The following Guest Commentary was published in the Belmont Citizen Herald online January 27, 2021 and is also in the January 28 print edition.
When I was six years old, my hometown was making budget cuts and looked to shut down our library on weekends. My mother took me to a town meeting with my pajamas underneath my clothes and I watched as she was the only person who stood up and explained that children would have no place to do research or get the books they needed for school projects and they used the weekends more than any other day. She changed the vote of the town that night and I used that library my entire childhood.
I cannot imagine the devastating opportunity cost to our town if they had prioritized savings of two days of staffing and keeping the lights on, when the whole community flocked to the library on Saturdays and Sundays.
On a different occasion, my mother was standing next to a retiree outside the polls with a sign to get an override passed for the schools. She asked the gentleman why he was standing there if he no longer had children in the schools. He smiled and replied, “Someone voted for me to get what I needed in school when I was young. Now it’s my turn.”
It’s my turn now. Now I am the parent, and my parents are the empty nesters. Now it is my time to show up for my five- and three-year old and for all Belmont children. When we moved to Belmont in 2014, I made a point of following in my mother’s footsteps by learning how the town budget worked and advocating for children. While my kids were still toddlers, I ran for town meeting, where I now serve Precinct 1.
I got involved in other ways, too. You may have seen me at your doors in 2018 passing out informative fliers about the Middle and High School Project, with my kids in strollers trailing bubble machines. That year, I also organized groups of parents with strollers heading to early voting — watching each other’s children so we could cast our vote to build the middle and high school. Now, every time we pass the middle and high school building under construction, my kids say, “That’s the big kids’ school we helped to build!” It’s time to put a principal, a special education leader, a social worker to manage COVID-19’s mental health crisis and an adequate number of teachers in that school. It’s time to put in the staff in and keep the lights on.
Our schools are on a precipice. Children depend on us to make sure they have the resources they need to thrive. If you are unsure whether to vote for this override, remember, someone voted for you to get what you needed in school. You can be that person. Our kids are counting on us to get this right.
We must be that voice for them and now is the time. Please vote yes for the override on April 6.
Jess Hausman, Town Meeting member, Precinct 1