Why I’m Running: Ellen O’Brien Cushman for Town Clerk

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Photo: At work with Ellen Cushman.

I am proud to be Belmont ‘s Town Clerk for the last six years and look forward to serving for another three years, following in the footsteps of some extraordinarily dedicated women and men.  April 5 I run unopposed for re-election but I want to provide a quick summary of some of accomplishments and changes in the Town Clerk’s office over the past couple of years to let you know how we’re doing. The two main goals for the Town Clerk’s office are simplifying transactions so we can continue to handle  growing demands  and accessibility of records and: 

Here are some transaction statistics that may startle you. During the calendar year 2015:   

  • 15, 029 people entered the Town Clerk’s office per our electronic door counters.  No, that’s not a typo, it’s 15,029 people who came into the office looking for information, help, documents!
  • The Town Clerk’s staff of four sent and received more than 31,800 emails
  • There is no system to record the number of incoming phone calls but that’s one of the most popular modes of communication so we can only guess at that number.
  • Daily, we issue residency verification for Belmont families to register children in our schools, that’s every single day we’re open, in 2015 totaling  814 children from  521 families.
  • Licensed 2400 pets, more than 20 percent renewed their pet licenses by paying online.
  • Posted 634 separate meetings from 53 separate governmental bodies, all compliant with the Commonwealth’s Open Meeting Law, and received the related minutes. 
  • Our revenues for Town Clerk activities totaled $100,500 in FY15, up 4 percent from FY14, and the average fee we collect is just $20;  so the total number of fee-based  transactions 5611. 
  • Introduced electronic voting at Town Meeting, getting accurate, fast results and high levels of satisfaction.
  • We issued 195 free Yard Sale Permits online using our self-serve software, up from 13 in its inception year 2014.
  • We distribute materials to Town Meeting Members via email and the Town’s website; at this point, all but six of the 294 Town Meeting Members receive  their documents by email, cutting cost and getting documents in the hands of Town Meeting Members sooner.
  • In FY15, we issued 1774 absentee ballots to qualified Belmont voters and processed 7,650 individual family census forms. 
  • Have had 105 fully trained election workers in 2015, and have just recruited and trained an additional 48, ready to deploy in 2016, an exceedingly busy election year. We’ve standardized our training, provided election worker manuals and re-educated our long-term workers.
  • During the school year, we benefited from 300 volunteer hours from Belmont High School students and another 380 hours over the summer of 2015 to help us with filing and organizing.  We love our volunteers and count on them.

Accessibility of Records: 

  • Pet Licensing System: We maintain all records electronically, in real-time and allow online payments for renewals. We make our data system available to the Animal Control Officer and Belmont Police.
  • Business licensing System: For licenses issued by the Board of Selectmen, we created an online licensing system that allows departments to review, share information and approve or deny a license online, cutting significantly the time from application to approval. In fall 2016 we will allow businesses to apply and pay online and the application processing fee will be waived for businesses do so.
  • Town Meeting Votes: The Town Clerk’s office is daily asked for information about votes by Town Meeting on an array of topics, often from decades ago. We have created an electronic index of the Town Meeting votes to show the result and allow us to locate the transcript of the specific Town Meeting article. At this time, the index covers 3,200 votes from 1955 to 2016; we continue to add votes every chance we get with the goal to have ALL votes back to 1859 indexed and available.
  • Public Records Requests: Under the Massachusetts Public Records law, we receive hundreds of these requests each year, some requiring quick responses, some require extensive research. We’ve formalized the process to keep track of the requests and responses with the goal of never missing a deadline. 
  • Archiving: One way to make records more accessible is to know what you have and where it is before you’re asked to produce it. We have created an online data system to help us keep track of all of our archive items.
  • Our project under the Community Preservation Act has allowed us to digitize Belmont’s more than 70,000 vital records of birth, death and marriage to preserve them, index them and allow us to issue images of these records upon demand. In addition, we are preserving the bound books of these original documents to assure they’ll be around for future generations of Belmontians.

I hope you’re happy with the service the Town Clerk’s office provides for Belmont. Feel free to send me your comments, good and bad. That’s how improvement happens. I would appreciate your vote on Tuesday, April 5. 

Ellen O’Brien Cushman, Town Clerk

Scott Road

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