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 Members scuttle move toward potential sale of small wooded parcel 

A major step toward possibly allowing Arlington residents ages 16 and 17 to vote in future municipal elections prevailed May 8 at Town Meeting -- a session that included five Special Town Meeting articles including a vote  for "no action" on a proclamation for ceasefire on Gaza, as previously reported.

Article 22 of regular annual Town Meeting was the final matter considered, with the vote coming at about 10:45 p.m.

After a presentation by proponent Sophie Shen, finishing her junior year at Arlington High School and in the age group involved, and hearing from meeting members in favor, opposed and some who simply asked questions, the vote was 161 for, 49 con and with four abstaining.

This action authorizes a request to the Arlington Select Board to file a home-rule petition with the state Legislature, which will have the final say at a date yet to be determined. Should this petition succeed, the town would need to set up a separate list of teen voters for town-only questions.

Cites evidence

Shen, presenting her argument along with a slideshow she had created, told the crowd that the plan is supported by "compelling scientific evidence" and would boost civic education/engagement among youth. She said that similar plans have been adopted or at least are under serious consideration near and far -- in Cambridge, Somerville and Boston, and internationally in Argentina, Austria, Cuba, Norway and Scotland.

In response to an audience query, Shen said that -- extrapolating from both public-school enrollment and U.S. census data -- the plan would potentially affect approximately 800 local youth.

Supporters seemed in accord with Shen's argument, saying such things as that if teens are capable of driving, they are capable of voting; that, on the whole, expansion of liberties is a societal good; and that youth have a special ability to  perceive issues with untainted eyes. Opponents cited teens' general lack of experience with working, budgets, taxes and other matters that might come before the electorate; their overall relative emotional immaturity; and privacy concerns for minors given that the separate teen-only voting list would be a matter of public record subject to discovery, as Town Counsel Michael Cunningham acknowledged when questioned.

Plan to facilitate sale of lot falls

Special Town Meeting Article 4 had advocated for allowing the town -- which then would have needed further support from the Arlington School Committee, specifically a "surplus" declaration -- to dispose of a small wooded parcel. It is small, unusually shaped and considered unbuildable and is on the northerly side of Acton Street in Arlington Heights very near Ottoson Middle School, a preschool and St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox church, which itself often hosts public events.

 After extended discussion, the proposal failed, with 79 yes votes, 137 no votes and five abstaining.

Half a dozen opponents said that it would be better to leave it "under the custody, care and control of the school department," to remain in its wooded state with no structures, on environmental/recreational grounds and because the immediate neighborhood is already congested with traffic especially when classes are in session. Some who were not necessarily opponents asked how much the town could expect to realize from any eventual sale, what would be done with the money and the details of how any such transaction would be handled and received no definitive answers.

In other business: 

Special Town Meeting articles 1, 2 and 3 passed earlier in the evening. They were, respectively, to receive a written report from the Arlington Select Board; to refine procedures concerning membership of the Poet Laureate Screning Committee; and to formally adopt the map -- as required by the state attorney general -- of the MBTA Communities multi-family development overlay district previously approved by Special Town Meeting in October 2023.

Special Town Meeting on Wednesday was voted dissolved at about 10 p.m.

Town Meeting is set to resume at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 15. 

Watch ACMi video of session:
Resources/background about TM 

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 Tuesday, May 14, 2024.