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Session No. 1 votes to keep meeting virtual, manage consent agendas

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UPDATED April 29: The 217th annual Town Meeting spent most of the three hours of its first meeting Monday, April 25, setting the table for the debates to come. The second session is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 27.

First, its members had to decide whether the meeting would continue virtually or in person. With no discussion permitted under state law, the vote to proceed virtually was 207-26, with three abstentions.

Select Board Chair Lenard Diggins (3) delivered the annual State of the Town Address, noting many areas of progress in Arlington over the past 12 months. He also mentioned the imminent opening of the Community Center, long known as the Senior Center. "The state of our town is good, and it continues to improve," Diggins said. Read the full text below.

Under Article 4, John Worden (8), a former Town Meeting moderator and the longest-serving current meeting member, was appointed to the ceremonial post of measurer of wood and bark.

Under Article 5, meeting member Adam Auster (3) was nominated to be assistant moderator of Town Meeting. As he was the only candidate, Auster was elected.

Consent agendas

Moderated by newly elected Town Meeting Moderator Greg Christiana, lengthy discussion ensued, extending to the 9:30 p.m. break and after, about what articles should excluded from the consent agenda requiring a majority vote.

For these details and others, see meeting No. 1 notes from Christian Klein (10) here >> as well as the link to the consent agenda (majority vote) >> The vote for all of the articles in that consent agenda was 227-2, with two abstaining.

The meeting next considered the consent agenda for articles requiring a two-thirds vote, usually zoning and financial articles. Following discussion, the vote was 229-1 in favor. See the link to the consent agenda (two-thirds vote) >>

Consent agenda: Annotated reference >>

State of the town address

Ask Lenard T. Diggins a question, and expect a complete response.

Lenard Diggins, Select Board candidate, 2020Diggins

It is with joy and eager anticipation that I say, “Thank you, Mr. Moderator.” I have a lot more to say, so my tempo will be a bit quick.

First, I give thanks and pay my respects to our fellow residents and especially those who volunteer their time by serving on our nearly 100 task groups, boards, commissions, committees.  

Next, I acknowledge all of my fellow Town Meeting members upon whom our form of government rests.  I am especially proud of you and your efforts leading up to this Town Meeting, but more on that later.

To my fellow townwide elected officials, it’s impossible to work with you or observe you in action and see the results of your labors without having a profound appreciation for all that you do.  When it comes to our state delegates, Sen. Cindy Friedman, Rep. Sean Garballey, and Rep. Dave Rogers, I can only imagine the greater demands on you and your families

Finally and most importantly, there is our town staff. They are truly an amazing and wonderful bunch of people led by our town manager, Adam Chapdelaine, Chief Julie Flaherty of the Police Department and Chief Kevin Kelly of the Fire Department.  They keep our town running as well as keep us safe and protected on a daily basis.

So, after all of that, is it any surprise that when I think of the State of our Town, I am filled with immense  pride and admiration?  I’m not the type to claim that we are #No. 1 or the best or the greatest!  IMHO, those judgements are best made by others. That said, Arlington is recognized as a leader by the examples that we set.

Case in point: During this rollercoaster-of-a-pandemic, our Health and Human Services Department, led by Christine Bongiorno, has served us well, and by example, has led the region and the Commonwealth toward the goal of keeping residents informed and providing residents (especially our elderly and our youth) with easily accessible vaccines once they were approved. 

Review of the past year

So, let’s spend a couple of minutes recalling more about the past 12 months:

Arlington celebrated its first Juneteenth Day.  It’s the beginning of a new tradition, and in a sense, it complements the older tradition of celebrating Patriots Day with its recreation of the rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes.

We also welcomed our new school superintendent, Dr. Liz Homan, who has already launched an ambitious strategic planning and visioning process for our schools. 

About two months ago, the first wing of the new Arlington High School opened. It’s an elegant space that shows our dedication to our youth and that we value giving the children of our community a good education.

Our town clerk (Juli Brazile), our DEI director (Jillian Harvey) and Kelly Lynema of the Planning Department guided us through the reprecincting process with the goal of helping us to make it more possible for Town Meeting to become a body that more closely reflects and represents the makeup of our community.

All 21 precincts meet

Now, even with the challenges posed by the reprecincting process, for the first time, I am very pleased to say that all 21 precincts either worked individually or combined with other precincts to conduct spring precinct meetings, and that’s despite having less time to organize.  I might add that other than sending out a notice and helping out with Zoom accounts here and there, all, and I mean all, of the organizing was done by the Town Meeting members.  I hope that the effort was worth it, and I hope that it provides more evidence of the benefits of connecting with each other and listening to each other.

Late last year, the Housing Corporation of Arlington cut the ribbon on its Downing Square and Broadway Initiative which offers “48 units of affordable housing for low- to middle-income residents.”  Combine this news with the seating of the Board for our Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and it shows that we are moving forward toward our goal of making Arlington more affordable for more people. 

We wrapped up the development of a sustainable transportation plan (known as Connect Arlington) along with the development of a fair housing action plan, a net-zero action plan and the next iteration of the housing production plan.  

Of course, any recounting of the past year must acknowledge the contributions of the Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture.  Two projects that come mind are: (1) time-traveling climate crisis messages from students in the future and (2) Neighborhood Haikus, which sparked my poetic creativity and apparently that of many others here in town.

I feel a haiku coming on!

[pause]

Let’s turn! Tuture look!
Opportunities abound!
Try! Til we succeed!

[pause]

The future

So, looking ahead: 

In a few days, our new Community Center (formerly known as the Senior Center) opens. Since I’m anticipating that it will be my favorite hang-out spot in 10 to 15 years, I’m excited about it!  This complements the continued rebuilding of our high school and shows our commitment to our senior population as well as our youth.  

In the category of challenges, we have begun the process of searching for a new town manager. No one will replace Mr. Adam Chapdelaine, who, in his 10 years as town manager and nearly two years as deputy town manager before that, has helped Arlington not only become a better place for its residents, but has also made Arlington a leader in the region. You have our deepest gratitude, Adam, and we wish you and your family well.

A challenge of a different sort will be pulling off our annual town party known as Town Day. If the pandemic and the weather don’t conspire against us, your Select Board, along with the guidance of our office staff and a contingent of volunteers (and that includes some of you, although you don’t know it yet) will host Town Day on Sept. 17.  We know that many residents look forward to Town Day, and putting smiles on those residents’ faces will be worth the effort.

Now, what doesn’t put a smile on anyone’s face is the compound word “override.” Probably most residents see it as two four-letter words. Indeed it is, but let’s also try to approach this inevitability with the notion of it being an opportunity for our community to reassess our values and act accordingly. Perhaps we may conclude that the earlier and the greater amount that we invest more in our future, the greater the payoff we will see and the less it will cost us in the long run. Perhaps we may conclude that we need to hunker down and cut spending deeply. As we have our community conversation, let’s try to do so in good faith and with respect for the thoughts and feelings of others— especially those with whom we disagree.

So, again, and in closing, when I think of the state of our town, I am filled with a sense of pride and admiration, because the state of our town is good and it continues to improve.  As I work with and get to know more people in our town, I grow increasingly confident that we have a great future ahead of us. It is my fervent hope that our affection for our town and for each other will also grow and motivate us to contribute more to its success and wellbeing. Thank you, Mr. Moderator!

Background

The 252 elected members will meet every Monday and every Wednesday from 8 to 11 p.m. until all 77 articles in this warrant and that of the May 11 Special Town Meeting have been voted on.

Among the articles at the annual meeting are those addressing zoning, leaf blowers, single-use plastic and a civilian police advisory board.

The public can view the meeting via ACMi cablecast on its government channels (RCN, 614 or 15; Comcast,. 22; or Verizon, 26), or by watching the live stream at acmi.tv/govlive/.  


Town Meeting information at town website | YourArlington Town Meeting information


This news summary was published Tuesday, April 26, 2022, and updated April 29, to add State of the Town address.

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