Friday, March 19, 1999
Watching the Purse Strings
The growth of Carlisle's town government to an estimated $14 million business and an article on the front page of last week's Mosquito ("Far from balancedinitial budget over $500K in red") indicate that it might be time for the town to consider hiring at least a part-time financial director.
The town is served well by capable employees in positions such as town clerk, accountant, treasurer, tax collector, assessor and school business managers for the elementary and high school levels. In addition, members of the finance committee volunteer many nights to hear the needs of town boards and department heads in order to present a fair and balanced budget to voters at Town Meeting.
However, there is no one person who consistently coordinates the information from all of the town's departments. There is no one person whose role is to ferret out the necessary facts for the budget process and provide an analysis. When a capital project or departmental budget overrun is considered, voters deserve a comprehensive fiscal perspective. In addition, the town could benefit from a professional who could investigate how operations might be combined on a town or regional basis so that services are provided in the most appropriate and cost effective manner.
The town needs the seven volunteers on FinCom to help oversee the town's budget, but the detailed investigative work necessary to prepare the town's Warrant has long exceeded what should be expected of any volunteer. Any business of $14 million would have a chief financial officer who would manage the entire budget closely and continuously make recommendations for increased efficiency and enhanced revenue. It seems time for Carlisle to consider at least a part-time financial coordinator who could provide continuity and orchestrate budget variables of the present to provide voters with a coordinated vision of the possibilities for the future.
In the past few weeks and months, the Mosquito has been filled with reports, not only of new house permits, but also of house robberies. Friends pass on with dismay their stories of stolen goods, replaceable and irreplaceable, their homes violated, their sense of safety diminished.
We first arrived in Carlisle in 1985 during one of the periodic waves of robberies which wash over suburban communities. We made sure to lock our doors at all times. When we left for a weekend or a vacation, we notified neighbors and the police; we had our mail held at the post office. We also installed automatic switches to turn lights on and off at night.
Then, over the subsequent ten to fifteen years, robberies declined. No doubt there are socio-economic reasons for this: a decline in drug-trafficking here and in surrounding communities, an increase in neighborhood vigilance. A newcomer to town might be amused, or perhaps a touch irritated, by the regularity of reports of suspicious strangers in the police log. Hardly a week goes by without a call to the dispatcher to report a suspicious loiterer who turns out to be a delivery person, or a home owner. Carlisleans might be accused of possessing long noses and a narrow-eyed mistrust of strangers and neighbors on a par with that of Salem's witch-watchers in 1692.
For we are a community of watchers. Many people like to garden; they are often out in their yards planting, raking, tending, watching. There are also the bird watchers and the bicyclists, the runners and the skiers. One neighbor walks her dog each afternoon past our house with a regularity that rivals the school bus schedule. And there are simply the neighbors. Carlisle doesn't have the urban density in which anonymity easily thrives. When there's only one house next door, it's hard to walk out the back door without at least a glance at the adjoining drive and back door.
We also have a superb police force which is very much in evidence at the rotary, along the major commuter lines, on the back roads. Speed limits are enforced, as many of us can attest, to our embarrassment. Carlisle police make the extra effort, as when one officer followed a set of tracks into the woods during a snow storm several winters ago and solved a series of vandalisms. And woe to the perpetrator who has Inspector Nancy Iosue on his or her trail. From arresting murderers to tracking down stolen items in pawn shops, she does it all. Someone ought to make her career the subject of a series for Channel 2's Mystery!
As the article in last week's Mosquito reported, our best defense still lies in reporting suspicious individuals. Chief Galvin advises those with alarms to use them, even if one is only going to the center of town and back; that is enough time for a theft. If the alarm system is intimidating, call the alarm company for information. The Carlisle Police will also help explain an alarm system.
Prosperity and burglary are old bedfellows around the globe. Kamo-no-Chomei, a Japanese poet and monk, lived from AD 1154 to 1216. The following translation is by Basil Bunting:
Swirl sleeping the waterfall!
On motionless pools scum appearing
Housebreakers clamber about,
builders raising floor upon floor
at the corner sites, replacing
gardens by bungalows. . . .
Eaves formal on the zenith,
lofty city of Kyoto,
wealthy, without antiquities!
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito