As a veteran Town Meeting Member, I am asking my friends and neighbors to join me in supporting John Leone’s re-election as Arlington’s Moderator.
A good Moderator is dedicated to the task of leading Town Meeting to the decision it wants to make, and John is a fair and effective facilitator of the meeting.
The Moderator’s role is not a policy position. Rules and decisions are prescribed by state law, the town bylaws, and the Town Meeting equivalent of Robert’s Rules of Order, a book called Town Meeting Time. Many of the procedural aspects of the meeting are decided by votes of Town Meeting. For example, the date and time of the first night of Town Meeting is prescribed by the warrant, but Town Meeting votes every night to decide the date and time of the next meeting. The length of time allotted to speakers is defined in the town’s bylaws, and is changed when the Town Meeting votes to amend the existing bylaw. The Moderator merely operates within the framework of these rules.
The Moderator needs to maintain impartiality and independence. Moderators should never engage in recruiting Town Meeting Members, or advocating for or against the election of any of our 252 citizen legislators. The Moderator’s job is to welcome all members into the Meeting, and skillfully manage the speaking time to give the members the opportunity to weigh the arguments for or against any article.
Town Meeting is not a debating society, and it is not in the best interests of the meeting to allow everyone to speak on a given article. It can be frustrating for a potential speaker when the meeting votes to terminate debate, but it serves no purpose to extend debate when minds are made up on an article that results in an overwhelming vote of the meeting.
As Moderator, John Leone has worked to improve Town Meeting through a series of initiatives. He installed a scoreboard-size clock in the auditorium to fairly and equitably manage the time limits for speakers. He worked with advisory committees to bring accountability and transparency to the meeting through the use of electronic voting devises, as these “clickers” enable voters to see how their Town Meeting Members voted on every significant vote.
John Leone is also to be admired for his work during the pandemic. It was no easy feat to conduct a Town Meeting on the Arlington High football field, or to move the meeting to Zoom. While it wasn’t fun, while the limits of the technology bogged down the meeting, John made it work and Arlington successfully conducted its business over the past two years.
John is a past president of the Massachusetts Moderators Association, and has been active in sharing knowledge with his fellow moderators. Running a successful Town Meeting requires tremendous skill, and John Leone has proven he can manage the competing interests of the 252 Town Meeting Members and dozens of town officials who participate in our legislative process.
John Leone has earned another three-year term as Moderator. Please join me in voting for him on Saturday, April 2.
Town Meeting Member, Precinct 9