How to stay up to date on Spring Town Meeting articles and how articles come to be
Contributed by Warrant Committee Chair, LeeMichael McLean
A School Committee member recently remarked during a public meeting that she frequently meets families in Town that have never heard of the Warrant Committee. I cringe to hear that because I spent more than 100 hours volunteering with the Warrant Committee last year, but I understand. It’s hard enough keeping my house clean, never mind keeping up to date on everything going on in local government. And let’s be honest: I’d never heard of the Warrant Committee before I was asked to join two years ago! I wish there was a Town orientation I could have attended when I moved in, but while I wait for someone else to get busy creating that, I’ll include some basic information here that may be helpful. What the Warrant Committee does impacts you directly and we’d like you to know where you can go to find out what we’re up to!
What is the Warrant Committee?
In short: the Warrant Committee is made up of 15 Milton residents and we are an integral part of our Town Meeting style government—an incarnation of the direct democracy practiced by colonists even before the formation of the United States! Committee members are appointed by the Town Moderator annually to present a balanced budget to Town Meeting and recommend actions on articles that will appear before Town Meeting. Town Meeting is the gathering of your locally elected Town Meeting members. This is the legislative function of our Town and meeting members vote on everything from zoning bylaws to the Parks and Recreation budget.
Elected Town Meeting members get a printed copy of the Warrant about two weeks in advance of any Town meeting (and an electronic copy is posted to the Town website). It contains the articles Town Meeting Members will be voting on as well as the Warrant Committee’s recommendation and reasoning for how the Town Meeting Members are advised to vote. But for months preceding the delivery of that printed document, the Warrant Committee holds meetings to vet the articles, discuss pros and cons, uncover unintended consequences, seek areas for efficiency and productivity, etc. The Warrant Committee does not have a Citizens’ Speak session as elected bodies such as the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board do (the Warrant Committee is appointed by the Town Moderator each year) but we seek input from people who will be affected by a particular article (such as an abutter to a property under consideration for a zoning change) or others that we know have a vested interest. In addition to the Warrant Committee seeking information, sometimes citizens and representatives of petitioners approach the Warrant Committee with important information and we try to accommodate brief comments during article discussions. Meeting time is limited, so citizens are encouraged anytime to submit written comments to me to be shared with all members of the Warrant Committee.
Articles for consideration at Spring Town Meeting
The Warrant Committee is currently debating the articles listed below. We will be forming and voting on recommendations on these articles over the next few weeks and Town Meeting Members will begin voting on them during the Spring Town Meeting on Monday, May 1. Town Meeting is held in the High School auditorium and continues every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until all articles are resolved.
The date indicated in parentheses is the currently scheduled date for town officials or petitioners to discuss their articles with the Warrant Committee. If possible, the Warrant Committee will also vote on the articles on that same date. Topics and meeting locations are subject to frequent change, so always check the Public Meetings Calendar for up-to-date agendas.
- Adoption of MGL Ch. 33 Sec. 59—would allow for paid leave to Town employees during military service (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Amending Chapter of 13 of General Bylaws—would allow the Personnel Board to adjust hours of Town offices as needed (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Authorizing Consolidated Facilities Department Revolving Account—would create a fund to capture solar credits intended for use in energy conservation projects (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Capital Improvement Planning Committee Bylaw—would adjust the cost and length of service criteria for projects considered by the Capital Improvement Planning Committee (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Chief Procurement Officer—would create a new position to centrally coordinate purchases, improve efficiency and accountability (3/1)
- Citizens Petition RE: Playground Planners Appropriation—requests an unspecified contribution to the grassroots efforts to rebuild/replace the Town’s playground equipment (2/6)
- Fundamental Speed Limit Change—would allow the Board of Selectmen to set speed limits of 25 mph in areas they deem appropriate, such as thickly settled neighborhoods and business districts (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Grant of Easement Milton Landing Condominium—would allow the Town to accept a permanent easement in the area of 41 Wharf Street, Milton, for water-dependent activities, such as the storage of boats and parking (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Great Estate PUD Zoning—would create zoning to allow for the construction of a planned unit development on Canton Ave., adjacent to the Blue Hills Reservation (3/1)
- Increase the Tax on Sale of Alcohol—would allow the Board of Selectmen to petition the General Court for the power to increase taxes on the sale of alcohol and to direct funds raised to the Milton Substance Abuse Coalition (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Issuance of a License for Alcoholic Beverages at 2 Adams Street—would create a license to sell alcohol at a proposed restaurant at 2 Adams Street, to be built in front of Extra Space Storage (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Master Plan Appropriation—jointly submitted by the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board, this article seeks an unspecified amount of money to support implementation of the Town’s master plan (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Parkway PUD Zoning—would create zoning to allow for the construction of a development on Blue Hills Parkway, commonly referred to as the ice house property (3/1)
- Personnel Bylaw—would make changes to the duties and responsibilities of the Personnel Board (3/1)
- Special Purpose Stabilization Fund—would create a new fund for the purpose of storing and expending monies for maintenance and repair of Town roads (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Temporary Moratorium on Recreational Marijuana—would create a moratorium through June 30, 2019 on the use of Town land or structures for marijuana establishments/retailers (3/1)
- Traffic Commission Recomposition—would renew the traffic commission (2/15 and/or 3/8)
- Fire Station Building Committee—would create a committee to advance the replacement of the Town’s fire stations (2/15)
I’ve greatly abbreviated long articles and interpreted proposed language significantly here; please contact me if you would like to review current draft article language. These articles are subject to wording changes and some may even be removed from the Warrant entirely before Town Meeting if they are deemed to be unnecessary or not ready for consideration.
Did someone say Override?
While not the focus of this article, it’s important to note that the Warrant Committee spends the majority of its time talking about our Town budget. If the Warrant Committee determines that current levels of funding are insufficient, it will prepare two budgets for Town Meeting to consider: a non-contingent budget that can be met with available funds (fulfilling the statutory obligation to prepare a balanced budget) and a contingent budget. If Town Meeting Members agree that the contingent budget is necessary, they will vote to approve both a non-contingent budget (as a back up) and a contingent budget, which will then be considered by the Board of Selectmen. The Board of Selectmen at that point can choose to call for a special election for the entire Town to vote on a Proposition 2 1/2 override to meet the increased taxes required for the contingent budget, or they could choose not to call a special election and allow the non-contingent budget to go into effect. As of this writing the Warrant Committee is processing through the various department budgets and will soon debate the final budgets to be sent to Town Meeting for consideration. We hope you will follow the developments closely as we work to uncover the needs of our Town departments and of course ask questions and share your opinions.
Ways to keep informed on Warrant articles and other Town developments:
(without even having to attend any meetings!)
Well before the Warrant Committee receives the Warrant articles from the Board of Selectmen, various groups in town are busy putting together articles that they feel will be important for Town Meeting to consider. These groups include the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, Citizens Petitions, etc. Each of these groups has a different process that involves public input at their meetings, but they all have public involvement through posted meetings or neighborhood meetings.
All along this process—from formation of article language by submitting authors and submission to the Board of Selectmen for inclusion on the Warrant, through discussions and voting of recommendations at the Warrant Committee—there is significant, though not necessarily well coordinated, notification to the public of various discussions and developments. Many posted Town meetings (including almost all Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Warrant Committee meetings) are now recorded and available for viewing online for free. Here are a few ways you can keep up to date on developments in Town government:
- Follow Town of Milton on Facebook for updates on public meetings and current events (or visit the Town webpage for updates, specifically the Public Meetings calendar were agendas are always posted at least two days in advance of meetings.)
- Follow Milton Access TV on Facebook to see meeting reminders, agendas, recordings and updates on events around Town.
- Watch Milton Access TV live or stream meetings on demand on their website.
- Visit the Milton Scene website and join Milton Neighbors on Facebook to keep up to date on town happenings and see what your neighbors are talking about
- Subscribe to the Milton Times newspaper for ongoing stories as articles move through the development process and important topics evolve
- Get to know your neighborhood Town Meeting Members, ask questions and share your opinions! Or better yet, run to be elected as a Town Meeting Member in your precinct and get involved!
- Read the final recommendations of the Warrant Committee about a month before each Town Meeting and follow up with your Town Meeting Members and elected/appointed officials as necessary.
I’m starting my third year on the Warrant Committee, and my second as Chair. I’m steeped in the work of the Warrant Committee, but I’m still learning new things every day. I’m sure I missed important points in this article; I hope my fellow neighbors will weigh in with helpful tips in the comments section or reach out to me with suggestions. See you around Town!
Town Meeting Member, Precinct 10
Warrant Committee Chair