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LETTER: Special Town Meeting Should be Called

Arlington resident Stephen Harrington, a Precinct 13 Town Meeting member, writes that the seasonal leaf-blower ban may have been upheld, but the special-election results speak for themselves.

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.

Stephen Harrington
Town Meeting Member
Precinct 13

Meme July 20, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Agreed. We need to pay attention to who our TM members are and contact them about this vote. Hold their feet to the fire. This just reminds us how important local elections really are. I will advocate that this ban be overturned by the TM since it's clear that in spite of the storm damage, vacation time, and short poll hours, the majority of those who voted want the ban lifted.
mb July 20, 2012 at 01:43 PM
It would be unwise to assume that the final vote numbers are an accurate accounting of folks who support the ban. It was the job of the individuals/businesses who wanted the ban to be overturned to vote "no" and encourage "no" voters to the polls. Folks who wanted to keep the compromise in place could vote or not vote. The "no's" needed to present 20% of the Arlington electorate, which they did not do. It is interesting to posit what the numbers would be if it were a regular vote(and all of the "yes's" who stayed home voted at the polls), but regardless the "no's" did not have enough votes for this election.
James July 20, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Fully in support of the ban... hate hearing leaf blowers in the morning. don't use them myself. rakes are fine. ban upheld. stop whining!
Roy F. Cook Jr. July 20, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I am a lifelong resident of fifty nine years in Arlington and I'm appalled at even having to waste one cent of tax payer funds trying to defeat this leaf blower ban that never should have seen the light of day to begin with. We have to have a rigged town vote in the month of July (busiest vacation month of the year) requiring 6,000 votes ( not a majority mind you) while poles are only open 2PM -8PM preventing people like myself from being able to vote because we are at work during those hours (guess how I would have voted if I had the chance ). Now they will surely tell us about the absentee ballot option, well I didn't think we had half day polls ( must be one of the cost cutting measures) . I may sound a bit cynical but we the people have to stop being so cavalier about giving our freedoms away. Noisy Leaf Blowers " REALLY " Roy F Cook Jr
James July 20, 2012 at 03:04 PM
How bout our Freedom not to hear leaf blowers all the time? How bout our Freedom to learn not to solve every problem with laziness and fossil fuels? How about our Freedom not to breathe blue smoke from stinky, two-stroke engines? Guess you define Freedom by what you want?
smerls July 20, 2012 at 03:11 PM
We could say the same for the original town meeting vote...now couldn't we. The ban only passed with 10 votes with 30% of town meeting members not voting. The one problem was putting on the ballot for a special election. It should have been put on the ballot for the nov election or next year and then town meeting could have voted to repeal it depending on that vote.
smerls July 20, 2012 at 03:15 PM
@James, I don't like to hear dogs barking, at times they make more noise than the leaf blowers and for a longer period. They also make a mess which is part of the environmental argument of toxins blowing around. Should not then ban dogs from Arlington or we could compromise and ban dogs from barking while they are outside. There is plenty of noise in this day and age..how far do you want to take this?? Why don't we just ban noise altogether!!
James July 20, 2012 at 03:30 PM
There are already ordinances in place regarding dogs. Feel free to act on them. I hate hearing dogs barking all the time also and will complain if they do. I have a dog myself and I never let her bark like that cause it's rude and obnoxious... just like a bunch of leaf blowers running outside my window at 715 AM.
Roy F. Cook Jr. July 20, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Did you ever ride in back of a bus , maybe they could eliminate them, how about the downed trees, cut all of those trees with hand saws those chain saws are really loud and the fumes, those lazy workers should be a little more considerate. Imagine what that would cost, oh that's right we never consider that? well I'd love to debate this all day however I have to mow my lawn, and trim my yard with my gas weed wacker and leaf blower and put all the clippings into my recyclable bags for disposal. Lazy Roy
smerls July 20, 2012 at 04:41 PM
There are already ordinances in place regarding dogs barking, specifically the banning of dogs from barking?? Do people get fined if their dogs bark? I don't think so. So there are also ordinances in place regarding decibel levels, if the leaf blowers bother you feel to act on them. I have neighbors who use lawn services with leaf blowers and they never blow the leave outside people window's at 7:15 am but I do have neighbors who let their dogs bark at 7 am and others who are walking their dogs who bark at 11 pm. Again shouldn't we just ban dog barking from barking altogether?? Again how far do you want to take this?? I could think of thousands of things that cause noise that could be banned!!
Walt Smith July 22, 2012 at 03:20 PM
While I emphatically agree with Gary Tibbetts, the landscape contractors, and the 2:1 majority of votes against the ban, I feel we have already wasted too many tax dollars on this issue to spend even more $$ on a Special Town Meeting. It is my understanding that the ban does not go into effect until next year. Let's be rational here, folks. I will gladly sign a Warrant Article request to reverse the ban for the 2013 Town Meeting, AND another request to push for electronic voting at future Town Meetings. Walt Smith TMM Precinct 7

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