Friday, April 26, 2002
Preserve our community
When asked why they live in Carlisle, most citizens cite the quality of life in a semi-rural community within commuting distance of Boston. Preservation of our open space and maintaining the character of the town are high on everyone's list. Looking ahead, high land prices and decreasing town revenues make it unlikely that the town will be able to purchase land for either open space or to serve other town needs in the next decade.
This year, for the "average" Carlisle taxpayer (owner of the average house assessed at $500,000), the 2% Community Preservation Act (CPA) surcharge was approximately $120, raising a total of $216,000 in CPA taxes for the town's Community Preservation Fund. With the 100% state match, the CPA fund will net $430,000 in its first year.
As reported in the April 5 issue, the state is expected to provide 100% CPA matching for at least the next three to four years. If we continue the 2% surcharge for 5 years, as approved by the 2001 Annual Town Meeting, the town's CPA fund could grow to nearly $3 million. While this is not enough for any major land acquisition, it can provide the needed seed money to initiate an important project or purchase.
Next year, assuming Carlisle votes a FY03 budget with a 5.9% override, the same taxpayer would pay $133, or 35¢ per day. For most town residents this is easily affordable. (Median family income in Carlisle is $120,000, fifth highest in the state.) Undoubtedly for some it would be a burden. However, the CPA provides exemptions for citizens whose income makes them eligible for low-income affordable housing or middle-income senior housing.
The Warrant for the Spring Town Meeting, which arrived in the mail this week, contains three articles that propose to reduce the CPA surcharge to 1.5%, 1.0% or 0.01% for the next year. Last week, after much debate (see article on page 1) most representatives to the Community Preservation Committee stated that they would reluctantly accept the 1.5% level in order to reduce the tax burden on Carlisle citizens. In fact this would reduce the average family's taxes by about $33 a merely cosmetic reduction but the aggregate loss to the town would be $120,000 (including matching funds). If the surcharge dropped to 1.0% or 0.01%, individual tax bills would be reduced by $67 and $125, respectively. Not trivial, but not a painful expenditure for most.
The CPA provides us with a small but significant savings account toward future needs. The burden is manageable and, as long as the matching funds last, the return is excellent. We don't need to and should not look to spend it quickly. To keep the CPA tax surcharge at its current 2% level, citizens should vote "No" on all three CPA articles (Articles 21, 22, 23).
Law and order
Where may we look to find order in the chaos that has beset the Boston Catholic Archdiocese, and its embattled cardinal?
By now the sad details are all too well known though concern remains that there is still more to know. The picture shows a small but significant number of priests who engaged in serial predatory sexual crimes, and of others who engaged in sexual conduct which, though not criminal, was an abuse of their positions of trust. But perhaps most troubling of all has been the response of church leaders, who have been grudging in their willingness to acknowledge, much less confront, the scope of the problems.
I have been struck over the past several months by an odd juxtaposition: this scandal, which strikes at an organization defined by its religion, has played out on a decidedly secular plane. The crimes alleged are quite serious, but what has fueled the media's fascination with the ongoing story has been its potential effect on the political and economic standing within the Greater Boston power structure of a heretofore influential institution and the man at its head. And the institutional response has been far more pronounced in its attempts to protect and consolidate that power than in its ministry to those harmed by the now-revealed misconduct.
To date, the cardinal has insisted that he will continue in his position as leader of the Boston Archdiocese. In the face of continuing disclosures, however, his pronouncements ring increasingly hollow. An officeholder who has lost the trust of those under his authority cannot by mere reference to his title proclaim himself a leader. Put another way, a leader without followers is much like the sound of one hand clapping.
As I write this column, a number of American cardinals are preparing to travel to Rome for high-level discussions of the crisis; by its publication date, the results of those discussions likely will be known. I hope and yes, pray that I am wrong, but my fear is that the discussions will continue to center more on damage control than on acceptance of responsibility and acknowledgement of the need for reform. In a religion in which the confessional stands as a tangible symbol of the cleansing power of repentance, the lack of a forthright acknowledgement of the need for change is difficult to comprehend.
I am a practicing Catholic, and I have for the past two years helped prepare high school students at St. Irene for Confirmation the point at which they confirm their identity as Catholics and their commitment to their faith. Needless to say, the swirl of scandal has added challenge to that role. Nonetheless, I have been impressed by the maturity that the teens have brought to the task of separating the secular from the spiritual in defining their relationship to their faith. Their disillusionment is not with their religion, but with the men who are currently in charge of it.
The distinction between the institutional church and the men currently entrusted with its care is helpful to those of us struggling to reconcile our faith with our loss of trust in church leaders. However, the distinction cannot grow too wide, for too long a time, without jeopardizing the vitality of the institution itself. I do not presume to speak for any Catholic but myself, but I hope and pray that the men entrusted with the care of my church (or those who soon may succeed them) will exert the leadership that once again will justify a following.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito