The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 1, 2002


Some ideas whose time has come

At the last Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee meeting, the committee voted to support the proposal of a group called C.C. Pools, Inc. to build a community swim and health facility on the grounds of the Concord-Carlisle High School. The majority of the money needed for this project has come in the form of a five-million-dollar bequest by the late Alfred Sawyer, who asked that the money be used for something that would benefit the community. C.C. Pools, Inc. hopes to raise the rest of the necessary $2.5 million through fundraising. The pool facility will be sited directly across from the main entrance to the high school.

As a former resident of Concord, I find this plan exciting because I know how long the town residents have hoped for a swim facility. As a former CCHS parent, I'm pleased to see how such a facility can benefit the school's swimming and diving teams. As a resident of Carlisle, I'm thrilled that use of the facility will be open to our townspeople, as well as Concord's. But perhaps most of all, I am impressed with the way that the pool proponents have taken abutters' concerns seriously and have made important changes in the plans to accommodate these residents. Windows that overlooked the Thoreau Street properties have been removed; the parking lot has been moved. A berm will buffer the houses from the new building, and landscaping was added with screening in mind. Abutters' concerns over water tables and noise levels have been addressed. I am equally impressed with the abutters' willingness to work with C.C. Pools and to compromise. So far, this process has been a study in what can be accomplished when both sides are willing to listen to each other. Let's hope the rest of the project can be as rewarding.

While we're on the subject of terrific ideas concerning CCHS, kudos to the group of high school mothers here in town who are proposing a shuttle bus that would run between CCHS and Carlisle several times in the afternoon, supplementing the late bus, which only runs after 5 p.m. This proposal has great merit, for two reasons in particular: the first is that such a bus would encourage students to stay after school for extra help or to meet with a teacher, without requiring them to wait for hours for the late bus home. Secondly, instead of looking to the already strained school budget for funding, this parent group is looking into alternative funding, such as help from the Community Chest or charging a fee. If they are successful, they will have gone a long way to take the hassle out of the lives of Carlisle's CCHS students and their parents.

A Republican in Massachusetts

I recently received an invitation based, it was said, on a yellowed list of lapsed members found in an old desk drawer to a meeting of the Carlisle Republican Town Committee. I plan to attend, but I cannot help feeling that it will be a "triumph of hope over experience." Republicans in Massachusetts are an endangered species. Despite having a token Republican governor, Massachusetts is represented in Washington entirely by Democrats not just ordinary Democrats either, but Democrats of the most vigorously liberal stripe. The great majority of Massachusetts voters seem to like it that way.

We in Massachusetts pay a price for this collective predisposition. A vivid example is the behavior of the heavily Democratic legislature of our Commonwealth, which wrangled uselessly for the first five months of the fiscal year, failing even to produce a budget. Finally, in an all-night paroxysm of legislation, they disgorged a grotesquely flawed budget that had to be hastily amended. Another state would throw the rascals out, but Democrats in Massachusetts don't have to worry about voter wrath. Somehow, voters here always manage to turn the other cheek.

It would be nice to blame the Democrats for somehow "having learned a secret in the Orient for clouding men's minds," as the Shadow used to do, or to rail against the stupidity of the voters, but Massachusetts Republicans bear the brunt of responsibility. Unlike Republicans nationally, they have failed to make their case to the voters.

What is the Republican case? Mainly, I like to think, to govern with a light hand. That is, to resist the natural predilection for a government solution to every problem that rears its head. There is a kind of intellectual laziness in addressing each thing that goes wrong with a new government program, a new legislative mandate, or a new legal requirement. So often these approaches solve the immediate problem but create a new one even more intractable. To cite just one example, think about rent control. On the surface, holding down rents makes more housing available to people who otherwise could not afford it. In the longer run, it inhibits maintenance of existing housing and construction of new housing, thus making less housing available for everyone, rich or poor. The guiding principle is not that the government do nothing but that the government take direct control only when a private means to the same end cannot be found.

There is another undesirable consequence of excessive reliance on the machinery of government to solve problems, namely, the erosion of freedoms, including freedom to make mistakes. In a rush to stamp out perceived evils, it is easy for a tyrannous majority to ride roughshod over others' liberties. Given that smoking is legal and not long ago almost universally indulged in, is it really becoming to establish laws that treat smokers like pariahs? It is well to think twice before resorting to coercion to achieve desirable ends.

Rejuvenating the Republican Party in Massachusetts is not an easy task. It is a vicious circle. Declared Republicans don't get elected here, so they go elsewhere to get elected. But the times, they are a-changin'. I for one am glad that at this juncture of American history a Republican is in the White House and that he has brought a bunch of grown-ups with him. Perhaps some of their sense and sensibility will seep into Massachusetts. We need it.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito