Town Clerk: The FYI on the Annual Town Election

Photo: Election day in Belmont.

The annual Belmont Town Election will take place in one week, Tuesday, April 7, 2015, according to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

And below is information that will make the process of casting your ballot all the easier.

Voting Places

For voting purposes, Belmont is divided into eight voting precincts, located as follows: 

  • Precinct 1 – Belmont Memorial Library, Assembly Room, 336 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 2 – Belmont Town Hall, Selectmen’s Room, 455 Concord Ave.
  • Precinct 3 – Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 4 – Daniel Butler School, Gymnasium, 90 White St.
  • Precinct 5 – Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Precinct 6 – Belmont Fire Headquarters, 299 Trapelo Rd.
  • Precinct 7 – Burbank School, Gymnasium, 266 School St.
  • Precinct 8 – Winn Brook School, Gymnasium, 97 Waterhouse Rd. (Enter from Cross Street)

Please adhere to the posted parking restrictions and use caution to ensure safety of pedestrians around the voting precincts.

Election Day Campaigning

The Town Clerk and the Board of Registrars of Voters reminds all residents that no campaign signs, stickers, buttons or materials may be displayed within 150 feet of each polling place. This prohibition, per Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 54, §65, even extends to a candidate whose name is on the ballot, when the candidate is not actively voting.  The maps that display the 150 foot radius are posted on the Town Clerk’s website under Campaigning: Running for Elected Office and Town Meeting.

Are You Registered to Vote in Belmont and Eligible to Vote April 7? 

If you are wondering if you are a registered voter and/or your voting precinct, please go to the

Town Clerk’s webpage

or phone the Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600. 

The deadline to register to vote and make changes to voter registration such as address was March 18 at 8 p.m. Any forms received after that date or not postmarked by that date will be process AFTER the April 7 election.

Election Results – How Do I Find Out the Results?

Election results for each precinct are announced by the Warden of each precinct after the close of the polls. The Unofficial Townwide Results will be announced at Town Hall and posted on the home page of the Town website as soon as they are available Tuesday evening or phone the  Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600 on Wednesday morning.  Campaign representatives are welcome to wait at Town Hall for the printed results.

Opinion: Belmont’s ‘No’ Nothings; The Override Offers Voters a Choice: Financial Planning, or Finger Pointing?

Photo: Torn textbook.
By Paul Roberts
We didn’t need Warrant Committee member Adam Dash to hold up a student’s tattered, 20 year old text book, as he did at last week’s Candidate’s Night debate, to grasp the depths to which our Town of Homes has fallen. Nor did we need him to heft the softball sized piece of pavement dislodged from a pothole outside his home to appreciate the truth of what he was saying: Belmont has woefully neglected in its infrastructure, schools and town services for too long.

We understand the truth of what Adam said viscerally. As parents, we have seen our own children’s classes swell even as course offerings shrivel and fees jump. We crouch in decrepit carols at the crowded Belmont Public Library and skate around the bird droppings at the Viglirolo ice rink. Our cars drop into cavernous potholes.

If these are problems for you, as they are for me, then you expect and deserve to be told how your vote – “YES” or “NO” –on the proposed $4.5 million Proposition 2 ½ override will help to address those problems.

Our town’s leadership has a clear answer and a plan based on research and study by the Financial Task Force. It was the Task Force that recommended passage of the $4.5million override as a first step to putting Belmont back on track. In brief: revenue from the override will fund a yearly increase in investments in road and sidewalk repair. It will hire and retain teachers to keep course offerings in place and allow Belmont to add classes to respond to a sharp increase in student enrollment. Money will be set aside to create a budget stabilization fund to address future needs. This is the plan and vision that the YES for Belmont campaign is working to realize.

In contrast, the “No Override” campaign that has emerged in recent weeks has no plan for addressing those issues. Not only does the group not have a plan, they don’t even have an explanation for the problems that face our Town of Homes.

What the No campaign does offer is a lot of folksy sayings. Campaign Treasurer, Mr. Raffi Manjikian, speaking opposite Mr. Dash at Candidates Night, said that after Belmont voters rejected the override, the town would “go back to the drawing board” and “sharpen our pencils.” What would be on that drawing board? What specific problems would those pencils be pressed into solving? He couldn’t say.

Asked by attendees at Candidates’ Night how the town and schools should cope with immediate issues created by the failure of the override, such as a projected $1.7 million school budget deficit, Mr. Manjikian offered no concrete ideas.

Asked how the town should respond if the planned cuts at Belmont High School in the wake of a “No” vote put the town afoul of the state mandatory minimum of 990 instructional hours, Mr. Manjikian had no thoughts.

Asked to explain how it was that our neighbor Lexington – which also gets 86% percent of its annual revenue from local property taxes – saw fit to pass $5.3 million in overrides to Belmont’s $0.00 in the last decade to support schools, roads and public safety, Manjikian brushed the question off, seemingly incurious about the goings on next door.

Paul Roberts a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 8 and the editor of Blogging Belmont.

Selectmen Approve Earlier Morning Start for Trapelo/Belmont Project

Photo: Reconstruction roadwork in Cushing Square.

Faced with the possibility of a delay in the completion of the massive – and intrusive – road project running through the heart of the town, the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved a request by the contractor of the Trapelo Road/Belmont Street Corridor Reconstruction Project to begin its workday an hour-and-a-half earlier at 5:30 a.m.

The board also agreed to a request to allow Newport Construction Corp. of Nashua, NH to work on Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

The new hours – which will be in effect for the duration of the project – will begin in “the next couple of weeks,” said Newport’s Project Manager John Gleason. 

The $17.2 million state-funded project broke ground in the fall of 2013, starting the reconstruction of streets, sidewalks and curbs at Mill Street near the Waltham town line. Newport is currently in Cushing Square as the works heads eastward towards Cambridge. 

According to Gleason and Ron Strangfeld, the project’s Massachusetts Department of Transportation resident engineer, delays due to weather and other issues put the project off its schedule of completing the reconstruction and final paving by the end of the 2015 construction season. They calculate the project “currently is not on target.”

Adding 15 working hours per week to the job – which Gleason and Strangfeld said is 50 percent complete – “will allow the project to be finished on time” in September. 

Gleason told Selectmen Chair Andy Rojas that the first half hour will be for “things that we can do quietly” such as setting up signs and barriers as well as the delivery of concrete.

While there will be some activity, “you won’t hear jackhammering or any loud machines,” he said. 

The town will send leaflets to businesses and residents with information on the new hours. 

Is Your Street Going to be Paved this Year? Here is the List of the Lucky 13

Photo: Concord Avenue.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen made residents along 13 streets very happy by approving a $107,800 contract to town’s pavement management consultant which lists those roadways to be reconstructed during the 2015 construction season.

According to town engineer and Community Development Director Glenn Clancy, the roads include:

  • Charles Street (from Slade to Orchard)
  • Edward Street (from Orchard to Waverley)
  • Holt Street (from Lexington to 25 feet east of Knowles)
  • Orchard Street (from Common to Beech)
  • Richmond Road (from Prospect to Lawrence) 
  • Somerset Street (from Pleasant to Shady Brook)
  • Warwick Road (from Common to Carleton)
  • Wellington Lane (from Concord to Somerset)
  • Winthrop Road (from Common to Charles)
  • Garden Street (from Washington to Long)
  • Concord Avenue (eastbound from Common to Cottage, and westbound from Cottage to Common)
  • Hastings Road (from Common to Brettwood)
  • Elm Street (from School to Payson)

‘Yes’, ‘No’ Sides Push Their Positions – Financial and Political – at Candidates’ Night

Photo: Adam Dash (left) and Raffi Manjikian at the Candidates’ Night.

It’s alway smart to have a prop on hand to make your point.

To demonstrate the necessity of the $4.5 million override to be decided by Belmont voters at Town Election on April 7, Yes for Belmont’s Adam Dash brought a threadbare textbook without its cover and a slab of asphalt to the lectern at Candidates’ Night on Thursday, March 26.

“Let’s be clear what voting no means,” said Dash, holding up “an actual level service quality text book” along with a piece from “my street,” before more than 100 residents attending the Belmont League of Women Voters’ sponsored event at the Chenery Middle School.

“We will see more and more of this,” said Dash, a member of the Warrant Committee for the past six years.

“We are not going to fix his by nibbling around the edges. I’m sorry, but this will cost money, it just does,” Dash told the audience, which were favorable deposed to his argument as noted by dozens who stood in a steady rain holding orange “Yes for Belmont” signs.

Yet Raffi Manjikian, the treasurer of the resident’s committee opposing the override, spurning the request for additional taxes to pay for skyrocketing enrollment and added expenses is not an anti-school vote, pointing out he has four children attending Belmont schools.

Rather, a no vote would be a rejection of “bad assumptions” – such as being “too conservative” in estimates of revenue and expenses – made in a year-long analysis of town finances by the Financial Task Force, which recommended “this mega override.”

“We voters have been given an unfair choice of a $4.5 million override. It’s not all or nothing; there are alternatives and the time to get the job done,” he said in his opening statement.

A “no” vote would give “an unambiguous message to our leadership to get back to the table, sharpen their pencils and manage our public finances wisely,” said Manjikian.

Yet to Dash and the “yes” supporters, a “no” vote transmits “is a bad sign to the people and a bad sign to the kids that we are not willing to do step one” for them.

The night of answering questions – it was hardly a debate in the truest sense – allowed each side to push their positions to residents. While the Yes campaign has been active in Belmont for nearly a month with rallies, meetings, and mailings, Thursday’s meeting was the “nos” first opportunity to explain its argument disputing claims that $4.5 million is the right amount.

It didn’t take long for the most telling comment to be uttered, coming at the very start during Manjikian’s highlighted the main reasons the “No” committee opposes the ballot question, suggesting the “No” committee’s motivation is as much political and procedural as it is fiscal.

“This year the town leadership choose to leap frog over the usual budget process calling for an override before we deliberated on the budget,” said Manjikian, referring to the Warrant Committee’s oversight mission. Several members of the “No” group are current or former members of the committee which serves as the Town Meeting’s financial watchdog.

In fact, the “No” Committee is not opposed to the concept of an override; it would seek to work towards a “right sized” measure that would meet department and schools needs, but only after a “budget committee,” whose work would come under Warrant Committee scrutiny, narrowed the $1.7 million funding gap facing the schools in the 2016 fiscal year.

During the question and answer portion, when residents addressed the representatives, Dash defended the override as the only sensible way of closing a deficit that could see more than 22 full-time equivalent positions cut from the schools, the ending of advanced art courses, the increase in class sizes and providing the bare minimum of classes to 11th and 12th grade students.

Pointing to neighboring towns such as Lexington, Concord and Acton, which has passed numerous overrides since Belmont’s last in 2002, Dash said, “they understand that sometimes things cost more … than 2 1/2 percent a year.”
Manjikian countered “money doesn’t solve the problems,” saying Belmont’s “achievement oriented” parents, students and teachers will continue to make it a successful system.

Rather than revenue, cutting expenses is required, specifically educators pay which is the “biggest driver of the school system,” he said.

When asked by a resident to name the specific cuts to the schools, Dash said the reductions have been clearly spelled out by Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan from major cuts to staff, extra free time and two of three classrooms above recommended enrollment numbers.
“It’s getting ridicules,” said Dash. “If we vote yes, you can have everything that you have now … or you can vote no and all these cuts are going to happen,” said Dash.

Manjikian said if the “no” vote prevails, “it would be in the best interest of the community to bring all the leaders back to the table much like we do in the budget process to look where additional revenue and addition expenses that get realigned and maintain the needs of the schools.”

While Manjikian discussed creating a multi-year plan to finance capital projects such as a new High School as well as annual educational needs, Dash said $4.5 million override is seen by the Financial Task Force and supporters as a long-range financing measure for the schools and the community.

In their closing remarks, Manjikian said a no vote would allow the town to explore “alternatives” to an override that will double from an average $854 per household in a decade.

Dash said Belmont has said “no” for far too long on infrastructure and now the schools.

“The great English philosopher John Lennon once said, ‘Yes is the Answer.'” said Dash.

Letter to the Editor: Let’s Not Lose Our Sense of Community

To the editor:

Why do we live in Belmont?

We all know that we could use better roads: ours are bumpier, rockier, and rougher than neighboring towns, and we could use the funds to fix them.

But we came to Belmont for the sense of community, and for the opportunities the town provides, for children and for families: playgrounds, recreation centers, sports and music and, of course, our schools.

Belmont’s schools — not just test scores, but student experience — have been a reason to move here, to stay here, to buy and hold on to a home here.

But that could change. For year after year the town and the schools have been asked to do more with less. And we have. We’ve given our high school students free periods when they used to have classes, and we’ve filled the halls with benches so that students with no classes to take have someplace to sit. Our student-teacher ratio (17 to 1) is already higher than almost all similar towns. We’ve lost a whole year of middle school language instruction. Our entering classes are larger than those before them, with many more kindergarteners than high school seniors, and we’ll have to hire more teachers just to keep up. A task force of experts worked with the town, studied the problem for a whole year, and concluded, unanimously, that we need an override now. 

When similar towns have faced similar challenges, they have decided to pay for what they need. Arlington, Sudbury, Lexington, Winchester, Newton — all passed overrides since 2002, in greater amounts than the one on our ballot this year.

We could join them and keep our schools as good as they have been. We could vote Yes on April 7.

Or we could vote No, and see who moves away.

Please do remember to vote on April 7, and please vote Yes.

Stephen Burt

Trowbridge Street

Belmont Honored As a ‘Best Community for Music Education’ in US

Photo: Performers at the “Bandarama” concert in December 2014.

Belmont is known as the “Town of Homes.” It should also be called a community of music.

For what has been an annual event for the past decade, Belmont has been named one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” in the US by the NAMM Foundation.

Communities are selected for this honor based on the level of comprehensive music education offered to students at all grade levels, the willingness of the school district devote instructional time and resources to music education, and the community’s commitment to providing their children with a well-rounded educational experience the schools.

Belmont is just one of 388 school districts nationwide and one of 14 in Massachusetts to earn this distinction.

“To me, this says as much about our community as it does about our music program,” Arto Asadoorian, Belmont School’s director of Fine & Performing Arts, told the Belmontonian.

“When communities support music, art and theater programs in their schools, it says a lot about their values and the kinds of experiences they provide for their children. This is the reason why I felt so fortunate for the opportunity to come to work here in 2006, and it’s why my wife and I chose to move to Belmont and raise our children here,” he said.

Asadoorian said the award also recognizes “the outstanding work of the teachers in our music department.”

“They are among the most dedicated and accomplished music educators in the state, and they deserve a great deal of recognition for helping Belmont earn its distinction,” he said.

Those teachers are:

  • Kate Hayashi (Winn Brook, PreK-4 Music)
  • Vicki Livermore (Burbank, K-4 Music)
  • Craig McMahan (Wellington, K-4 Music)
  • Rosanne Mili (Butler, K-4 Music)
  • Laura Messina (Elementary Strings)
  • Morgan Scagliotti-Driban (Elementary Strings)
  • Nate Haywood (CMS Music)
  • John McLellan (CMS Band, Elementary Instrumental Music)
  • Christine Moser (CMS Chorus Director)
  • Sharon Phipps (CMS Band, Elementary Instrumental Music)
  • Paul Ketchen (BHS Band, Elementary Instrumental Music)
  • Sean Landers (BHS Chorus Director)
  • Margot Reavey (BHS & CMS Orchestra Director)

In what has been a difficult budget year, it is important and encouraging to remember that Belmont is a community that has always valued music and art education as an important component of our core curriculum, said Asadoorian.

“As much as this is an award for excellence in music education, it is also recognition of a community that provides a wide range of high-quality educational experiences and makes them available to all students. It is a distinction that should serve as a source of pride for our entire school district and for our community,” he said.

Belmont Savings Running Commercials Highlighting Customer Service

Photo: Jamie, an employee at Belmont Savings Bank who is part of a commercial campaign by the bank.

If the people in the commercials being aired during televised Boston Red Sox games looks familiar, they probably are. And you likely saw them working for Belmont’s own savings bank.

That because Belmont Savings Bank launched last week an employee-driven TV/video campaign aimed at demonstrating their commitment to personalized customer service.

As part of the campaign, created by Boathouse Group in Waltham, the bank will begin airing a series of commercials featuring employees offering personable, active and knowledgeable customer service.

“By offering commercials focused on our actual colleagues, we capture the personalities driving our bank and connecting us to the community,” said Bob Mahoney, President and CEO of Belmont Savings Bank.

“These commercials highlight our greatest asset – our people – and what makes banking at Belmont Savings such a uniquely local, and professional, experience.”

The commercials spotlight different employees, with each colleague sharing their personal commitment to their customers and why working in community banking matters to them.  This is the latest innovation from Belmont Savings designed to contrast the bank from the traditional banking campaign which often relies on actors playing bankers.

“With these commercials, we present our employees’ unscripted, passionate responses to why they love working with customers, a contrast to the way big banks traditionally operate,” said Hal Tovin, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Belmont Savings Bank.

As the brainchild of Boathouse, the campaign is the result of the agency’s collaborative relationship with bank. The settings for the commercials include the bank’s bustling supermarket in-store branches and even the homes of several employees.

“We believe the Belmont Savings team approaches banking the right way, demonstrating genuine understanding of their customers in the communities they serve,” said John Connors, founder of Boathouse Group.

The commercials began airing Thursday, March 26 in the markets north and west of Boston using Comcast spotlight. The spots will be viewable on the following stations: AMC, TBS, MTV, ESPN, Discover, Brave, LMN, ABC Family, and on NESN during telecasts of the Boston Red Sox.


Letter to the Editor: The Steak and Potatoes of Voting ‘Yes’ for the Override

Photo: Young “Yes” campaigners in Cushing Square on Saturday, March 28.

To the editor:

To the “distinguished” gentleman in the Lexus who gave me a thumbs down this morning [Saturday, March 28] when I was holding a YES for Belmont sign in Cushing Square:

Congratulations on your success.  I’m sure you worked hard for it.  As my 84-year-old father would say, you are driving the “steak and potatoes” of cars.

Maybe you own a house in Belmont. Maybe you bought it long before I bought mine in 2005, when home values were not so high. Maybe you had kids in the Belmont School District, a steak and potatoes school district if there ever was one.

And maybe your kids have done well too, partly as a result of that school district.  I congratulate you.

But the failure of the last override has already taken some steak and potatoes from my son, who did not enjoy fifth-grade foreign languages as those who preceded him in the school system had.  He wants to be an engineer some day; speaking Spanish will help.

My son is in sixth grade, and I purchased my condo in Waverley Square in great part to give him a steak and potatoes education.  I love Belmont and intend to spend the rest of my life here.

This morning [Saturday, March 28] he, an eighth grade friend and a tenth grade friend held signs in Cushing Square in support of the override (photo attached).

If this override does not pass, BHS juniors and seniors will be limited to five courses instead of seven.  This means almost two hours of “free time” in the school day! Chenery Middle School students will have larger class sizes and will lose the “small school within a big school” team teaching system that strengthens learning and helps them through the difficult early teenage years.  And elementary students will lose the intervention that helps struggling students catch up to their peers.

I urge all Belmont residents to vote YES April 7. Below is another way of looking at it. Belmont’s last operating override passed in 2002, 13 years ago. Since that time, similar communities have passed numerous overrides, totaling as follows:

$6.8 million in Acton
$12.5 million in Arlington
$6.2 million in Concord
$10 million in Lexington
$5.8 million in Milton
$7.6 million in Needham
$19.9 million in Newton
$10.3 million in Sudbury
$6.6 million in Wayland
$14.5 million in Wellesley
$5.9 million in Winchester

Belmont, $0

By the way, I drove over some nasty “hamburger and French fries” potholes this morning on my way to hold that YES sign. Those will be fixed too with this override!

Kate Searle

Beech Street

This Week: Final Precinct Meeting, Two Great Concerts, Recycling Q&A, Rugby Mega Match

On the government side of “This Week”:

  • The Board of Selectmen is meeting a little earlier than normal, convening at 5:45 p.m. on Monday, March 30 at the Beech Street Center prior to the final precinct meeting of the spring. It will be accepting the latest statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority to help fund a new Belmont High School. 
  • The Board of Health meets on Tuesday, March 31, at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall where they will meet with Artur Nergaryan, owner of Art’s Specialties, the new cheese shop in town.
  • The Warrant Committee will be holding its bimonthly meeting on Wednesday, April 1 at 7 p.m. at the Chenery Middle School.
  • Tree Hearing will take place in Town Hall on Thursday, April 2, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

• The Saturday Morning Music School will be holding the All-Town Concert on Monday, March 30, at 7 p.m. at Belmont High School. The many ensembles featured on this concert include the SMMS All-Town Chorus (Grades 3-5), the All-Town Beginning and Advanced Orchestras (Grades 3-5), and the All-Town Beginning and Advanced Bands (Grades 4-5). This concert is open to the public and admission is free.

• The final precinct meeting on the fiscal 2016 budget and the Prop 2 1/2 override jointly hosted by the Belmont Board of Selectmen and the Financial Task Force will take place on Monday, March 30 at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center. 

Storyteller and comedian David Shikes presents a collection of humorous situations and subjects including New England jokes at the Beech Street Center on Tuesday, March 31, at 1:15 p.m. Shikes has been enthusiastically recommended anytime – so come join in the fun.

• An Easter tradition continues as the Belmont Public Library hosts a Peeps dioramas party on Tuesday, March 31 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the library’s Assembly Room.

• After a postponement on Saturday, there is a good bet that the Belmont High School spring sports season will get underway on Tuesday, March 31 at 4:30 p.m. as the Belmont High Boys’ Lacrosse team hosts Shawsheen Valley Reg Tech High School at Harris Field. 

Sustainable Belmont will host Carolyn Dann, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Municipal coordinator, and Mary Beth Calnan, Belmont’s Recycling coordinator, along with local experts for the group’s second annual Recycling Q&A. The meeting takes place on Wednesday, April 1, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s Flett Room.

• On Wednesday, April 1 at 7 p.m., a concert featuring the Belmont High Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band and Jazz Collective will take place at Belmont High School.  The Wind Ensemble will feature BHS Concerto Competition winner Hannah Messenger in a performance of Strauss’ Horn Concerto, Opus 8. The Jazz Collective is fresh off of a Silver Medal performance at the MAJE State Finals where senior Rowan Wolf was awarded Outstanding Soloist for all Division 2 bands in the state. This concert is open to the public and admission is free.

• The most anticipated matchup of the regular season in New England High School rugby takes place on the Harris Field pitch Wednesday as last year’s state champion Bishop Hendricken High School of Warwick, RI (the Rhode Island school is included with Massachusetts teams for the title) takes on Belmont High School Rugby Football Club at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 1. The teams have been the finalists in the state championships for three consecutive years with Belmont winning in 2013 and coming within five meters twice of defending its championship last year.  

• It’s LEGO time at the Belmont Public Library on Thursday, April 2! The library’s LEGO club is for kids in kindergarten through second grade who want to meet and create their own unique structures. All LEGOs will be provided so just bring your imagination to the Assembly Room from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

• The Friends of the Belmont Public Library will meet on Thursday, April 2, from 9:30 p.m. to  11 a.m. in the Assembly Room.

Half day of school on Friday due to the Good Friday holiday on Friday, April 3.