Town Election: A Big ‘No’ On Override; School Committee Incumbents Swamped By Populist Pair

Photo: Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman announcing Town Election results.

In the biggest – and far reaching – decision of the 2021 Belmont Town Election, voters defeated a Proposition 2 1/2 override by approximately 1,000 votes, 4,539 to 3,526; a repudiation of the three year $6.4 million fiscal package targeted to fill the growing structural deficit that has been haunting the town’s finances for more than a decade.

Tuesday’s night results – read from the Town Hall steps by Town Clerk Ellen Cushman at 9:35 p.m., Tuesday, April 6 – was just one of a number of results suggesting the populous was seeking change in how governance is conducted in the Town of Homes.

Roughly 47 percent of voters cast ballots – a total of 8,271 voting – which is slightly less than the 51 percent (8,607 votes) which participated in 2015, the last time Belmont went to the polls to decide an override.

For unofficial results, head over to the Town Clerk’s webpage and the 2021 election.

“Voters have clearly decided not to go forward with this override now but the problems that we face as a town are not going to go away,” said Nicole Dorn, who chaired the ‘Yes for Bemont’ campaign.

“We are disappointed, but most of all we are concerned about the future of Belmont. As both our elected leaders and the professionals who oversee our budget have indicated: Belmont residents should expect a tough few years ahead,” said Dorn.

In the crowded field for Belmont School Committee, a pair of populists – Meghan Moriarty and Jamal Saeh – handily defeated the two current members, Tara Donner and Evelyn Gomez, and challenger Tim Flood.

Running on a platform that first surfaced on a local Facebook page where parents believe children were not being served by the actions of the Belmont School Department during a world-wide pandemic, education consultant Moriarty (3,838 votes) and pharmaceutical executive Saeh (3,989) struck a nerve with a portion of residents who felt aggrieved by a perceived lack of movement by the district and School Committee in opening schools full-time.

With their defeat Tuesday, the school committee loses its only active teacher in Donner (1,995 votes) and with Gomez (2,355), a champion of advancing racial and cultural diversity in her single year on the committee.

In another surprise, first-time candidate Adrienne Allen defeated incumbent Stephen Fiore, current chair of the Belmont Board of Health, by a margin of 117 votes, 3,067 to 2,950.

Another office holder, the venerable candidate Tomi Olson was defeated by veteran campaigner Anne Mahon by nearly 950 votes for a five-year seat on the Belmont Housing Authority.

And Mark Paolillo will be back on the Select Board for his fourth three year term after winning unopposed.

Town Meeting Results

Some surprises on the Town Meeting front as two long-time members in Precinct 6 – Joel Semuels and Robert Reardon – the chair of the Board of Assessors – lost the 12th seat to first-timer Marie Warner, head of Citizens for a Fiscally Responsible Belmont, who managed the “No” campaign against the override.

Over in Precinct 3, newcomer A. Ayodeji Baptista impressively topped the ballot with 463 votes.

There will be three Town Meeting members who will be joining the approximately 300 member group via write-in ballots from Precinct 7.

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Comments

  1. OTTAVIO FORTE says

    The election results are in. There shall be no override. We have a state law that protects citizens from the incompetence of the town administrators in managing the budget. An override should be an exception in a town, not a frequent solution. This is especially true when the Feds sent in milk money to make ends meet.

    Many Belmontians think that there is a relationship between the school budget and the quality of education for their children, and will feel guilty if they question override acceptance. NOT TRUE. Education does not happen only in the classroom. We have among the smallest expenditure per student in the state and yet we have among the best schools. A bigger school budget will not make a difference but a $ 1200 reduction to a senior citizen, or to the unemployed will be felt to the bone.

  2. Christine McLaughlin says

    No one ever called the SC the “elite” establishment. And many acknowledge that “populist” has a negative connotation right now. Saeh and Moriarty are candidates that were successful because the majority of school community members got tired of the SC not following DESE guidelines, tired of being ignored and shut down at public meetings, tired of offering help and making proposals that were ignored, and tired of the complete lack of urgency in getting kids back to school when it has been deemed safe by scientists and the medical community. Your articles have been pro-SC and anti-“populist” all year.

  3. Robert Lopez says

    Stop threatening the taxpayers with police fire and school cuts and start cutting some of the fat in the town. I remember when Belmont was a town that got $1.50 worth of service for every dollar spent. What happened to Good Town management that worked within its budget

  4. Susan says

    As we have learned in recent years, most police forces are over-equipped with military hardware. Rather than taking money from the schools, I would suggest looking more closely at the police budget to see what purchases can be eliminated, and perhaps what gear can be sold to generate revenue. I similarly wonder whether all the equipment bought but the fire department is really necessary, or just boys wanting the newest, shiniest toys.

  5. Jacob Scott says

    Franklin, can you tell me exactly what you mean by “populist” and why you think Saeh and Moriarty are populists? If by populist you mean more people voted for them than the incumbents, you are definitely right about that. But I think you mean it in a different way. I can’t think of a single example of Saeh or Moriarty framing their agendas as a battle between ordinary citizens and some shadowy elites. The opposite is true: they are trying to include all points of view. I challenge you to give a single example.

      • Jacob Scott says

        You didn’t answer my question or my challenge to you. Why are they populists? Give me a single example of how Saeh or Moriarty characterized the school committee as an established elite.

  6. Judith Feinleib says

    Peter Whitmer was a long time TMM from Precinct 6. It really was three long time members who lost and one – Linda Oates – who came back after losing last year.

  7. Frances W says

    Well done, Belmont! Show these town administrators that their actions (or lack thereof in terms of the schools) have consequences.

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