Town Meeting rebuffs Mass. Ave. foes again

Town Meeting last night rejected two resolutions to stop the Mass. Ave. Project that would not actually have stopped the Mass. Ave. Project.

Mass. Ave. opponents rise to vote against sidewalk construction at Town Meeting in 2011.

The first resolution (Article 69) sought to repeal last year’s authorization of easements to rebuild sidewalks in East Arlington.

The second (Article 70) would have asked the Selectmen to put a nonbinding question about the project on the ballot in April of 2013, after construction was already in progress.

Both failed by wide margins.

According to the saying, when history repeats itself the first time is tragedy and the second time is farce.

Only in this case the first time was farce too.

East Arlington sidewalk patch is failing

The sidewalk easements, almost all temporary, were authorized last year by a 2/3 vote.

Had authorization failed, or if the resolution to rescind had passed this year, the project would have gone forward anyway, just with what one speaker called “crappy sidewalks.” The rest of the project would have been unaffected including, ironically, the hated bicycle lanes.

The new sidewalks will be payed for by state and federal grants, which had the resolution passed would have gone to other towns in Middlesex County.

Article 70 was nonbinding (the Selectmen could have ignored it had it passed), and only sought a nonbinding vote on the design, to be taken a year from now. By then the Town is scheduled to have signed legally binding contracts and construction will probably be under way.

Consequently the referendum could not serve any purpose, even  assuming, arguendo, that technical projects like this should be decided by plebiscite (And if that seems like a good idea to you, be careful what you wish for.)

Either voters would reject the resolution or they would be in the position of requesting the Town to break its contracts and incur lawsuits and hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars of liability. The street would still need to be repaved because it is, in truth, in awful shape.

These two resolutions, at once misguided and impotent, are emblematic of the embittered chip-on-our-shoulder attitude that animates what opponents have become, or at least the vocal hard core. It’s as though the agenda is just to multiply the grievances.

I think Dan Dunn, who blogs about Town Meeting (among other things) summed things up pretty well when he said,

The debates on 69 and 70 were both tedious – lots of long-winded speakers, lots of strawmen arguments, and a fair number of easily debunked claims were made.  And, in the end, the result is the same – most of the town thinks the project should go forward, and a vocal minority is opposed to it.

Sidewalk separation by the curb near Cleveland St.

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