Friday, May 5, 2000
Town Officials and Town Meeting Members, I Salute You All
Someone from Common Cause recently stated that no more than 20 percent of voters bother to vote at the local level. Fortunately, here in Carlisle, it's more like 35 percent, if you count the 1,035 out of 2,988 registered voters who voted in the town election last May. But what percentage of voters go to Town Meeting to listen to lengthy, mostly well-thought-out presentations, along with citizen input voiced throughout the evening, and then vote on issues that have an enormous impact on the quality of life in Carlisle? On Tuesday night, the first of two nights of Town Meetings this year, 320 voters were in attendance. That is 10 percent of the present 3,115 registered voters in town. Hopefully that number will rise at the town election on Tuesday, May 9.
Do the citizens of this community have any idea of the number of hours that members of the planning board, the school committee, the housing authority, the selectmen, the finance committee and other town committees put into making this institution of the New England Town Meeting work? I can assure you that these extra long hours preceding Town Meeting must have seemed endless to our dedicated town volunteers.
Then there are the citizens who take the time and make the effort to attend Town Meeting. For those who need a babysitter on a school night, that's an extra impediment they must handle. But their act of casting a vote for or against affordable housing, a wireless bylaw change, spending for repairs to the Robbins and Wilkins school buildings, plans for a pedestrian pathway down Bedford Road to Church Street and other articles on the Warrantthat's what makes the town work. I salute them as well.
And while handing out accolades, let me recognize our town moderator Marshall Simonds, who has handled Town Meeting participation fairly, succinctly and always with a witty sense of humor, when appropriate. After 34 years, we say good-bye to our town moderator who has served us well over these many years. He helped as Carlisle grew from a small rural town of 2,111 in 1966, into a town of 4,697, considered by many to be a very desirable place to live. Thanks and bon voyage Pete. We'll miss you.
The Conservative View
What is a conservative? This is not a question I have oft pondered in my heart, but it came to the fore when I was invited by the Board of the Mosquito to become a writer for the Forum, "representing the conservative view."
The former holder of this chair, Sal Borrello, resigned after ten years of articulating a conservative view. He had happened upon this position because it seemed to him that the Mosquito had become too politically correct, afraid in its editorials to say anything controversial for fear of offending someone. Sal took them to task for this shortcoming, and they punished him by making him a Forum contributor. Sal says he set out to offend anyone he could.
And yet, reading over a sample of his writings in this space doesn't provoke offense. His views all seem rather reasonable. In his last article, he twitted those who had gone overboard preparing for Y2K. Before that he had suggested that Mr. Clinton's disgraceful behavior in the White House was ample cause to let him go. He wrote a eulogy for Frank Sinatra. He wondered whether any good would come out of NATO's intervention in Kosovo. He defended traditional family values.
Sal has said that he thinks that we in Carlisle stand aloof from many of the problems and issues that vex our country. It is easy in an affluent community not to worry too much about taxes, but taxes are a real burden to many, especially in the lower rungs of the middle class. It is easy in a town with excellent schools to find fault with vouchers, while youngsters in the inner city are perpetually cheated of a decent education by staying with the status quo. It is easy in a place where nearly everyone who wants one has a job to be indifferent to the cost of health care and the plight of those without health insurance. It is easy with all our comforts and amenities to grow indifferent to the blessings of freedom and plenty that were won for us by those who lived before us and to be unwilling to sacrifice time or money for the sake of protecting those blessings or extending them to others. Perhaps we are too effete to have any serious controversy.
Of course, there are different ways to look at these issues. The conservative view is that these problems are usually better addressed by the unseen hand of free markets than by the well-seen foot of government; that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance; that safety can be the last refuge of scoundrels; that there need not be a rule for absolutely everything; that many things work just fine without regulations; that the majority can be tyrannical; that if someone has a right, then someone else must have a corresponding obligation; that among the most precious freedoms is the freedom to be left alone. As a conservative, Sal strove to bring these views to bear on national and local issues. Thanks, Sal, for your sense and wisdom, pointing out that there is more than one way to look at our problems.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito