Letter to the Editor: Dash Provides Forward Thinking As Selectman

Photo: Adam Dash

To the Editor: 
Monday night’s debate at the League of Women Voters’ Candidates Night made it clear that this is a lively campaign for Selectman. Both candidates have a lot to offer the town.

On balance, I believe that Adam Dash is more forward-looking and therefore better prepared to deal with these challenges creatively. For one thing, his support for the Community Path seems stronger. That is the single biggest step Belmont can take to cut traffic and enhance the two business centers it would pass through, Belmont Center and Waverley Square.

Please consider giving Adam your vote.

Sue Bass
Precinct 2 

Letter to the Editor: Carbone Has Unmatched Experience for Belmont

Photo: Guy Carbone

To the editor:

I write in support of Guy Carbone for Selectman for the Town of Belmont and hope you will join me in voting for him on Tuesday, April 4.  

Guy comes with an experience unmatched by his opponent. I firmly believe his skill-set and qualities will help ensure success in the massive projects facing Belmont in the immediate future. Guy has experience in building and managing large capital projects for the state. His projects were on time and under budget, once returning $5 million back to the state of Massachusetts. I hope and believe that Guy will deliver the same type of results for Belmont. He certainly has in the past. For example, when Belmont entered into a lawsuit over faulty construction in the two new fire stations against the architect and general contractor, it was Guy Carbone, using his background as an engineer and lawyer, who uncovered the key information that led to a successful resolution returning nearly $1 million to the town; the work done by Guy’s client was not at fault.

This skill set is particularly important in this election. Belmont faces four large capital projects or updates in the near future: the town’s library, high school, DPW station, and police station. Guy has innovative and thoughtful ideas to help finance these projects – alleviating our already high tax burden which has been a key driver to the rising rents affecting our seniors and young families. Equally important, I trust that Guy will labor endlessly to ensure these projects are properly vetted, prioritized, and implemented in a prudent manner.

Guy is hardworking and earnest in his efforts to diligently serve the people of Belmont. He’s open, honest, and willing to listen and hear everyone – qualities extremely important for someone seeking this position.

Richard Hansen

Town Meeting Member, Precinct 5

Letter to the Editor: For Belmont’s Children, Vote Adam Dash

Photo: Adam Dash
To the editor:

Two years ago, I was inspired by kids studying in Starbucks to share my opinion that passing the override was crucial to our children’s future, and that of subsequent generations.

While those specific kids may have graduated by now, Belmont’s children haven’t gone away. In fact, there are only more of them. Since writing that letter, enrollment in Belmont Public Schools has increased by almost 200 students. Nor is this an isolated bubble: over the past five years, enrollment has soared by more than 500 children, and school committee projections show the trend not only continuing but exacerbating.

We need a leader who is committed to maintaining excellent schools without overburdening taxpayers. Adam Dash is that leader. He has direct experience overseeing the budget on the Warrant Committee.  He has terrific ideas on how to expand small businesses in Belmont. Moreover, he will finish the Community Path with federal funding, which will bring pedestrian and bike traffic to our business districts. And he will ensure that we meet the state’s deadline to benefit from a 30 percent subsidy for renovating or rebuilding the high school. Put quite bluntly; we literally cannot afford to miss this opportunity. If we do not make the right decisions now, we will not only cheat our kids of the school they need but ourselves of savings we could have had.

Dash has a proven track record of leveraging both public and private investment in important town projects. He spearheaded acquiring Community Preservation Act funds. He was the public face of the campaign to prevent drastic cuts to our schools and to add the teachers we needed for keeping up with soaring enrollments. As Vice Chair of the Underwood Pool Building Committee, he worked with Belmont Savings Bank to establish a matching grant campaign that allowed us to build our beautiful new pool after the lowest bidder broke his contract. I helped fundraise for that campaign and saw first-hand the kind of dedication and know-how it takes to quickly and efficiently make such public-private partnerships happen.

In his decade of service to the town on important committees, Dash has demonstrated that he can build consensus and get things done. His opponent touts service from almost forty years ago in a different town. Which do you think is more relevant to our future?

There are still kids studying in Starbucks. They still can’t vote. We owe it to them, once again, to bet on their future and that of all Belmont’s children. Please join me in voting for Adam Dash on April 4.

Mary Lewis
Randolph Street  

Letter to the Editor: OPEB — Complex Issue, Complex Discussion

Photo: Guy Carbone

To the editor:

A one minute answer during an important debate is not the best way to discuss a complex issue.  OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) and how Belmont should pay for these retiree obligations is an exceedingly complex subject and deserves a complete discussion than it was possible to provide at the League of Women Voters debate.

First, Selectman Williams’ desire for a professional analysis of Belmont’s retiree obligations, per the information he sent to me, is something with which I completely agree. I do NOT support any program which would add huge increases to the property tax bill or which would make it impossible for Belmont to undertake needed building programs or meet ordinary budget requirements. For example, Selectman Williams’ proposal for a municipal bond made when he ran for Selectman is not something I support.

As required by the state, Belmont currently makes an annual payment to its pension plan; it will complete payments by 2029 well in advance of the state’s 2040 deadline.  Belmont will begin to pay OPEB requirements in 2030.  This approach was adopted many years ago when sitting selectmen were faced not only with an underfunded retirement fund but one into which no payments had been made for decades. Given the circumstances, the decision was prudent.

Today, Belmont needs to find out: (1) whether this approach is still an effective way to meet both our pension and OPEB obligations; and (2) if there is a more effective approach.  Most important, Belmont must figure out whether any change in approach would make it incredibly difficult, or even impossible, to fund all of our day-to-day requirements — schools, building projects, streets and sidewalks, police, and fire department, to name just a few — without unduly increasing property taxes.

I believe Belmont should hire a financial advisor/consultant with experience in this area to identify whether any changes would make sense. I will come to the table prepared to ask the hard questions needed to determine whether there is a better all round approach that can balance our obligations to the town and to Belmont’s retirees with the ability of Belmont’s residents to pay for them.

Guy Carbone

Woodfall Road

(Editor’s note: Carbone is running for the Board of Selectmen in the upcoming Town Election.)

Letter To The Editor: Adam Dash, An Experienced Leader

Photo: Adam Dash

To the editor:

I am writing this letter in support of Adam Dash for Selectmen. During my time on the Belmont School Committee, I appreciated the thorough review, thoughtful questions and action-based thinking that Adam brought to the budget process, especially during joint meetings of the Board of Selectmen, Warrant and School committees.

In Somerville, where Adam has his law practice, he is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor’s Zoning Advisory Committee and the Homeless Coalition. He has proven experience working within various municipal environments as well a deep understanding of the issues facing some of the most vulnerable in our communities.

In Belmont, Adam’s leadership positions on the successful 2015 override as well as the Warrant, CPA Study and Underwood Pool Building committees have all demonstrated that he approaches issues with an open mind without preconceived decisions. He not only asks cogent questions but listens to the answers while encouraging input from all stakeholders. Adam works to build collective consensus during the decision-making process and, most importantly, he has the skills needed to take action, facilitate the implementation of plans made and to see them through to completion.

I believe that Adam’s experienced leadership makes him the best candidate for Board of Selectmen and ask that you join me in voting for him this April 4.

Laurie Graham

Warwick Road

Former Belmont School Committee member

Town Meeting member, precinct 6

Letter to the Editor: Carbone No Stranger to Smart Governance

Photo: Guy Carbone

To the editor:

I urge you to vote for Guy Carbone for Selectman on April 4.     

Guy is a former Watertown resident who served two terms as Selectman and three terms as School Committee member. Because of this, he is no stranger to what it takes to have smart and efficient town governance. 

Belmont faces many capital project needs, including a new high school, police station, and library. Guy has the engineering and legal experience, knowledge, and resources to help Belmont tackle these projects pragmatically without overburdening the town any more than necessary. 

Guy is already hard at work exploring creative ways the town can move forward with its capital project needs. His suggestion that the Board of Selectmen explore the use of public-private partnerships to help the town build a new skating rink and library is an example of the creative yet fiscally responsible solutions he can bring to Belmont as your Selectmen. His years of engineering experience applied to actual developments will be a real asset as Belmont deal with projects like Cushing Village.  

Guy has an incredible work ethic. I know he will dedicate every waking moment to serving Belmont.

Of the many reasons I support Guy, it is his heartfelt desire to ease the burdens many singles and families in Belmont bear as a result of high taxes and rents that resonate with me. So many young families and seniors are leaving Belmont because they just can’t afford it anymore. This is truly saddening and not what I imagine most of us want to see happen in our town. 

Guy Carbone is the right person at the right time. Please make sure to vote on April 4 and when you do, vote for Guy Carbone for Selectman.

Silvia Cruz

Winslow Road

Letter to the Editor: Dash’s Experience, Temperament Ensures Strong Selectman

Photo: Adam Dash

To the editor:

I am writing to urge you to vote for Adam Dash for Selectman on Tuesday, April 4. The combination of Adam’s skills, experience, and temperament will ensure that he is a strong and effective selectman. 

As the senior governing body for the town, the Board of Selectmen should reflect the culmination of a progression of leadership in town governance, rather serve as an entry level position. And, in that regard, Adam has been actively involved in town governance, as a Town Meeting member since 2008, and, more importantly, as a member of the Warrant Committee, the town’s primary financial watchdog, since 2009.

Over the past six years, I have had the opportunity to meet with the Warrant Committee on multiple occasions.  On those occasions, as well as at numerous Town Meetings, I have been impressed by the insightful questions that Adam asks and the well-reasoned positions that he takes. His questions and comments are invariably right on the mark.    

I was also impressed by the approach Adam took in building support for the new Underwood Pool project in 2013. He sincerely solicited public input throughout the design process, making it clear that listening carefully to the citizens was more than just a pro forma exercise. Someone who views his role as a steward for the citizens of the town, not someone who personally wants to control the decisions, is precisely what we need in the position of selectman.  

I urge you to vote for Adam Dash. He has a wealth of experience in town matters and the genuine temperament that we need in a selectman.

Jack Weis

Chenery Terrace, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 1   

Letter to the Editor: Dash’s Experience, Ideas Make Him Ideal Selectman

Photo: Adam Dash

To the Editor:

I write in support of Adam Dash for Selectman and hope that you will support him, too. I’ve heard Adam speak a couple of times about how he sees the role of Selectman and have been impressed on several levels.

  • First, I am struck by his extensive experience on the Warrant Committee, the fiscal watchdog for the town.  We need a selectman who has the facility with the town budget from Day One.
  • Secondly, I am impressed by his recognition that Belmont needs to get moving on its Climate Action Plan, enacted in 2008 but without any pathway to implementing it.  All over the country, action on climate change must now happen on the local level, now that we have an administration that is openly denying its existence.
  • Finally, I like his ideas on local business and how to make Belmont more business-friendly through better-permitting processes, zoning, and working with surrounding neighbors.

As a practicing attorney in the field, Adam has extensive professional zoning experience and has served on the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals.  He also sees underused properties in town as opportunities and has the experience to help convert them into tax paying, successful businesses.

I encourage you to learn more about Adam at his website, electadamdash.com. He will serve Belmont well as our next Selectman.

Debora Hoffman

Goden Street 

Letter To The Editor: Liquor, Money, and Politics in Belmont

Photo: The September meeting between the Selectmen and Star Market and the Loading Dock.

To the editor:

Belmont was a “dry” town until about 2000. Over several years, we carefully authorized and licensed restaurants and retail stores. Elected officials spent hours developing rules to ensure that when we went from “dry” to “wet” we wouldn’t end up in the mud where liquor licenses are sold to the highest bidder.

But here we are.  On Oct. 6, the Board of Selectmen (by a vote of 2 to 1, with Chairman Mark Paolillo dissenting) authorized The Loading Dock to transfer its right as a retail all-alcohol licensee to Star Market for $400,000.   

This is not what Town Meeting intended when it voted to increase the number of all-alcohol retail licenses from one to two. The Selectmen’s decision on Oct. 6 is a threat to small retail stores in Belmont. Town Meeting needs to fix this.     

Let me explain.    

Until 2013, Town Meeting had authorized only one all-alcohol retail store. That license was held by The Spirted Gourmet in Cushing Square. At the annual Town Meeting in 2013, Town Meeting authorized a second all-liquor retail store. In 2014, the Selectmen gave that license to The Loading Dock. 

During the 2013 Town Meeting, Donald Mercier, Town Meeting Member from Precinct 8, suggested that the language of the article on all-alcohol retail licenses should be drafted more carefully.  He said, “I appreciate what this group of Selectmen are doing, but in 10 years from now, we may have different Selectmen with different ideas. So I think this license has to be tightened down, so you get what you want today, what you want to create today.” Mercier was right.  

What the Selectmen promised in 2013 was that they would approve a full liquor retail license to an establishment similar to the first recipient of that license – The Spirited Gourmet — a small specialty store. No Town Meeting Member recommended that the license should go to a supermarket chain with 2,200 stores nationwide. Instead, the vast majority of speakers insisted that the second license go only to a small, specialty store. A Town Meeting Member from Precinct 3 also asked for assurances that the license would not go to any vendor in Waverley Square near the Butler School.  The Selectmen said that they understood.  

I was a member of that Board, and we promised we would follow the intent of Town Meeting.    

But Mercier was right. We have different Selectmen now. On Oct. 6, the second of two all-alcohol retail licenses was transferred from The Loading Dock to Star Market for $400,000.    

Star Market was started in 1915 by the Mugar family in Watertown. According to its website, Star Market is now part of AB Acquisition LLC, which is owned by a consortium of private investors led by Cerebus Capital Management. Cerebus financed a merger to create the second-largest supermarket chain in the US. According to financial analysts, the intent was to create a huge chain that could compete with Kroger and WalMart.  

The Selectmen held two hearings on the transfer of this license. At the first meeting (on Sept. 19), the attorney for Star Market told the Board that it “must follow the letter of the 2014 home rule petition.”  The letter of the home rule petition only tells the Selectmen what they could do. It does not tell them what they should do. The Selectmen had the legal authority to determine public need and public good for Belmont.  

The Board’s determination should have been shaped by the values and expectations of Town Meeting Members as expressed during the Town Meeting of 2013. Former Selectmen Mahoney and Solomon attended the October hearing and explained to current Selectmen that the intent of the original rules on alcohol licenses in Belmont. The intent was to award these licenses to small, specialty stores, and to prohibit their transfer. According to Ms. Mahoney, this has been an ongoing covenant between Town Meeting, Belmont residents, and small businesses since 2000.  

As the son of a small retail store owner, I know what small businesses hope to get from government – consistency, predictability, and fair play … and maybe some parking.

The Selectmen’s decision on Oct. 6 was inconsistent with past precedent and a threat to small businesses. Elena Benoit of The Spirited Gourmet explained that she and Chris Benoit had worked hard and played by the rules for ten years. She was encouraged to open the Belmont store by than Selectman Angelo Firenze. But now, the Board had decided to change the rules. That, she argued, is not fair play. Jen Bonislawski, owner of the new Arts Specialties store on Trapelo Road testified that she “didn’t know how we’re going to survive.”

The Selectmen’s decision on Oct. 6 sends a message to small retail stores in Belmont.  Consistency and predictability are not important. The license originally awarded to a small specialty store for $4,000 can be transferred to a large supermarket for $400,000.      

Trust in elected officials is fragile. Once lost, it is not easily restored. To start the process of restoring Town Meeting’s long-standing commitment to small, local businesses, we must “tighten down” the authority to grant liquor licenses. We should not allow any Board to award licenses “at its discretion.” Town Meetings can specify who gets a license and ensure that licenses cannot be sold or transferred.   

Also, it seems prudent to create a new, appointed Alcohol Beverage Licensing Board in Belmont.  This Board should not be merely advisory.  It should have the exclusive authority to issue licenses.  An appointed Board would have sufficient institutional memory to have known that some of the “concessions” offered by Star Market on Oct. 6 merely brought it into compliance with Belmont’s existing regulations.            

The Board’s decision of Oct. 6, leaves us in a state of legal ambiguity.  We need to end this ambiguity in a manner that is consistent with Town Meeting’s intent.  

The attorney for Star Market informed us that the sale of liquor licenses is “routine” in Massachusetts. We know.  That is why Town Meetings and Selectmen spent a decade creating a unique environment in Belmont — where licenses would be issued consistent with Town Meeting’s intent, where licenses would not be transferred, and where promises to small retail businesses would not be broken. A future Town Meeting must re-establish this policy and ensure that it is enforced.  

Ralph Jones

Summit Road

Town Meeting Member, Precinct 3 and former selectman

Letter to the Editor: Vote No On The Charter Schools Ballot Question

Photo: credit Portside

To the editor:

In the spring of 2015, Belmont residents voted for an override to better fund our schools and town infrastructure. Faced with rising budgets and kids with varied needs, we voted to increase our taxes. Other communities across the state have done the same. Massachusetts public schools remain the best in the country because of our dedicated teachers, administrators, kids, parents and taxpayers.

Now schools across Massachusetts face a new challenge: Ballot Question 2. This is a state-wide ballot initiative funded substantially by out-of-state billionaires. The initiative proposes to approve 12 new charter schools per year forever, with no limit on location within the state. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are privately run with no local oversight. As a result, charter schools aren’t truly “public”: they don’t enroll as many differently-abled students or English language learners, yet the majority of their funding comes from diverting money from local school districts that are already struggling to make ends meet.

So far, the amount of money diverted from Belmont to charter schools has been relatively low ($31,284 projected for the fiscal year 2017), but with the ballot question placing no limits on location, we have no control over how much might be diverted from our schools in the future.

Please join me in voting No on 2 this November.

Mary Lewis
Randolph Street