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  • School vision logo

    New school year -- old educational questions

    Education. We pretend it begins for youngsters in September, when the leaves turn, but it continues through all of our season, every minute of every day, for everyone. Learning persists for two reasons -- human curiosity and technological change (you can't stop either one, but notice which is first). Shouldn't a third factor be classroom teachers? Good ones can have a lifelong effect, but our curiosity is the best guide, as technology draws us, often in too many directions, in the classroom that is everywhere. As Arlington schools open Tuesday, Sept. 2, what happens there is sliver of the educational story, albeit a key one for residents. Still, let's take a quick look at the new school year -- and then peer more broadly beyond it. ...

  • Pondering Our Future logo

    Spaced out? Many artists, but resistant owners

    Does Arlington have the imagination to embrace co-working? The town is trying to find out and held a forum in June attended by about 30 people. Read a summary of comments from some of the attendees here >>  See what properties in town may be available here >> Following publication, Eric Love, present at the forum, provided a brief critique. His LARP Adventure Program, aims to spur imaginations. ...

  • Arlington election logo

    Primary letters -- all welcome -- 8 ask you to vote for Berwick

    YourArlington welcomes letters to the editor from Arlington residents for all Massachusetts candidates whose election would have an impact on the town. Email them to sprague.bob at gmail.com. Here are eight supporting Don Berwick, who is seeking to be the Democratic nominee after the Sept. 9 primary. Send letters supporting any candidate in the primary. 'It's not just talk' Don Berwick, Democratic candidate for governor, speaks boldly about values and making Massachusetts a beacon for the nation. It’s not just talk -- he has met bold goals throughout his career.  Don is a creative leader with wise judgment and deep executive experience in complex bureaucracies, including as President Obama’s head of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, that vast $800 billion federal agency.  His vision includes single-payer healthcare for Massachusetts, and he is the one candidate who understands how to make that happen; and, why it must happen, as rising healthcare costs consume o ...

  • Film reviews logo

    Review, ‘Life of Crime’: Leonard’s crew back at shenanigans

    This review by Tom Meek, a writer living in Cambridge, was originally published at Cambridge Day, a YourArlington partner, and is republished with permission. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in The Boston Phoenix, The Rumpus, Thieves Jargon, Film Threat and Open Windows. He is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere. You can follow Tom on Twitter @TBMeek3 and read more at TBMeek3.wordpress.com. Elmore Leonard, the beloved master crime and western novelist, transcended seamlessly the divide between pulp and celluloid. His career is littered with great novels that became great movies (“Get Shorty,” “Jackie Brown” and “Out of Sight” to name a few), a smattering of original screenplays (“Joe Kidd”) and even took a few turns as producer. Cormac McCarthy might be his only peer. ...

  • Image of leaves

    Searching for an Arlington poet laureate: YOU?

    Are you a poet -- and you do know it? What have you written? Anything published? Inquiring minds want to know. Rumor has it that Arlington could have its own poet laureate, perhaps next year. Could that be you? ...

  • Arlington election logo

    8 ask you to vote for Berwick; letters for others welcome

    YourArlington welcomes letters to the editor from Arlington residents for all Massachusetts candidates whose election would have an impact on the town. Email them to sprague.bob at gmail.com. Here are eight supporting Don Berwick, who is seeking to be the Democratic nominee after the Sept. 9 primary. Only candidate to oppose casinos   I write in support of Don Berwick for governor. I support Don because he is the only candidate for governor opposed to casinos. In a strong field of likable candidates, this is decisive for me. I saw the Detroit casino pull the life out of the Greektown neighborhood there, so that it looked like a bombed out war zone. ...

  • Chris Loreti, former Redevelopment Board member

    Loreti to seek Town Meeting article targeting assessors' fiasco

    Loreti The following opinion column by Christopher Loreti of Adams Street was first published in The Arlington Advocate, on Aug. 14, under the headline "It’s Time to Professionalize Arlington’s Board of Assessors." The full column, which includes a paragraph about YourArlington deleted from The Advocate's version, is republished here with permission. In January 2012, the state Department of Revenue provided to Arlington a “Town and School Finance Analysis,” which included several recommendations for restructuring town government. The report contained two recommendations related to the Board of Assessors. The first of these recommendations was that the town make the director of assessments position an appointment of the Town Manager instead of the Board of Assessors. The second was that the town consider changing the Board of Assessors from an elected to an appointed board. The actions of the Board of Assessors in recent months make it clear that the town needs to move forward w ...

  • Domestic-violence logo

    New law curbs domestic-violence reports: What about sexual-assault case?

    A new law, signed Aug. 8 by Governor Patrick, requires law enforcement to keep domestic-violence cases off public police logs initially, and the Arlington police department is complying. That means details about domestic violence reported to police are not immediately available to the media -- or to you. Had the law been in effect June 1, information about a sexual-assault case in East Arlington would have been delayed. Chief Fred Ryan reached out to area media outlets Aug. 12, alerting them about the law and asking for feedback. He explained: ...

  • 2014 Arlington Cal Ripken champs

    How about honoring this team, Arlington?

    The Arlington National U12 All-Stars baseball team did not win the 2014 Cal Ripken World Series, but the boys had one doozy of a ride. They had four wins in a row until they ran into a then-unbeaten Bronx squad and a heartbreaking, double come-from-behind 7-6 loss to a Florida team. No need to cry. What the team has done is remarkable. The town should recognize their on-the-diamond accomplishments, just as occurred in 2008, when an Arlington Cal Ripken team went to the Series. There was a parade down Mass. Ave. Officials spoke on the steps at Town Hall. It was August then, as it is now. You can read brief summaries about how the 2014 team played out in the Series here >> This is a story that The Advocate or Patch have yet to report. In the photo from left in rear are manager John Messuri, Coach Scott Jones, Spencer Friedman, James Santagati, Brendan Jones, Sam Theodore, Timothy Mazzei, Patrick Masci, Coach Rich Flynn; in front are Timothy Shaw, Jacob Ahern, Caden FitzPa ...

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 Tuesday Sept. 2, 2014 |  2:43:02 a.m.
Paid advertisement

Vote no flier, landscapers, June 2012Vote-no flier on pole in East Arlington in June.

Landscaper blows leaves with a gas-powered unit


This report focuses on the issues behind the push to vote no on the leaf-blower bylaw. A separate story about those favoring the bylaw was published July 11.


For Arlington landscapers, it's summertime and the livin' is ... hard. Long, hot days directing international crews wielding rakes, brooms, mowers and leaf blowers.

This summer is harder: Add the pressure of a special election, set for July 19.

The odds are long for landscapers. For an estimated 29,000 registered voters, turnout will have to be significantly higher than is typical for a town election for a vote to succeed. In the last 11 town elections, excluding overrides, the turnout has averaged a little over 22 percent. For overrides, the turnout is almost 49 percent. See the charts below. 

The Arlington Landscape Association seeks 6,000 no votes, a number it believes will be enough to repeal a town bylaw aimed at banning leaf blowers on private property between May 15 and Oct. 15.

To finance the effort, the group raised $11,225 and spent $10,559, according to a campaign-finance report filed July 11. Joe Kerble, its treasurer, said June 28 the group was aiming for $10,000.

 


Globe, July 8: Do bans work?


View of landscape business owner

"It was not well thought out," said Joseph Cusce Jr., referring to the bylaw Town Meeting passed May 14 in a 95-85 vote.

In an interview June 25 at the small Ryder Street office where he runs Black Diamond Landscapes, Cusce said: "If leaf blowers are banned -- what next? Push mowers? Snow plows? Will we make senior citizens shovel their driveways?"

Joseph Cusce Jr.Joseph Cusce Jr., owner of Black Diamond Landscapes:
Election gives voice to residents.

The 34-year-old who was wearing a black T-shirt sporting his company's logo and who has owned Black Diamond for 11 years, maintained that the Board of Selectmen had forced his organization "into a corner."

At its May 21 meeting, selectmen voted to support the right of landscapers to pursue a special election. The board also rejected, 1-4, a motion by Chairman Kevin Greeley to add a nonbinding ballot question on the issue to next spring's town election. Greeley was the lone supporter.

Landscapers say a special election was their last, best option, and so they pursued it with fervor. With just days to collect the required 854 signatures of registered voters, landscape interests drew a total of about 1,400, Cusce said.

It is not known how many of these signatures are by those connected to landscape businesses, but Cusce estimated Arlington has about 20 such businesses, and he made clear "quick backlash" following the May 14 Town Meeting vote was from a broad spectrum of residents.

Election gives residents a voice

Cusce said the special election gives residents to have a voice on this issue and to exercise their power beyond that of their representatives in Town Meeting.

George Laite, long a political activist in Arlington and who represented the landscapers before the selectmen May 21 as a private citizen, agreed. "Voters are more sacred," he said in a separate interview June 25.

He noted that the tradition of giving Voters the right to override legislative bodies dates to 1780, when the state Constitution, drafted by John Adams

How many will use this sacred opportunity? Laite called getting out the vote "a formidable task."

Effort bucks long odds on no vote 

Here's why: Under state law, the special election will be held on a weekday -- and not just any, but a midsummer Thursday, when many may be on vacation, though absentee ballot are already coming in.

Voting hours will be fewer than is a regular town election, from 2 to 8 p.m.

To improve their chances, the landscapers expect to provide about 200 lawn signs. Against a green background, the white letters urge a no vote.

The landscapers began advertising their cause in local media in June, and they are pushing their messages via a website (http://arlingtonlandscapeassociation.com/) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/ArlingtonLandscapeAssociation).

Key issues pushing both sides

Asked about the key issues driving both sides of those involved in the special election, Cusce provided thumbnail sketches of each from his group's perspective:

  • Noise: All leaf blowers that town landscapers fall well below the 85-decibel limit required under current bylaws, he said.

He said trucks are noisier, particularly Dumpsters. "You know," he said, "You hear them bouncing down the street."

He said he was told by the town's Department of Health that if noise were an issue, it would have already been addressed via citations. Christine Connelly, head of town health and human services, has been asked to comment.

  • Emissions: "Lots of things produce worse emissions," he said, citing cars, buses and motorcycles.

He said data produced at Town Meeting "was over 10 years old" and that the technology behind leaf blowers "has come a long way."

"What about street sweepers?" he asked. "Don't those kick up dust and dirt?"

  • Fairness: "Why does the bylaw let those on public property off the hook?" he asked. "Why the double standard?"

"Other municipalities are watching us," he said.

They include Brookline, where a partial ban similar to the one here took effect in June. Brookline Town Meeting passed the measure last fall. 

Referring to such a ban, he said Marblehead "shot it down." That occurred in June, according to Boston.com

In May, Framingham Town Meeting turned back by a wide margin an attempt for a total ban on leaf blowers. 

Economic impact cuts two ways

The economic consequence of the election is an issue that Cusce did not directly address, but Laite did.

He cited the recent recession, the worst since the Great Depression, saying the leaf-blower bylaw adversely affects the income of primarily blue-collar workers. In winter, many landscapers plow, and last winter's lack of snow provided few opportunities.

Curtailing months when leaf blowers can be used, he said, will likely result in higher costs to consumers or less income for landscapers.

The election's other economic impact is its cost -- an estimated $25,000 to $30,000. Weighed against the cost of a Special Town Meeting, $5,000 to $6,000, the public may well ask why landscapers did not take that route.

Laite said that during his discussion with landscapers about the options they could pursue, including a Special Town Meeting, he was of a "mixed mind" about this and thought "it might have made sense to go another route."

Given the options he presented, he said the landscapers chose to seek a special election. "The main question landscapers asked," he said, "is: Why can't we vote?"

Laite sees the landscapers' involvement, mainly by political newcomers, positively. "They are actually taking an active role" in their government, he said.

View would have Special Town Meeting later

Kerble, the group's treasurer, who operates Brothers Lawn Service, provided his perspective July 1:

"The short answer is that we pursued the referendum approach mostly because of a timing issue. Our understanding is that the Board of Selectmen can call a Special Town Meeting [STM] at anytime without the need to collect signatures for either the meeting or for a warrant article.

"At this time, the Board of Selectmen have not called for a Special Town Meeting ....

"More to the point, we did not see the reason behind calling a STM before a referendum, since there has been no new information available to Town Meeting members to act on.

"If the referendum is favorable, a majority voting to overturn the ban, but fails to meet the required 20% hurdle, then that would be new information a special Town Meeting could act on.

"Along with the recommendations from the committee formed by the Board of Selectmen, consisting of all proponents of the ban and opponents to a ban, chaired by George Laite, this would be new information a Special Town Meeting could act upon in crafting a more acceptable bylaw in place of the seasonal ban."

Turnouts in 3 overrides

Sources: Town annual reports, town website

2003
14,529
27,699
52%
rejected
2005
13,683
28,573
48%
passed
2011
13,596
29,179
46.6%
passed
Average over
10 years
48.9%

Turnouts in annual town elections, 2002-2012

Sources: Town annual reports, town website

Year
No. voting
Registered voters
Percent turnout
2002
5,566
27,126
21%
2003
5,470
27,962
19.6%
2004
3,423
28,209
12%
2005
7,250
28,461
25%
2006
8,135
26,902
30%
2007
5,963
27,610
22%
2008
6,732
28,772
23%
2009
5,473
29,598
18%
2010
6,068
29,703
20%
2011 7,466 29,038 29.7%
2012
7,441
28,696
25.9%
Average over 11 years
 
22.4%

This story was first published Monday, July 2, 2012, and updated July 8 to include a link to a Globe story as well as July 11.

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