Friday, May 19, 2000
Outgoing selectman sees wider town role
"Whatever happened to former selectman Burt Rubenstein?" won't be a question on anyone's lips any time soon. After six years of serving on town boards, three as a school committee member and three as a selectman, Rubenstein decided not to run for re-election because the time commitment was too great. While Rubenstein passed the torch to Carol Peters as of May 9, he can be expected still to be a fixture in town affairs, albeit in an unofficial capacity.
Most of Rubenstein's unfinished business remains on the municipal land committee which he chaired. The town's decision not to pursue the housing authority's proposal for the Conant Land leaves the town vulnerable to affordable housing initiatives which may not be as favorable to the town. Because there is not a lot of other town land available for this purpose, Rubenstein sees the municipal land committee's top priority to identify potential parcels and to bring their proposals to the fall Town Meeting while the issue is still fresh in people's minds.
The budget is still a big issue, said Rubenstein. He was very glad to see the override pass at Town Meeting, with the only debate over an attempt to increase the amount of the override. Rubenstein commented that he thought it was appropriate for parent Maureen Tarca, who brought a funding increase for the schools to the floor, to stand up and force the debate. The end result indicated to Rubenstein that the town can get by with a reasonable override, which the selectmen tried hard to achieve.
The user fees proposed by the Carlisle School as part of the budget negotiations got a thumbs-up from Rubenstein. It is "totally legitimate" for a family to pay for certain services, said Rubenstein, so long as, as proposed, there is an upper limit on the amount a family will be charged and there is financial assistance for those who need it. While a large part of the community does not get a direct benefit from the school, Rubenstein was heartened that the discussion did not degenerate into an "us versus them" debate. Looking at the big picture, and with praise for his former colleagues, Rubenstein concluded, "What we're getting from an education for less than $6,000 per student is very impressive."
Thoughts on process
With respect to the process of choosing a new town administrator, Rubenstein said he was disappointed by the first few choices but is very pleased with interim administrator Madonna McKenzie. "She has the knowledge and aptitude for the job and has displayed the leadership qualities we were looking for," said Rubenstein, who is hopeful that McKenzie will work out on a long-term basis.
The financial management team set up as a reaction to last year's budget snafus is working well, observed Rubenstein. "There was a $113 correction this year in the Warrant book, but that's a big change from last year," he said. The numbers were stable six weeks before Town Meeting, so the team was able to work on concepts, not cleaning up the spreadsheets. Rubenstein attributed this success largely to individuals taking personal responsibility for the tasks and thought that selectmen Doug Stevenson and John Ballantine were to be especially commended in this regard. Rubenstein is hoping that the town administrator can take a more active role on the financial team. "The trouble with all volunteer boards," he said, "is that when family responsibilities come up, the other work drops down."
So what will Rubenstein be doing with all his free time? First, he would like to be more proactive on medical services training for the Carlisle Fire Department. Rubenstein handles all training for the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and keeps up to date with all rules and certifications. He also is working on getting all firefighters who are not EMTs to be trained up to the level of first responder. "We have a good EMT crew; I want to make sure they get even better," said Rubenstein, who also commented that one advantage of an on-call fire department is that the firefighters really want to help and take their training seriously.
Another big project Rubenstein is tackling is setting up a recording and audio system at the Carlisle Public School this summer. This project involves setting up the school music room for instant playback for use in music lessons and band practices. Students who are not involved in the band will be able to learn how to use this equipment and assist the band in this way. The project also involves setting up a system of microphones, amplifiers and mixers for the Corey Auditorium stage, which will greatly enhance acoustics for Town Meeting, the school musicals and independent performances like the Savoyard Light Opera. Rubenstein said that a portion of the funding for this project comes from the music department fundraisers, but he will also be pursuing grant money and may also get the Savoyards involved.
For at least one more year, Rubenstein will not serve on any town boards. He now has the flexibility to come to meetings voluntarily and the freedom to take positions as a private citizen. But, as Rubenstein observed, some town board members never go away, they just get recycled.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito