In support of the worldwide movement to condemn the death of George Floyd and systemic racism, the Select Board unanimously adopted the Black Lives Matter proclamation at its virtual June 8 meeting.
John Hurd, newly elected board chair, read the proclamation, which includes statements such as, “The Town of Arlington strongly condemns racist acts of oppression in all forms, including institutionalized racism.”
The proclamation also states that the town is undertaking training programs to strengthen cultural competency and reduce racial, ethnic and other bias, and provides police officers with de-escalation training to minimize the risk of lethal interactions between law enforcement officers and civilians.
The proclamation also declares July 13 as Black Lives Matter Day in Arlington, and that a BLM banner be prominently displayed on Town Hall during June.
“Arlington has a long history of being a welcoming and inclusive community, and this banner makes a statement of solidarity with the worldwide protests. It’s a positive step, and the start of a journey. We’ve begun a lot of work already, but the road ahead is longer, and we have a broad cross section of people ready to do this work,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.
8 policies on police violence
Chapdelaine also addressed the town’s involvement in the #8CantWait campaign, eight policies proven to curtail police violence.
“All eight policies are now in place, except ‘duty to engage,’ which is currently being put in place. Once it’s officially implemented in the coming days, we’ll issue a press release and share more about our work with the police department,” said Chapdelaine.
Several Arlington Human Rights Commission members attended the meeting and expressed support.
Sharon Grossman, chair, said, “The last two weeks’ events have accelerated what we already need to do both in this town and across the country. I appreciate the reading of this proclamation and working together to make the town a welcoming place.”
Kristen Bauer, cochair, said, “This proclamation demonstrates the board’s commitment to moving ahead on these issues, and gives people in Arlington something to look forward to. It’s a challenging path that we need to take, and the proclamation is a recognition of that path.”
Select Board members also expressed their views, comments made in the context of nightly one-hour vigils along Mass. Ave. since May 31.
Board members comment
Lenard Diggins, in his initial meeting after winning election as the board's first African American, said, "Right now the focus is on race, as it should be. It's good to see that focus and attempts to work on that issue, especially with respect to police brutality."
Steve DeCourcey said: “We’ve a lot of uncomfortable conversations ahead. Even after more than 50 years of civil rights legislation, we’re still fighting systemic racism, but maybe now there can be some real change.”
Diane Mahon added: “We need to really listen to people of color and what they have to say.”
“I’m glad we’re getting this out front, and look forward to the hard work,” said newly elected Vice Chair Joseph Curro Jr.
“We’ll continue to engage our residents to fight racism locally and nationally,” said Hurd.
June proclaimed LGBTQIA+ Month
Be on the lookout for Pride Month banners June 22 to 30, as Arlington once again celebrates the town’s diversity.
Four poles along Mass. Ave. will each display two colorful, double-sided banners. One banner says “Happy Pride,” the other shows the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission’s logo.
Reading from this year’s Pride proclamation, Hurd said, “June marks LGBTQIA+ Pride Month and this year commemorates 50 years of Pride in Massachusetts. We recognize and stand in solidarity with communities of color, particularly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people who continue to suffer constant injustice.
“The Rainbow Commission is important to our town. They do a lot of work and we thank them for it.”
The board unanimously approved both the proclamation and the banners.
Several LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission members attended the meeting, and thanked the board for their continued support.
Julie Forsythe, chair, said, “This has been a challenging year for us. We traditionally display flags on Town Hall and paint the crosswalk in front. However, this year we didn’t think it’d be feasible to paint the crosswalk while maintaining social distance.”
Member Andy Rubinson added, “We’re grateful for allowing us to celebrate pride virtually during these difficult times.”
Deceased cyclist to be honored
A memorial structure will be installed at the location where cyclist Charlie Proctor died, as unanimously approved by the board.
On May 5, Proctor was hit by a car and died while riding his bicycle at Mass. Ave. and Appleton Street in the Heights.
In a letter to the Select Board, Tom Proctor, Charlie’s brother, wrote, “We are hoping to install a ‘ghost bike’ in Charlie’s memory. As we cannot currently gather to have in-person memorials, the physical memorials we can construct are especially important.”
The Proctor family is working with the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee and MassBike on the memorial.
Design review committee established
To prevent any similar tragedies, improvements to the Appleton Street intersection and surrounding dangerous intersections, as suggested by the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, will be investigated.
“There’s already been some good work in making both short- and long-term recommendations,” said Chapdelaine. These include removing several parking spaces along Mass. Ave. and the Transportation Advisory Committee’s recommendation to establish a design review committee to study and improve this intersection.
The board unanimously approved the creation of the design review committee, composed of Arlington’s senior transportation planner, and representatives from the Transportation Advisory Committee, Bicycle Advisory Committee, Police Department, Engineering Division, St. Athanasius Parish, a local business and three town residents.
“This is a step in the right direction,” said Hurd.
Easy Convenience Store receives alcohol license
Easy Convenience Store, 935 Mass. Ave., can sell alcoholic beverages, as unanimously approved by the board.
“The town was supposed to grant this license to a location in the Heights, but there’s insufficient parking and competition from two large liquor stores, Busa and Berman’s, nearby. Public convenience and public need are considerations in granting this license,” said attorney Mary O’Connor.
“Easy Convenience is a prime candidate for a license because the owners and managers are good businessmen with a loyal customer base. It won’t be a full-service liquor store, but a convenience for shoppers there,” added O’Connor.
Local business sustainability addressed
During the meeting’s Citizens' Open Forum, resident Margie Bell expressed concern about the viability of local businesses, particularly restaurants.
“Even with takeout, restaurants have lost revenue over the past few months, and summer is a good time to recoup those losses. Local businesses are the fabric of our community, and we want to make sure they survive.”
Bell asked whether the town could fast-track outdoor dining approvals, and close streets to enable outdoor dining, as Waltham did with Moody Street. “Many restaurants will be unable to offer outdoor seating without these accommodations.”
Hurd suggested Bell email the board with specific recommendations, which it can then address.
Property tax bill interest and penalties deadline extended
The board unanimously approved extending the deadline for waiving interest and penalties on real estate taxes until June 30 (original date: June 1).
“In the early days of Covid-19, state legislation was passed allowing for the forgiveness of penalties and interest for water/sewer and property tax bills, as well as the pushing back of due dates. At that time, the board pushed back the dates for water/sewer and property tax bills, but waived the interest and penalties only for water/sewer,” said Chapdelaine.
“Just over 500 taxpayers out of 15,000 have not yet paid their property tax bills this quarter. The $1.7 million due is a small amount in our budget, and there are people who could benefit by not paying interest until the end of the month,” added Chapdelaine.
DeCourcey said, “Given the number of people that can be helped, it makes sense to extend the deadline through June 30.”
Curro said, “Even though the economy is opening up, some people are still struggling, so I recommend we use the tools the state government gave us.”
New election workers
The board unanimously approved the following election workers:
- Jennifer Caruso, Pct. 8
- Susan Caruso, Pct. 10
- Joseph Cook, Pct. 4
- Caroline Harrington, Pct. 11
- Bernadette Murphy, Pct. 19m.
June 7, 2020: Reopening plans, shared streets advance
This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Wednesday, June 10, 2020.