UPDATED May 23: Town Meeting session eight, on Wednesday, May 18, continued its deliberate pace, approving five articles, including 60, which includes a $100,000 appropriation over two years for Bluebikes.
When it adjourned, the meeting was debating Article 17, whether to allow self-service gas stations, and that will continue Monday, May 25.
Moderator Greg Christiana continued to monitor meeting progress. Saying that the meeting was averaging adoption of four articles a night after the first session, he updated the target by which all articles must be voted, June 15.
Following a "Star-Spangled Banner" rendered by two boys playing squeaky flutes and initial remarks from the moderator saying that the meeting must end before June 20 because of Juneteenth, John Worden (8) noted that in his 52 years at Town Meeting, "We always got done .... Let's not panic."
Christiana responded: "My job is to panic."
Article 60: Bluebikes
Without panic, it was on to Article 60.
Steve Revilak (1), citing 10,000 trips via Bluebikes, asked how many trips are needed to break even. Planning Director Jenny Raitt said the contract "requires double the current number." She said time remains to achieve that goal.
Asked whether docking stations would be added, Raitt said two more could be added if the appropriation is approved, with the hope of docking in the Heights.
Raitt said costs could be offset with sponsorship revenue.
Asked why the measure was brought to Town Meeting, Raitt called an emphasis on expanding cycling part of a townwide effort, which squares with the 2015 master plan.
Rod Holland (7) said the Bluebike connection places Arlington in a larger metro transportation system. "There's real value here," he said.
Beth Melofchik (9) was not so sure and questioned the $100,000 cost. To her question about board support, Charles Foskett (10), the Fincom chair, said his board voted, 11-5, in favor.
To her anxiety about the expenditure in the light of "a looming override," Allan Tosti (17), former longtime Fincom chair, said he was glad to hear "concern for the taxpayer." He said an override is coming in fiscal 2024, and the Bluebikes "subsidy" does not support an essential town service.
In calling for opposition to the article, he said that an earlier Town Meeting appropriated $20,000 for this effort to get started and now wants $100,000 more.
Adam Auster (3) said he was puzzled by the "sudden railing" about giving money to a private corporation and compared this stance to "waving a bloody shirt," adding, "I consider this program to be an experiment .... Give this thing a shot."
Foskett urged opposition by calling this "a discretionary spend" and "an example of living beyond our means." He added a bit later that referring to the matter as a "bloody shirt" is inappropriate for Town Meeting.
Michael Quinn (10), a longtime bicycle commuter, said he appreciate the money the town has spent on bicycling efforts. "This is the right way to go," he said.
Among other speakers, Laura Wiener (8) said the new contract connects Arlington to a larger regional network, and Josephine Babiarz (15) urged opposition, saying that she did not know of many elders or children who use Bluebikes.
Article 60 was approved, 144-76, with four abstentions.
Article 62: CPA
Article 62 brought the meeting to 14 projects, totaling $3,444,905, under the Community Preservation Act.
Presented by Clarissa Rowe (4), who was among those who helped establish the effort in 2000, the projects aim to protect open space, affordable housing, historic structures and recreation. Town projects include Menotomy Manor windows ($600k), Affordable Housing Trust ($250k), Hurd Field renovation ($66k), Robbins Farm Playground ($997k) and a last-minute request to upgrade an electrical panel for the Hauser Building ($203k), hit by a fire in January. See the CPA report >>
No controversy there. But the $100,000 sought to improve access at the Covenant Church at Downing Square drew objections.
Michael Ruderman (9) questioned how the church's needs apply to CPA guidelines. Town Counsel Doug Heim noted its historic significance and the need for access at the building.
Ruderman called inclusion of a church in CPA funding "a mistake."
Lori Leahy (21) asked why the church did not raise its own funds.
Rowe replied that this was the first church in Arlington to apply and that other churches statewide have applied.
Zack Phillips, pastor of Covenant, defended the need for the nondenominational church.
In the end, Article 62 was approved, 194-25, with eight abstentions.
Article 65: Design guides
Article 65 sought $50,000 to devise development guidelines to "enhance the economic vitality" along Mass. Ave. and Broadway. Beth Ann Friedman (15) had removed it from the consent agenda and sought a clearer idea of the purpose of the funding.
Foskett said the guidelines would aim to shape what the facades for businesses should look like. Rachel Szembery, redevelopment board chair, provided a detailed explanation.
Asked by Wynelle Evans (14) whether the guidelines are an update or would replace 2015 design guides, Raitt said this was not an update, but an effort to arrive at new design standards.
Asked by Revilak about the public process involved, Raitt responded that working groups followed by public meetings will reflect the public process used previously.
Revilak said he supported the article. As a member of the town Zoning Board of Appeals, he said that guidelines developed by an earlier working group had helped the ZBA.
Article 65 was approved, 199-27, with one abstention.
Article 71: Free cash
Article 71 addresses unspent leftover funds from fiscal 2021. Called "free cash," it amounts $1,078,430.
Foskett explained that the town's practice is to use half and hold half.
Article 71 was adopted, 219-1.
Article 72: Assessor funds
Article 72 aimed to appropriate $3,036,447 from the Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund so assessors can determine the tax rate. It was adopted after few comments, 215-5, with five abstentions.
Article 17: Self-service gas
Foskett removed from the table articles 17 to 48, returning the meeting to 17, which would permit self-service gasoline stations.
Revilak introduced Richie El-Khouli of Saugus, owner of Eli's service station in East Arlington, and Robert Annese, an attorney in Arlington, but not a resident.
Annese said that Arlington is one of the last communities in Massachusetts that does not allow a driver or passenger to pump gas, a rule dating to 1975.
He said the owner has trouble keeping gas station attendants and wants the meeting to allow self-service.
Gene Benson (10) offered a substitute motion -- which you can read here >> -- which includes compliance with U.S. disability laws.
Gordon Jamieson (12) expressed concern that both proponents are not residents, wondering whether the article is valid.
Town Clerk Juli Brazile said all names of those submitting articles are checked as to residency.
Quinn (10) asked for clarification about residency. Heim said a proponent does not need to be a town resident.
Kristin Pennarun (20) asked whether other station owners stood on the issue. Annese said he was not aware of any objections.
Before adjourning at 11:04 p.m., members asked for reconsideration of these articles: 60, 62, 65, 71 and 72.
Christian Klein (10) was absent, but watched the ACMi video and provided these notes May 21 >>
May 21 moderator letter on residency requirements, reconsideration, 48-hour rule
Greg Christiana wrote: "I'm writing to give an update on three matters: (1) the residency questions surrounding the proponent of Article 17; (2) notices of reconsideration in general and specifically in regard to Article 62 (appropriations from the Community Preservation Fund); and (3) a reminder about the 48-hour rule regarding subsidiary motions.
"Questions arose near the end of Wednesday night's meeting about whether the proponent of Article 17 (self-service gas-station pumps) is a resident of Arlington. I apologize for contributing to the confusion at the meeting by wrongly assuming that the proponent's residency in Arlington had been established by the town clerk. After the meeting, I consulted with the town clerk and town counsel, who collectively explained that the article's coordinating petitioner listed an Arlington business address on the petition, and the petition has a sufficient number of verified signatures of registered voters residing in Arlington. In response to the residency questions raised at Wednesday night's meeting, there is no legal or technical requirement for the coordinating petitioner to be an Arlington resident. Therefore, the approval of the petition for inclusion in the warrant appears to be in order.
Also at Wednesday night's meeting, multiple notices of reconsideration were given for Article 62 (appropriations from the Community Preservation Fund), in addition to notices of reconsideration given for other articles previously: Articles 8, 1, and several financial articles. First, please note the distinction between giving notice of reconsideration, which can be done only by someone voting on the prevailing side of a vote before adjourning the meeting at which the initial vote was taken, and moving to reconsider, which can be done only by someone who previously gave notice of reconsideration, in order to give "further reflection, renewed attention, and more careful deliberation" to a previously considered action (Town Meeting Time, Chapter 5 §31).
Note that while Town Meeting Time cites a majority vote for motions to reconsider, our town bylaws take precedence, requiring a two-thirds vote for reconsideration, and disallowing repeated reconsideration of the same vote (Title I Article 1 Section 10 item E). Given the limited time in which we can deliberate articles, and the constraint that annual Town Meeting cannot be dissolved until all articles are disposed of, I will entertain motions to reconsider only after we have disposed of all 77 articles in the warrant. This will help ensure that every article in the warrant has time to be heard, while allowing for a small number of articles to be reconsidered if time permits. I ask that those seeking to move reconsideration consult with me in advance.
Watch the ACMi video of May 18 Town Meeting:
Town Meeting background
Town Meeting is scheduled to meet every Monday and every Wednesday from 8 to 11 p.m. until all 77 articles are heard and voted on.
Town Meeting is made up of 252 representatives, though not every member participates at each meeting nor votes on every item. It convenes each spring. It began this year on April 25 and is to complete its tasks by June 15.
Town Meeting is taking place virtually this year because of ongoing Covid-19 precautions.
Proceedings may be viewed by anyone in real time: online at acmi.tv/govlive/ or via ACMi cablecast on its government channels (RCN, 614 or 15; Comcast; 22; or Verizon, 26).
This news announcement was published Thursday, May 19, 2022, and updated with a full news summary on May 20, as well as May 22, to add moderator letter and a link to Klein's notes.
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