacancies create separate contests. Ms. Susse believes this is confusing and creates an opportunity for gamesmanship. For example, a person can be elected to a one- or two-year term with fewer votes than someone who lost a three-year contest. This article would have a single contest per precinct, and candidates with the most votes would get longer terms. Ms. Susse says this is the same process we use every ten years during redistricting.

(Jennifer Susse) Ms. Susse gives a follow-up comment to her video presentation. She says she's heard two arguments against this article. First, is that it can be easier for a new town meeting member to get in with a one- or two-year seat. Second is that it could result in someone being elected to a longer term than they intended. Ultimately, she think it's fairer to have a single contest.

(Diane Mahon) Ms. Mahon moves the question.

(Leah Broder) Ms. Broder has a point of order. She asks if the moderator can say how many people are waiting to speak when a motion to terminate is made.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says the list of waiting speakers is visible in the town meeting portal page.

Motion to terminate succeeds, 192--45--2.

Article 12 passes, 213--29--2.

Article 13 - Ranked Choice Voting. Article 13 would adopt ranked choice voting for the election of local officials.

(John Hurd) Mr. Hurd says the Select Board originally supported article 13, by a vote of 5--0. Last Monday, they changed their recommended vote to no action, 5--0.

(James O'Connor, Election Modernization Committee Chair) Mr. O'Connor says the committee would like to withdraw the article from this town meeting. They'd like more time to refine the article, and educate the public.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar has a point of order. He says that neither the Select Board or Election Modernization Committee posted an updated report to the town website. He thinks this is poor procedure. He thinks we should postpone the article, wait for the Select Board to issue an updated report with a recommended vote of no action, and then vote. Then, Mr. Yontar says he's being pedantic.

(Kristin Pennarun) Ms. Pennarun has a point of order. She says that the on-line version of the warrant doesn't show the select board's new recommendation.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that boards don't always amend their reports when changing the recommended vote to no action. No action means there's nothing to consider.

(James O'Connor) Mr. O'Connor says the election modernization committee met on Nov 17th. Their agenda was posted on the town website, and stated the committee's intent to revisit their recommended vote on Article 13. The committee hasn't posted minutes from that meeting, because they haven't met again to approve them.

(Janice Weber) Ms. Weber has a point of order. She wants to verify that we're taking a vote of no action.

(Steven Liggett) Mr. Liggett has a point of order. He's puzzled, and can't recall town meeting taking a vote when the recommended action was no action.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that he'd usually do a verbal vote, but that's not an option for our virtual meeting. Mr. Leone points out that town meeting has to clear every article that comes before it.

Vote of no action passes, 222--5--14.

Article 14 - Senior Water Discount. This article involves legislation that would allow the town to offer discounted water and sewer rates to seniors.

(Alan Jones) Mr. Jones has a point of order. He wishes to remind town meeting that people who have a financial interest in an article have an obligation to disclose that interest. Mr. Jones believes that some number of town meeting members are over the age of 65, and therefore have a financial interest.

(John Hurd) Mr. Hurd says the select board recommended favorable action by a vote of 5--0.

(John Deist) Mr. Deist says he's an elderly person, and he thinks it's inappropriate to make a special case for seniors.

(Diane Mahon) Ms. Mahon moves to terminate debate.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett has a point of order. He asks if Mr. Deist wanted to amend article 14.

(John Leone) Mr. Leone says that all amendments must be submitted at least 48 hours in advance, and that Mr. Deist hasn't submitted an amendment.

Motion to terminate passes, 165--61--7.

Article 14 passes, 217--9--8.

Article 15 - Retired Police Officer Details. This article would file home rule legislation, requesting that retired police officers be allowed to do detail work (e.g., working construction details).

(John Hurd) Mr. Hurd says this article will allow the town manager to hire retired police officers for detail work.

(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray encourages a no vote. She wanted to prevent retired police officers with disciplinary records from doing detail work. He raised this concern to the Select Board, and they added language to that effect. However, she's since spoken with members of marginalized communities, and that's led her to oppose the article. She says there are no requirements for continued training, and that hiring retired police officers for detail work is going in the wrong direction. Ms. Dray says this will increase the size of the police force, which she doesn't want. She'd rather have civilian flaggers instead. She asks for a no vote.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar understands this is a request, which came out of negotiations with the police union. He says we can vote it up or down. He understands its been filed because the town needs additional officers for detail work. He asks if we can employ civilian flag workers.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says it's legal to do.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar asks if we employ civilian flaggers.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says no.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar asks how much the town spends on detail work, and where that appears in the budget.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says that money doesn't come out of the town's operating budget. Details are paid for by the utility companies or developers that need them. When a police detail is required for town roadwork, that money comes out of the capital budget. He points out that Arlington charges a 10% administrative fee for police details.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar asks about the difference between the cost of police details vs that of civilian flaggers.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says that in 2008, Massachusetts passed a law requiring civilian flaggers to be paid prevailing wages. That's approximately $46/hour. Police officers receive $51/hour for detail work.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar asks why we don't employ civilian flaggers.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says that police details act as a force multiplier, which enhances the department's ability to respond to other emergencies. He says that Arlington's police staffing is low in comparison to other communities, and that detail work helps to compensate for that. Detail work typically makes up 30% of an officer's take home pay, and a significant amount of collective bargaining would have to take place before we'd be able to use civilian flaggers. Mr. Chapdelaine also believes that civilian flaggers aren't allowed on some kind of detail work.

(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar is not in favor of defunding the police, but he doesn't see the need for this article. He thinks there are other ways to get the personnel needed for detail work.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein points out that the main motion would exempt retired officers from doing detail work from certain state laws. He asks for an explanation of what those exemptions are.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that section 2 would exempt these officers from civil service law protections available to full-time officers. Chapters 99A and 111F are references to indemnification and workers compensation requirements. MGL chapter 150E provides for collective bargaining. None of these things would be available to retired police officers doing detail work. 96B refers to training requirements. Detail officers are not considered reserve or full-time officers, so they wouldn't have the same training requirements.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein says he's glad for the opportunity to ask questions, because that's a key part of town meeting.

(Sanjay Newton) Mr. Newton agrees with Mr. Klein, with respect to the importance of being able to ask questions. But he urges a no vote on this article. He says we pay for detail work as utility customers, and he'd prefer to see civilian flaggers instead.

(Bob Jefferson) Mr. Jefferson supports the article. He says the town manager made several valid points about public safety. If we can't get Arlington officers for detail work, then we'll have to get officers from other communities. He'd prefer to see officers that are familiar with the town. Mr. Jefferson says there are cases where detail officers were instrumental in handling safety or medical emergencies.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks for an estimate of what the need is. How many hours of detail work/week?

(Julie Flaherty, Police Chief) Ms. Flaherty tries to answer, but her voice keeps cutting out.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says that details regularly go unfilled, and we have to hire officers from other communities.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson says that the detail officers in town seem to spend all their time looking at the workers or their phones. He hopes they're willing to may more attention. Mr. Jamieson says that he's seen civilian traffic officers in Lexington, and they seem to pay more attention to their job.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks if a person could leave town, be hired by another police department, and then do detail work in Arlington.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that these detail officers must be former APD officers and retired. That wouldn't preclude someone who's retired from APD and gone to work in another jurisdiction. However, Mr. Heim thinks this would be unlikely.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks what training is required.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says that all special police officers are required to take first responder, CPR, and firearms training at their own expense, along with any other training that's deemed necessary. She says that special officers are subject to the same departmental policies as regular officers.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks if detail hours count towards an officers retirement pay.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says that detail wages are separate, and do not count towards retirement pay.

(Mustafa Viraglou) Mr. Viraglou heard an earlier comment about unfilled details and asks why we don't use civilian flaggers.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says that civilian officers can't do private detail work, and they cost about as much as detail officers.

(Mustafa Viraglou) Mr. Viraglou says we should keep the 10% savings, and he believes civilian flaggers do a better job. He'd rather save the money, and give police officers a raise. He says he'd vote against this article.

It's after 23:00, and there's a motion to adjourn until Monday Nov 30th.