UPDATED April 29: After hearing from supporters and opponents, the Arlington Select Board unanimously voted April 24 to postpone giving its views on Special Town Meeting Article 5: Resolution for a Ceasefire Proclamation. Town Meeting members are scheduled to take up that matter May 8, at Special Town Meeting; they have sole authority to act on it.

The Select Board has scheduled a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to review the article; any vote on whether to take a position on it could take place at the regular board meeting May 6.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. April 24, Select Board Chair Stephen W. DeCourcey led the nearly 90-minute meeting, which ended just before the first session of annual Town Meeting began, at 8 p.m.; the board moved through its agenda swiftly. Special Town Meeting Article 5's text is as follows: “To see if the town will vote to adopt a proclamation in favor of an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Palestine and Israel, the release of all hostages, the immediate provision of lifesaving aid, and a diplomatic resolution for Palestinians and Israelis.”

Board members said one reason for the delay is because they were able to allot less than an hour to the matter April 24 and also because it was a Jewish holiday -- the eight-night observance of Passover is to end Tuesday night -- so the thought was that some who might have wished to be there could not attend.

2 authors of ceasefire resolution urge support

The board spent around 45 minutes on the issue, giving most of that time to others, including the article's proponent, Chadi Salamoun, who said that he had fled Beirut, Lebanon, at a young age. "I am here to speak for all the children who cannot currently escape their situations, as I was able to do," he said, apparently referring to those in Gaza. “This article does not ask you to condemn anyone or to choose a side. It asks you to recommit to our values that center humanity."

 David Fleig -- a 14-year resident of the town and a coauthor of the article, according to the town Human Rights Commission, which less than two hours earlier had voted 8-1 to endorse the article -- also spoke in favor.

“If the Select Board opts not to endorse the warrant article, I hope that one thing will be clear: That decision should not be blamed on the Jewish community,” said Fleig. “Do not lay that burden at our feet, for we will not carry it for you. That failure, that legacy, would be yours -- and yours alone.”

One frequent concern brought up in recent days by town residents, including some of the input recently compiled by the commission, is whether this overseas conflict is relevant to the Arlington community. Fleig said the answer is yes.

“Our tax money goes both to fund the weapons and the humanitarian relief. Our soldiers die and will die in greater numbers if it continues. Our family members are killed or are at risk in this world,” he said. “Our values and the values that we pass on to our children are reflected by the actions that we take in respect to what is happening.”

It was not immediately apparent what Fleig was referring to, as no American service members have been reported killed in the Israel-Hamas war nor are any U.S. military personnel known to be in Gaza. However, some recently arrived nearby to construct a pier from the Mediterranean Sea to convey humanitarian aid -- and have already been fired upon by militants, recent news reports said.

Others speak for -- and against

After initial discussion among the board members, the commission's co-chairs were invited to speak. Drake Pusey and Griffin Jones described what they had gleaned during the listening sessions and from email received earlier this month on the subject. They said they had concluded that the most damaging mindset is one that holds that any given action is considered a win for one side and a loss for the other.

“A vote for this proclamation is not a vote for Palestine or Israel, for Muslims or Jews,” said Pusey.

Watch April 24 meeting on ACMi:

Then others had a chance to weigh in. David Emer spoke in opposition to the article and any endorsement of it.

“The challenges facing this town, hunger right here, the lack of affordable housing, inadequate teacher pay, among many others, are too great, so that we must set aside our disagreements on this resolution,” he said. We should focus on the local effects [on, before and after] Oct. 7.”

Emer said he thinks it also is essential to combat hate of all forms in Arlington itself, and he noted that less than five years ago, someone had tried to set fire to the only Jewish institution in town.

Board member Eric Helmuth moved to table the discussion to the next meeting, May 6, two days before Special Town Meeting is scheduled, May 8; the resolution is the fifth and final article on the warrant. Since then, a special meeting to review it has been set for Wednesday May 1.

His colleagues unanimously agreed. It was stated April 24 that this May 6 meeting might be devoted wholely to the resolution, however, the agenda for the May 6 meeting has not been posted and likely will not be before May 4.

 Swift decision on less-contentious matter

The board unanimously moved favorable action -- that is, they made a nonbinding recommendation -- on Special Town Meeting Article 2. This is a bylaw amendment concerning membership on the Poet Laureate Screening Committee. The question was whether to automatically allow the immediately previous poet laureate to become a committee member.

“This is one of my favorite parts of our arts and culture scene and has been a real addition to the town,” said Helmuth, who motioned for favorable action on this article. “This is a really sensible proposal to ensure some continuity.”

A vote on Special Town Meeting Article 2 is expected Wednesday.

In other business, the board:

● Unanimously voted favorably for installing the Lockeland Avenue Loading Zone, which would be needed for ongoing delivery service;
● Approved minutes of board meetings that took place on March 18, March 26 and April 1 of this year;
● Approved a request for a license for drain laying to Joseph DePrimeo of Primo Paving & Seal Coating;
● Approved two special (one-day) beer and wine licenses for this Saturday, April 27: at Fidelity House for a fund-raiser and at Town Hall for a private event;
● Approved a special-event permit application for Arts in the Park, to take place July 27 at Whittemore Park;
● Approved a special-event permit application for Art on the Green Town Day, scheduled for Sept. 21 at Whittemore Park; and
● Agreed that correspondence was received for the 2024 Arlington Community Electric Contract Update, as was discussed by the Select Board on March 28.

April 5, 2024: Select Board makes recommendations on TM articles: against residential picketing, for teen voting

 This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Jessie Castellano was published Thursday, April 25, 2024, and updated later that day, as well as on April 26, to add ACMi video window. It was updated April 29 to indicate that board review of Special Town Meeting articles 2 and 5 are expected at a special board meeting set for Wednesday but that only a vote on Article 2 is expected then -- and that the vote on Article 5 may be at the regular May 6 meeting.

This reporting demonstrates your donations at work to support democracy here.YourArlington is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.Your contributions are tax-deductible.