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Treasurer discussion to resume tonight

UPDATED, May 1: A Special Town Meeting on Wednesday, April 26, supported waiting 14 months to see how the state acts on recreational-marijuana rules and backed "the other piece of the puzzle" on zoning bylaws affecting property and homes built there.

After the break, the second session of the annual meeting resumed with pithy discussion of limits on plastic bags, which the meeting cast an overwhelming vote in favor, 188-21. A Pride Commission, to support those in the LGBTQIA+ community, drew an even stronger vote, 189-12.

Discussion of the article seeking to have the town treasurer become an appointed position spurred familiar factions and was continued until Monday, May 1. A plan to study the use of surveillance tachnologies in town (read a related story at Cambridge Day) has received no action, but the article about parking-benefits districts was to be discussed.

Long-term actions, quotable comments

Apart from the actions of local democracy that will have a lasting impact on the town -- that is, the reason the majority here favor remaining a town -- the evening was one of notable quotes.

One emerged as Article 1 (Open-space definitions) was heard. Elizabeth Pyle (10) and Steve McKenna of the Residential Study Group (RSG) said the measure works with the already passed Article 8 to remedy housing-design issues by not allowing a bigger envelope and permitting the longest dimension of open space to be smaller.

Commenting on those seeking to discourage the garage-under design, Joe Tully (14) eyed simplicity. "Why not ban the garage-under?" he asked, admitting that the verb he used was likely a "dirty word."

Redevelopment Board Chair Andrew Bunnell said the RSG talked to many, and some still wanted versions of the design, so article was a compromise.

Proponents said reducing usable open space from 25 to 20 feet in one direction for new single- and two-family homes would allow owners to get more living space.

One doubter was Carl Wagner (11): "If you vote yes, you have to call it what it is -- allowing housing to get bigger."

Later, Dan Jalkut (6) doubted that fear, noting that homes still must be built within a property's envelope.

Zach Grunke (13) asked whether the measure would speed pace of tear-downs. Michael Byrne, inspectional-services chief, said he did not think so.

Moratorium 'madness'

Moving to Article 2 (Recreational-marijuana moratorium), discussion had its share of quotes, including a lengthy screed by Patricia Worden (8).

Essentially, the town seeks more time, until June 30, 2018, to consider what regs to put in place, given the state's slow-down approach after voters approved the matter last November.

Meeting member took varying tacks.

Michael Ruderman (9) offered an amendment to have the moratorium expire as late as possible to ensure the town adopts suitable zoning amendments. "This is a vexing issue," he said. "After many hours of discussion, we are not there yet."

Stephen Revilak (1), who voted in favor of legalization last November and said he is not a fan of prohibition, asked whether we can establish rules to sell in town.

Town Counsel Doug Heim said the town could, noting that the state Cannabis Control Commission has yet to form, so he has not basis for know what leeway the town has.

Chris Moore (14) asked whether Ruderman's amendment is legal, because it appears to set an indefinite date. Heim said he thinks June 30, 2018, is the latest possible date.

Then came a tongue-lashing from Worden, who supported Ruderman's amendment. Her comments castigated the pot industry, broadening the discussion to include the already Redevelopment Board-endorsed Water Street medical-marijuana dispensary. They caused Moderator John Leone to cut her short twice. In his blog, Selectman Dan Dunn referred to the as "reefer madness," a reference to the 1936 film used to decry marijuana.

Paul Schlichtman (9) followed with, "Well ...," which drew laughter. He backed the moratorium "This gives us time to make policy next spring," he said, adding that it gives "us time to act within silliness on Beacon Hill."

John Ellis (3) offered the quote of the night: "The downside of this moratorium is that next year at Town Meeting the girls' tennis team will still be selling only traditional brownies."

By 44-167-1, the amendment failed. The moratorium passed, 161-51-2.

STM articles 3-5

Al Tosti, Finance Committee chairman, moved to postpone Articles 3 (Hardy capital budget) and 4 (Ex-Gibbs renovation) to Wednesday, May 3, so the meeting can address all finance articles in one evening.

For Article 5 (Transfer of special-education funds), the meeting voted in favor, 211-2-1.

It was in the bag ...

Following a 12-minute break, the regular spring meeting resumed with Article 17 (Plastic bags). Jim DiTullio (12), a sponsor, said one number stands out, 1 million. That is the number of plastic bags used in Arlington monthly, he said, adding a statewide ban looms, a handful of town retailers are opposed and many supported it.

He opposed to Schlichtman's amendment, because the measure is hard to institute in such stores as CVS where some products are paper.

John Leonard (17) offered what he said was a point of order, but Leone called it debate. He told Leonard to "get in line" to ask a question.

Annie LaCourt (15) expressed her support, saying the article puts the cost of bags where it should be, with those people using them.

After Schlichtman's amendment failed, 12-193-3, the main motion for a ban at the point of sale at town retail establishments was approved, 188-21.

Supporter Laura Kiesel says large stores have until next March to comply. Small stores have until July 2018.

Consent agenda, Pride

Leone raised the consent agenda, routine matters that members still can challenge. Several articles were held for discussion. Approved were articles 20, 28, 35, 37, 42, 43, 46, 47, 50, 54, 55, 57 and 60. The vote was 190-3-3.

Discussion of Article 15 (Pride Commission) gave Mel Goldsipe (20), of the Human Rights Commission, an opportunity to describe how it would help those with a rainbow of difference among us.

Greg Christiana (15), offering a personal story, expressed support was in favor of it.

Joe Monju (17) was not, citing costs and duplication Human Rights Commission functions. "You can be against this and not be a bigot," he said.

Only 12 voted against the article.

Appraisals

Article 18 (Appraisal of town property) was adopted. It requires the town to determine the value of real-property interest before disposing of it by using procedures customarily accepted as valid by the appraising profession, including hiring an appraiser at the town's discretion.

John Worden (8) moved to strike the option of using an appraiser and make it required, and Brian Rehrig (8) opposed it, part because the appraisal might cost more than the transaction.

The amendment lost, 24-176. The article was approved, 198-5.

Treasurer: Appoint, elect?

Consideration of Article 19 (Appointment of treasurer) raised an issue that an oldie but a goodie.

That matter was an issue fraught with controversy on 2012, when Steve Gilligan was treasurer and offered mighty resistance to changing the position from elected, as a state Department of Revenue report had suggested. Then the argument was often made that such a change would undercut the will of the voters.

LaCourt, who backed the change at the time, when she was a selectman, continued her support. It has taken 10-plus years for the treasurer's office to use the same software as the rest of the town because the treasurer need not cooperate, she said.

Saying she is totally self-taught in finance, she said she considered running for treasurer this year. She called the view that making the job appointed is taking a right away from voters a "sham."

Selectman Joseph Curro said the statewide trend is to make the position appointed, adding the only three other municipalities of Arlington's size elect a treasurer. Newly elected Treasurer Dean Carmen has been delegating parts of his position to his deputy, Michael Morse.

Opposed were Bill Hayner (2), who prefers a one-year delay before making a change, and Ruderman, who had a slide show that include empty slides, indicating the lack of a plan from selectmen.

Eric Helmuth (12) asked about the impact of waiting a year on the matter. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine a number of bylaw adjustments would be needed. Waiting "wouldn’t be a deal breaker," he said.

Favoring the change, Helmuth said the risk of not knowing who might stand for election to treasurer "is not a risk I am willing to take with my money."

Read a summary about the April 26 session by Selectman Dan Dunn | Paul Schlichtman's scorecard | Christian Klein's blog >>

Summary of session No. 1: Zoning articles pass

Town Meeting is broadcast live on local broadcast and live-streamed on acmi.tv >>


2017 warrant |  Substitute motions | Reports to 2017 Town Meeting:
Board of Selectmen
Finance Committee
Redevelopment Board
Capital Planning
Treasurer
Permanent Town Building Committee
Community Preservation Committee
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
Master Plan Implementation Committee

2016 Annual Report

March 28, 2017: AG's threat on immigration would not affect Arlington
Published first Jan. 29, 2017: Citizen articles: plastic bags, marijuana, surveillance
Election candidates, openings
Statements from candidates posted to the School Enrollment Parent Group (Facebook)

Opinion, March 29, 2017: Rise of local social media driving politics

This news summary was published Wednesday, April 26, and updated April 27, with a full summary. An update May 1 added three links.