Get Involved: Town Committee Application Deadline is Today!

Attention Blogging Belmont readers and restless progressives: are you tired of yelling at cable TV and pulling your hair out over the headlines? Well, there’s a great opportunity for you to get involved and actually make important changes happen in your community.

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Belmont needs volunteers for its committees. Put in your application today!

I’m speaking of course of our many and able Town Committees which, together, do much of the yeoman’s work in this $160 million non profit organization we call The Town of Belmont. Volunteering for one of the many, interesting Town Committees is a great way to make your voice heard and to meet engaged, talented and smart Belmontonians who share your passion for the town and willingness to get involved.

I say this because today (Monday, July 9) is the last day to submit an application to the Board of Selectmen for appointment to a committee. There are openings on some of the Town’s most important and influential committees to consider including the Belmont Planning Board, the Capital Budget Committee, the Human Rights Commission, the Community Preservation Committee (oversees funds from the Community Preservation Act) , the Energy Committee and so on.

The application can be found here. Also, The Town Clerk’s Office has a portal set up that gives you all the information you need as well as links to the application form. You have until Midnight to email your application in and you can apply to multiple committees if your interests are broad.

[Apply Now!]

Two words Benjamin: ‘No Plastic’

Taiwan Announces Ban on All Plastic Bags, Straws, and Utensils

“Plastic” May have been the one word of advice given to Dustin Hoffman’s wayward college graduate ‘Benjamin’ in The Graduate.’ But 50 years later you might be more prescient encouraging young graduates to look at alternatives to plastic.

Just this month, for example, the island nation of Taiwan announced one of the globes most aggressive stands against plastic: a blanket ban that, within 12 years will end the use of single-use bags, utensils, straws, and containers.This according to an article in the Hong Kong Free Press.

Taiwan’s will be one of the farthest-reaching bans on plastic in the world, and evidence that a growing anti-plastic movement in gaining speed as the scale of environmental harm caused by the substance is fully realized.

“We aim to implement a blanket ban by 2030 to significantly reduce plastic waste that pollutes the ocean and also gets into the food chain to affect human health,” said Lai Ying-yaun, a Taiwanese Environmental Protection Agency official, in a statement.

Taiwan’s ban will be phased in over time and builds on existing regulations like an expanded recycling program and extra charges for plastic bags, according to the science website Phys.

The ban will start with a ban on plastic straws at chain restaurants in 2019s and in dining outlets by 2020.

Taiwan will charge retail stores for providing free plastic bags, disposable food containers, and utensils in 2020 and additional fees will be added by 2025. By 2030 the island nation will have a flat-out ban on single-use bags, utensils, straws, and containers.

Globally, around 380 million metric tons of plastic are being created annually. Meanwhile, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year.

The UN recently proposed a global ban on plastic pollution entering the oceans; Canada is planning to introduce a similar proposal at the G7 gathering later this year; and a range of local, state, and federal governments are enacting targeted and sweeping bans on plastic use.

Plastic straws in particular have been the focus of environmental advocates. Each day, US citizens use about 500 million straws, according to Eco-Cycle.

Almost none of these straws can be recycled because they’re generally made from single-use plastic and are so flimsy that they can’t endure the recycling process. So businesses, cities, and even countries are getting rid of them.

Election results: a good (but quiet) day at the polls!

Thanks to everyone who voted in  yesterday’s Town Election. The Town website is weird and hard to use, but I was able to get the results from The Town Clerk’s page and you can view them here: PDF (of course!)

A rundown of elections results from Tuesday’s vote.

Before delving into the races, let me say that overall, turnout _stunk_ with just 2,816 of 17,111 voters turning out to the polls – 16.46%. That’s pathetic and while I recognize that an absence of contested races at the top of the ticket makes for lackluster turnout, and that “elections are elections,” I also know that you don’t get representative government with fewer than 1 in 5 voters exercising their right to vote. I say this by way of arguing – here as I have in private – that Massachusetts needs to join our neighbors like Connecticut and give towns the option of holding local elections in November, when state-wide and national elections drive higher turnout. It is both ridiculous and expensive for communities like Belmont to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for the sake of “tradition,” holding local votes in April so that a tiny sliver of voters can exercise their franchise. OK. Rant complete.

On to the voting – such as it was, Over all, it was a good day at the polls for progressive candidates at the polls on Tuesday.

Caputo is our new Selectman!

At the top of the ticket, Tom Caputo, who ran unopposed but for a late write-in effort by Tomi Olsen, won handily with 94% of the vote. Without an opponent, Tom was afforded the luxury of a low-key race. In some ways, that was too bad: I think his ideas and vision for Belmont are spot on and, together with Selectmen Dash and Paolillo and our new Town Administrator, Patrice Garvin, I expect great things from our newly configured Board. There’s lots of work to be done – time to get going!

Burgess-Cox and Donner on School Committee

In the School Committee race, Blogging Belmont backed Susan Burgess Cox and Tara Donner, and lo and behold they came out on top. The surprise here was the strong performance of Ms. Donner, who was the overall top vote getter with 38.08% (1767), handily beating out Burgess-Cox with 32.69% (1517) and Jill Norton with 29.07% (1349). I’m thrilled to see Susan return to the Board for another term and to welcome Tara, who will bring a strong, independent voice to a Committee that has been – at times – too docile. Jill Norton ran a strong campaign and finished just short. I really hope she considers submitting her name for the spot that has opened up with Tom’s ascension to Board of Selectmen. Given her qualifications and the strong campaign she ran, I would lobby hard for her to get that open, 1 year slot!

Town Meeting

As for Town Meeting – overall, it was a good day. Many precincts were uncontested, which makes it hard to chalk up progressive victories as evidence of any political sea change. And, in some cases, progressive candidates lost out to progress-averse incumbents (as in P6 and P8). The power of incumbency is strong in Belmont – not least because your name appears up top on the ballot. :-/

But we did a good job fielding strong progressives for Town Meeting spots and seeing them elected. In Precincts like my P8, there’s clearly a big shift going on with newer residents displacing longtime Town Meeting incumbents. That’s encouraging and reflects the tremendous demographic changes happening in Belmont.

I’m thrilled to be working with all these fine folks on Town Meeting in the months ahead !

Precinct 1

Three Year Slots:

  • Jessie Bennett – elected
  • Peter Dizikes – elected (topmost vote getter)
  • Ian Todreas – elected
  • Emma Thurston – elected
  • Helen Goldin – elected
  • Gail Gorman – elected
  • Mary Gavin – elected
  • John (Joe) Weis – elected
  • James Staton- elected
  • Stephen Tomczyk – elected

Two Year Slot:

Jessica Olans Hausman – not elected (lost to Heather Barr)

Precinct 2

Three year slots:

  • Lesley Aitken – elected
  • John Buckley – elected
  • W. Sumner Brown – elected
  • Susan Burgess-Cox – elected (top vote getter)
  • Thomas Caputo – elected
  • Judy McSwain – elected
  • Meghan Moriarty – elected
  • James Gammill – elected
  • Suzanne Robotham – elected
    One year slot:

Linda Levin-Scherz – elected in a squeaker with a 3 vote margin!

Precinct 3

We had six solid, progressive candidates on a slate of 10, all of whom were re-elected, with Bonnie Friedman the top vote getter in P3.

  • Shaun Goho – elected
  • Bonnie Friedman – elected top vote getter
  • Stephanie Clement – elected
  • Vince Stanton – elected
  • Carole Williams – elected
  • Juliet Jenkins – elected

There were 4 write in candidates as well:

  • Rich Hartley (11 Edward Street – write in)
  • Cortney Eldridge (206 Beech Street- write-in)
  • Brad Abruzzi (14 Pearl Street – write-in)
  • Jill Souza Norton (96 Clark St – write-in)

Their status is unclear as of this morning. I see 232 write in votes total for P3, which I’m guessing are distributed across that group. The top two vote getters will take the remaining two, open spots in P3. We’ll update you when we hear about which of the 4 write ins made the cut!

Precinct 4

We had six solid, progressive candidates in P4 as well, where there were only 10 candidates for 12 open spots. All were elected/re-elected. Former Selectmen Sami Baghdady was the top vote getter in P4 (10.63% of the vote – 145) with our own Lucia Gates just behind him.

  • Alon Joseph Manela – elected
  • David Webster – elected
  • Lucia Gates – elected
  • Charles Clark – elected
  • Debra Deutsch – elected
  • Elizabeth Schmidt – elected

As with P3, it is unclear which of the write in candidates will make the cut. I see 79 write-in votes for P4. The top two will be elected to fill in the P4 slate of 12 members. The three candidates are:

  • Gitanjali Rege (write-in)
  • Dan Stevens (write-in)
  • Seneca Hart (Hull Street- write in)

Precinct 5

We had seven candidates in Precinct 5, where there were 13 candidates to fill 12 slots. Alas, Paul Aloisio fell short of the line: missing the cut by around 19 votes.

Three year slots

  • Claus Becker – elected top vote getter.
  • Paul Aloisio – not elected
  • David Coleman – elected
  • Thayer Donham – elected
  • Myron Kassaraba – elected
  • Casey Claire Williams – elected
  • Roger Wrubel – elected

Precinct 6

There were 13 candidates for 12 slots in Precinct 6 and we singled out 10 for support. Alas: Cabell Eames fell just short of the mark (6 votes), coming in 13th place! Laurie Graham was the top vote-getter in P6. Congrats, Laurie!

Phil Thayer – elected
Jamie Shea – elected
Aaron Pickilingus – elected
Peter Whitmer – elected
Cabell Eames – not elected 
Gail Mann – elected
John Bowe – elected
Theodore Dukas – elected
Laurie Graham – elected
Judith Singler – elected

Precinct 7

There were 12 candidates for 12 slots in Precinct 7. We recommended 9 of those 12 and (surprise! surprise!) all were elected. One note: newcomer Elizabeth Goss was the top vote getter overall with 168 votes, or 8.9%! Congrats Elizabeth!! We were also remiss in not adding Dovie Yoana King to our list of progressive candidates in P7, which was an oversight on my/our part. I voted for Dovie as a delegate to the state Democratic convention and think she’s awesome.  Dovie tied for second overall with 164 votes (8.69%). Congrats Dovie!!

  • Elizabeth Goss – elected top vote getter
  • Glenn P. Wong – elected
  • Joan Drevins – elected
  • Laura Hill – elected
  • Thomas John – elected
  • Glen Alexander Mohr – elected
  • Steve Pinkerton – elected
  • Alexandra Van Geel – elected
  • Geoffrey Lubien – elected

Precinct 8

We’re seeing some of the biggest shifts in Precinct 8 – long a conservative stronghold in Belmont, but one that is experiencing a rapid demographic and political makeover. In this year’s Town Meeting election those changes were evident. We singled out 10 candidates who we thought would be great to elect/re-elect. Nine of them were elected with newcomers Laura Caputo and Shilpa Lawande garnering the most votes. Only Mark Smith fell short of the mark, losing to Don Mercier by just 9 votes.

  • Sonja Plesset – elected
  • Shilpa Lawande – elected
  • Patrick Murphy – elected
  • Pamela Eagar – elected
  • Ellen Sugarman – elected
  • Laura Caputo – elected top vote getter
  • Lynn Peterson Read – elected
  • Anthony Ferrante – elected
  • Dave Nuscher – elected
  • Kathleen Baskin – elected
  • Kevin Brosnan –elected
  • Mark Smith – not elected