Reading Town Meeting Discusses Fingerprint Checks, "Citizens United" Decision and CVS Parking Lot
Three articles generated most of the discussion Monday.
Town Meeting completed almost all the articles it faced Monday night.
But not the one asking whether the body itself should to shrink from 192 to 144 members, or from 24 to 18 representatives from each of the town’s eight precincts. That discussion is set for this coming Thursday night. Not enough town residents are interested in being Town Meeting members to fill all 192 seats, according to the article background.
Town Meeting spent the bulk of Monday’s meeting discussing three articles. After roughly an hour of discussion on each, members approved articles that:
-- allow the police department to do fingerprint-based state and national criminal history checks for individuals applying for certain licenses and
-- call for an amendment to the Constitution reversing the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.
They indefinitely postponed – that is, voted to take no action -- on making the driveway out of the parking lot behind CVS onto Haven Street two way, in exchange for allowing Northern Bank and Trust to place an ATM in the parking lot.
Why adopt the fingerprint bylaw?
“Safety,” said Police Chief James Cormier.
A change in the Criminal Offender Record Information regulations allows the background checks in communities that have a bylaw allowing them, Cormier told Town Meeting, for applicants for six licenses, including door-to-door salesperson, manager of alcoholic beverages, dealers of second-hand articles and ice cream truck drivers. Without the bylaw, police don’t know if an applicant has a record in another state and, he said, society is mobile today. The fingerprints are stored in a civil database, Cormier said, not accessible for criminal investigations.
A number of Town Meeting members said they opposed use of fingerprint checks in these cases or had questions about specifics of the proposed bylaw.
Three selectmen – Stephen Goldy, James Bonazoli and John Arena – urged Town Meeting to give the selectmen as much information as possible about applicants for licenses that the board grants.
Supreme Court challenge
By a 101-41 vote, Town Meeting approved the call for the constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court decision. Precinct 7 member John Lippitt, who petitioned to place the article on the warrant, described the decision and resulting money flow into political campaigns as the most severe challenge to our democracy that he has seen in his lifetime.
Supporters urged fellow Town Meeting members to speak out on the issue. Twenty communities in the Commonwealth have passed similar resolutions, he said, as have communities across the country.
Several opponents said Town Meeting was not the right venue for this vote. Town Meeting was not fully informed about the decision; Congress has already passed a resolution on the decision; and the court is considering a “Citizens United II” case, they said.
Driveway and parking lot driveway easements
The town has a unique opportunity to improve access to a town parking lot, Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner told Town Meeting.
Attorney Joshua Latham, representing Reading Co-Operative Bank, whose building lines one side of the driveway, urged Town Meeting to vote against the article.
Two-way traffic in that driveway would be dangerous for pedestrians, he said. Such a change was not envisioned in the town’s Master Plan, he continued and would require the parking lot to be reconfigured. Large vehicles, such as delivery trucks, would present a problem with this configuration, he said.
It’s hard enough for pedestrians to navigate around traffic outbound from the parking lot, Latham said.
A stream of Town Meeting members agreed with him. The bank wants an ATM on the side of the building where it has been located for 25 years, according to speakers.
Several speakers disagreed. They said this presented a good opportunity for the town.
The body voted 75-63 to adjourn around 11 p.m. Monday.