I was fascinated by the fact that I was not the only one live-blogging. Selectman Jesse Mermell also tends to report from Town Meeting on her own Twitter feed (@jessemermell), and apparently there were a few journalism students in attendance who also blogged it (I'm looking at you, @taliabethralph) . If anyone out there reading it wants to blog tonight, use the hashtag #btm. At least, that's what I'm trying to use. Apparently, it stands for other things as well. (I mistyped it a few times, making me wish that Twitter offered the option of editing one's tweets.)
For those of you who didn't follow along last night, we got through Articles 1-6 and Article 10. We try to adjourn after whatever article we're in the middle of at 10:30 pm, and Sandy Gadbsy, the Moderator, wisely took a motion to let us skip the three articles about the Fisher Hill reservoir and instead deal with a shorter article before we adjourned.
The two most controversial issues we voted on last night were the Runkle School bond appropriation and the restoration of the Carlton Street Foorbridge. Runkle School is the K-8 public school in my neighborhood, so I have a strong interest in seeing the renovation move forward. The school right now is overcrowded, with classes meeting in the lobby and staff members using closets as offices. Everyone agrees that the renovation has to happen, and in the end the $29 million appropriation carried unanimously. The only problem is, there are a few abutters (including one of my fellow TMMs) who are concerned with the process as it has currently played out. The town will need a special permit to make Runkle large enough to accommodate the students they are expecting over the next decade, and it's going to affect the feel of the neighborhood. I'm hoping that those with concerns about the project will have their concerns addressed, but last night we needed to approve the money if we wanted to have the project move forward.
As for the footbridge... ah. There's a lot of history about that footbridge; the precinct 1 delegation to Town Meeting has turned over twice due to voters in that precinct either favoring or opposing restoration. Last night, we had the pleasure of hearing former governor Mike Dukakis address Town Meeting in support of the bridge. Dukakis's first elected office was as a Town Meeting Member, a position he won exactly 50 years ago this past March. Town Meeting gave him a standing ovation after he spoke. In the end, restoration passed by a vote of 192-25.
(As a side note, two proponents of the footbridge gave a list of objections to the bridge that they claimed were false, including the notion that the footbridge was placed there by aliens in 1894. I'm starting to get story ideas...)
Article 6 would have been controversial had the petitioners moved it, as it dealt with amending the town budget to remove the funding for the police security cameras. Although no motion was offered, Sandy allowed Frank Farlow to address us on the issue and Selectman Betsy DeWitt to give a response. Frankly, I'm not sure how much we really needed to hear about the issue given that there was no motion being offered. I'd much rather have waited to hear these arguments once a motion is actually on the table, which will probably be in the spring.
Neal Simpson of the Brookline TAB and I have a gentlemen's bet going as to whether or not Town Meeting will finish up tonight (my guess) or continue to Thursday (his guess). There's only 18 articles total on the warrant, and most of them seem relatively uncontroversial to me. Tonight we'll start with the Fisher Hill issues, which may take a while to explain but I doubt they'll take a while to debate. The child care zoning amendment will go through easily, I'm sure, and then we'll probably have a lot of discussion about the zoning for car-sharing organizations (e.g. Zipcar, which had a strong showing of supporters last night whom I expect to see there again tonight). My guess is that we'll get far enough into the warrant that people will want to stick around to see it through, even if it takes us to midnight.
We'll see. Check my Twitter feed tonight and follow along.