Belmont Citizens Forum bike path pamphlet stirs controversy

BCH reported this week that the pamphlet distributed recently by the Belmont Citizens Forum is “stirring controversy.”

So, just FYI, if you’re wondering if your town has a NIMBY problem, terms like “controversial” and  “bike path” popping up in close proximity to one another in the town paper are a good sign that, in fact, you do!

That said, I suppose I can see Rep. Brownsberger’s point that the pamphlet (which I read and enjoyed) presents a vision of the finished path when, in reality, the details of what the path will look like and where it will run are very much open to study and debate. More distressing were the comments of Channing Road residents, which are filled with the kind of amorphous fears of  big city drug pushers and thugs that have  been used in chichi towns like Weston to veto or fight bike path- or commuter rail extensions into their towns. My favorite quote in the article comes from Channing Road resident Bruce MacKinnon in reference to the current unsightly scrub land that runs between his back yard and the tracks. “Kids drinking and the swearing back there goes with the territory, but now they want to put a bike path in there!” My GOD. They want to bring middle class people in to exercise back there! What’s next? Orgies?

Let me just say that I run the Minuteman Trail at least once a week. I’ve run it all the way from Alewife to Concord and here’s what i’ve seen – and in great numbers: People biking. People walking. Couples strolling with their kids. Teenagers  and younger children on bikes riding – free and unafraid of being hit and killed by clueless drivers. Businesses — bike shops and cafes — posting signs on the path to attract the crowds to their shops. Bird watchers. Here’s what I haven’t seen: anybody who looks even remotely like a drug dealer, homeless person or active member of the Crips, Bloods or MS-13. Bike paths are infrastructure – and they’re clean, beautiful, community building, good for business -good for the environment infrastructure. The short jump from the current bike path terminus on Brighton to Belmont Center might seem like a small matter, but it isn’t: there are plans for a shared-use bicycle and pedestrian path that extends beyond Belmont Center and running, someday, all the way west to Northhampton. Let’s put fear on the shelf just for once, Belmont, and actually make this happen. OK?

New Year’s Resolution (or how I learned to stop worrying and love parking meters)

NOTE: Fixed the incorrect link to the presentation on Scribd.com. Thanks to Dr. Chase for pointing it out!! – Paul.

Well, its another New Year and time to look forward to the year ahead – and back. 2010 was an eventful year here in town, what with the continuing economic crisis putting a strain on town finances lively races for both the Board of Selectmen and School Committee, and – of all things – a contentious and ultimately unsuccessful push for a Prop 2 1/2 override.

Frankly, after all that activity and what was a trying year on School Committee, I needed to take a bit of a break from the raft of big, hard to solve problems facing Belmont and focus on something smaller. To that end, I put some time an energy helping sort out the question of whether or not newer generation multi-space parking meters might be a worthwhile investment and a (welcome) new revenue stream for Belmont. My presentation to the Board of Selectmen, which I gave on December 21, is posted online and available here. Stay tuned for more on this idea as the Town and Board of Selectmen looks more closely at the parking meter question.

multi space meters could bring needed revenue to town

In any case, researching the parking meter issue was refreshing in a way – when you consider that we could collect an extra $300,000 in revenue over the next 10 years just by asking the folks who park in front of the Commuter Rail station on Royal Road to pay for the privilege…well…you start to think about what other piles of unrealized revenues are sitting out there undiscovered? Of course there are other locations for meter deployments and associated revenue (back of the envelope says $1 million in net revenue over 10 years for ~8 multi space meters to cover Leonard Street and Alexander Street). What else – some development? Maybe the Municipal Light building? Development along Prospect Street and Cushing Square?

Of course, none of these things will change the big picture, but each little bit of revenue starts to tip the scales  – easing the tensions between competing factions in town and making it easier to find a compromise. Of course, nothing of this sort will happen in time to save the town from a painful budget cycle and, barring a new and successful override effort, the cuts this time around will be both deep and painful – impossible to hide.

My new year’s resolution is to do more to work cooperatively within the town to help us find answers to these painful budgeting questions but, also, to fight to preserve what I think is Belmont’s great and decades-long tradition of fostering excellent, public education and a nurturing, safe community. I hope that we, as a town, can resolve to finally tackling the town’s budget problems in a serious way and moving past the “what ifs” to put Belmont on the road to a bright future.

Move to Belmont? What’s Your Advice?

OK, so I received an e-mail over the weekend that I’ll excerpt below. Suffice it to say that its the e-mail we, as proud Belmontonians (and homeowners) fear getting, but I think it’s illustrative of where the sentiments of home buyers are right now in what is still very much a buyer’s market. The e-mail also offers a good thought exercise to start off the New Year, namely: what’s your elevator pitch for (or against) the town as a destination for prospective home buyers?

Here’s the e-mail, as I received it. I’ve removed any personally identifiable information, but suffice it to say that this person is a professor at  Harvard University with a professional spouse who works full time. They have a four year old and an infant and currently rent in Cambridge. Their short list for towns to move to includes Belmont, Lexington and Newton. Belmont is their first choice, because of its convenience. But, as you can see, they have “reservations.”

Dear Paul,

K——- gave me your email address. We’re in the process of shopping for a house, and we’re very interested in Belmont but have heard some worrying things about the schools. Most of the people I know in Belmont have grown children, so I haven’t been able to get any up-to-date info on this. Would you be willing to have a quick phone chat with me about schools, and living in Belmont generally, sometime?

You can call my cell anytime (617-###-####), or let me know if there’s a convenient time for me to call you.

Thanks in advance!

A—–

I spoke with this person today and will share my thoughts in a subsequent post. But first – to the B2 readership – what would your “elevator pitch” be to this parent who’s looking to make a long term commitment to a town and wants 1) quality schools, 2) a safe community, 3) diversity and 4) location/convenience? (That’s the order I put them in, but I’d bet A’s order would be close to that.

Interested to hear your thoughts.