UPDATED, Feb. 25: The Select Board heard comments about 10 citizen warrant-article proposals on Monday, Feb. 22, to be voted on at the annual Town Meeting in April. Seven advanced, and three got votes of no action.
Article 12: Bylaw Amendment/Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day
“Columbus Day” is to be renamed “Indigenous Peoples Day,” as unanimously supported by the Select Board.
This article, requested by the Arlington Human Rights Commission, celebrates and recognizes the heritage of the indigenous peoples to Massachusetts and Arlington.
Board member Len Diggins initially suggested keeping Columbus Day and celebrating indigenous peoples for a month. “I don’t like to take things away; I like to add on,” he said.
However, Human Rights Commission Cochair Drake Pusey, and Rajeev Soneja, committee member, support replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. “Native Americans were devastated by Columbus. Celebrating both holidays is inhumane,” said Soneja.
Arlington resident Lynette Martyn also supports the name change. “Not keeping Columbus Day means the town recognizes the history, and is making changes to honor our indigenous people.”
Article 13: Bylaw Amendment/Adding Juneteenth Independence Day to Holidays
Juneteenth Independence Day is to become an annual holiday―celebrating the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when African-Americans in Texas first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing U.S. slaves, passed more than two years earlier.
The date is not yet a federal holiday, but in 2007, Massachusetts became the 25th state to formally recognize the holiday.
Requested by the Arlington Human Rights Commission, the article was unanimously approved by the board.
“This is one of the most important days in our history, which many people don’t know about,” said board Chair John Hurd.
Elizabeth Dray, a Precinct 8 Town Meeting member, added, “It’s an important holiday that needs to be celebrated.”
Article 78: Resolution/Tree Canopy as a Public Health Resource
Arlington’s tree canopy is to be recognized as a public health resource, as supported by the board, 4-1 (Diggins voted “no”).
A tree canopy provides multiple health benefits, including cleaner air and climate resiliency. It also preserves the character and aesthetic appearance of the town, and maintains its quality of life and environment.
Article proponent and Precinct 9 meeting member Beth Melofchik said, “We seek to raise awareness in Arlington on the importance of our tree canopy, and its role in reducing greenhouse gasses and helping the community’s health. People need access to green spaces.”
Hurd said, “Our tree canopy is important.”
Precinct 9 meeting member Mona Mandal said, “Trees are our biggest resource to fight climate change.”
Resident Carl Wagner said, “Once a tree canopy, open space and wetlands is lost, it’s never regained. This article doesn’t cost anything, yet could cost residents their fresh air.”
Precinct 11 meeting member Lynette Culverhouse said, “I’m concerned about climate change and the effect on our planet. Trees freshen our air, provide shade on hot days and play a valuable role in our ecosystem.”
Resident Laura Kiesel, an environmental-science journalist, said, “This is also an environmental-justice issue, and we need to put this in the forefront of policy issues.”
Article 79: Resolution/Encouragement of Energy-Efficient and/or Sustainable-Energy Installations in Historic Districts
The board unanimously backed a nonbinding resolution to encourage the Arlington Historic Districts Commission to permit the installation of any solar panel, heat pump, or other energy-efficient technology that does not cause irreversible changes to historic features or materials of applicable structures.
Article proponent and Precinct 21 meeting member Susan Doctrow said, “I encourage Arlington to support sustainable energy that does not destroy local architecture. Energy projects should have high priority.”
Article 82: Resolution/Advanced Registration and Organization of Town Meeting Speakers
The board voted no action (4-1; Len Diggins voted “no”) on a proposal to have speakers—both proponents and opponents of Town Meeting articles—to register in advance of Town Meeting, to allow for the equal presentation of perspectives.
Inserted at the request of resident Barbara Thornton, a Precinct 16 meeting member, this resolution aims to strengthen the paths for active citizen engagement.
However, Town Moderator John Leone spoke against this article. “We don’t get people on a ‘secret’ list ahead of time. This will just add complexity to the town moderator’s role, and doesn’t do any justice to Town Meeting or democracy. We get a fair debate, both pros and cons. This is not the way to regulate Town Meeting more than it already is, which we regulate with a seven-minute time limit.”
Wagner concurred, in sharper terms: “"This is absolutely the worst attack on democracy in America and on local control that has ever existed in the known universe.”
James O’Conor, a Precinct 19 meeting member and assistant town moderator, added, “This goes too far. I hope we can find a better way to demonstrate representation.”
Article 83: Resolution/Protocols for Deliberative Collaboration in Town Government Initiated Citizen
The board voted no action (4-1; Diggins voted “no”) to have at least one member of each town-government-initiated citizen committee receive formal training or certification as a facilitator.
This resolution would help ensure that committees are a place where all members are respected, allowed to speak, are not intimidated and that agendas are developed that lead to productive outcomes. The resolution would also reassess the productivity and purpose of every committee at least once every five years to reauthorize the committee’s purpose and continuity, or limit the number of 10 town government-initiated committees to no more than seven per year.
Inserted at the request of Thornton, this article aims to strengthen the paths for active, productive citizen engagement.
Board member Steven DeCourcey said, “I’m not sure I’d provide a blanket resolution to support this.”
Resident Rebecca Gruber concurred, “Town Meetings are well run, and run into conflict on only a few occasions. Any effort to avoid discourse may discourage residents to join or even resign. This article could negatively impact one of Arlington’s greatest resources, our active volunteers.”
Article 84: Resolution/Formally Invite Arlington Housing Authority Representatives to Present to Town Meeting
The board unanimously approved no action on a resolution calling for the director of the Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) to be formally invited to present the AHA-proposed annual budget and other key initiatives to the Town Meeting as a regular, annual event.
Instead, the town moderator will receive the input.
Inserted at the request of Thornton, this article seeks to address Arlington’s housing problems.
“We don’t need a resolution for Town Meeting; they can be invited this year,” said Leone.
However, resident Kiesel said, “It’s a good idea to have the housing authority present at Town Meeting. It’s important to listen to tenants, and hear how their rents might be affected.”
Article 85: Resolution/Acknowledging Native Lands
The board unanimously approved celebrating and recognizing the indigenous peoples’ heritage to Massachusetts and Arlington by the reading of a land-acknowledgment statement at the beginning of all town public meetings, at the request of the Arlington Human Rights Commission.
Pusey suggested the announcement be read by a Select Board member and, if not, a member of Arlington Human Rights Commission.
Article 86: Resolution/Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day
The board unanimously supported celebrating and recognizing the indigenous peoples’ heritage to Massachusetts and Arlington by encouraging the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day throughout the town and on the second Monday in October, at the request of the Arlington Human Rights Commission.
Article 89: Resolution/Prince Hall Day
The board unanimously backed honoring Prince Hall, an 18th-century abolitionist, Revolutionary War era civil rights leader and founder of African-American Freemasonry.
Article proponent Melofchik said, “Prince Hall believed in democracy. He petitioned to end slavery and demonstrated that black lives matter. It’s time to declare June 24 Prince Hall Day, and I hope to support a speaker series and in school curricula.”
Hurd said, “Prince Hall is a worthy person to recognize.”
Precinct 19 Town Meeting member Elaine Crowder said, “His legacy has relevance to our community. He was a spiritual leader and abolitionist before the Civil War. He was a patriot.”
Town Counsel Doug Heim will work with Melofchik on the resolution’s wording, to later bring to the board.
See the ACMi video of the Feb. 22 meeting:
Feb. 12, 2021: Curro resigns from board 2 months early
This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert was published Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, and updated Feb. 25, and then March 4, to add ACMi video window.