Town Meeting - May 9th, 2022

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Night five of town meeting, held via remote participation. Materials were available from


215 town meeting members participated in the checkin vote.

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana says that tonight is Minuteman Budget night. We'll do the Minuteman Budget first. He also notes that we are currently on pace to finish in July, after our deadline for having an approved budget.

Article 3 - Reports from Committees

Article three is removed from the table so we can accept the report of the School Committee.

That's the only report for tonight, so article 3 goes back on the table.

Article 55 - Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School and Out of District Vocational Placements

(Charlie Foskett, Finance Committee Chair) Mr. Foskett would like to say a few words about Minuteman Superintendent Ed Bouquillon, who will be retiring at the end of the year. Mr. Bouquillon introduced a new level of transparency and improved the efficiencies of the district. He led the charge to build a new Minuteman School and is leaving us with a better school than when he started.

(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says that a new school is a landmark in an administrator's career, and we can share in that celebration, since Arlington voted to fund the reconstruction. Minuteman enrollments are at an all time high, and everyone on the administrative team is masterful and dedicated. Mr. Ruderman commends them, and Mr. Bouquillon for assembling that team.

(Ed Bouquillon, Minuteman Superintendent) Mr. Bouquillon says he looks forward to helping the new superintendent get acclimated and thanks Arlington for its consistent support of the Minuteman.

Mr. Bouquillon says that FY23 spending is expected to be 4.96% above FY22. The school plans to continue to protect health and safety, expand capacity, and bring the new athletic fields on line.

Out of district enrollment is down and in-district enrollment is up. Applications were up by 24% since last year and there's been a 100% increase in applications from member towns since 2019. This year's freshman class was capped at 175 students, due to the capacity of the building. Arlington's enrollment nearly doubled in five years. The total assessment for Arlington is $7.9M.

The main drivers for the budget include teacher's contracts, health insurance, and OPEB. The school is expanding programs for engineering, animal science, and robotics. They've also decided to pay the cost of student accreditation.

There are 5.5 new FTE positions for FY23 and 4 that were not filled, giving a net change of 1.5 new FTEs. The school is expanding beyond design enrollment, and has been able to do so without taking on new debt.

(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham offers her accolades. She says it's nice to see the Minuteman returning to its vocational mission. She asks if someone can provide a breakdown between the number of students who go to work after graduation, vs the number that go on to continue their education.

(Ed Bouquillon) Mr. Bouquillon says that about 60% go on to further their education and 30--35% go on to work.

(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham asks if some programs have longer wait-lists than others.

(Ed Bouquillon) Mr. Bouquillon says the wait-lists aren't based on program.

(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham is concerned that kids who are interested in a vocational school might not have done well in middle school. She asks Mr. Bouquillon to look at that. She thinks that credentialing is a real benefit to the students.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett asks about the status of reclaiming the sports fields.

(Ed Bouquillon) Mr. Bouquillon says the sports field renovations are being done with MSBA funds and they should be operational this spring. He says the Arlington Youth Theater used the Minuteman's theater space the weekend before last.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson notes that the wait-list was also a concern last year. He asks about the state's required contribution.

(Ed Bouquillon) Mr. Bouquillon says the state contribution changes every year, as part of each town's cherry sheet. He says the contribution is based on the value of property in each community, and the community's ability to pay.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks if credentialing costs were previously covered in a selective fashion.

(Ed Bouquillon) Mr. Bouquillon says there are grants which change from year to year. Putting accreditation costs in the budget means they can be handled in a more consistent manner. The cost for credentialing was about $25,000.

(Michele Phelan) Ms. Phelan says she's impressed with the campus. She has a question about the number of qualified applicants vs the number of students who are offered admission. She asks if there have been any changes in the process for offering admissions.

(Ed Bouquillon) Mr. Bouquillon says the Department of Education requires some changes after the last round of admission. A "qualified applicant" is simply an applicant who's submitted a complete application. The difference between the number of applicants and the number of admissions is based on a formula in the host community agreement.

(Michele Phelan) Ms. Phelan thinks the process doesn't seem mathematical. She wants to make sure that people who are offered admission have the ability to accept it.

(Ed Bouquillon) Mr. Bouquillon believes the process is mathematical. He'd like to accommodate all of the kids, but the current enrollment numbers are unprecedented.

(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says that the Minuteman is trying to increase its enrollment capacity to 800 students. They're expanding classroom space, and that's what's limiting capacity right now.

There are no more speakers for article 55.

Article 55 passes, 235--0--2.

Article 16 - Noise Regulations for Gas Powered Leaf Blowers

Article 16 proposes to phase out commercial use of gas powered leaf blowers by 2025, and residential use by 2026.

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins has an amendment to Article 16, which attempts to clarify the post-transition rules. Post transition, it would only apply to electric leaf blowers.

(Beth Ann Friedman, Point of Order) Ms. Friedman believes the speaker's queue wasn't carried over from the last meeting, because she no longer appears on the list.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says the intent was to preserve the speaking order from the end of the last meeting. He's not sure why it would be different now.

(Nancy Bloom, Point of Order) Ms. Bloom says the Diggins amendment would allow the use of leaf blowers on Saturdays and Sundays, but the Brown amendment would disallow that.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that's a question for debate, and not a point of order.

(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim would like to note that the Select Board wanted residents to have an extra year to transition.

(Ed Trembley) Mr. Trembley says that years ago in the dark ages, he worked for an electric car company. They weren't ready for prime time then, and he believes that electric leaf blowers aren't ready for prime time now. He says they put out half as much air as gas powered leaf blowers, cost more, and the batteries don't last very long. To get through the day, a landscaping crew will need to carry numerous extra batteries, which are expensive. He says the bylaw wants homeowners to stop using gas powered leaf blowers in four years, but many of these leaf blowers may last longer than that. He's uncomfortable about asking homeowners to stop using equipment that they already own. He says that electric cars are more practical now and electric leaf blowers will get there over time. When the electric ones are better, people will use them instead of the gas powered ones. He asks town meeting to vote no, and let progress take its natural course. People who are concerned about noise can ask their landscapers to use brooms and rakes.

(Patty Muldoon) Ms. Muldoon supports the article and the two Goodwin amendments. As a homeowner, she's used electric leaf blowers for years, and many of her neighbors do too. She says that noise pollution is more than just an inconvenience. The World Health Organization came out against gas powered leaf blowers. Ms. Muldoon says they're a challenge for the workers who use them. Noise causes distress, headaches, depression, and anxiety. The danger from gas powered leaf blowers is intense, and the climate crisis is affected by our purchases. Ms. Muldoon thinks that electric leaf blowers are much better now, and she's okay with the amount of time given for a gradual transition. She says there's a landscaper in Concord who's been using electric leaf blowers for eight years. More than 100 towns have banned them, or limited their use. She says that electric leaf blowers are viable right now, and now is the time to do this.

(Joseph Kerble) Mr. Kerble would like to give his time to Richard Tibbets, who is a former Arlington resident.

(Richard Tibbets) Mr. Tibbets has owned a landscaping company for more than 40 years. He says electrics are coming, but they're not there yet. Large engine manufacturers are focusing on electric cars, and small engine manufacturers are focusing on the home market. Mr. Tibbets has tried some electric leaf blowers and his biggest issues are battery life and charging time. A battery lasts for 45 minutes and take several hours to recharge. After a while, batteries can become "stupid" and fail to hold a charge for very long. In landscaping, the labor is predominantly Latino workers. The people that use leaf blowers wear proper ear protection. Lawn services charge by the hour, and a crew can typically do four yards/day during the spring cleanup season. With electric leaf blowers, he expects a crew to do three yards/day, so there will be a greater cost to the homeowner. Mr. Tibbets says we went through this issue before, and a major part of the town didn't want it. He says that a switch to electric isn't doable right now.

(Catherine Farrell) Ms. Farrell supports article 16, to eliminate air and noise pollution. She thinks gas powered leaf blowers endanger the health of workers. Electric models have zero emissions. She asks town meeting to vote in favor of the article.

(Mark Kaepplein, Point of order) Mr. Kaepplein says the moderator is showing his bias by not cutting off an earlier speaker.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana agrees, and notes that isn't a point of order.

(Elisabeth Carr-Jones) Ms. Carr-Jones supports the article. What happens in one persons yard affects many other people. Our current bylaw has provisions for limiting the use of gas powered leaf blowers, but Ms. Carr-Jones says they're not being enforced. It's hard to show when violations occur. This article will redirect violations to the Board of Health for enforcement. Once gas powered leaf blowers are phased out, these violations will be easier to spot. She thinks that gas powered leaf blowers are noisier than needed to get the job done.

It's almost 21:30, so we're going to take a ten minute break.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana believes that people are getting removed from the speaking queue if they raise points of order. He'll bring this to the attention of the portal's developer. Mr. Christiana asks speakers to keep to the scope of noise abatement.

Mr. Christiana notes that we didn't ask for announcements at the beginning of the meeting, and asks if there are any announcements before we return to deliberation on Article 16.

(Len Diggins, Select Board Chair) Mr. Diggins says the Select Board is now accepting applications for town day booths.

That's the only announcement, so back to deliberation.

(Mona Mandal) Ms. Mandal supports article 16. She says she got more supportive email for article 16 than any other. She'd like to read some statements sent by a precinct 9 constituent. This resident said they live in senior housing and there's a constant drone of gas powered leaf blowers that comes into the building. They gathered 116 signatures in support of article 16. Many didn't know there was recourse from the noise. This resident is asking town meeting to vote in favor of Article 16 to protect residents and landscape workers. Electric leaf blowers are quiet and work well, and Article 16 gives businesses time to adjust. Ms. Mandal asks town meeting to take a stand as a community and support the article.

(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate succeeds.

Vote on the Goodwin 1 amendment succeeds, 183--48--0.

Vote on the Goodwin 2 amendment succeeds, 178--55--1.

(Jordan Weinstein) Mr. Weinstein notes that some of the amendments interact with each other, and he doesn't feel this issue is being resolved properly. If the Friedman amendment were voted first, then the Goodwin amendment would modify it, instead of the other way around. He thinks that when two amendments compete with each other, the second one is at a disadvantage.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana takes Mr. Weinstein's point. He says we have to choose a linear order when voting on amendments, and one could argue that advantages or disadvantages the later amendment. He'd prefer to let town meeting vote on the semantics that apply, rather than nullifying one of the amendments.

Vote on the Friedman amendment fails, 45--183--6.

(Chad Gibson, Point of order) Mr. Gibson would like to point out that the Brown Amendment (which we'll be voting on next) applies to commercial and municipal use, and not residential.

Vote on the Brown Amendment passes, 151--81--3.

(Mark Rosenthal, Point of Order) Mr. Rosenthal thinks the Brown amendment says that leaf blower use will be allowed on Saturdays and Sundays.

(Nancy Bloom, Point of order) Ms. Bloom asks a question about the changes the Brown amendment is making.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says the Brown amendment treats Saturdays and Sundays the same during the transition period. The Diggins amendment puts everyone on the same footing after the transition period. It treats Saturday and Sundays equally by allowing leaf blower uses on those days, once the transition period has ended.

(Adam Auster, Point of Order) Mr. Auster believes that the time periods stated in the Diggins amendment match what's currently in our noise bylaw. He asks if that's correct.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says that's more or less correct, because the existing bylaw didn't contemplate electric leaf blowers. He says the Diggins amendment clarifies this.

(Emily Zhu, Point of Order) Ms. Zhu believes there may be an unintended consequence of allowing electric leaf blowers on weekends.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim suggests that town meeting to look at Section 3 of the noise bylaw. He says the Diggins amendment is not a radical departure, as Mr. Auster outlined.

Vote on the Diggins amendment passes, 169--62--3.

Vote on Article 16 as amended passes, 187--44--0.

Article 17 - Conversion of Gas Station Dispensing Pumps to Self Service Operation

Article 17 proposes to eliminate Arlington's prohibition on self-serve gas stations.

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the select board voted 5--0 to support Article 17. He appreciates that gas station owners may want the option of self-service operation.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak said he planned to introduce two speakers: article 17's proponent, and a resident to make a presentation on the proponent's behalf. Mr. Revilak was just informed that the presenter had a medical emergency this evening and was taken to the hospital. He doesn't know the nature of the emergency, but hopes this person is okay and recovering. Mr. Revilak motions to table article 17 until the presenter has recovered, and is able to present.

There's discussion about whether to lay the article on the table, which requires a 2/3's vote; or to continue to a date certain, which requires a majority vote.

(Note: without knowing anything more about the presenter's condition, I felt that a motion to lay on the table was more appropriate.)

(Carl Wagner, Point of Order) Mr. Wagner says there are two former moderators in town meeting, and one of them should be able to say whether a majority or two-third's vote is required.

(Leba Heigham, Point of Order) Ms. Heigham suggests we start voting.

(Ethan Zimmer, Point of Order) Mr. Zimmer asks if laying an article on the table means indefinite postponement.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says it's indefinite postponement.

(Charlie Foskett, Point of Order) Mr. Foskett says there would be a 50% voting requirement, if the motion was to postpone to a date certain.

Motion to lay on the table passes, 192--25--5.

Article 19 - Street Name "Magliozzi Boulevard"

This article proposes to take a small unnamed stretch of roadway, and rename it to "Magliozzi Boulevard".

(Lenard Diggins) Mr. Diggins says he was for this article before he was against it. He's enjoyed listening to Car Talk. During the Select Board deliberations, he learned that the process for naming roads rests entirely with the Select Board. Therefore, Article 19 is effectively a non-binding resolution. The Select Board has recommended a vote of no action.

(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman has a substitute motion. However, since the time is 22:54, he'd prefer to adjourn.

Motions of Reconsideration

Adam Auster, Daniel Jalkut, and Paul Schlictman have motions of reconsideration on Article 16.

Charlie Foskett asks for a motion of reconsideration on Article 55.

Meeting is adjourned. We'll resume Wednesday night at 20:00.