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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 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.

Fingerprint checks

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 , 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.

Rob May 02, 2012 at 10:46 AM
I wonder if the supreme court will take town meetings advice. Wasting time on stupid things like this is why nobody wants to join the town meeting.
Melissa May 02, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Oppose the use of fingerprint checks in this day and age...really?!
Robert Connors May 04, 2012 at 11:29 AM
All these "Stupid things" make a town function.
Robert Connors May 04, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Still, at this time in the United States of America a person is innocent until proven guilty. Who do you wish to have fingerprinted and for what purpose? I was at Town Meeting and voted against this article because I felt it was too broad and not specific enough. I understand why Chief Cormier would favor something like this and I would be in favor of a more specific article.
Karl Weld May 04, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Regarding the call for the constitutional amendment. http://volokh.com/2012/04/26/the-potential-impact-of-the-peoples-rights-amendment-goes-far-beyond-restricting-freedom-of-speech/ The Potential Impact of the People’s Rights Amendment Goes Far Beyond Restricting Freedom of Speech "it’s important to recognize that the proposal goes far beyond denying free speech rights to entities organized as corporations. It would deny them all other constitutional rights as well. Section 1 of the proposed amendment states that the “the rights protected by this Constitution” are limited to “the rights of natural persons.” Notice that this is not limited to free speech rights or even to First Amendment rights generally. Section emphasizes that “People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.” Notice that this is not limited to for-profit corporations lobbying for their narrow self-interest. It applies to all corporations of any kind, including nonprofits, media corporations, churches, and others."
Karl Weld May 04, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Continued: "Thus, the PRA would deny all constitutional rights to all entities organized as corporations. If the Amendment passes, government would be free to search corporate-owned premises at will, restrict freedom of religion at houses of worship owned by corporate entities (which includes most churches), condemn corporate-owned property for private uses and without paying compensation, and so on. This result is consistent with the logic of those who criticize the Citizens United decision on the grounds that corporations don’t have First Amendment rights because they aren’t “real” people. If this reasoning is correct with respect to the First Amendment, it surely applies to other constitutional rights too. But even dedicated supporters of campaign finance regulations might wonder whether those laws are so wonderful that their protection justifies the sweeping restrictions on all other constitutional rights embodied in the People’s Rights Amendment."
Tom Jeffords May 05, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Article 22 of the 2012 Town Warrant proposes to reduce the number of Town Meeting members from 192 members to 144 members. This proposal is due to resident's indifference towards becoming town meeting members. After noting that 101 Town Meeting members voted to petiton the United States Congress to amend the First Amendment of the Constitution, the question has to be asked. Why would any rational people want to associate themselves with a body of fools like this? Stop wasting time on matters you can't influence and ignore activist nitwits like John Lippitt.

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