The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 10, 2000


Guest Commentary: Losing Sight of the Mission

Ever hear the trite expression about not being able to see the forest for the trees? As controversy in the Boy Scout organization clears the trees, one by one, we can see clearly that the boys are the big losers here.

School administrators, Scout leaders and many parents have condemned the Boy Scouts organization as discriminatory based on a recent Supreme Court decision following ten years of court proceedings. A much more measured approach with respect to the rights of gays and agnostics in Scouting would be for the school and its affiliated organizations to adopt a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy similar to the U.S. military. While adults can debate issues such as gender preference and the existence of God, these topics are clearly beyond the developmental level of most children in the Scouting ranks and, therefore, inappropriate.

Civility is our universal school goal, and civility, not discrimination, is the real focus of Scouting. Each Boy Scout promises to "do my best, to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people, and to obey the Law of the Pack." Scouts are encouraged to be courteous and kindtraits that are the foundation of civility.

Boy Scouts represent one of the few remaining safe places for our boys to get together, go on outdoor excursions, and just have fun. With 120 boys last year, no other large organization existed for boys in town, and, therefore, no other more inclusive. Unfortunately, much of the disharmony has come from within the Scouting leadership. Pack and den meetings have become infrequent. Many boys have dropped out.

The discussion has brought forward many Eagle Scouts in town to publicly acknowledge the value of Scouting. (Is it an accident these men are our civil and corporate leaders today?) I would encourage one of the town's Eagle Scouts to take a leadership role to guide the Carlisle pack out of disarray. Women volunteers should not have to shoulder an even greater burden than they have with respect to the Boy Scouts. As a recovering feminist, I recognize the boys in town need a male role model who understands and can demonstrate what a committed approach to Scouting means.

If we in Carlisle are not able to support a full commitment to Boy Scouts and put the focus back on the boys where it belongs, we should investigate a merger with one of the stronger packs in neighboring towns...before there aren't any trees left standing.


A Quo Bono

By now we all know that November will see everything in the Route 3 median strip cut and flattened to clear the way for two more traffic lanes. The "improved" highway, between Route 128 and the New Hampshire border, will be wider than the Mass. Pike. We are told that this model of highway construction is the wave of the future: the developer fronts the cash and assumes budget override risks and maintenance costs for the thirty-some years of the ground lease The legislature approved the widening to make possible a project that was needed, but because of bonded indebtedness limitations and the voracious fiscal appetite of the Big Dig, was not financially possible for the state at this time. The real carrot for the anointed developer, Modern Continental, is the possibility of franchises along the right-of-way. We are talking here not only of fiber optic cables (under the road) and hotels or other structures (over the road), but of any enterprise alongside (i.e., McDonald's or Dunkin Donuts) willing to buy in and fortunate enough to be approved by the town in which it is situated. This will be a real financial bonanza for all parties sharing such revenue. In fact, part of the state's contract with Modern Continental guarantees the state a percentage of franchise revenues large enough to make it well worthwhile.

The plan was forged by Mass. Highway and the legislature, with approval of MEPA and DEP. On paper, it looks like a good thing for everyone involved. Commuters are supposed to have a less congested, faster ride, and the state gets the road paid for and cost escalations absorbed, as well as a potential pot of gold in franchise income. Modern Construction gets to do what it wants, without interference from towns and town bylaws.

Route 3 widening addresses a real transportation problem. It is presumed to be for the public good. However, there are environmental and economic consequences associated with the widening which may not be for the public good. The environmental argument goes beyond tree-hugging: it is based on the fact that trees are essential in the natural cycles which provide clean air and conserve water. Modern Continental is committed to create wetland replication areas in the process of adding the additional lanes; this is necessary, and presumably will, over time, restore the existing balance. What is lost forever is the beautiful New England vista. Driving on Route 3 now, you feel you are in the country. If you compare driving through Lincoln, or by Towle Field, with the experience of driving on Route 1 or Route 9, you have a measure of the environmental change the anticipated construction will make. Similarly, business development will impact the landscape negatively unless it is carefully planned to conserve the natural beauty of the area.

This is, after all, a matter of values, priorities and choices. The need is to alleviate congestion in a regional traffic corridor. One value is that people are entitled to a route which will allow them to travel at a reasonable speed. Another is that New England's natural beauty should be preserved and respected. These two values often collide. In the best scenarios, they are resolved early in the planning stages, with the participation of those most directly affected. In any case, there needs to be planning time and local input to be sure that the changes are really good for the people affected.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito