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Discussion continues about where a town-supported Black Lives Matter banner might hang in Arlington.
The banner hung in front of Town Hall from June 8 to Sept. 30, partly in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May. After many in town wanted to see it returned, Town Meeting discussed an article about the matter in December. An amended motion was adopted, 166-34, with 38 abstaining.
At its Jan. 4 meeting, Select Board unanimously agreed to keep discussing the banner. It received a Dec. 30 memo from Board Vice Chair Joe Curro Jr. and board member DeCourcey, which recommends:
- Developing a policy “incorporating the longstanding precedent of displaying banners and other symbols and adornments on Town Hall in a temporary, recurring manner, in conjunction with specific observances, events, or town initiatives, and in a way that respects the shared nature of public space.”
- Customizing “any Black Lives Matter banner with the seal of the town and any additional language clarifying this as a statement of values, rather than an endorsement of a particular organization.”
- Prioritizing “the annual display of a newly customized Black Lives Matter banner from a date in January preceding the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Observance and continuing through the February observance of Black History Month.
- “Continuing to hear public comment about what other steps Arlington could take to reflect the spirit of these actions.”
No plan shaped yet
DeCourcey said, “We haven’t developed a plan. This is in response to discussions last summer and fall, and Town Meeting. It’s not a proposal for a permanent banner at Town Hall; this is open for discussion.”
Board member Len Diggins said: “We need to determine how we use public property to hang banners. There’s no reason to think we won’t find ourselves in a similar position to where we were in September,” when the BLM banner was taken down, and residents complained.
“I have no confidence that we’d stick to a policy because the pressures will come back. I’m in favor of the first and third list items, and recommend doing something bold―such as hang it across a street―so that people really see it,” he said
Mahon said, “Until now, the only banners displayed at Town Hall announced Town Day (a community event) and a strawberry festival hosted by the high school music department. Town Hall shouldn’t display a banner 12 months of the year.”
Hurd recommends hanging the banner to show that Arlington affirms that Black Lives Matter.
“We’ve had many discussions on this and lots of public input,” he said. “Last fall, it came time to come up with a permanent plan for the banner in response to public input. We decided to go through our Special Town Meeting, and let the members weigh in on the subject.
“I would consider that vote among other competing considerations. It’s incumbent upon us now to come up with a plan. We’ve received enough input that we can come to a consensus to take action and have some sort of permanent plan to push for the statement of Black Lives Matter. We need to resolve this and move forward. Perhaps hang on flag pole at Uncle Sam Plaza.”
The Select Board unanimously approved receipt of a presentation by marijuana retailer Calyx Peak, which seeks to open a retail store at 25 Summer St. Arlington has one remaining host agreement/permit available for a marijuana retailer.
Last year, several offers were presented to the Select Board, including Calyx Peak, which the Select Board did not approve in October. Read about this here >>
“Since then, Calyx Peak has done community outreach, and want to present what, if any, progress they’ve made,” Hurd said.
In a memo to the board, Calyx Peak Chief Executive Officer Ed Schmults wrote that in response to previous board comments, “Calyx Peak engaged with a traffic engineering firm to study . . . traffic concerns . . . and began to reach out to the community for their feedback. Calyx Peak believes these steps were critical to address feedback from the Select Board and to properly address any impacts to the community.”
Mahon said, “I’m not inclined to have a mini-host community agreement meeting after we’ve already made a decision. This process sets a precedent that when we take a vote that does not get approved, it could be a way to circumvent the process.
“The host community agreement is not open now; when it’s open, that’s when Calyx Peak should present more in-depth information. There are other issues than just traffic queuing.
“I encourage all applicants to whom we didn’t grant a license to wait until the board opens the application and everyone follows the same process, and not approve or consider this back-door approach.”
Town Counsel Doug Heim and Mahon have been asked to clarify the process going forward.
Board to name police study panel member
The board unanimously agreed to designate a Select Board member to the town’s Police Civilian Advisory Board Study Committee.
This vote allows for a designee, not an appointment, clarified Town Counsel Heim.
“The designee would be an administrative person who would schedule the first meeting, concurrent with past practice, and we designate [Select Board Administrator] Marie Krepelka. Voting members will subsequently vote for each other. Either Krepelka or someone from the Select Board will continue on, with no voting oversight after the first meeting,” explained .Mahon.
Youth art banners in Center this spring
This April and May, look for colorful banners hanging in the Center along Mass. Ave. Sponsored by the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Youth Banner Initiative, as it has since 2016, will display teen student artwork expressing the theme “protest,” as unanimously approved by the Select Board.
The banners were initially scheduled to hang through June, but board members were more comfortable with an April 1-to-May 31 time frame.
“I’m concerned about the month of June, which celebrates Pride Month and (potentially) Arlington High School graduation,” said Board member Steve DeCourcey.
See the ACMi video of the Jan. 4 meeting:
This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.
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