The following is a Letter to the Editor from Arlington resident Stephen Harrington, a Precinct 13 Town Meeting member.
On Thursday, July 19, 8,158 voters turned out for a special election deciding whether to overturn a ban that the 2012 Town Meeting had placed on private use of leaf blowers. More voters turned out for this referendum than in any of the last 10 annual town elections even with a six hour voting window, half that of a usual election; even though many people had vacation plans during this hot summer; even though most of east Arlington was in the midst of a clean-up from a devastating microburst less than 24 hours before.
The was overwhelmingly in support of overturning this ill-considered ban. More than two-thirds of the voters (5,539) wanted to overturn the ban on leaf blowers while less than one-third of the voters (2,619) wanted to keep the ban. In 20 of the 21 precincts, the majority voted to overturn the ban, with only Precinct 8 showing two more ban supporters than opponents. In Precinct 13, almost 85 percent of the voters wanted the ban overturned.
However, only 19.2 percent of the registered voters in Arlington voted to overturn the ban, not the 20 percent required by state law. In a half day of voting, on a Thursday in the middle of the summer, less than 241 votes separated a reversal of a Town Meeting vote, a historic and as one editor penned, an unprecedented action.
The People of Arlington have spoken.
It is now the obligation of our *representative* Town Meeting to strike this ban from Arlington's bylaws. Many residents that I heard from were appalled that Town Meeting would pass such a ban, saying that members voted for what they personally wanted and not what was best for all of the people in Arlington. Had the referendum succeeded, Town Meeting as a representative body would have been seriously compromised. As it stands, the credibility of Town Meeting surrounding this decision has been questioned by more residents than in any other decision in recent memory.
I urge the Board of Selectmen to call a Special Town Meeting immediately to present these election results so that Town Meeting members can act as directed by a large majority of registered voters and overturn the leaf blower ban.
Town Meeting Member