Selectmen Punt on Library-Car Wash Idea. Go to Planning Board Tonight, or send an E-mail.

Belmont Library

The stacks at Belmont’s Main Branch library. Now try to imagine a giant squeegee descending from the ceiling! 😉

Summary: The discussion of the Planning Board’s idea to move our Public Library to the Belmont Car Wash on Trapelo Road (wha??) moves to the Senior Center tonight (TUE) where the full Planning Board will discuss the matter. If you can’t make it, I’ve provided email addresses for Planning Board members so you can make your feelings known. 

What the B**k??! Belmont’s Library Needs Your Support Tonight and Tuesday Evening

The Planning Board sprung a wild idea to move the main branch of the Belmont Public Library across town. Weigh in on that plan tonight at the Selectmen’s meeting and tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Planning Board Meeting at Beech Street Center.

Hey Blogging Belmont Readers! Paul here. As you know, I reach out from time to time to let the BB community know about important goings on in town government. Generally over the summer, those are few and far between – but not always. In fact, as the Town Green debacle illustrated a couple years ago, Summer can be Silly Season in Belmont’s politics.

That appears to be happening again this summer, with the proposal put forward by Planning Board member Raffi Manjikian on July 11th to relocate the main branch of the Belmont Public Library to the Belmont Car Wash location on Trapelo Road. The move, Manjikian said, would revitalize Waverly Square and help address Belmont’s mounting backlog of capital projects: renting the land from the current owners for use as the library. Good idea?

Not so much. First of all: Manjikian and Planning Board Chairwoman Liz Allison (who backs the idea) never presented the idea to the Library Board of Trustees or the BPL’s Director prior to airing it in their committee. As the Citizen Herald notes, the plan was also floated without first contacting the owners of the Car Wash (which is doing just fine, thank you, and has no plans to move). Nor did they contact other business owners in Waverley Square to get their input. Ms. Allison did have a hallway conversation with  Library Board of Trustees Chairwoman Kathy Keohane, who as “understandably unenthusiastic” about it, Allison acknowledged. And yet she persisted. 😉

In any case, Manjikian’s plan will be discussed at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting this evening at Town Hall tonight starting at 7:00 PM in the Selectmen’s Hearing Room. The Planning Board Update is slated to start at 8:30 according to the schedule, though agenda items can shift around. Maybe plan to be there by 8:00 PM?

The other meeting you should attend in addition to/instead of the Board of Selectmen’s meeting is tomorrow (Tuesday) evening’s Planning Board meeting which begins at 7:00 PM in the Auditorium of the Beech Street Center. This is where the Planning Board will officially present and discuss what it calls in its agenda the “Waverley Square/South Pleasant Street Mixed Use Concept” aka: moving the Public Library to a new location.

I’m sure you would rather do other things on a beautiful Summer’s eve. But, as the famous abolitionist Wendell Phillips said: “eternal vigilance is the price of library…err…liberty!”

See you there!



Austin’s Story: the Tragedy of Solitary Confinement in our State Prisons

On June 19th at a statehouse hearing on criminal justice bills, including solitary confinement bills, I gave a statement about the young man I visit in solitary confinement in the hope that my experience will reveal this barbaric practice for the torture that it is. Here is my testimony, as presented to the Joint Committee – Caroline Bays.

Aloneliness – it should be a word. That’s what the young man I visit in solitary says. I can’t tell you his real name but he is the same age as my own child, so I’ll call him by my son’s name – Austin.

I started visiting Austin when a friend called me, frantically looking for someone to visit him in solitary because friends were worried he was suicidal. The last six months have opened my eyes about the cruelty and inhumanity of solitary confinement in Mass. I already knew it in my head, but now I feel it in my heart.

Everything I thought I knew about solitary is wrong. For instance – there is no standard sized cell. Austin spent months in a cell so small he could touch all four walls without moving. He couldn’t walk because the sink overlapped the bed. It used to be a bathroom, so every inch of the walls and floor were tiled. All the sound reverberated loudly off the walls. I watched as this slowly drove him mad as week in and week out he was subjected to the echoing noise of flushed toilets, yelling inmates, banging cell doors. He was literally put in a tomb of torture.

There was no escape…the 1 hour of yard time is also a myth. For the majority of the inmates, they find it impossible to go outside. Some don’t have coats, some are concerned for their own safety, but most don’t go outside because the guards use this as an opportunity to toss their cells, leaving their belongings trashed, with items broken or missing.

But the worst is the isolation from any human compassion. Once a guard took him to the showers and was polite, even nice to him – unlike all previous guards. The guard took out a bottle of shampoo. Austin’s heart leapt – since he had been denied shampoo for weeks. The guard unscrewed the cap and put it up on a ledge near Austin, as if to give it to him. Austin, so grateful for this one act of generosity, reached out to take the shampoo. Just as he reached out towards it, the guard knocked the opened bottle off the ledge, pouring the shampoo all over the shower floor. Can you imagine the crushing blow? A human being who is isolated from any form of good-will, from any form of compassion – when he finally thinks he is experiencing a moment of human kindness, only to have it twisted into an act of cruelty. Aloneliness it should be a word. It’s not just a loneliness of the body and mind – it’s a loneliness of the soul. Human beings aren’t meant to endure this kind of treatment – and he must endure it for four long years! How does someone come out from this kind of treatment with their psyche intact?

I was talking to a friend, cataloguing the horrors I was bearing witness to when another friend who overheard asked “What country is this happening in?” People can’t believe that this torture is happening right here – right now in our own state of Massachusetts.

And I am asking – no begging you to do something about it! There needs to be oversight. The prisons need to tell you who is in there and for how long. I find it unbelievable that in the year 2017 I am pleading with you to pass a bill that simply calls for humane conditions in prisons in Massachusetts.

Caroline Bays is a resident of Watertown.