Letter to the Editor: Town Meeting Needs a Youth Perspective

Photo: Daniel Vernick

To the editor:

I’m running to bring new energy and a youth perspective to Town Meeting for Precinct 1. I’ve lived in Belmont for the past 18 years, attending Belmont Cooperative Nursery School and then the Belmont Public Schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. I’ve been involved in the Belmont community and town government throughout middle and high school, from establishing Chenery Green Week and Multicultural Night in 8th grade Student Council to planning the MLK Breakfast and expanding high school representation on the Human Rights Commission as a Commission member.

I’ve often seen a disconnect between students and town leaders. The youngest of 294 Town Meeting Members is more than 30 years old; college and high school students have no representation on Town Meeting. That’s unacceptable. Leading the high school override effort made me realize that many in town just don’t understand where we’re coming from. There are so many issues that young people are uniquely impacted by and have an important perspective on, from social justice to a new high school to the latest technology and its integration into education. As an 18-year-old BHS graduate, I’ll make sure that the voices of Belmont’s youth are heard, and that students’ ideas are integrated into town policy.

I’ve seen firsthand the problems facing our schools and the need to maintain the highest quality education. I first became involved in activism with the 2010 override in 7th grade. Last year I again organized my classmates for an override, connecting energy at Belmont High School with activism in the community. As Belmont High School Vice President, my work included successfully advocating for library renovations and new study areas, evaluating candidates for superintendent, and planning events such as Senior Service Day. I have experience representing my classmates’ perspective both internally within the school administration and externally through the town. I’ll have unique insight on the new high school, working to connect students’ ideas with the broader Belmont community.

I envision a bold Belmont at the forefront of progressive change. A few priorities:

  • Schools. Build on the progress of the override. Our schools remain underfunded and often improperly managed. Belmont schools have done an enormous amount for me, and I’ll do everything in my power to preserve and improve them for future generations.
  • Environment. Belmont should be a leader in sustainability and clean energy. I’ll work to preserve conservation land, advocate for solar net metering, improve public transportation, and support the Community Path and other new recreation areas. I’ll also push for Belmont to follow the lead of cities from Cambridge to Framingham in divesting from fossil fuel corporations.
  • Teachers. The teachers I’ve had in Belmont are some of the most incredible people I know, and I’m certain I would not be here without their tireless work. Belmont must ensure that every teacher is treated with fairness and justice. I’ll voice the concerns of teachers and elevate their influence in the school administration. 
  • Innovation. Make Belmont business-friendly, and attract businesses to build the tax base. Improve town infrastructure and technological capabilities; Belmont’s restrictions on social media make its Web presence lacking and archaic. Resist town regulation of Airbnb and other new technologies.
  • Equality. Belmont doesn’t have an equal rights bylaw that officially states racial and LGBT equality. I’ll advocate for a comprehensive bylaw that includes equal transgender accommodations. We must do more to combat prejudice and create an inclusive community.
  • Responsive government. Stand up for greater transparency and hold town leaders accountable.

I was inspired to run by beloved 15-year Belmont teacher John Sullivan, who was unjustly fired last June. I organized students to resist the termination; we organized more than 50 students to attend a School Committee meeting in protest and wrote a petition that obtained 650 signatures. Sullivan was a mentor, a leader, and the definition of a 21st-century educator. His philosophy of learning is exactly what Belmont needs more of. I’ll never forget Sullivan, and I’ll never stop fighting for the respect and dignity that my teachers deserve.

Town Meeting should make Belmont a leader. We must stand out not just in education but in everything from infrastructure to sustainability. My goal is to expand youth involvement in town government and to get more students to run for town office in the future.

I’ll bring a fresh voice and new ideas to Town Meeting. With 17 candidates running for 12 seats, this will be a tight race and every vote will make a difference! Feel free to reach out to 781-697-9732 or danieliwvernick@gmail.com if you have any questions or can help out with my campaign. Join me in the fight to empower young people and to make Belmont a leader. It would be an honor to have your vote this Tuesday, April 5th.

Daniel Vernick

Fairmont Street

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Comments

  1. Jonathan says

    If we try to excel in everything, we’ll excel in nothing, That’s something you learn when you get some experience in the real world. Prioritization and hard choices are the hallmarks of leadership, not promises that can’t be kept.

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