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Session 9 picks up, rejects self-service gas, begins zoning articles

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UPDATED May 25 with full summary: Town Meeting moved a bit quicker during session nine, on Monday, May 23, adopting seven articles, including 17 (self-service gas),  which failed, 105-119, with three abstentions. The meeting is to resume Wednesday, May 25, discussion Article 28 (enhancing business districts), the first of many zoning proposals.

Action on the other articles were: 

22 articles remain, strong participation

Almost one month and 61 articles ago, the 217th annual Town Meeting was gaveled into session. To date, members have spent more than 24 hours debating, substituting, motioning and voting. Yet, remote participation at the Monday, May 23, meeting remained strong.

At least 232 of the 252 electors participated in a lively three-hour example of citizen-powered democracy, during which action was taken on seven warrant articles and discussion began on what Moderator Greg Christiana called “the tranche of zoning articles.”

Many precincts showed 100-percent attendance of their 12 electors, with Precincts 2 and 8 casting votes on virtually every motion. And a whopping 42 percent of electors, or 106 members – including Select Board chair and Precinct 3 member Len Diggins, fellow board member Eric Helmuth (12) and Town Clerk Juli Brazile (12) -- have attended every Town Meeting and cast votes on every single motion.

Call to order, gender-neutral language reminders

Christiana called the meeting to order, and reminded participants to use the term Select Board and not Board of Selectmen. Until 1973, Arlington’s governing board was all white men. Anne Mahon Powers was appointed to finish out a member’s term, and later that year, Margaret Spengler was the first woman elected to the board.

Today, women make up more than half (128 women to 121 men, three vacancies) of the elected Town Meeting members represented almost evenly across the precincts. Precincts 7, 13 and 15 are the exceptions, with eight women representatives each. In contrast, Precinct 2 has only two women members.

The speaker’s queue in which members can request to speak to articles under consideration is still heavily represented by male voices. Session nine featured a 4-to-1 ratio of men to women speakers, with several names regularly appearing in the queues.

Article 17 – Self-service gas fails

Carl Wagner (15) opened the discussion on self-service gas stations, stating “there is no one in Arlington who would like to have self-serve gas more than I. I know this because I was the Town Meeting member who proposed this exact change to get rid of the ban on self-serve gas in 2013.”

Still, he voiced his opposition to the article, because, among other reasons, he said it didn’t provide protections for those who “don’t want to lose full service.”

John Worden (8) took a different tack, claiming that “We talk about diversity and inclusion and all that good stuff. Most of the men who do the gas pumping at our stations – in my experience – are immigrants.” He would vote against the article in order to preserve their livelihoods and opportunities “for a better life.”

No speakers supported the article before a motion to terminate debate passed. The article, which required a majority vote failed, 105-119, with three abstentions. The entire process featured all-male speakers and took 30 minutes.

Article 19, Magliozzi Boulevard street naming fails

Christiana explained that Article 19 originally was on the consent agenda, but was pulled off by Paul Schlichtman (9), who offered a substitute motion to name a public way between 49 Spring St. and Rt. 2 / Frontage Road as Magliozzi Boulevard.

The queue filled up quickly with 14 speakers, including Michael Ruderman (9), who paid tribute to Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the stars of the popular radio show “Car Talk.” He said that the brothers, known as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers,” had lived in Arlington.

Midway through Ruderman's soliloquy, Christiana interrupted to ask, “Is there anything relevant to Article 19 that members could not find off the Wikipedia page for “Car Talk?” Ruderman replied, “No,” before continuing to explain why the duo deserve the street-naming honor.

Schlichtman said that not having a name for the road was a public-safety problem. He also suggested that passing the article would “bring joy to the town, which is much needed after two years of a pandemic.”

An opposing voice was heard in lifelong resident and 30-year-plus meeting member Robert Jefferson (12), who endorsed the no-action recommendation of the “Board of Selectmen.” He said there is a process in place for memorial naming; “you go before the Board of Selectmen, they refer it to the public memorial committee and there’s a process from there. That’s what the Board of Selectmen recommend.”

“Select Board, Mr. Jefferson,” said Christiana.

“My correction,” replied Jefferson, saying that “being around that long, sometimes you make that mistake. I believe this is a worthy naming of that street, but that Town Meeting [shouldn’t] overstep its bounds,” a view echoed by the next speaker, Daniel Jalkut (6).

After 22 minutes and all-male speakers, debate was overwhelmingly terminated (90 percent). The substitute motion failed, 87-143, with two abstentions. The main motion, which was recommended as “no action” by the Select Board, passed 168-44, with no abstentions.

Article 20, Code enforcement

The Select Board also unanimously recommended no action on Article 20, “not because the concerns on which it is based lack merit,” explained Diggins, who introduced the article, but “but because it conflicts with the Town Manager Act.”

Schlichtman moved a substitute motion under Article 20, which asked for enforcement of the bylaws passed by Town Meeting. “Without enforcement, all we have a code of municipal suggestions.” He suggested giving authority to an employee under the director of planning and community development, “as a code-compliance officer.”

Christopher Moore (14) asked the moderator whether Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine could speak to the “staffing strategy for code enforcement.”

Chapdelaine acknowledged that “for the past couple of years, we have struggled with maintaining full staff in the inspectional services division through a combination of retirements and transitions out of the department.”

Additionally, he cited an “ever-increasing workload based on the number of building permits pulled in town, as well as reviewing the plans for the new high school, and the Department of Public Works [new] yard.”

However, with the inspectional services now fully staffed, Chapdelaine felt they were well positioned to more “proactively address these code-compliance issues to meet the demands and needs as described by the substitute motion proponent.”

The moderator called on Sheri Baron (7), saying that he was “taking her out of order, because we’ve heard from [the other eight speakers] in some capacity” during Town Meeting. Baron was one of two women in the queue. She stated her support of Schlichtman's substitute motion, saying that without enforcement, code bylaws were “just something written on paper.”

In addition to Baron, the moderator also took Alia Atlas (4) out of order. Atlas raised concerns about the “risk of biased enforcement,” saying that without proper training, code-compliance officers could “unfairly impact those who were targeted.” 

The moderator reminded speakers that “if you’re going to be repeating what folks have said earlier in the speaking queue, and not adding anything new, you can always remove yourself from the speaking queue to save us some time.”

After nearly 30 minutes, debate was terminated, the substitute motion failed, 43-182, with two abstentions. The main motion of no action passed 184-31, with nine abstentions.

Article 24, Fincom home rule passes

The home-rule legislation amends the Town Manager Act to allow for flexibility in budget preparation, and was recommended for favorable action by the Finance Committee, 14-1. The motion overwhelming (97 percent) passed, 210-7, with five abstentions. Total time spent on the article was 10 minutes.

Article 25, Early voting town elections

The Select Board voted, 5-0, for positive action on Article 25, which was proposed by the Election Modernization Committee (EMC). Committee Chair Gregory Dennis (1), said the bylaw would allow the Select Board to file home-rule legislation to permit early-voting options for Town elections.

Diggins said, “Rather than just waiting and hoping [for the state to act], we applaud the EMC for encouraging Arlington to show our state representatives and senators that there is a strong desire here to make voting easier for everyone.”

Brazile said this is for “in-person, early voting, which is not currently allowed for local elections.”

The motion passed, 214-4, with one abstention.

Article 26, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

Diggins pointed out that the unanimous vote on Article 26 was 6-0, “because the town manager gets a vote” on the CDBG report. The $1 million in grants approved by the committee covers a range of programs, including affordable housing, public facilities and services and planning and administration.

With no speakers in the queue, the moderator moved straight to the main motion, which passed, 220-1.

Article 27, Revolving funds

The article concerns the town’s revolving funds, which must be authorized annually in order to make expenditures. The Select Board unanimously approved the article.

Chapdelaine described these as “programmatic accounts – programs that generate money and then have expenses related to the actual operation of that program.”

The main motion passed, 216-1, with two abstentions.

Moderator praises work of Session 9

Following the revolving-fund vote, Christiana noted that “was the seventh article that we have disposed of this evening. Other than the consent agenda, seven articles in one evening is tied for the most articles we’ve disposed of in an evening” in the 2022 meeting.

He called up Article 28, the first of several zoning bylaws. Rachel Zsembery, chair of the Arlington Redevelopment Board, introduced a video on the enhanced business district motion.   

Charlie Foskett (10) moved to adjourn, and Town Meeting ended through a show of hands.

Next meeting, May 25

The meeting adjourned until Wednesday, May 25, and will continue discussion on Article 28. The “tranche” of zoning articles covers articles 28-45.

Read details in notes by Christian Klein (10) >> He wrote: "Now that we are into zoning, we are likely to slow up again. I hope we can resist the temptation to get slogged down."

Town Meeting background

The warrant containing all articles and associated documents is here >>

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).

Updates to annotated warrant

Article 17: Statement by Deanna Graham, Precinct 16
Article 38: Letter by Steve McKenna, resident, shared by Laura Fuller, Precinct 11
Article 38: Letter by Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 50: Q&A by Adam Auster, Precinct 3 

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. 

Lastly, I want to remind everyone about the 48-hour rule for submitting subsidiary motions (typically motions to amend and motions to substitute). In order to provide your fellow Town Meeting Members with ample time and opportunity to fully prepare for each Article, substitute motions and substantial amendments to motions must be submitted electronically to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..us, the Town Clerk at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and Town Counsel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at least 48 hours in advance of the commencement of the session in which the Article is expected to be considered and debated — please include all three recipients on the same email; if email is not an option, please call me at 781-819-2781 to make alternative arrangements. I may allow exceptions to this advance filing requirement in cases of motions that are short, clear, concise and easy to understand, but such exceptions are within my exclusive discretion as moderator. 


Town Meeting information at town website | YourArlington Town Meeting information


This news announcement was published Monday, May 23, 2022, and updated May 25, to add a full summary by Melanie Gilbert.

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