Town Meeting logo 9 remaining articles handled before annual phenomenon goes dark

 "If there is a Higher Power, please let it have mercy on us and let this be the final night [of the 2024 annual Town Meeting]," said Town Moderator Greg Christiana at 8:03 p.m. May 20. He said this shortly after opening what was the eighth and final spring session.

It dealt with the nine outstanding articles and wrapped up in slightly more than 90 minutes, at 9:38 p.m., making it the shortest by far of the eight sessions.

Article 55; Money approved to study Fox matter

Library Director Anna Litten presented a slide show on Article 55 and spoke about "A new future for the Fox," meaning the heavily used branch library in East Arlington. It may be torn down and rebuilt later this decade, pending funding availability, to provide better service -- and to possibly have affordable rental-housing units built atop it. She stressed that Town Meeting approval of Article 55 was needed to keep the project alive.

Carl Wagner of Precinct 15 said he supports the general concept of a new and better Fox but asked about any involvement of private development and said he was "concerned that the town has a huge deficit coming up."

Town officials say the money for the feasibility/design study is to have three sources: a $75,000 state grant; $75,000 from the town's general fund; and a final $75,000 to be raised by the library's boosters -- a plan recommended by the town Finance Committee. Annie LaCourt (13) spoke to support it, calling it a "small step down a path" and saying that "We leave money on the table if we do not pass this article now." The vote at 8:30 p.m. was 178 in favor, six opposed, with no abstentions.

Article 56: Change to standard for some investments

Going counter to Fincom's recommendation on Article 56, Town Meeting voted to adopt a different guideline for investing trust funds -- a small portion of the town's overall money. Fincom had earlier voted to recommend no action, saying that the town's investment policy ought be formally updated first, and with greater oversight added -- and that a revised article should be brought instead to a future Town Meeting.

Select Board Chair Stephen DeCourcey, supporting the article's passage immediately, said that only 22 stocks, of which one is in the technology sector, are eligible for investment -- a list dating from 2008 and, in his view, "obsolete." The standard has been the Massachusetts Legal List.

Town Treasurer-Collector Julie Wayman also backed the the article's recommendation, to switch to a different standard -- the Uniform Prudent Investor Act -- saying that the money could be invested "safely and strategically." She added, "I am not talking about General Fund money." Rather, it is from three trust funds totaling $28 million, she said.

Fincom Chair Christine Deshler made her appeal for restraint on behalf of her entire committee. She said it would be better to "engage in a thoughtful, unrushed process. Why don't we just wait?" she said, "if we are contemplating taking on riskier investments?"

Half a dozen others also spoke; ultimately, the vote at 9 p.m. was 137 yes votes, 39 no votes and five abstentions.

Article 66: Resolution for better public transportation

Paul Schlichtman (9) was the proponent of the ultimately successful Article 66 -- albeit one opposed by an equally well-known local leader -- demanding better public transportation for Arlington. "We are here [as meeting members] to make a difference -- to make this a better town. We are building a more transit-oriented community -- we are just missing the [adequate level of] transit." Arlington has lost stops for three bus routes, the 67, the 79 and the 84; and the stalwart Route 77 along Mass. Ave. also comes far less often than before the Covid-19 pandemic. All these routes are part of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or MBTA.

Schlichtman supported an amendment to his article by Eugene Benson (10) delineating in greater detail the reduction in service to Arlington; Benson spoke briefly.

However, Lenard Diggins (3) had previously voted against recommending favorable action at Select Board -- and took the same position at Town Meeting. He noted that he is a member of the town's Transportation Advisory Committee and has been on other transportation agencies for decades. He said, "What can look like simple solutions" to problems can appear different when approached from the other side of the table, that is to say, in overall, statewide context. "We need to cooperate and collaborate -- it's a necessity."

He noted that Arlington is only one of many dozens of municipalities served by the MBTA, that transportation needs elsewhere may be greater and that it may not currently be possible for Arlington to get what it wants. Diggins said that it would be far better for town leaders to, instead, compose and send a letter to the MBTA expressing appreciation for past/current service and to offer to work with that entity concerning improvements locally.

Benson's amendment was approved, with 152 yes votes, 13 no votes and five abstentions. The thus-amended article passed at 9:30 p.m. with 155 yes votes, nine no votes and 12 abstentions.

Resources/background 

Also disposed of at the eighth and final TM session on May 20, 2024: The relatively noncontroversial Article 3, Article 54Article 57Article 59, Article 64  and Article 65.

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.

Watch ACMi video of session 8:

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

YourArlington's summary of 2024 Town Meeting information

Blog of Steve Revilak with play-by-play of Town Meeting 2024 


This news summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer was published late Monday, May 27, 2024.