Concord Annual Town Meeting live: Night 2

Miss town meeting? Get a recap of discussions, votes and important charts. Click for more
April 30, 2024

Miss Tuesday’s Town Meeting session? Get a recap of discussions, votes, and important charts here.

  1. Apr 30th | 20:46

And that is a wrap for Night 2 of Town Meeting. Thanks again for joining us.

We’ll have more coverage right here, and, of course, in Friday’s print edition.

Town Meeting resumes at CCHS at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

  • Apr 30th | 20:44

10:44 p.m.

And Article 26, creating a Town Meeting study committee, passes.

  • Apr 30th | 20:38

10:38 p.m.

Name check for The Concord Bridge as a good way to let people know about when important meetings are ahead.

  • Apr 30th | 20:35

10:35 p.m.

More on Article 26, which would create a nine-member committee to study Town Meeting:

Periodic review of Concord’s open town meeting form of legislature is appropriate in order to assess the need for adaptations responsive to changes in the town over time. The last comprehensive review of Concord town meeting was undertaken in 1995 by a committee appointed by the then Board of Selectmen. The recommendations for improvement of town meeting made in the 1996 Town Meeting Study Committee Report largely were implemented. (The 1996 Report can be found at: PDF?bidId=) In view of the changes in society and technology during the last thirty years, another comprehensive review is timely.

  • Apr 30th | 20:32

10:32 p.m.

Reiss notes that Article 27, which would put Town Meeting warrant articles on a special election ballot, would require state action. But this is still a discussion of Article 26, the Town Meeting Study Committee.

  • Apr 30th | 20:28

10:28 p.m.

Speakers are questioning whether Town Meeting is really representative of Concord’s population or whether people are being disenfranchised because of their work schedules, childcare obligations, and other barriers to participation in the town’s legislative process.

Select Board member Linda Escobedo says all should “look forward” to the work of this study committee.

  • Apr 30th | 20:19

10:19 p.m.

As Reiss explains, it’s been nearly 30 years since Concord has studied how it handles Town Meeting. The town has since tried many things, and the new study committee would have a “very broad charge.”

Included in Article 26:

The Committee shall review:

a. Voter participation in town meeting and town elections since 2000

b. Concord Town Meeting Study Report of 1996 and related data analysis

c. Concord Town Governance Study Report of 2015

d. Recent Studies of Open Town Meeting completed by Massachusetts towns similar to Concord 26

e. Any additional background materials that it determines to be relevant to its charge.

  • Apr 30th | 20:14

10:14 p.m.

Just went to a standing vote, with a slim majority in favor of continuing the meeting.

  • Apr 30th | 20:09

10:09 p.m.

Hold up: There’s been a motion to end the meeting now, as it’s 10 p.m. The group seems to go for it…

BUT there are multiple objections from people who say it makes sense to take up voting related matters, particularly those related to proposals for virtual voting, while the meeting is still in progress, because there are voters who can’t make it for yet another night because of work and/or childcare issues.

  1. Apr 30th | 20:03

10:03 p.m.

Reiss will herself present the next item, Article 26, which proposes a study committee to look at how Town Meeting itself works.

We’ve written about Reiss and her thoughts on this before, for anyone who needs a refresher (and while those at CCHS get to move around after a long evening of deliberation).

  1. Apr 30th | 20:00

9:59 p.m.

Article 24 passes by a near majority, Reiss says.

  1. Apr 30th | 19:59

9:57 p.m.

More detail on how the money requested for CPS capital projects will be spent.

  1. Apr 30th | 19:53

9:53 p.m.

The answer is no, not nearly as contentious.

Article 23, the CPS budget, passes.

  1. Apr 30th | 19:50

9:50 p.m.

Discussion continues on the Concord Public Schools budget.

Will this be as contentious as the Regional School District discussion of Monday night?

  1. Apr 30th | 19:40

9:38 p.m.

Article 22 has passed, says Moderator Carmin Reiss.

People are leaving the high school, but business continues.

  1. Apr 30th | 19:29

9:29 p.m.

Michael Williams says he and those who stand with him ask for the middle school to be named for “a woman who exemplifies the characteristics we aspire toward as Concordians,” versus a name that “simply describes where we live.”

The naming of the school will send a signal to the town, the state, and “perhaps even the nation,” he says. 

“This is our time to make that statement. I ask you stand with me and vote overwhelmingly in favor of Article 22.”

Our Kelly Walters previously spoke with Michael Williams and others about what the school naming means to families of color.

  1. Apr 30th | 19:22

9:21 p.m.

Elizabeth Frank says very little harm could come from naming the school for Ellen Garrison, but a great good could result.

It would be a “meaningful symbol” of Concord’s desire to make every child feel welcome in Concord, she says.

  1. Apr 30th | 19:16

9:14 p.m.

The amendment fails “by a wide margin,” Reiss rules.

  1. Apr 30th | 19:12

9:12 p.m.

A slide showing a timeline of how we got to where we are now on the naming of the new middle school:

  • Apr 30th | 19:08

9:07 p.m.

“I don’t think that if you vote against Ellen Garrison as the name of the school, it means you’re racist,” says Peter Lee, who also identifies himself as an immigrant who spent his early years in the U.S. in largely white settings. 

“I look around here, and almost everyone’s white here too,” he says — but emphasizes that Concord is a welcoming community.

  1. Apr 30th | 19:05

9:03 p.m.

Abby Flanagan, a Planning Board member speaking on her own behalf, says the amendment is a chance to “be more expansive” about teaching Ellen Garrison’s legacy and that of BIPOC women, rather than just naming a building for her.

A speaker in the auditorium subsequently says the amendment is “ridiculous” and seems like some kind of a “cave-in.”

  • Apr 30th | 18:57

8:53 p.m.

Wilson Kerr is at the podium with an amendment to the Article 22 motion.

Palumbo says he thinks the motion should stand as is and the conversation on the main motion should continue.

* Disclosure: Wilson Kerr is the Time Outdoors columnist for The Concord Bridge. This newspaper as an organization takes no position on the issue of the naming of the middle school.

  • Apr 30th | 18:50

8:50 p.m.

An attempt to call the question on Article 22 is not accepted by Moderator Carmin Reiss. Still a great many people in line to speak on the motion.

  • Apr 30th | 18:49

8:47 p.m.

Jodi Sperber says this question is not at heart about race: “It’s about a public and transparent process that took place over time.”

She says Ellen Garrison has a phenomenal story, but a decision was made and “it feels a little bit like we’re being bullied” with suggestions that if you’re not for naming the school for her, you’re against diversity.

  • Apr 30th | 18:44

8:43 p.m.

School Committee Chair Alexa Anderson and DEI Commission Co-Chair Joe Palumbo seated next to each other at the front of the gym.

  • Apr 30th | 18:40

8:38 p.m.

“I’m an advocate of democratic values, and Ellen Garrison, and everything you’ve said, I believe,” says Debra Kavaler Wysopal.

However, she adds, the School Committee has made its decision, and we “must champion fairness and adherence to the rule of law.” 

The following speaker, over in the auditorium, points out that there are no schools in Concord named for women.

Alcott is named for Bronson, not his daughter, Louisa May.

She also points out that Ellen Garrison waited over 100 years to have a headstone placed at her gravesite in Altadena, California, and should not have to wait longer to be recognized and honored here.

  • Apr 30th | 18:33

8:31 p.m.

Finance Committee Chair Parashar Patel has a simple question for the School Committee’s Alexa Anderson: If the meeting approves Article 22, will the committee change the name? Or just consider it?

Anderson says she’s subject to the Open Meetings Law just as he is, and can’t confer on the spot with her colleagues. 

  • Apr 30th | 18:30

8:29 p.m.

Grace Drazen is a fourth grader who has special permission from the moderator to speak although she is not quite of voting age.

“All our schools are named after men. Girls need to feel loved,” she begins. 

“I am going to this middle school in two years, so it would be my life and my friends’ life you would be changing.” 

  • Apr 30th | 18:25

8:25 p.m.

James Cohane says he objects to Article 22 on the grounds that the town duly elected a School Committee, which ran a public process in the walkup to naming the school. He says the Select Board is siding with well-meaning but unelected officials rather than the elected School Committee, which undermined the school officers.

  1. Apr 30th | 18:22

8:21 p.m.

“It’s no news if Concord names a school after a heroine like Ellen Garrison. It’s news if we don’t. It’s like walking into Dunkin’ and being told, ‘We don’t sell donuts.’ It’s that inextricably linked.”

  1. Apr 30th | 18:18

8:18 p.m.

Select Board member Mark Howell, who is also liaison to the DEI Commission, notes that the board voted 4-1 to recommend affirmative action on Article 22.

  1. Apr 30th | 18:16

8:16 p.m.

On this issue, there is simply not consensus, Anderson says: “That’s ok. That’s normal. That’s democracy.”

“Good, smart, and decent people” can disagree, Anderson says. 

  1. Apr 30th | 18:14

8:13 p.m.

School Committee Chair Alexa Anderson says this evening is not about whether Concord should remember, honor, or appreciate Ellen Garrison. 

The issue at hand, she says, is that the School Committee has the authority to name the new middle school — and the committee embarked on a process that included public input. 

  1. Apr 30th | 18:12

8:11 p.m.

“The bottom line is to make sure when we think about this school and we think of this gift we’re giving ourselves, we make it the best gift possible,” Palumbo says.

  1. Apr 30th | 18:10

8:10 p.m.

Even on Monday, before Article 22 was taken up — or anyone knew for sure if the meeting would get to it on Monday or Tuesday — people were outside the school campaigning for an Ellen Garrison Middle School.

Concord voters met Joe Zellner of Bedford, a former Concord-Carlisle social studies teacher who was portraying Ellen Garrison’s brother, John Garrison, at CCHS Monday. Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

  1. Apr 30th | 18:07

8:05 p.m.

And here we are at the moment some have been waiting for:

ARTICLE 22. To determine whether the Town will urge the Select Board and the School Committee as outlined in Town of Concord Administrative Policies and Procedures # 43: Naming of Town Property, to approve the naming of the publicly-owned property currently being built at 923 Old Marlboro Road as the Ellen Garrison Middle School, or take any other action relative thereto.

Speaking now: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee Co-Chair Joe Palumbo.

  1. Apr 30th | 18:05

8:03 p.m.

By a “substantial majority” in both the gym and auditorium of CCHS, Article 34 is approved.

  1. Apr 30th | 17:58

7:57 p.m.

Town Counsel Mina Makarious says it is unlikely that the town would gain any leverage in discussions with the state by refusing to approve MBTA zoning and attempt to instead hold off for the future use of the MCI-Concord property for affordable housing.

  1. Apr 30th | 17:53

7:53 p.m.

There are real potential costs to non-compliance with the state’s MBTA Zoning program, warns Planning Board Chair Linda Miller. This includes eligibility for major grants and other kinds of public funding.

  • Apr 30th | 17:47

7:47 p.m.

Charles Philips of the Concord Housing Foundation urges support for Article 34.

  • Apr 30th | 17:45

7:44 p.m.

Reiss notes that the timeline for MBTA zoning “would not allow us to wait long enough to determine whether the prison property” could be included as part of this program.

The prison is slated to close June 30, but redevelopment could take many years, town officials have warned.

More of our MCI-Concord coverage here.

  • Apr 30th | 17:38

7:37 p.m.

How the new zoning would play out near Concord Center and its MBTA station:

In West Concord, this would include Junction Village and the NOVO Riverside Commons 40B development.

  • Apr 30th | 17:30

7:29 p.m.

Because of the Commonwealth’s housing crisis, “People between the ages of 25 and 45 are moving out of state. We are losing part of our workforce,” says Select Board Clerk Mary Hartman. 

“This is a problem… It is in our best interest to comply with the law.”

Additionally, Concord doesn’t want to jeopardize its relationship with the state as it looks ahead to the redevelopment of the MCI-Concord property after the scheduled closing of the prison in June.

Because this zoning aligns with Concord’s stated goal of more housing density and does not negatively affect its character, Hartman says, the Select Board recommends affirmative action.

  • Apr 30th | 17:26

7:26 p.m.

Planning Board Chair Linda Miller says this type of “transit-oriented multifamily housing is consistent with town goals.”

  • Apr 30th | 17:23

7:23 p.m.

As our Betsy Levinson has previously reported, this is what we’re hearing about this evening:

To comply with the state’s MBTA Communities Law, Concord is asking Town Meeting to amend zoning laws to encourage new overlay districts near the two MBTA stations. 

The new zones would allow multi-family development at a higher density in areas including Lowell Road/Keyes Road, Upper Lowell Road, Thoreau Street/Sudbury Road, Baker Avenue, and Elm Street. 

  • Apr 30th | 17:21

7:18 p.m.

We are now hearing from the Planning Board on Article 34.

From the warrant:

“The MBTA Communities Act was passed into law to address the housing shortages facing Massachusetts residents. While this law does not compel any new housing to be built, it does require the creation of zoning Maximum lot coverage 40% Side Yard Setback 15 ft. Minimum lot width — Rear Yard setback 20 ft. Maximum density 15 units per acre Special setback for corner lots Corner clearance 10 ft. 39 which makes it easier to build or otherwise develop multi-family properties in areas where multi-family zoning was previously not allowed without a special permit. Such development would still be subject to site plan review during which reasonable conditions may be placed on a development. Any proposed project will be required to follow all local and state laws and go through the regular approval process.

“The proposed zoning supports the goals from the Envision Concord Comprehensive Long-Range Plan and would allow for a range of housing types and sizes close to the MBTA Train Stations, a concrete action towards supporting Concord’s goals for economic vitality, sustainability, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.”

  • Apr 30th | 17:17

7:16 p.m.

A few procedural matters:

  • There will be no new business introduced tonight after 10:15 p.m.
    • The meeting will begin with a discussion of Article 34, MBTA Zoning.
    • Following will be Article 22, the middle school naming.
  • Apr 30th | 17:16

7:15 p.m.

With the traditional moment of silence before Town Meeting formally begins, Reiss calls on voters to recall the town motto, “Quam Firma Res Concordia,” or “What Strength There Is In Harmony.”

  • Apr 30th | 17:12

7:12 p.m.

You too, can fill out a volunteer form and “serve your town and enjoy doing it,” Reiss reminds Concordians.

  • Apr 30th | 17:09

7:07 p.m.

Good news: Town Meeting goers will get these helpful guidelines in the green packet.

Bad news: Once again, the wifi at CCHS is not working.

  • Apr 30th | 17:06

7:05 p.m.

Your Concord Bridge team for tonight’s live coverage is Betsy Levinson, Christine M. Quirk, and Celeste Katz Marston.

  • Apr 30th | 17:05

7:03 p.m.

And here we go: Town Moderator Carmin Reiss has gaveled in for Night 2 of Town Meeting.

  • Apr 30th | 16:43

6:43 p.m.

Tonight, of course, expect discussion of Article 22, which urges the Select Board and School Committee to name the town’s under-construction school building “Ellen Garrison Middle School” in a reversal of the School Committee’s earlier choice of “Concord Middle School.”

Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

As we’ve previously reported, Town Moderator Carmin Reiss and her colleagues are preparing for the possibility of a call for a private paper ballot on Article 22 — something Town Meeting hasn’t seen since 2013.

  • Apr 30th | 16:16

6:15 p.m.

And here’s our Christine M. Quirk’s full rundown of the intense discussion about — and defeat of — Monday’s proposed Finance Committee amendment, which would have cut the Regional School budget.

Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

  • Apr 30th | 16:11

6:08 p.m.

Remember, you can find our live coverage of Monday night’s proceedings at CCHS right here

Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

  • Apr 30th | 13:07

It is 3:07 p.m. in Concord

We’ll be live here at 7 p.m. for Night 2 of Annual Town Meeting!