Updated: Important Meetings This Week with Commuter Rail Access, Library on the Agenda


The fate of Belmont's Waverley MBTA Purple Line station hangs in the balance. MBTA and Mass DoT officials will discuss it Monday evening at a meeting at Beech Street Center. (Image courtesy of Will Brownsberger.)

The fate of Belmont’s Waverley MBTA Purple Line station hangs in the balance. MBTA and Mass DoT officials will discuss it Monday evening at a meeting at Beech Street Center. (Image courtesy of Will Brownsberger.)

This article has been updated to clarify that the Library Long Range Planning meeting Tuesday is focused on Library programming that the Library will offer, not issues concerning the library building itself. PFR Nov 16 2015.

Much of the work of governing Belmont happens in open, but mostly unobserved meetings. Appointed committees and elected boards sit in rooms at the Town Hall, or a community room at The Chenery or The Wellington and talk – mostly to each other. The public is always invited to attend, observe and comment, but we rarely do. That isn’t great for democracy, but its the way it is.

Every so often, however, our elected leaders make clear that they really need public input on an important matter, or wish to inform the public about a critical development that affects the community. In those cases, its important for everyone to shake off our torpor and make the extra effort to engage. There are a number of such meetings this week.

To T or Not to T? That is the Question.

First, this evening (Monday), leadership from the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will be visiting Belmont this evening for a discussion of changes to Belmont’s two MBTA Commuter Rail stations. As you may know, one of those – the Waverley Station – has been declared in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the MBTA is floating the idea of closing the station. The Belmont Center station is also not ADA compliant. Unlike Waverley, though, it continues to be grandfathered in to the ADA law – a status that could change suddenly following even modest improvements to the station.

The question is: what to do? Improvements to make Waverley ADA compliant will be expensive, as the station sits some 20 feet below street level. The cash-strapped MBTA is reluctant to make them and is proposing closing the station altogether, and locating a new station on Pleasant Street. Tonight at the Beech Street Center (starting at 7:00 PM), officials from the MBTA and Mass DoT will provide new information about what the agencies would like to do to resolve the situation (or, as they say “Americans with Disabilities (ADA) compliance alternatives”). Those range from fixing the existing station, to closing Waverley and Belmont Center and building a new station along Pleasant Street – or at some other location (Brighton Street has been floated as an alternative location, as well.) The Belmontonian has an excellent write up, courtesy of Sue Bass of the Belmont Citizens’ Forum here. It’s required reading before tonight’s meeting.

The Long View on the Library

The second issue that deserves your attention is the fate of Belmont’s much loved and much used Public Library. The most-used public facility in town, our town’s main branch library is in desperate need of updating – or outright replacement. But how and even where to do that is a topic of much dispute within town. Plans to renovate the existing facility and an alternative plan to locate it across Concord Ave both failed to win approval of key constituencies. All the while, the existing facility continues to deteriorate, raising the specter of costly repairs in the not distant future.

Recently, the Trustees of the Belmont Library commissioned a special committee to develop a Long Range Plan for the library. This week, on Tuesday, the Library is inviting the public to provide its input and ideas to that long range plan. According to a message from Kathy Keohane of the Library Board of Trustees, the meeting on Tuesday will be a forum for “public input to the Long Range Plan that outlines the programs and services that the library offers,” but “is not a meeting to discuss the building, renovations and or a grant.” 

The Long Range Planning Committee was convened by the Library Board of Trustees and is populated by members of the community.The meeting on Tuesday evening will include “a short presentation explaining our long range planning process.” Attendees will then break into groups to “review and solicit ideas for programs and services.” The meeting is scheduled on Tuesday, November 17th from 7:00 to 8:30 PM in the Library Assembly Room at 336 Concord Avenue. I encourage everyone to attend this meeting, as well!

Sign Up Now for Belmont’s Fall Classic: The 3rd Dan Scharfman 5K

Scenes from last year's FBE Dan Scharfman 5k - a wicked fun race. (Photo courtesy of Belmont Patch.)

Scenes from last year’s FBE Dan Scharfman 5k – a wicked fun race. (Photo courtesy of Belmont Patch.)

October is almost upon us and that means that Belmont’s new fall classic, the Dan Scharfman Memorial Run is just around the corner. Sponsored by the Foundation for Belmont Education, with support from a wide range of local businesses. More than 500 runners signed up to do last year’s race and this year is shaping up to be even bigger.

Register now for the run if you haven’t already done so, by visiting the official web site for the race over at the Foundation for Belmont Education, if you want to learn more.  If you’re ready to sign up, you can do so at Racewire.


Dan was a dear friend of mine – a School Committee member, father, husband, running buddy. He was a Renaissance man in the truest sense of the word: a talented choir singer, a passionate outdoorsman, a marathoner and ultra marathoner – and a volunteer for all manner of causes. This race last year raised more than $20,000 to fund investments in technology and professional development for teachers – two of Dan’s passions as a member of Belmont’s School Committee.

Running the race is a great way to remember Dan and help carry forth his legacy. It’s also a lot of fun. This year’s event includes both a 5K race and a companion 2K (1.24 miles) run that’s perfect for the whole family. The proceeds from the races fund the Dan Scharfman Education Innovative Fund for the Foundation for Belmont Education’s Innovative Teaching Initiative which you can read about here.

The race this year will be held on Sunday, October 4th at 9:00 at the BHS track. People who register early will receive special gifts, including a race shirt and a great Polar water bottle – but sign up early to save yourself some money, and to make sure you get your hands on the cool race swag! Day of registration is available (of course) starting at 8am at the Belmont High School track.

Finally: if you want to support the cause, but can’t run this year, The Foundation for Belmont Education is looking for volunteers that help make the race a success each year by setting up the event, helping monitor the course during the race and doing clean up. We have an online sign-up form where you can register by following this link.

Finally, if you’re not going to be around, you can make a personal donation to the race fund. This link will take you to a web page that lets you donate directly.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

— Paul

Run the Dan on October 4th!

Run the Dan on October 4th!

We win!!

With the polls closed, the unofficial vote total is in and shows a strong victory for the YES campaign:
Yes: 4728 (55%)
No: 3818 (45%)

Belmontonian: Put Aside Fear, Vote YES Today!

Some election day reading for you while you’re waiting in line to vote: The Belmontonian’s endorsement of a YES vote on Question 1. With just a few hundred words, Editor Franklin Tucker has perfectly articulated the need for the town to vote YES on Question 1, and exposed the NO Campaign – funded almost entirely by former Warrant Committee member Liz Allison – for what it is: a cynical attempt to derail needed and long overdue investment in the town and schools.

From the article:

It is time Belmont residents face the fact the community has been attempting to run a modern, urban municipality on the cheap. Belmont has one of the lowest average tax bills in the state and an extremely low cost-per-pupil expenditures (coupled with one of the highest student-to-teacher ratios). It’s little wonder the town is a laughing stock for it’s disgraceful roads, but that happens when you won’t pay an adequate amount for their upkeep. The band Midnight Oil spoke to what Belmont needs to realize: “The time has come/To say fair’s fair/to pay the rent/to pay our share.”

And later:

The prime target for the Nos is the schools and the “hardcore” union representing Belmont teachers. It wouldn’t surprise anyone that the Nos have circulated lists of teachers pay prompting one supporter wondering at candidates’ night paying a kindergarten teacher $90,000. Several times, one member of the group have suggested that the union must be made to heal to lead the town into a financial nirvana. In addition, by providing annual funding rather than a long-term approach, the school district will be beholden to the “budget committee.”

If the Nos had declared its agenda up front, they would be seen as honest brokers, rather than a very small fraternity of political operatives.

With only seven contributors and a campaign paid by a single source, the Nos remain a powerful opponent, playing to a substantial number of residents who view Belmont as the same small town of several generations past, those who believe providing a “good enough” education – in a world that punishes those who are only “good enough” – is what is required, while nervously viewing their own finances as economic forces beyond everyone’s reach ever change.

We, Belmont, must reject the fear and mistrust being pushed by the No committee.

You can read the full endorsement here.