Look Who’s Running: Town-Wide, Town Meeting Candidates on the Ballot

The “almost” final list of candidates on the 2015 Belmont Town Election has been released by Town Clerk Ellen Cushman on Monday, Feb. 23, with the hopeful trend of increased participation for those seeking to become Town Meeting members.

The list is not yet a final because residents have until Thursday, March 5 to withdraw their candidacy by writing to Cushman.

The list of all candidates, both town-wide and for Town Meeting, can be found here at the Town Clerk’s web site.

In town-wide races, only the seat on the Belmont Board of Selectmen is being contested with incumbent Andy Rojas being challenged by Town Meeting Member Jim Williams.

Cushman said she is encouraged by the number of candidates for Town Meeting, with six of the town’s eight precinct with the requisite 12 candidates on the ballot. And of the two that failed to reach the dozen candidates, both precincts 3 and 7 – notorious for seeing seats go up for grabs – will only see a single three-year seat go down to write-in votes.

And if anyone in precincts 5, 6 or 7 is looking for a quick way onto Town Meeting, there are no candidates for the partial term seats last two to one year. Each of those seven seats will be filled either by write-ins or at precinct meetings before May’s Town Meeting.

Precinct 1: 15 candidates (10 seeking re-election, 3 newcomers) for three-year terms.

Precinct 2: 12 candidates (9 re-election, 3 newcomers) for three-year terms.

Precinct 3: 11 candidates (7 re-election, 4 newcomers) for three-year terms.

Precinct 4: 14 candidates (10 re-election, 4 newcomers) for three-year terms.

Precinct 5: 13 candidates (11 re-election, 2 newcomers) for three-year terms. No candidates for a one-year term.

Precinct 6: 13 candidates (10 re-election, 3 newcomers) for three-year terms. No candidates for a one-year term or a two-year term.

Precinct 7: 11 candidates (7 re-election, 4 newcomers) for three-year terms. No candidates for four, two-year terms.

Precinct 8: 12 candidates (9 re-election, 3 newcomers) for three-year terms. One candidate for one, one-year term.

A Race for Belmont Selectman as Nomination Period Closed Tuesday

There will be a single competitive race for a town-wide office when Belmont voters go to the ballot at Town Election, April 7, after Town Clerk Ellen Cushman officially closed the nomination process at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

Incumbent Andy Rojas and James Williams, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 8, will square off for the open seat on the Board of Selectmen while the other races will have either candidate seeking re-election or newcomers running unopposed.

Rojas will defend the seat he won three years ago by the narrowest of margins against Williams, a Glenn Road resident who came to live in Belmont in 2011.

If nothing drastically changes in the next seven weeks, the Belmont School Committee will welcome Susan Burgess-Cox to the group as she is the only resident to seek one of the two three-year terms up for grabs. The other candidate for a full-term is incumbent Lisa Fiore.

Current School Committee member Thomas Caputo is running unopposed to fill the remaining two years of the seat he was appointed to in November.

Tara Donner pulled nomination papers to run for a School Committee seat but did not return them to Cushman by Tuesday’s deadline.

Also running unopposed are:

  • Mike Widmer, Town Moderator
  • Martin B. Millane, Jr. (incumbent), Board of Assessors
  • Dr. David Alper (incumbent), Board of Health
  • Donna Brescia (incumbent), Belmont Housing Authority
  • Ellen Cushman (incumbent), Cemetery Commission

The race for the two seats on Board of Library Trustees saw Chair Matthew Lowrie did not seek re-election. In his place, Mary Alice Wistman, a past president of the Friends of the Belmont Public Library, will run to fill that seat.



‘A Brave Decision’: Selectmen Place $4.5M Override Vote on Town Election Ballot

Photo: Belmont Superintendent John Phelan speaking to the Belmont Board of Selectmen and the School Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen unanimously voted Tuesday night, Feb. 18, to place before voters a $4.5 million Proposition 2 1/2 override that will coincide with the annual Town Election set for Tuesday, April 7.

“I think we should make a brave decision to place the appropriate override on the ballot,” said Selectman Sami Baghdady as the three-member board decided not to delay a decision on the override until next week’s selectmen’s meeting.

“There, it’s on the ballot,” said Andy Rojas, chair of the board to the applause from two dozen residents and members of the Belmont Education Association, the union representing teachers and staff in the district.

This is the first override question facing Belmont voters since the unsuccessful attempt in June 2010 when residents rejected a $2.5 million initiative targeting schools and roads, 53 percent to 47 percent. A $2 million roads override was defeated by the same percentage in 2008.

The vote came after a joint meeting of the Selectmen and Belmont School Committee which heard Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan present the stark budgetary options facing the school district in the coming fiscal year which starts on July 1.

Under a budget relying on anticipated revenues for fiscal 2016, the school district will face a $1.7 million funding gap that will be resolved by eliminating 22 full-time teaching and staff positions, allow class sizes to exceed the district’s benchmarks for effective teaching and increase fees for all student activities.

“We really felt that this was important for Belmont,” Rojas told the Belmontonian after the vote.

“We hear all sides [of the override issue], and I certainly understand and we will try to mitigate the impact on the elderly and those on fixed incomes. However, once you see the presentation by [Phelan] and where the available budget leads you, it’s almost negligent not to consider an override,” said Rojas.

“Whatever the outcome of the vote, the efforts of the Financial Task Force will not die,” said Baghdady.

Before voting for the measure, the selectmen each spoke of the override as just one component of a wider approach to tackling the structural deficit facing the town and schools, recommendations raised in the final report of the Financial Task Force, the Selectmen appointed committee that spent a year analyzing Belmont’s long-range financial outlook.

“We are taking all the Task Force’s recommendations very seriously. It will include reforms both structurally and non-structural, it’s creativity on how we run both government and schools and, of course, making sure we fund the programs that are obviously the key part of the override,” said Rojas.

The vote came after a joint meeting of the Selectmen, and Belmont School Committee heard Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan present the budgetary options facing the school district in the coming fiscal year which starts on July 1.

“I should know this as this is the fourth time in six days I’ve made the presentation,” said Phelan told the joint meeting.

Reiterating in detail the pressures facing the school district in his meeting with the School Committee last Thursday, Feb. 12, (see “Belmont Schools Face ‘Significant, Negative Impact’ in Fiscal ’16 Budget; Loss of 22 Positions, Larger Class Sizes” Feb. 12) Phelan presented a stark reality for education in Belmont under an available revenue budget in the next school year: Staff cuts, greater class sizes, less material and supplies, an increase in free time and study halls for middle and high school students and higher fees for students and parents.

Speaking of the student fee increase, families with two children in athletics, a club, and the arts, “you very quickly get to $6,000 to $7,000,” said Phelan.

Phelan told the board the cuts will have a human face to them at next week’s School Committee when he and the Leadership Council – made up of senior staff, principals and department and curriculum heads – pinpoint specific positions and areas which will be eliminated.

“It’s a very disturbing picture,” said Phelan, noting that 80 percent of the school budget “is people so the biggest part of the cuts will be from there.”

As with the previous presentations, Phelan told the meeting the Task Force’s recommendation of a $4.5 million override to stabilize town expenditures will allow the district to keep existing staff and teachers, meet state-mandated required hirings due to a doubling of students requiring English Learning tutoring as well as new hires to meet the exploding enrollment and reduce the free time an ever increasing number of middle and high school students are handed.

“There are no new bikes” in the budget with the $4.5 million increase, said Phelan; the district will not introduce new classes, only retaining the current level of instruction.

“We do believe that we are at a crossroads,” Phelan said of the district, adding that he and the Leadership Council “believe the town needs to make an investment in the schools.”

During a citizen comment period, several teachers and residents expressed their support for the override to assist them in educating Belmont students.

“We teach children, I teach children,” said Dori Pulizzi, a seven-year veteran teacher at the Chenery Middle School. But the only way to effectively do so is with a ratio that she can meet the social/emotional needs of each student. With 28 in a class, Pulizzi said she can only give each student a minute of her time within a 50-minute class after providing the class lesson.

Suzanne Pomponio, a third grade teacher at the Winn Brook with 23 students in her class, said teaching “is just getting harder for students to do what is expected with the demands of Common Core [being introduced to Belmont schools].”

“It’s more stressful for the students, and they need that emotional support but we have less and less time to provide it,” said Pomponio.

After the vote, John Sullivan, the president of the BEA and a Belmont resident, said a vote for the override “is a chance to maintain quality of our outstanding schools.”

“Now we need to get community support, to work together to provide Belmont teachers what they need,” said Sullivan.


Belmont’s League of Women Voters’ Candidate’s Night Set for March 26

The nomination papers are not due into the Town Clerk’s Office until Tuesday, Feb. 17, but the Belmont League of Women Voters has selected the date for the League’s annual Candidate’s Night.
The highlight of the election season will take place on Thursday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chenery Middle School, 95 Washington St.
The League will conduct the evening following its traditional order: those seeking Town Meeting membership are welcome to introduce themselves to the public – no speeches, thank you – then questions from a League panel for the unopposed town-wide candidates before ending the evening with a series of questions and some debating issues by those candidates in contested town-wide races.


And, They’re Off! Contested Race for Belmont Selectman’s Seat

Photo: Incumbent Andy Rojas submitting his nomination papers to Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

With incumbent Andy Rojas turning in his nomination papers for re-election for a second three-year term on the Belmont Board of Selectmen today, Tuesday, Feb. 3, it’s now official there will be a contested race for a seat on the three-member board.

Rojas joins Glenn Road’s James Williams on the April 7 Town Election ballot.

Williams is also the first candidate seeking any town-wide office who has put up a campaign sign, along Bright Road. (see below)

A third person, recent Belmont High School graduate Brian Liddell has taken out nomination papers but has yet to turn them in to the Town Clerk’s office.

Look Who’s Thinking of Running for Town-Wide Office

With a month to go before the deadline for residents to submit nomination papers, it appears there will be at least two competitive town-wide races – for Board of Selectmen and the Belmont School Committtee – that voters will decide at the Town Election.

As of Jan. 13, Town Clerk Ellen Cushman has recorded the following residents who have taken out papers for a possible run for office. So far, no one has returned their nomination papers with the required number of signatures.

Board of Selectmen

  • James Williams
  • Brian Liddell
  • Andy Rojas (incumbent)

School Committee

  • Lisa Fiore (incumbent)
  • Thomas Caputo
  • Tara Donner
  • Susan Burgess-Cox

Board of Assessors

  • Martin B. Millane, Jr. (incumbent)

Board of Health

  • Dr. David Alper (incumbent)

Belmont Housing Authority

  • Donna Brescia (incumbent)

Cemetery Commission

  • Ellen Cushman (incumbent)

Board of Library Trustees

  • Elaine Alligood (incumbent)

The competitive race that has the most diversified field for Selectmen. Rojas is expected to defend his seat from Williams – who raised his visibility submitting a motion at Special Town Meeting in November to reject financing the $2.8 million Belmont Center Reconstruction project with the town’s “free cash” – and Liddell, a 2014 Belmont High School graduate.

On the school side, there are four residents seeking to fill two full, three-year positions and a two-year seat serving the two-years remanding on the term of Kevin Cunningham who resigned in the fall.

The incumbent Fiore will likely be racing for one of two open seats against two newcomers to the election process; Tara Donner and Susan Burgess-Cox. Yet the pair have some familiarity with the committee as both sought the temporary appointment to the board in November to fill the six months of Cunningham’s term before town election. A joint committee of the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee selected Caputo two months ago.

The deadlines to return nomination papers to the Town Clerk’s office is 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.

For more information on running as a candidate, read the article in the Belmontonian.

The Town Election will be held on Tuesday, April 7.

Lougee Will Not Seek Re-election to School Committee

After three-and-a-half years, Anne Lougee has decided to end her service on the Belmont School Committee by not seeking a second term at Town Election in April 2015.

Lougee’s announcement will create a second open seat on the Committee in the coming election. Also on the ballot will be incumbent Lisa Fiore, who is seeking her first full three-year term after serving the unexpired time of Pascha Griffiths, who resigned in 2013.

Lougee decided not to pursue re-election after the evaluation and selection process in November to replace School Committee member Kevin Cunningham, who resigned in September.

“It’s hard to walk away from a group of wonderful colleagues but I was encouraged by the number of well-qualified candidates who came before the committee and selectmen last month for the position,” Lougee told the Belmontonian.

Thomas Caputo was selected from eight residents to replace Cunningham. His term ends at Town Election. Caputo can file to run for the remaining two years of Cunningham’s term, challenge Fiore for her seat or decide not to run.

At his appointment, Caputo said he would seek election to the board.

Fiore, a Lesley University faculty dean with children in district schools, was elected in 2014 to fill the one-year remaining on Griffiths’ term. She told the Belmontonian in September she would likely run for re-election in 2015.

Nomination papers are currently available at the Belmont Town Clerk’s office; the deadline for their return is 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.

Lougee, whose daughter is a 2011 Belmont High School graduate, was appointed to the committee in October 2011 to fill the remainder of the term held by Karen Parmett, who resigned. She won a full stint in the 2012 Town Election.

Lougee said the selection of Belmont Schools Superintendent John Phelan and promoted social/emotional learning throughout the district was two of her accomplishments serving on the committee.

In addition, Lougee emphasized from the time she was on PTOs that parents and officials must not take a myopic view of the town’s schools.

“You have to look at the whole system. It’s K through 12; you can’t separate it by school building or class,” said Lougee, a native midwesterner who came to Belmont in the 1980s and lives on Warwick Road with her husband, Roger Colton.

“You must know how it all works together for your child because they will be a graduate one day,” said Lougee.

In addition to the collegiality of the committee members, Lougee said she’ll also miss witnessing the growth of students in the classroom, in athletics and the arts.

“I love watching the kids test themselves and build their confidence,” she said.

Feel Like Running? Nomination Papers Available Now for Town Office, Town Meeting

Want a say in how Belmont is run? Here’s your chance: Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman has announced that nomination papers for Town Meeting and Town-wide office are available to be picked up at the Clerk’s office on the first floor of Town Hall starting today, Friday, Dec. 5.

The deadlines to return nomination papers to the Town Clerk’s office is 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, said Cushman. 

The Town Election will take place on Tuesday, April 7. 

If you’re thinking of running for elected office in Belmont, Cushman is advising potential “runners” to take a look at the guide for Belmont’s elected government and how to run for elected office in the “Town of Homes.”

Candidates for town–wide office (such as selectman, school committee and several boards)

To be considered a candidate for town-wide office, you must be at least 18 years old and a registered voter in Belmont.

All candidates for town-wide office must secure the signatures of at least 50 registered Belmont voters and return the signed nomination papers by Feb. 17 at 5 pm. Cushman recommends that more signatures are collected and submitted in the event that some signatures are invalid.

Nomination papers are available for pick-up at the Town Clerk’s office. Before collecting signatures, the candidate must sign the nomination papers and fill in the office for which he/she will be a candidate.

Terms for Town Meeting Member

The elected term for Town Meeting Member is three years, though should a resignation occur, there may be openings for one or two year periods.

Candidate for re-election as Town Meeting Member

If you are an incumbent Town Meeting Member, in late December/early January of the year your term is due to expire, you will receive from the Town Clerk’s office a letter asking if you would like to be considered a candidate for re-election to Town Meeting for your precinct.

The candidate must sign and return the affirmation form to the Town Clerk’s office by Feb. 17 to be considered a candidate for re-election. If the date passes without return of the form, the candidate would be considered a new candidate for Town Meeting and would be required to secure the 25 signatures on the nomination paper and the words  “candidate for re-election” will not appear next to the name on the ballot.

New candidates for Town Meeting Member

To be considered a new candidate for Town Meeting Member, you must be at least 18 years old and a registered voter in Belmont in the precinct you wish to represent. If you are currently serving as a Town Meeting Member who was elected at caucus, not by town ballot, you will need to submit nomination papers as a new candidate.

Candidates for Town Meeting must secure the signatures of at least 25 registered voters from the precinct and return the signed nomination papers. Once again, Cushman recommends that more signatures are collected and submitted in the event that some signatures are invalid.

“We encourage all candidates for all elected offices, for both town-wide and for Town Meeting, to investigate the responsibilities of the post by reading the Town General Bylaws and Belmont Town Meeting Acts of 1926, and reading the minutes of the elected board,” said Cushman.

Rojas Leaning Closer to Re-election Run

While still more than a half a year away before Belmont residents go to the polls in the 2015 town election, one incumbent is leaning ever closer to announcing a re-election run to keep his seat on the town’s executive branch.

“I still have a lot of time before I have to announce, but my inclination is that, yes, I will be running for the board,” said Andy Rojas, chair of the three-member Board of Selectmen when asked by the Belmontonian at the end of the board’s public meeting held Monday, Aug. 19.

The Drew Road resident won his first run for town-wide office in April 2012 when he defeated then-School Committee member, the late Dan Scharfman in one of the closest elections in town history, 2,171 to 2,136, to replace Angelo Firenze on the board.