Town Meeting logo

UPDATED May 10: Town Meeting members in their concluding vote at the Wednesday, May 8, Special Town Meeting voted "no action" on Article 5, a resolution for a proclamation seeking an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza, release of all hostages and related provisions.

The vote, which needed a simple majority to be valid, came about 10 p.m. after half an hour's debate during which speakers made passionate arguments for their viewpoints.

Members voted 122 in favor, 88 opposed, with five abstaining, for a substitute motion put forth by Nora Mann of Precinct 20.  "It is a no-action vote -- I so declare it," said Town Moderator Greg Christiana immediately afterward.

Despite some apprehension that outbursts or other untoward behavior might be a possibility, members consistently maintained decorum, having been advised to do so earlier in the evening by Christiana, who simultaneously acknowledged that Article 5 was a "serious and challenging subject" with "potential for heightened emotions."

Mann offers reasons

Before the vote, Mann gave several reasons for having brought the substitute motion. "Our town is deeply divided," she said, concerning a "war being prosecuted" very far away -- and that it is "a issue dynamic, complicated and tragic" whose nuances deserve respect. She also said that the town's role, given this context, should be to rise above the divisions -- and that Town Meeting was not the right place to weigh in on international affairs.

Moreover, she said, "Being forced to take an up-or-down vote enforces a binary" and that by introducing a substitute motion, she sought to "to give voice to those Town Meeting members who might otherwise feel that they would need to abstain entirely."

The proclamation itself was referred to several times during the evening. Had Town Meeting adopted it, it was to have been sent to major American leaders from the president on down -- something that Town Clerk Juli Brazile told Christiana, in response to his question, that her office likely could have been accomplished within two weeks. The wording of the intended proclamation itself has not been widely publicized.

Earlier in the evening, Arlington Human Rights Commission member Rajeev Soneja had succeeded in adding a clause to the resolution; members voted for it 152 yes;  32, no; with 26 abstentions. The clause stated that actions by Hamas and the Israeli government ought not be regarded as reflecting the stance of Muslim, Jewish or any other individuals in Arlington or elsewhere. However, the success of Mann's substitute motion made even the amended original motion inactive.

The commission on April 24 voted 8-1 to endorse Article 5; in contrast, the Select Board on May 1 voted 5-0 for "no report," or not to take a position. The exact language, per this document, is "VOTED: That the Select Board report to Town Meeting without a recommended vote."

Backers gave perspective earlier

Soneja and David Fleig -- the latter one of the three article/resolution co-authors -- spoke briefly before the vote and strongly urged its passage. Taking more time to make their case were co-author Sarah McKinnon and the official proponent, Chadi Salamoun.

McKinnon, said ceasefire backers had demonstrated, signed petitions, written letters and called -- and, in some cases, even visited in Washington, D.C. -- local U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark and U.S. senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren but ultimately found that "nothing we could say would impact them." Her associates sought the "end of the humanitarian crisis" in Gaza and said "people did everything they could, checked every box." She said that Town Meeting "consistently votes on aspirational resolutions" and that "complex global problems are also complex local problems." She characterized backers' efforts as "intentional community building" and a "first step in healing."

Even more impassioned was Salamoun. He asked listeners, "What would you hope that a small town in Gaza would do for you?" were Arlington ever to find itself in a comparable situation of starvation, bloodshed and destruction. "What do we owe one another in times of deep moral crisis?" 

He said that "ignoring the problem is not the right path forward" and that a "yes" vote on the article would be to tell "Palestinian and Arab children that they do not walk alone." He agreed with McKinnon on the significance of resolutions generally and said the goal was to "seek to bring us together" in support of "human rights, human dignity."

More will be reported about session five.

Watch ACMi video of session:
Resources/background about Town Meeting 

 Local cable television station ACMi provides live coverage on cable (Comcast 22, RCN 614, Verizon 26) and streaming live at acmi.tv/govlive and also posted online on YouTube. The cable TV station also typically will rebroadcast each session multiple times.

The Town of Arlington has a link-heavy page specifically about Town Meeting. Among other things, it has a frequently updated link to the annotated warrant (a detailed and augmented list of the articles, most either submitted by a government official or advanced by a group of residents) and a "tracker" or or dashboard or specialized spreadsheet that is supposed to be kept up in real time.

There are guidelines and forms; downloadable templates for those for amending the original motion and for substituting an alternate version to the original motion; historical records of previous Town Meetings; and ways to see emails, updates and announcements.


Town Meeting 2024's main link on the Town of Arlington website 

YourArlington  summary of 2024 Town Meeting information


This news summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer was published early Thursday, May 9, 2024, and updated May 10, to add ACMi video window and to provide the exact language of the Select Board's May 1 vote.