Letter to the Editor: Enthusiastic Support Of Amy Checkoway For School Committee

Photo: Amy Checkoway’s campaign poster

To the editor:

I am writing in enthusiastic support of Amy Checkoway for School Committee member.

Amy is an outstanding choice for a School Committee member. She is an intelligent, devoted candidate who will do an exceptional job helping the School Committee navigate the challenging road ahead — building a new school and the reorganization that will follow. Amy is an excellent communicator and she is a consummate professional. I can think of no one else better suited for this role than Amy.

I have known Amy for more than five years as we served together on the Wellington PTO Student Care Board together from 2014 through 2018. I had an opportunity to see Amy and her tireless efforts for the benefit of the Wellington community. Now she is ready to dedicate her time to ensure that the Belmont Public Schools are the best they can be for our kids, the educational professionals, and the community.

Working with Amy has taught me a number of things about her. First, Amy is very bright and is able to appreciate complex situations at multiple levels; she understands the finer details but is able to keep the larger goal in mind. Second, Amy is a highly effective communicator and she understands the importance of clear, open dialog with the community. Further, she has experience as an education professional and therefore knows how to communicate with others in the education field. Third, she is about as organized and dependable as one can be. Amy is the type of person that you know will get the job done, and get it done well. Finally, Amy is extremely ethical, professional, and dedicated to any endeavor she undertakes.

While Amy is just about one of the nicest people you will meet, that doesn’t mean she won’t stand up to do what she believes is right for our schools, our children, and our community. I completely trust that Amy will always do the right thing for Belmont Schools.

Please join me in voting for Amy Checkoway for School Committee member on April 2.

Brooke Bevis

Cedar Road

Letter To The Editor: A Better Diehl For Massachusetts

Photo: Geoff Diehl on the campaign trail.
To the editor:
Our community is a special place. We deserve a senator who cares. I have been disappointed over the past 6 years with Senator Elizabeth Warren. Putting politics aside, she really hasn’t done her job. She has written books and gone on all the shows, but she has not put in the time for Massachusetts.
The office of senator should be to represent us. Warren has ignored us.
That’s why I am voting for Geoff Diehl for U.S. Senate. He led the successful fight to repeal automatic gas tax increases. He has saved drivers a ton of money. Warren has done nothing for us.
Geoff is committed to serving the full six-year term. He wants to be our Senator. I am going with the better Diehl.
Matt Sullivan   
Hammond Road

Letter To The Editor: Until There Is Accountability, A ‘No’ Vote On New High School

Photo: A No until accountability

To The Editor:

I am not going to argue whether we need a new school. I am concerned about the people on the committee and our past debacles.

Wellington Elementary School
1. full before it was finished being built.
2. Neighbor Noise issues (as a side the building committee rolled there eyes even thought the residents were correct and the town eventually after finally listening did something about it).
3. Sound proofing – the school was finally fixed this year for the noise between classrooms and it actually caused a new sound issue in the principals office that has to be corrected.
4. It’s made of wood and is already in need of repair.

Trash Dumpsters
For some reason the committees never take this into account. There was an issue at the Burbank. At the Chenery the solution was to line up barrels in the hallways until the fire chief said it was a safety issue

This is the third high school in 75 years I believe. And the in-all-seriousness Bill Lovallo, the chair of the building committee made a comment that this school should last 50 years. Now I am sure it was said with the best of intentions but with proper maintenance and upkeep, shouldn’t a building last more than 50 years?

Speaking of upkeep, what is the maintenance plan for this building? Are estimated costs for the future? For example, what is the boilers life span? Will there be money in replace [them] when the time comes and not let them be fixed with band aids?

Did you know the building committee decided to take down the [White] Field House in front of the hockey rink? The one where just a few years ago people donated to have new lockers put in with name plates? Not to mention the decision was made without consulting the Recreation Department who uses an office there (and to my knowledge had not been told of their new location) or that that building is also use for IT equipment for wiring around the field and rink (sorry I don’t know the technical terms).

Now I completely appreciate the time and effort that the people on these committees make but its the same people committee after committee. Who picks them? The Town Moderator. I am curious if anyone has been turned down from a committee or if truly no one else has asked to be on it. What we need is an actual plumber, HVAC and general contractor on the committee as they know the codes and can pick things up when reviewing plans. To me not having those on the board is irresponsible.

Finally, one of major concerns is the fiscal responsibility of the committee. Once the money is received from the Massachusetts School Building Authority and from the town, the committee has oversight. The committee does have have to answer to anyone else, not the town administrator or the town selectmen. How long has the Wellington been done and the board is still in existence and still spending money (granted it is to correct problems but really, should it have taken this long).

Until I can get assurances that we are not going down the same road we always do, whether we need it or not, I will vote no.

Lisa Boyajian

Letter To The Editor: Where You Learn Matters

Photo: The proposed 7-12 High School.

To the editor:

As a teacher, I’d like to believe that I’m equally effective in every classroom. In reality, the space I teach in matters a lot, and my students don’t have the same quality of experience in a cramped classroom as they do in an airy one. Over the years, I’ve frequently taught in rooms where the seats are bolted to the floor. On a tour this week at Belmont High School, I was disappointed to discover the high school also has a few rooms designed this way. As a veteran history teacher, I can assure you that it is really difficult to foster active learning in rooms where you can’t move the furniture.

When I’ve had the opportunity to teach in more flexible spaces, the difference has been palpable. My favorite room has movable tables that can be brought together to form seminar tables big enough to support the kind of large format documents – broadsides, posters or maps – I love to see students pore over. But the tables can also be subsequently separated into smaller tables for individual or partnered work. The room is flanked by whiteboards, which allow groups to work out problems visually. It’s a joy to teach, and to learn, in this room.

Belmont High School has no spaces conducive to hands-on, project-based learning. Yet studies have confirmed over and again that this is the best way to learn. Our dedicated teachers know this, which is why they send students out into the hallway to use the floor as a table. Still, a noisy hallway is only marginally more conducive to learning than a room with seats bolted to the floor.

Most of us find it hard to concentrate in noisy environments, and few of us learn well by sitting passively. Fortunately, there’s a solution. The need to replace the aging and inadequate high school offers Belmont the opportunity to build a middle and high school with spaces that can change as teaching and learning do, while freeing up more space for hands-on learning at all levels, K-12. The state of Massachusetts agrees this is pedagogically sound and has offered $80 million toward construction costs if Belmont votes to fund the remaining expenses. Please join me Tuesday, Nov. 6 in voting Yes on Question 4.

Mary Lewis

Randolph Street


Letter To The Editor: Belmont Should Not Place Fear-Based Regs On Burgeoning Industry

Photo: Sample jars at an existing retail operation.

To the editor:

The debate surrounding retail marijuana arises fears of the “undesirable people” that would be brought into town, fear of kids having access to marijuana, and scares about kids seeing marijuana in the window of a store (despite the fact that retailers are not allowed to display any product in the window, or have any signage that indicates that marijuana is sold there). Parents understandably do not want their kids to smoke pot. Thankfully, marijuana will not be any more present in your life, or any kids’ life if you vote ‘no’ to the Special Election Question on Tuesday, Sept. 25. 

Marijuana already exists in Belmont. The contents of the marijuana that kids currently have access to are not regulated whatsoever. Furthermore, the existence of retail marijuana has the chance to dry up the black market for a substance that is generally easier for American children to get than alcohol, which is regularly exposed to children in restaurants, stores, and advertising. 

Much of the conversation regarding this bylaw focuses on the number of retail establishments that would be allowed. I definitely don’t think that there is a market for more than two retail stores in Belmont at the moment. There should be as many establishments as the market demands, and therefore no premature limitation on what is allowed. If a no vote passes, it is highly unlikely that there will be more than two establishments in the foreseeable future.

My primary concern is that there is no logical reason to block cultivators, product manufacturers, or testing facilities. These facilities create jobs, many of which require advanced education and training and pay well. We should allow a burgeoning industry that will create quality employment opportunities in town. 

Good policymaking is evidence based. We should reject regulation that stifles economic development and doesn’t have any foreseeable social or environmental externalities. I would challenge that there is no benefit to voting for these regulations other than to appease personal biases, unfounded fears, and blatant misunderstandings of the implications of this policy. Voting no will allow for increased tax revenue in town, more quality employment opportunities for residents, potentially reduce the market for marijuana on the street, and allow adults to consume marijuana in the safest possible way if they choose to do so.

Jeremy Romanul

Trowbridge Street

Letter to the Editor: Help Keep Teens Safe This Holiday Season

Photo: Wayside Youth & Family Support Network logo.

You might know me as the “Slices of Life” columnist, or as Minutes Recorder for various Belmont committees, but I’m also a Public Health Educator, now working with Wayside Youth & Family Support Network to oversee Belmont’s implementation of grants focused on drug/alcohol use and mental health disorders. In that capacity, and as a fellow Belmont parent, I thought I’d share some of Wayside’s tips for helping to keep our teens safe this holiday season.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered several years ago in Belmont, revealed that approximately one-third of our teenage students admitted they are drinking. Most are getting their alcohol from older siblings, older friends, or home.  In many instances, their parents do not know how much they drink – or even that they drink at all.

This is not only illegal, it’s dangerous. Teen alcohol use can lead to unsafe behaviors that puts our kids’ health and safety at risk. Due to their developing brains, teens tend to drink too much when they drink. And those who drink endanger more than themselves: teens who drink put themselves at risk for alcohol poisoning, car crashes, injuries, violence, or unprotected and/or unwanted sex.

As a parent of three teens, I thought I would share the following tips to reduce teen drinking:

  • Keep alcohol in a secure location, preferably in locked cabinets. Even if you trust your teen, their friends may be tempted by what’s available in your home.
  • If you are hosting a party, do not leave unsupervised alcohol around where it is accessible to underage guests. And tell other relatives not to serve alcohol to your child under the age of 21.
  • Let your child know what you expect. Tell your teen that adults may be drinking during the holidays, but under no circumstances is he/she allowed to drink alcohol.
  • If your child is attending a party, check on the details. Find out if there will be parental supervision, and be sure no alcohol will be available at the parties that your teen will be attending.  Wait up to greet your child when he/she arrives home at curfew time.
  • Make sure not to leave your teenagers home alone if you go out of town. Word gets out quickly and a drinking party can develop, sometimes without your child’s consent.
  • Do not relax your family rules with your own teens during the holidays; it can be difficult to return to previous expectations.

Did you know that for every year a teen does not use alcohol, the odds of lifelong dependence decrease by 15 percent? That’s worth keeping in mind. Avoidance now is an investment in the lifelong health of our teens.

Please do what you can to reduce youth access to alcohol; it really does take a village!

If I can be of support to you or your teens, please contact me at Lisa_Gibalerio@WaysideYouth.org

Lisa Gibalerio

Wayside Youth & Family Support Network

Letter to the Editor: A Quieter Leaf Blower and Community

Dear folks,
There’s something I’d love to give thanks for next year at this time – a world, or at least a town, without leaf blowers. I actually forbid our landscaper a few years ago from using one after a spring when one of his workers blew down hundreds of our daffodils. Now he uses a rake on the lawn and a broom on the driveway; and the leaves that fall on the garden stay there to turn into mulch. He doesn’t complain, actually, and he didn’t raise his rates.
Here’s the organization’s site: https://www.quietcommunities.org/
Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving,
Sue Bass
Concord Avenue

Letter to the Editor: Planning Board Chaos Underscores Need for Accountability

Photo: The Planning Board

To the editor:

And then there were three. With the unexpected resignations this week of former Planning Board Chairwoman Liz Allison and Board member Barbara Fiacco, Belmont’s Planning Board has been reduced to just three members, having lost half its members to resignation in the past month – all three under clouds of controversy. 

The unraveling of this critical body as major projects, like Cushing Village, demand attention and others like Belmont High School loom poses a serious challenge to the Town’s leadership. It also offers a powerful argument in favor of a motion I have put before Town Meeting on Nov. 13 that will bring accountability and order to Planning Board by letting the town’s voters choose its members, as 35 of 39 other towns in Middlesex county already do.

For those readers who are hearing about this for the first time, I’ve taken the opportunity to answer some “frequently asked questions”. I hope this help inform you about this important, citizen-driven initiative. 

Why are you doing this? 

Amending our bylaws to have voters elect our Planning Board will bring transparency, accountability, and professionalism to a critical body whose jurisdiction extends to every private home and commercial property in town. Popular election of Planning Board will give voters the opportunity to evaluate all candidates for open positions on the Planning Board and to choose those who are best qualified and suited to represent the community’s interests. 

This critical change to our bylaws will also bring Planning Board in line with our Town’s other administrative boards and committees, namely: Selectmen, School Committee, Board of Assessors, Board of Library Trustees and the Board of Health, members of which are all elected by voters.

Do other communities elect their Planning Boards? 

Yes. If we consider Middlesex County of which we are a part, 35 of 39 (or 90 percent) of communities with Belmont’s form of government like Newton, Cambridge, Lowell, Somerville have opted for popularly elected Planning Boards. This list includes Winchester, Lexington, Lincoln, Sudbury, Weston, Natick, Sherborn, Stoneham, Wakefield, Westford, Holliston, Hopkinton, and on and on. Belmont is one of just four that still have Planning Boards that are appointed by the Board of Selectmen.  

Why Planning Board? Why now? 

Planning Board is one of the most critical public bodies in our town. It helps shape the town through its decisions concerning both residential and commercial development and has the power to shape public and private spaces within a town.  As it stands, however, there is no mechanism in Belmont’s bylaws to ensure that Planning Board is accountable to voters and the public in any way. This is a critical omission in Belmont’s bylaws that has directly contributed to the erratic and damaging behavior of our Planning Board in recent months. 

If elected, won’t Planning Board start kowtowing to voters instead of being independent?

Of course not. Elected Planning Board members, like other elected officials, will be expected to think independently and to use their best judgment and make decisions that they feel are in the best interest of the whole community. That’s no different than what we expect of appointed officials. 

Let’s face it: Planning Board is an unpaid, volunteer position. Election to Planning Board is no more likely to engender self-serving, short-term decision making by members than an election to other unpaid positions like Town Meeting or School Committee. Consider: the punishment for losing re-election to Planning Board for a decision that voters disagree with is that the individual is forced to volunteer less. That’s hardly the kind of punishment that will have members betraying their values and common sense.  

What’s wrong with an appointed Board? 

It is critical that voters in Belmont have a means to express their preferences for Planning Board as they do for other administrative bodies like School Committee or the Selectmen themselves.  Under our current bylaws, they do not. 

Consider: it is the Selectmen, not the public, who receive and review applications from community members who are interested in a seat on the Planning Board. Voters in Belmont are not privy to who has applied for open seats or their qualifications, nor are they given the benefit of the Board of Selectmen’s reasons for eliminating any particular candidate or ultimately appointing one over another. Yes, voters may appeal to the Board to choose a specific candidate, assuming they even know who has applied, but the Selectmen are under no obligation to heed the voters. 

Don’t we affect Planning Board with our choice of Selectman?  

It might be argued that voters can express their Planning Board preferences in their vote for a Selectman. As a practical matter, however, this never happens. Planning Board appointments are not an issue in Board of Selectman races nor have promised appointments been deciding factors – or even talking points – in selectman races. Our bylaws left unchanged will continue to shield the selection, decisions, and actions of the Planning Board from voters and any accountability. 

I hope you will support this citizen-driven effort to make an important change to Belmont’s bylaws and inject democratic accountability to this critical body. I urge you to contact Town Meeting members from your precinct and ask them to support the Planning Board article. 

Paul Roberts

Town Meeting Member, Precinct 8

Letter to the Editor: Include Four Trash Options In RFP, Not Just One

Photo: Waste contract in Bemont.

To the editor:

I am writing to express my concern and disappointment that Belmont’s Board of Selectmen has issued only a very limited RFP for Belmont’s new trash contract. Belmont’s Board of Selectmen has asked for quotes only for 65-gallon barrel pickup and has ignored the more environmentally-friendly 35-gallon barrel or pay-as-you-throw options. Belmont’s Board of Selectmen has also shirked their financial responsibility to the town by not comparing the costs between different trash pickup options after receiving bids to the RFP.

Massachusetts provides hundreds of thousands of dollars for communities to shift to more environmentally-friendly trash options. Refusing to request bids for both the 35-gallon barrel and pay-as-you-throw options means that we are leaving Commonwealth money on the table that we could use to offset the costs of these options and possibly even reduce our tax burden for trash disposal. The 35-gallon barrel and pay-as-you-throw options could incentivize residents to reduce, reuse, and recycle instead of throwing away.

The Board of Selectmen has not provided reasoning for focusing on only one trash collection type, instead of requesting a wider selection of options for the RFP, explicitly ignoring direct requests for more information about their thought process. The Board of Selectmen must make an educated comparison of the costs for these trash options. They must also act as fiduciaries for our town itself and all of our children by prioritizing more environmentally-friendly trash strategies. Why can they not make these assessments at the information gathering stage of an RFP?

Please join me in emailing Selectmen Paolillo and Williams to ask them to reevaluate their decision. Selectman Dash already supports including environmentally-friendly trash options in the RFP. Belmont should include all four options recommended by the Solid Waste and Recycling Advisory Group in the RFP so that we can weigh the environmental costs and benefits, as well as the financial cost, of the various options after receiving competitive bids from trash contractors.

Rebecca McNeill


Letter To The Editor: Let’s Talk Trash; The Type You Pay To Throw

Photo: A sample PAYT bag presented at public discussions sponsored by the Belmont Department of Public Works in June.

To the editor:

The Belmont Board of Selectmen will need to vote soon on issuing a Request for Proposals for the town’s waste contract since the current contract expires in June. It’s really important that the RFP include Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) as an option.

We’re facing a future of higher waste disposal costs over the next several years because of capacity limits on incinerators and landfills. The state has set a goal for communities to reduce waste by 30 percent by 2020, which will be challenging. Belmont also has made limited progress against its 2009 Climate Action Plan for reducing greenhouse emissions to which our trash contributes. 

We have to consider progress against these goals. Failing to do so contributes to long-term higher costs for the town. Not taking every small and reasonable step we can now also clouds our children’s’ futures and saddles them with higher costs from climate change and environmental degradation. 

Because it encourages households to reduce unnecessary waste, PAYT is part of a menu of options Belmont needs to reduce its waste costs. Reducing household waste is something we need to do as part of our efforts to promote fiscal balance. It’s also something we need to do to be responsible stewards of our environment. 

With PAYT, households will buy special trash bags for a nominal fee, $1 to $2, so that there is a cost for filling each bag and more of an incentive to recycle. It’s estimated that PAYT could reduce Belmont’s trash by as much as 25 percent, which will reduce our carbon emissions by almost 4,000 metric tons. According to the EPA, that’s the equivalent of not burning 450,000 gallons of gasoline or switching about 142,000 incandescent light bulbs to LED’s

Dealing with new trash options is sure to be perceived as an inconvenience for some. Let’s not forget, though, that Belmont’s Town Meeting voted to empower our selectmen to consider PAYT as an option for the next waste contract. For it to be an option, it needs to be included in the RFP for the next trash contract. Belmont’s Department of Public Works is considering an option for automated pick up of trash cans that it refers to as a PAYT/SMART option – but it won’t lead to the kind of progress we need that true PAYT will bring.

As Belmont’s selectmen consider the issuance of this RFP, they need to consider not just the immediate cost to the town – something for which PAYT should be a winner. They also need to consider the long-term costs of keeping our community sustainable, costs which economists describe as “externalities,” but ultimately with time need to be faced by everyone. PAYT can help our community reduce costs and ensure our community’s future.

Mike Crowley

Farnham Street
Town Meeting Member Precinct 8