Letter to the Editor: Ruban Has The Right Ideas For Belmont

Photo: Alexandra Ruban

Letter to the editor:

I will be voting for Alexandra Ruban to be Belmont’s next selectwoman. I encourage readers to join me. 
Alexandra is an accomplished professional and the mother of two children. She has a deep, personal investment in the continued excellence of our public schools. Alexandra wants to make Belmont’s government work better for residents: opening its opaque operations to the light and saving taxpayer money that can be invested in the services we care most about schools, roads, and public buildings. 
Like many in town, Alexandra was drawn into politics by curiosity, civic responsibility and the sneaking suspicion that something was amiss. In her case, the issue was the town’s relationship with its recycling contractor. 
She began asking questions of Town Hall and discovered that Belmont this year simply renewed its contract without soliciting bids from competing firms. More outrageous: the Town has been doing so for more than a decade! Alexandra knows Belmont can do better, saving money, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and putting the town back on track with its own Climate Action Plan in the process. 
A campaign was born.
Mark Paolillo is a good and gentle man from an esteemed family. I count him as a friend. But elections aren’t about demeanor or personal style. Elections are about your record in office and your job performance. 
On far too many issues: from the Town Center redesign debacle to the multi-million dollar deficits that have been a fixture of his tenure, Mark has voted with Sami Baghdady and other staunch conservatives on the Board. During that time, residents have seen fees rise, capital investments deferred and school and town services cut. 
Alexandra has the right ideas for Belmont and the courage of her convictions. I ask you to join me in voting for her in April.

Paul Roberts

Town Meeting Member, Precinct 8

Opinion: Mark Paolillo, The Leadership Belmont Needs

Photo: Mark Paolillo.

By Ellen Schreiber and Sara Masucci

Leadership, experience and vision matter on our Board of Selectman.

Last year, we led the override campaign to protect our town – to keep the schools strong; to fix our roads, sidewalks, and buildings; and to avoid encroaching on other town services we all depend on.

This work is not done. Belmont is now facing some of its most exciting and most daunting challenges ever.

These challenges require Mark Paolillo’s strong leadership, experience and vision.

Mark believes in a community where individuals make a difference. He is a parent who “put his money where his mouth is” to guarantee the excellence of our schools. With Mark, everyone has a voice, every perspective is important, and a consensus is a worthy goal.  In Mark’s Belmont, unique places like the Underwood Pool, the Viglirolo Skating Rink, Butler playground, Joey’s Park, the emerging Community Path, and the Senior Center define this “Town of Homes.” He fosters the vision that we become a community when we serve our neighbors and strive together to be better.

Mark’s priorities are our priorities, including:

  1. Shepherding the renovation/rebuild of Belmont High School,
  2. Relieving the budget pressure caused by skyrocketing school enrollment,
  3. Extending the positive impact of the Proposition 2 1/2 override,
  4. Leading the implementation of identified revenue opportunities and fiscal discipline,
  5. Achieving consensus on the community path,
  6. Navigating the murky waters of the Minuteman High School project,

Plus many more.

Mark is uniquely capable of accomplishing these tasks.

  • Mark was a key architect of the override. The Financial Task Force he led performed the analysis that created the override proposal, and he was a primary advocate for passage.
  • Mark has always been a strong supporter of the Belmont schools as a parent and town leader.
  • Mark has 12-years of experience analyzing and optimizing Belmont’s complex, $100-plus million budget.
  • During his tenure as Chair of the Board of Selectmen, Belmont benefitted from Mark’s skill in consensus building and negotiation. Time after time, he demonstrated his commitment to listen to all residents as a key part of his decision making.
  • Mark has experience with building projects, as selectman during the construction of the Wellington School and the Underwood Pool.

We believe the effectiveness of the Board of Selectmen would be compromised without Mark.

  • Mark has a unique skill set on the board as a CPA, who leads a global accounting practice.
  • Mark is the only selectman with 12-years of Belmont budget experience, compared to the other selectmen who have 1-2 years of experience.
  • Mark’s institutional knowledge is irreplaceable on the board; he is well versed on every important issue that Belmont has faced for the last 18 years.

This is not the time for “change for the sake of change.” 

Of course, there are always things we can do better. A government is a work in progress. And none of us are perfect. We believe Mark sincerely regrets the vote that led to the contentious atmosphere surrounding the Belmont Center project, and he was part of collaboration that achieved a compromise.

Mark’s leadership has helped Belmont take huge steps forward. We wouldn’t have the override without Mark. Or the Underwood Pool. Or the new Minuteman agreement. Or the Financial Task Force. Mark is the “go-to” selectman to resolve Belmont’s most thorny issues.

There is no one more committed to Belmont’s children and seniors, homeowners and renters, businesses and employees, than Mark Paolillo. He is dedicated to serving this community.

In these exciting and challenging times, Belmont is lucky that Mark Paolillo wants to continue to serve on the Board of Selectmen.

Why I’m Running: Kim O’Mahony for School Committee

Photo: Kim O’Mahony

My name is Kim O’Mahony, and I am running School Committee.

My husband and I have lived in Belmont for 12 years. I have run a successful child care business in Waverley Square for the past eight years and we have three daughters attending the Butler School. I am excited to serve this town as I am deeply committed to it.  It would be a privilege to apply my experience to help Belmont move forward!

What is my experience?

I hold a BS in Accounting and worked professionally in systems analysis, auditing and business analysis. Currently, I own an early childhood education business. The combination of a business background and an expertise in education make me uniquely qualified to sit at the School Committee table. I understand zero-based budgeting and I am steeped in the developmental needs of children.  

There are many financial challenges facing the Schools, e.g., contract negotiations, ever- increasing enrollment, and the potential for a new/renovated high school. My experience positions me well to offer informed, balanced ideas that can help make a positive impact on solutions to these issues.  

While standing at the playground, on sidelines of soccer games, or attending Dolphin swim meets, I have listened to the concerns of fellow parents. What is clear to me is that the needs of our excellent school system must be balanced against the needs of the community as a whole. We are, after all, One Belmont.  

As a School Committee member, it would be my responsibility to represent my fellow community members and to bring the scope and depth of my fiscal and education experience to the table.  

I look forward to the opportunity of serving Belmont in this way.

Thank you for your consideration, and please be sure to vote on Tuesday, April 5!

Town Election Update: Sullivan Drops Out of Housing Race; Turnout Best in 6

Photo: Matt Sullivan.

Sullivan abandons run for Housing Authority

On the final day to withdraw from town-wide and Town Meeting contests, Hammond Road’s Matt Sullivan decided to remove his name in the race for a five-year seat on the town’s Housing Authority.

A frequent candidate in town, Sullivan did not mention a reason to town clerks when he abandoned his challenge. Realtor Ann Mahon is now the only candidate on the ballot for the seat.

A pair of residents – Tomi Olson and Paul Rickter – are on the ballot seeking a three-year position on the authority.

The numbers are in and the precinct with the greatest number of voters is …

The votes have been counted and there is a bit of an upset for the precinct with the greatest percentage number of voters in the Presidential Primary as Precinct 6 noised out Precinct 1, 60.7 percent to 60.5 percent. The biggest surprise of the night came from Precinct 7, known for having quiet polling areas, were voting participation nearly topped,a;

The biggest surprise of the night came from Precinct 7, known for having quiet polling areas, saw 57.6 percent venture out to take a ballot. 

But there were no real losers this year as all precincts registered for than 54 percent voters turnout with a town-wide total number of 57.3 percent, a high figure in historical terms. Precinct 1; 60.52%

The number per precinct (thanks to the Town Clerk’s Office)

Precinct 1; 60.52%

Precinct 2; 54.07%

Precinct 3; 55.55%

Precinct 4: 55.04%

Precinct 5; 56.79%

Precinct 6; 60.65%

Precinct 7; 57.59%

Precinct 8; 58.93%

Total: 57.41%

Town Election Update: Ballot All Set, Good Numbers for Town Meeting (Except for Pct. 7!), A Race to Support Housing

Photo: Paul Rickter and his buddy, Anne Mahon. 

The rain really started coming down as the clock struck 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, as Belmont Town Clerks shut the door as the deadline for passing in nomination papers passed with nearly everyone who took out papers returned them.

And after all the papers were examined and certified, a preliminary town ballot was announced at 6 p.m. by Town Clerk Ellen Cushman, in which voters will have four competitive races for town-wide elected offices at April’s Town Election. 

Board of Selectmen

Alexandra Ruban, a newcomer to town (arriving in 2013) and political novice with no known involvement in town governance – she is not a Town Meeting member – will be going against incumbent Mark Paolillo who is seeking his third – and final – term on the board. Ruban’s team is made up of people who managed Selectman Jim Williams’ upset victory over Andy Rojas.

School Committee

Three very attractive candidates will be seeking two-three years seats on the committee; a venture capitalist (Sabri Murat Bicer), a child care professional who was a finalist to fill a vacant committee seat in November 2014 (Kimberly O’Mahony) and an astrophysicist who is leading the charge to start the school day later (Andrea Prestwich).

Housing Authority

Usually a quiet spot on the ballot, this year there will be two competitive races in the category. The first, for the five-year seat, will see two well-known political entities, Matt Sullivan and Anne Mahon, duke it out while Tomi Olson, who created the Payson Park Music Festival, will meet Town Meeting member Paul Rickter for the three-year seat.

The draft ballot for Belmont Town Election; April 5, 2016

Moderator (vote for one, one year)

  • Mike Widmer, candidate for re-election, for one year.

Board of Selectmen (vote for one, three years)

  • Mark Paolillo, candidate for re-election, for three years.
  • Alexandra Ruban, for three years

Town Clerk (vote for one, three years)

  • Ellen O’Brien Cushman, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Board of Assessors (vote for one, three years)

  • Charles R. Laverty, III, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Board of Cemetery Commissioners (vote for one, three years)

  • William Chemelli, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Board of Health (vote for one, three years)

  • Julie LeMay, for three years.

Members of the Housing Authority (vote for one, five years; vote for one, three years)

  • Anne Barrington Mahon, for five years.
  • Matthew Sullivan, for five years.
  • Tommasina Anne Olson, for three years.
  • Paul Rickter, for three years.

Trustees of the Public Library (vote for two for three years)

  • Mark Carthy, candidate for re-election, for three years.
  • Mary Donahue Stearns, for three years.

Members of the School Committee (vote for two for three years, vote one for one year)

  • Sabri Murat Bicer, for three years.
  • Kimberly O’Mahony, for three years
  • Andrea Prestwich, for three years.
  • Elyse Shuster, for one year. 

To see who has qualified to run for Town Meeting in the eight precincts, head to the Town Clerk’s website.

Town Meeting member races throughout Belmont, except in Precinct 7

Residents can expect campaign flyers, lawn signs and candidates at their front doors as six of eight precincts will have competitive races to fill 12 three year terms and some partial terms. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 4.44.32 PM

In precinct 1 and 8, the ballot will be overflowing with candidates as 17 will be running for the 12 seats up for grabs in Precinct 1 and Precinct 3 while 18 residents will be battling it out for 12 in Precinct 8

There will be contested races in Precinct 2 (15 candidates for 12 seats), Precinct 4 or the “husband and wife precinct” as 6 of the 14 candidates are spouses (that will be an interesting election night) and Precinct 6 with 14 for 12. Even Precinct 5, which at some elections has seen fewer candidates than seats, has come through with 12 candidates for 12 seats so everyone running has already won.

Then there is Precinct 7. With a more transient population than most of Belmont, it is always a struggle to find people who want to run for the town’s legislative body. And the lack of interest is present in just nine candidates – only five for re-election and four taking out papers – are running for Town Meeting, leaving three seats that will remain empty, to be decided by write-ins. In addition, there was no interest what so ever for the three one-year partial seats.

Rickter hopes non-profit experience leads to Housing slot

Saying he wants to be an advocate for “safe, clean affordable housing for all,” Cross Street’s Paul Rickter hopes that his “25 years of experience on non-public boards” will help convince voters to place him to be a member of the Housing Authority.

Rickter’s time includes being on the national board of the Unitarian Universalist Association, “on small boards, on search committees, and lots of other boards,” he said, as he submitted his nomination papers with fellow candidate Anne Mahon by his side.

One area Rickter will focus on is the aging Belmont Village complex including using Community Preservation Committee funds to shore up the facility.

“Not everyone is excited about using money for it but it needs to be done. The key is to make sure we are serving that community,” said Rickter.

Newcomer Ruban To Challenge Incumbent Paolillo for Selectman

Photo: Alexandra Ruban submitting nomination papers on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

A relative newcomer will be challenging a lifelong resident for the open selectman seat at the Belmont Town Election in April.

Claflin Street’s Alexandra Ruban submitted more than 100 signatures with Town Clerk Ellen Cushman on Tuesday, Feb. 16, setting up a race with two-term incumbent Mark Paolillo from Pilgrim Road. 

In a press release submitted by her campaign team, Ruban said there is a lack of transparency and consistency on important decisions made by town government and the current board made up of Paolillo, Jim Williams and Chairman Sami Baghdady.

“After observing the decisions made by our Board of Selectmen in recent years, I am concerned that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the office that is challenging the Town’s goals and financial viability,” said Ruban, who moved with her husband and two children to Belmont from Somerville in 2013. 

“Rather than just complain, I want to use my experience to do something about it, namely: run for Town Selectman,” Ruban said in the press release.

Leading Ruban’s team is campaign chair and communications manager Erin Lubien, who was communications director for Selectman Jim Williams’ election campaign last year. Ruban’s campaign treasurer is Vera Iskandarian of Waverley Street.

“I look forward to meeting with my constituents and representing the concerns of many in the upcoming election season,” Ruban said, noting that elected, she would be only the fourth woman to serve as a Selectman since the town was incorporated in 1859.

The owner of a consulting firm that helps small businesses grow and optimize their performance, Ruban will be holding a community “meet and greet” on Feb. 28.

Town Election Update: Final Day to Submit Nomination Papers, Who’s On the Ballot, Scientist Seek Schools Seat,

Photo: Andrea Prestwich submitting her papers.

It’s Deadline Day

Today, Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 5 p.m. is the deadline for residents seeking to be on the Town Election Ballot for town-wide elected office or Town Meeting member. No ifs, and’s, or buts.

Who’s on the Ballot for Town-Wide Office as of Tuesday morning

Below are the candidates certified by the Town Clerk’s Office for the elected town-wide races, so what you’re looking at is the draft ballot for the April 5 Town Election unless others who took out nomination papers submit them today.

Moderator (vote for one)

  • Mike Widmer, candidate for re-election, for one year.

Board of Selectmen (vote for one)

  • Mark Paolillo, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Town Clerk (vote for one)

  • Ellen O’Brien Cushman, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Board of Assessors (vote for one)

  • Charles R. Laverty, III, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Board of Cemetery Commissioners (vote for one)

  • William Chemelli, candidate for re-election, for three years.

Board of Health (vote for one)

  • Julie LeMay, for three years.

Members of the Housing Authority (vote for one, five years; vote for one, three years)

  • Anne Barrington Mahon, for five years.
  • Matthew Sullivan, for five years.
  • Tommasina Anne Olson, for three years.

Trustees of the Public Library (vote for two for three years)

  • Mark Carthy, candidate for re-election, for three years.
  • Mary Donahue Stearns, for three years.

Members of the School Committee (vote for two for three years, vote one for one year)

  • Sabri Murat Bicer, for three years.
  • Andrea Prestwich, for three years.

To discover who has qualified to run for Town Meeting, head to the Town Clerk’s website.

The Science of Running for School Committee

On one of the coldest days of the year, Andrea Prestwich walked from her home on Alexander Avenue to Town Hall to submit her nomination papers for a run to fill one of the two three-year seats on the School Committee.

But for Prestwich, the single-digit temperatures is nothing compared to where she’s employed where the “outside” temperature is a constant -270.45 Celsius. Prestwich is an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Observatory at Harvard and works in the environs of deep space.

Prestwich, who has 13-year-old twins, Christopher and Katie, attending the Chenery Middle School, is best known outside the observatory as a champion of starting the school day later to provide students more time to sleep.

In addition to bringing what she calls a major health issue of sleep deprivation to the forefront, Prestwich has other issues on her agenda. As a scientist, Prestwich would also like to have input on the district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum as well as emphasizing special education and supporting the district’s music program (she is a POMS member).

“Belmont schools face a great number of challenges such as the need for a new High School and dealing with spiraling enrollment. We have a world-class education system, and I want it to stay that way,” she said.

A political neophyte, Prestwich – who has lived for nearly 20 years in Belmont with her husband, who is an astronomer – admits seeking elected office is “terrifying” especially since until the previous week she “never once thought about running for anything.”

Town Election Update: Where are Precinct 7’s Candidates? Election Workers Needed

Photo: Election workers at Precinct 5. 

Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman told the Belmontonian Wednesday that she anticipates by next Tuesday’s deadline there will be at least a dozen candidates seeking the 12 three-year Town Meeting Member seats up for grabs in each precinct at April’s Town Election.

Well, all the precincts except Precinct 7, Belmont’s perennial laggard when it comes to residents running for Town Meeting. And this year the numbers are disappointing by even 7’s minimum standards.

With 15 seats (12 three-year members and three one-year members) up for grabs in Precinct 7 – located in western Belmont abutting the Cambridge city limits – so far only five incumbents are seeking re-election and three residents have been out nomination paper, leaving nearly half the seats wanting of a candidate.

The lack of people running could result in almost a majority of seats being won by just a handful of write-in votes.

That’s not the case in neighboring Precinct 8 where nine incumbents are running while eight residents have taken out nomination papers so voters will have 17 residents to vote for 12 seats.

The same volume of candidates is being seen in Precinct 1 where nine residents want to keep their Town Meeting seats as nine registered voters have taken out papers.

So if anyone in Precinct 7 would like to make a quick decision to run for one of those open seats, here is what you have to do:

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

Signatures of at least 25 registered voters of your precinct are required on the nomination papers. The Town Clerk must certify these signatures, so we always suggest obtaining about 20 percent more just to be safe. Deadline is 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Election Workers Still Needed

The town continues to seek residents who would like to serve as election workers who will properly staff the town’s eight polling locations.

Applicants must be registered to vote in Belmont. Training is provided in advance of every election: You’ll learn how elections work. 

Poll workers earn $10 per hour.  Typically there are two shifts on Election Day: 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., and  1 p.m. to approximately 9 p.m.  Workers are not required to work every election – you let us know which dates & shifts you are available. It’s a great way to meet new people and learn about elections from the inside.   

The elections this year are:

  • Tuesday, March 1: Presidential Primary Election 
  • Tuesday, April 5: Annual Town Election 
  • Thursday, Sept. 8: State Primary Election
  • Tuesday, Nov. 8: Presidential General Election. 

If you are interested, visit the town’s web page, select Town Clerk, Elections: Information for Residents and Media or go directly to:


or email to townclerk@belmont-ma.gov for more information.




Town Election Update: One Week Left to Get Signatures, Paolillo is In, Four Possible for Housing

Photo: Selectman Mark Paolillo and his mom, Mary, as he turns in his nomination papers to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

One Week to Turn in Nomination Papers

You’ll likely have neighbors stalking the streets with pen and clipboard in hand this weekend as residents who took out nomination papers for town-wide elected office and Town Meeting have one week to turn them into Town Clerk Ellen Cushman. 

The deadline to bring signatures into Town Hall is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Residents seeking town-wide office will need 50 certified signatures of registered Belmont voters, 25 certified signatures of Belmont registered voters dwelling in the appropriate precinct are required for Town Meeting. 

Paolillo Makes It Official: He’s on the Ballot

Belmont Board of Selectman Mark Paolillo will in all likelihood be on the April Town Election ballot as the two-term incumbent turned in more than 100 signatures to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman at noon, Tuesday, Feb. 9 at Town Hall. 

Accompanied by his mom, Mary, Paolillo said he is looking forward to running “one final time” for town-wide election, noting that he will not seek a fourth term if elected in April.

“We accomplished a lot in the past six years but there is more to do,” said Paolillo. He pointed to finishing the work of the Financial Task Force, the need to finalize a community path through the community and take a hard look at a renovated Belmont High School and other municipal buildings.

“I talked to many supporters in town and former selectmen and they really encouraged me to run and stay on the board for another three years,” he said.

Alexandra Ruban of Claflin Street has also taken out nomination papers for the board.

A Quartet for Housing Authority

Add another person with papers out seeking one of two seats on the Belmont Housing Authority. 

Paul Rickter of 119 Cross St. came drudging through yesterday’s snow storm to pick up nomination papers, making it a possible quartet running town-wide for the places on the body which manages programs providing housing assistance for low-income families, veterans, and the elderly.

Also taking out papers are Anne Mahon and Tomi Olson while Matt Sullivan has already submitted his paperwork.

Look Who’s Running (Or Is Thinking Of It) for Town-Wide Office in Belmont

Photo: Anne Mahon taking out nomination papers from the Town Clerk’s Office last week.

With only eight days remaining for nomination papers to be returned to the Town Clerk’s Office, it appears that potential races for several town-wide elected offices are starting to take shape, according to information from Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

Residents taking out and those returning nomination papers (in bold) include (incumbents in italics):

Selectmen (elect one member for three years)

  • Mark Paolillo (42 Pilgrim Rd) – took papers, not returned
  • Alexandra Ruban (133 Claflin St) – took papers, not returned

School Committee (elect two members for three years, one for one year)

  • Sabri Murat Bicer (117 School St.) on the ballot for 3 years
  • Elyse Shuster (29 Van Ness Rd.) took papers, not returned
  • Andrea Prestwich (86 Alexander Ave.) took papers, not returned
  • Louissa Abdelghany (38 Palfrey Rd.) took papers, not returned
  • Kimberly O’Mahony, (42 Sycamore) took papers, not returned

Library Trustee (elect two members for three years)

  • Mark Carthy (21 Stone Rd.)  on the ballot for 3 years.
  • Mary Stearns  (15 Winthrop Rd.) took papers, not returned.
  • Elizabeth McGuire (70 Lawrence Lane) on the ballot for 3 years

Housing Authority (elect one member for five years and one member for three years)

  • Matthew Sullivan (121 Hammond Rd.) on the ballot for 5 years
  • Tommasina Olson (10 Bay State Rd.) took papers, not returned
  • Anne Mahon (19 Alma Ave.) took papers, not returned

There are some interesting match-ups in the offing. For the Housing Authority (which is, like all town offices, non-partisan) there is a potential for a blue/red confrontation with Town Republican Olson vs. Bernie Sanders supporter Mahon with perennial candidate Sullivan in the mix. 

For Selectman, incumbent Mark Paolillo, who is seeking a third term, could be facing business consultant Alexandra Ruban. But in a brief conversation, Ruban isn’t actually committed to turning in the nomination papers although she said, “I have concerns how the town is run.” 

And how are these for candidates for the two three-year seats (incumbent Shuster said she’s running for the one-year term) on the school committee: A venture capitalist (Bicer), a Harvard astrophysicist (Prestwich), a former John Hancock employee who is now a child care provider (O’Mahony) and a professor of Arabic and French (Abdelghany). This could be a lineup of a TED Talk Belmont.

Nomination papers must be returned by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16, in order for residents to be included on the April 2016 Town Election Ballot.