Two of Seven Citizens' Petitions Pass at Weston Town Meeting
Seven citizens' petitions were discussed during the first night of annual Town Meeting.
Weston’s annual Town Meeting began Monday, May 7, with quick approval of several budget and finance articles, while the main discussion centered on several citizens’ petitions last night. (See a complete list of the articles and votes from Monday night here.)
Bill Sandalls presented Article 11, to amend how standing votes at Town Meeting are counted. (Editor's Note: Clarification from Bill Sandalls: Article 11 allows standing counts to start with either the yea's or the nay's, whichever seems to be in the minority on the voice vote, then the apparent majority would be counted only to the extent necessary to determine the outcome of the vote.)
“This amendment provides for a streamlined way for standing votes to be counted,” Sandalls said.
Ultimately, the motion passed, after a standing count (the “Yes” votes were counted first) and result of 203 to 86.
Next up, Article 12, to require elected officials to follow Robert’s Rules of Order at Town Meeting, and any change made to those rules be made by warrant article, was discussed.
Presenter Isabella Jancourtz said doing so would allow all voters to be notified that there would be an article proposing changes to Town Meeting rules, and therefore not allow procedures to be altered by the moderator at the start of Town Meeting.
“I believe it will put an end to an ongoing argument about it and allow us to focus our attention on the substantive issues that face us,” Jancourtz said. “It will take us back to the traditional Democratic way of doing things.”
Town Counsel Lauren Goldberg noted that Moderator Wendy Spector’s proposed changes to the rules of order at the beginning of Town Meeting were accepted unanimously. She also noted that changing the rules in that way doesn’t make it binding for future Town Meetings, as a bylaw change would.
Resident Dave Harmon said he was against the motion, saying the moderator is allowed to exhibit leadership, and the moderator should exhibit leadership.
“It’s un-American and un-Weston,” he said, of the motion.
A vote was called, and the motion failed by majority vote.
Jancourtz also presented Article 13, requesting that informative agendas be posted online by all boards and committees at least four business days prior to a meeting, and that complete minutes be posted within two business days of the next meeting.
“It gives residents enough time to decide whether it’s important to attend,” she said. “Some boards have not posted minutes, others are incomplete.”
Selectman Douglas Gillespie said he agreed that getting minutes posted as quickly as possible was a good idea, however with only five business days in a week, posting agendas four business days before a meeting would not work.
John McCann, of the Council on Aging, said such a change would have a “chilling effect” on what boards and committees do.
Several other people voiced their opinions before ultimately the motion failed by majority vote.
William Crum presented Article 14, to impose term limits on selectmen so they could serve no more than three consecutive terms.
“It seems in Weston the buck doesn’t stop, it keeps going around and around,” he said. Crum noted that it wouldn’t be a limit for life, however.
Harmon spoke, saying suggesting the decision be left to the elections, while another resident suggested change could be found by running for office and getting elected.
The motion failed by majority vote.
Crum also presented Article 15, to raise the quorum from 40 to 160, noting that the quorum has not been changed since 1925.
Selectman Gillespie moved an amendment on Article 15, saying raising it to 160 is too much, too quickly. His amendment proposed raising the quorum to 80.
The vote on Gillespie’s amendment on raising the quorum to 80 instead of 160 passed, as did the subsequent vote on the changed article, by majority vote.
Crum and his wife, Susan Crum, also presented Article 16, to amend the dog bylaw. Their article proposed four different section changes to the bylaw, to limit fines on dog walkers to $25 a day, streamline the permitting process, allow certificates as proof of rabies vaccination, and require hearings before suspending a dog walker’s permit.
Selectman Michael Harrity said he thought the dog bylaw works reasonably well, and noted that most fines have not been given to dog walkers, but to dog owners.
Susan Crum, who served on the Weston Dog Committee, noted the bylaw creation was based on a model in Vancouver, British Columbia, which seemed ridiculous. Dog walkers understand dogs and have control of them, she said, and shouldn't be held to unreasonable expectation.
Jeri Cooper, who chaired the dog committee, said the trails are a much friendlier place, and the bylaw allows the Animal Control Officer to get to know the dog walkers.
Ultimately, the article failed by majority vote.
The final article taken under consideration was Article 17, on authorizing a study of Distributed Antenna System (DAS) options and amending leasing authority.
Presenter Lance Fortin said the DAS system is used successfully on Nantucket, and suggested the town consider use of it in Weston, instead of having what he called potentially health-harming towers in town.
Proponent Virginia Cora Ward was the most outspoken, saying the cell tower on the Cat Rock water tower was forced upon that neighborhood.
Gillespie said however that he believed the article would put Weston out of compliance with requirements resulting from cell tower litigation. He also noted that while health concerns are much debated, there is now no scientific evidence that the towers are harmful.
A vote was taken and the article failed.
Town Meeting resumes on Wednesday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Weston High School.