The Select Board heard comments about eight warrant-article proposals on Monday, March 1, to be voted on at the annual Town Meeting in April. Five advanced, and three received votes of no action.
Article 80: Resolution/Facilities Department Report/Clarify Responsibilities, Track Progress of the Department of Facilities and Maintenance
The board unanimously voted no action on a resolution calling for the Facilities Department to provide semiannual achievement reports.
Barbara Thornton, resolution proponent and Precinct 16 Town Meeting member, recommended that the Select Board ask Arlington’s new director of facilities to provide two reports a year, to the Capital Planning Committee, describing the issues, and Select Board, six months later. These reports are to describe. past-year accomplishments and offer recommendations of interest to the Select Board.
The Capital Planning Committee report would go out in August, and the Select Board report in February. “The establishment of a database is critically important,” said Thornton, a past member of Capitol Planning.
“A semiannual report makes good sense,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.
“This article highlights the need for reporting and better communication with the Select Board,” said board Chair John Hurd.
Article 87: Resolution/Overnight Parking Waiver for Residents of Multi-Family Dwellings in Precinct 4 and Article 88: Resolution/ Resident Parking Program for Precinct 4
The board unanimously voted no action on both.
Resolution proponent Sylvia Dominguez, Precinct 4 meeting member, said, her precinct “is a parking lot for Alewife commuters, and I want to help my neighbors do better with this.”
She added: “Overnight parking is arbitrary. Some cars get ticketed, others don’t. With many two- and three-family houses, there are lots of cars, and the streets are full from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.”
Board member Dan Dunn said, “The solution proposed is expensive, but I hope we can come up with a creative solution, such as a pilot program.”
Board member Diane Mahon said, “I would love to do a pilot program. The challenge is getting at least two-thirds of the neighbors in a pilot program to sign the petition.”
Hurd said, “I look forward to future discussion about a pilot program, but I’m not sure we can do one for overnight parking. A pilot program might need a larger base than just Precinct 4. Overnight parking is a burden on residents and in a pandemic, people can’t move others’ cars because of social distancing.”
However, Precinct 4 resident Darcy Devney, a Sustainable Transportation Advisory Committee member, prefers to keep the overnight parking ban. “Eliminating the overnight parking ban puts more cars on the road. The ban is good idea, such as when we have snow.”
Devney and Sarah Osgood, another Precinct 4 resident, recommended a two-hour parking limit to handle the overspill of Alewife parking, as long as it doesn’t apply to residents.
Article 90: Resolution/Program to Install Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
The board unanimously supported a program to install electric vehicle charging stations throughout the town, along with adequate funding.
Dominguez, resolution proponent, said, “East Arlington has no charging station, which seems crazy given the density. The lots are small, and few people can charge at home.
“We’re aiming for NetZero 2050, and now Biden talks about 2035. Electric vehicle sales increase 30 percent each year, which will overwhelm the town at some point. I recommend grants to pay for these.”
Chapdelaine clarified that East Arlington does have an electric charging station, at the Gibbs School parking lot, available during nonschool hours.
“We haven’t spent a significant amount of money on these charging stations,” Chapdelaine said. “We’re trying not to get too far ahead of what our charging needs might be,” noting that dedicated spots can be used only for charging, not parking.
“I suggest that any financial concerns in the final resolution be addressed by the Capital Planning Committee and Finance Committee as to the availability of funds in the capital budget. NetZero 2050 has a goal to expand electric charging stations in town,” he added.
Board member Dan Dunn said, “I’m not comfortable with specifying East Arlington first, but the specification of locations should be equitable.”
Town Counsel Doug Heim will work with Dominguez to ensure her intentions are in agreement with the Select Board.
Article 91: Resolution/Declare Climate Emergency in the Town of Arlington
The board unanimously supported a resolution calling for a Declaration of Climate Emergency in which the town would take action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and encourage climate action.
Resolution proponent Parke Wilde said, “The issue of climate emergency is important. State and national actors can do great things, but Arlington can, too.
“Other towns, such as Boston, Acton, Wellesley and Lexington have already done great work on climate change. This would place Arlington in good company. We have a sense of urgency that will help the town promote NetZero 2050,” said Wilde.
Board member Len Diggins said, “I would like to see something concrete that Arlington can do.”
Resident John Burkhardt said, “We need to look at new information all the time. Scientists cannot predict the impact of rising CO2. The permafrost is melting 50 years ahead of schedule, yet the general public is in a state of collective denial. This is an existential threat to civilization, and we don’t have the situation under control.”
Article 6: Bylaw Amendment/CPAC Member Term Limits
The board unanimously supported amending the town bylaws to remove term limits for Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) at-large members, and replace it with a provision for member removal based upon a majority vote of the member’s appointing authority.
Chapdelaine said, “Many publicly appointed members are starting to move to the end of their term limits, and they have good institutional knowledge on how to manage funds, projects and processes. It’s worthy to extend or eliminate term limits, so we needn’t ask good people to leave.”
Eric Helmuth, CPAC chair concurred, “It takes one to two years for new members to come up to speed. It’s good to have institutional memory.”
Mahon said, “I approve this bylaw, but not binding it into perpetuity so we can make changes down the road.”
Article 15: Bylaw Amendment/Domestic Partnerships
The board unanimously supported amending the town bylaws to add a new provision to formally acknowledge domestic partnerships.
Guillermo Hamlin, Precinct 14 meeting member, said, “Unlike Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, Arlington had nothing on the books about domestic partnerships.”
“It’s a human-rights issue that’s good for those in domestic partnerships, without marriage. The current language is for two consenting adults. Although Somerville allows for two or more consenting adults, I decided to proceed with a standard domestic-partnership bylaw.”
Diggins said, “Domestic partnerships are a big step forward. I prefer to send something small to Town Meeting, rather than something larger and have them recoil. I’m fine with three consenting adults, but am OK with two.
Michael Cunningham, deputy town counsel, said, “There’s no state-level statue on this issue, but other towns and cities have domestic-partnership bylaws on the books, supported by the state attorney general. If Arlington is to enact domestic partnerships, between two people is on firm ground. A domestic partnership of more than two persons would have issues at the state attorney general level.”
Article 18: Vote/Appropriation/School Committee Member Stipends
The board unanimously supported to appropriate School Committee member stipends.
Article proponent Christa Kelleher said, “The School Committee deserves respect because they provide a vital service and take on a range of responsibilities, such as the school budget. Many other town board members are offered compensation.”
A stipend might encourage groups currently underrepresented to offer their voices. Stipend costs could pay for members’ expenses, such as child care, and reasonable funding sources need to be identified, explained Kelleher.
Diggins said, “For now, $3,000 is a good start, and maybe next year step that up. Children are our future. The School Committee people deserve more.”
Hurd said, “This is well thought out and well deserved. They should be compensated.”
See the ACMi video of the March 1 meeting:
Feb. 24, 2021: 7 citizen articles advance, 3 get no action
This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Monday, March 8, 2021.