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Selectmen Reluctantly Schedule Special Town Meeting on Seasonal Leaf-Blower Ban

With 'hands tied,' selectmen called the meeting for Wednesday, Oct. 10.

The Board of Selectmen scheduled a Special Town Meeting Monday to address Arlington’s seasonal ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, but make no mistake, they didn’t want to.

“If there was anyway I could vote against this, I certainly would,” Selectman Steven Byrne said before the vote, which set the meeting for Wednesday, Oct. 10. “I find this (Special Town Meeting) to be a waste of town resources.”

Byrne’s sentiments were echoed by his colleagues.

“I wish I could vote against it too,” the board’s chairman, Kevin Greeley, said, “but our hands our tied.”

The board had to call the Special Town Meeting because of , a Town Meeting member from Precinct 13.

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Do you agree with Selectman Steven Byrne that the Special Town Meeting is a “waste of town resources”? Or is it Democracy in action? Let us know by posting a comment below.

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Harrington’s petition, which had 204 valid signatures from registered voters (four more than were needed), represents the second attempt to repeal the controversial ban, .

A group of landscapers in May to force a Special Election. At the Special Election, which took place July 19, opponents of the ban won the vote by a 2-to-1 margin but , as state law required them to get at least 5,780 “No” votes, which represented 20 percent of Arlington’s 28,898 registered voters.

Harrington submitted his petition a day after to review the ban and work out a compromise.

Byrne called the committee approach the “right move.”

Selectman Daniel Dunn agreed.

“This is a time to talk about these things and get them right,” he said.

Dunn said he was “very frustrated and disappointed” with Harrington’s decision to submit the petition. Selectman Joseph Curro Jr. said Harrington’s decision was “very unfortunate.”

Greeley said the committee, which was set up at his request, will still meet and come up with a separate warrant article – one that’s more of a compromise – for the Special Town Meeting. He had been planning to submit a similar article, but not until next spring.

Greeley said he asked Harrington to attend Monday’s meeting. Harrington was not there.

In addition to the selectmen’s comments, Jeremy Marin, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 16 and a strong proponent of the ban, emailed the following statement after hearing of Harrington’s petition:

“Arlington has underfunded schools, public safety departments and cannot afford new helmets for team sports, yet after spending $30,000 of taxpayers money we’re being forced to spend thousands more to avoid using rakes – for a few months when leaves aren’t even on the ground,” he wrote.

The Special Town Meeting had to be scheduled for within 45 days of when Harrington submitted his petition.

The Special Town Meeting Warrant will be open Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents need 100 signatures from registered voters in order to place an article on the warrant.

The seasonal ban, which has yet to take effect (it’s pending the approval of the state attorney general’s office), prohibits the leaf blowers on private property from May 15 to Oct. 15.

Coco September 11, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Stephen, I recently did look up the Town meeting members in my neighborhood (I moved to a different area of Arl although I've lived here for over 25 yrs). It's a bit confusing, I live in precinct 20 now and it says I have 12 meeting members. That seems like a lot---Should I contact ALL of them?
Stephen September 11, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Hi Susan, and others! Here is the official Town Meeting Member list, by precinct and including name, address and many phone numbers. Some have email addresses too. Contact as many as you can and feel free to send me an email (sth.alist@gmail.com) with an indication of whether each member intends to support the ban or whether they will vote to overturn the ban. We will be reaching out before the meeting to educate those who might be unsure of how they will vote. Thanks! http://www.arlingtonma.gov/public_documents/arlingtonma_townmeet/2012_TMMembers.pdf
Cornelius Cob September 11, 2012 at 10:07 PM
You answered your own question. You needed 241 more people to show up and vote NO. The YES people didn't need anyone to show up and they would still have won. This SPECIAL election was all about showing there were more than 1 in 5 that cared enough to vote NO -- and there weren't.
Jared September 11, 2012 at 11:02 PM
So using your logic, 100% of people always turn out to vote. Otherwise your statement doesn't hold up. Since not even 50% of people turn out to vote at any election, especially a special election in the middle of summer, the day after a tornado, it should be fair to assume that a non-vote does not equal a yes vote. Using your logic, dont show up to vote on November 6th for your friend Barack, because that means he will automatically be re-elected. Seriously, please dont show up to vote on Nov 6th
Coco September 11, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Ok Corn cob, you've repeated yourself 5 times now.....1-5 voters blah blah blah......we heard you. Jared, you've made some great points with the math and voting....lets hope he does use the same logic on Nov 6th....hehehe
Cornelius Cob September 11, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Jared -- you couldn't get 1 in 5 voters to vote NO. You lost :-) You lost twice :-) It cost $30K. What's another $5K to try again :-(
Cornelius Cob September 11, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Stephen, Arlington voted overwhelmingly to keep the ban otherwise you wouldn't need to do this $5K experiment in wasting tax dollars.
Cornelius Cob September 11, 2012 at 11:40 PM
"Harrington submitted his petition a day after the board unanimously agreed to establish a committee to review the ban and work out a compromise." Anyone supporting Harrington on this should pay the $5K themselves.
x September 11, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I understand Arlington is being annexed by Cambridge and name will be changed to West Cambridge. Harvard degrees or affiliations remain optional at this point but may become a condition of residency. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Cornelius Cob September 12, 2012 at 12:45 AM
When you lose in November you will still think you won :-) Viva Stephen Harrington's Army
Donald Mei September 12, 2012 at 12:59 AM
The arrogance amazes me. We wouldn't have to waste town resources with this meeting, and we wouldn't have had to waste even more resources on the special referendum this summer if the selectmen hadn't passed a ridiculous law in the first place.
Donald Mei September 12, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Glen, You're kidding. If it had been a close vote, then the low number of voters might have been relevant. But those who voted, voted by a 2:1 margin to repeal. How can anyone with any understanding of statistics suggest that things would swing so far the other way with a larger dataset. Actually, for whatever this costs, its a great civics lesson for the young people of Arlington.
John B September 12, 2012 at 01:20 AM
The selectmen didn't pass the law! They unanimously voted NO ACTION (kill it) on it before it went to Town Meeting. Town Meeting passed the article.
John B September 12, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Mr. Loretti - now the Selectmen can submit an article to have TMM create the committee!
John B September 12, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Good grief. The selectmen aren't saying Mr. Harrington doesn't have the right to petition for a special TMM. Indeed, they voted to schedule one. They think it's a bad idea and said so, as is THEIR first amendment right. They were already addressing the issue.
Ian Boardman September 12, 2012 at 03:39 AM
I believe many people rightly wanted a break from leaf blowers, which are truly unnecessary to accomplish the task. They generate tremendous noise and pollution of the air we breath, and it simply cannot be justified in my opinion. Rakes and brooms are clean and effective, relatively quiet, and healthier for everyone including the workers who are pushing them. I actually think we do have a right to peace and quiet at least once in a while. But, it's ok even if the majority doesn't agree, I'd accept being disappointed. What I don't accept is our Town being hijacked by petty business interests and their allies who clearly believe this new ordinance is a threat to their bottom line.
Tony September 12, 2012 at 04:13 AM
I can't believe how ridiculous this has become. The ban is pretty hamhanded - why not allow people to use blowers from 10-3 on weekdays or something like that? The special election to overturn the ban was just a waste of time and money - why not let this work itself out of the system via the normal, scheduled elections? The view that the majority of Arlingtonians are against the ban based on the special election is utter nonsense - why not accept defeat in view of the fact that not even 20% of registered voters felt it necessary to oppose the ban? Now having 200 people push a special town meeting through for a stupid leafblower ban that could be fixed easier and cheaper is just a joke, makes the opposers look like sore losers. To me the arguments of landscapers going out of business, lawn care becoming unaffordable, government infringement of civil rights, and next they will ban police sirens or busses... are just too far out. I know I am not going to hire a landscaper who is a member of that association. I want someone who has some hint of reason left in his bones... And Mr. Harrington: are you seriously pleading the first? It's leaf blowers, man! What are you going to do when democracy turns a cold shoulder to your beloved blowers once more? Exercise the second? Are you really trying to go down as the guy who went down figting for leafblower-freedom? You should consider making this a career. It's folks like you who run this country...
Mark Kaepplein September 12, 2012 at 06:23 AM
You ain't seen nothin' yet! The bike path crossing project in the center includes landscaping, and the Mass Ave bike lane project will have close to $1Million in landscaping!
x September 12, 2012 at 12:02 PM
The leafblowers should be modified so that they blow smoke. The smoke can be directed as required, depending on the affiliation of the resident/voter. Resident E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Coco September 12, 2012 at 03:02 PM
IAN, FYI- only GAS leaf blowers are being banned so sorry to tell you that electric blowers are allowed and they make noise(as well as MANY other tools) and so-called pollution. Maybe a solution is to hand out ear plugs for those people with sensitive ears....
Mark Kaepplein September 12, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Corn Dog and others: Selectmen are to blame for the wasted money. They refuse to put non-binding ballot questions in town elections, asking residents how they feel on questions. Removing a travel lane on Mass Ave is a big deal and refused a petition asking them to poll voters, much like not asking for the previous 10 years. The lesson is that FREE non-binding ballot questions exist for a reason. Selectmen just need a motion to add one, and yet they don't or refuse to. Town Meeting members would know exactly how each precinct felt before a vote came up. Finally, after the fact, Greeley proposed a ballot question and all the others still oppose asking residents what they want.
mindy erbus September 14, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Well said!
Donald Mei September 14, 2012 at 03:05 PM
The nonsense is that they passed the law in the first place. This expense is a direct result of the idiocy in our town government. They brought it on themselves. And yes, $500 ea for football helmets is just insanity. But, its for the children. Ha.
Donald Mei September 14, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Mark, I recently moved here and don't know anything about removing a travel lane on Mass ave. Can you, or anyone else direct me to anything on this. I've noticed that Mass drivers don't seem to pay attention to the fact that Mass Ave is 2 lanes for most of its run through Arlington. But there aren't any dashed lane divider lines. Is it actually 1 lane?!!???
Donald Mei September 14, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Corn - are you counting those who didn't vote at all as being for the ban? Otherwise, I don't get it. Are you using Obama math? Where a decrease in growth is a cut?
Mark Kaepplein September 14, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Donald, the town presents one point of view at http://ArlingtonMA.gov/massave. Town media outlets can be searched for articles, SaveMassAve.net and .com oppose lane removal, while the group East Arlington Livable Streets and Adam Auster favor bike lanes replacing a travel lane and both have web sites. There is also endless reading in the Arlington mailing list archives, arlingtonlist.org Mass Ave has operated as two lanes for the 50 years since streetcar tracks were paved over. The tracks could be driven over, so also used for left turns, passing, and going around double-parked delivery trucks or other vehicles. I think not painting lanes has helped Mass Ave stay safer than average for an urban arterial. Drivers are encouraged to be more attentive and flexible in space use to handle situations. The plan calls for a more rigid, ubiquitous design.
Mark Kaepplein September 14, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Oops correct this: "Mass Ave has operated as two lanes for the 50 years since streetcar tracks were paved over." Its been marked as two lanes, but mostly operated as four lanes. At congested periods, its definitely four lanes. Without much traffic, lane position gets relaxed.
Fred Gevalt September 15, 2012 at 04:17 PM
The most obnoxious aspect of "the ban" is the history of its origin - one or two whining members, presumably, of the "despotic" party are given the floor by town officials, and lo and behold, a few months later here we sit, having spent thousands of tax dollars, unable to legally clean our yards in a "town" that with respect to conceding to special interests behaves a little more like Rahm Emanuel's "city" each passing year. Here's an idea for all those who would subvert or strain the democratic process - start all over again with a town referendum ballot on this issue on November sixth. The town's marginal cost would be nothing, and it would get a clear picture about how its citizens and property owners really feel. And here's a suggestion for the vocal few who started this: grow up. If you have a problem with the noise from your neighbor, go talk to him about it. Don't depend on the rest of us (the town) to institutionalize and police a solution to your petty irritations that could better be handled with a personal knock on his door and a discussion. In this country the end does not justify the means. The means are the end. Fred Gevalt
Donald Mei September 16, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Thanks Mark, I live in east Arlington and wouldn't consider it to be any more live able if you reduce Mass Ave's capacity by 50%. Oh wait, they will add a bike lane. Mass Ave is plenty wide for bike traffic also. If people would just use their signals and watch where they are going. A little lane discipline wouldn't hurt either. ( if you are going to plod along at 15 mph trying to keep your prius in electric mode PLEASE stay right!). And if you are afraid to mix it up with cars, then slide over one block to the minuteman. Which leads me to another thing. If you are older than te, you shouldn't be riding your bike on the sidewalk. I walk with my 3 and 4 year olds on the sidewalk. Get back in the road where you belong, or leave the bike at home. End of rant
Ron September 16, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Does anyone know how is responsible for the ban and what neighborhood do gas powered blowers run all day? Who was so irritated with hearing gas powered leaf blowers during business hours and how where they able to get Officials in this town to act? I don't see anyone's picture in any paper or blog taking credit for getting this ban done.

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