The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 10, 2002


Meet the candidates for town office

Sarah Brophy for Town Moderator One-year term

Tell us about yourself. I'm a museum professional, a mother of two boys in Carlisle schools, and the wife of a silversmith/volunteer fireman/soccer coach. During 15 years in Carlisle, I've been appointed to three town committees, sat on the board of the Historical Society, written museum articles for the Mosquito, and twice worked with many volunteers as Editor of the Red Balloon (spiral bound) phonebook. I have been Moderator since May 2000.

Your background and experience? Town Meeting continues to be the best training for a Moderator. During the last years, besides moderating a mock town meeting, three Special Town Meetings and an Annual, I've attended Annual and Special Town Meetings in Weston, Westford, Acton and Concord. I've also attended the Massachusetts Moderators Association's annual meeting twice and was asked to speak on how to teach yourself to be a Moderator.

What are the biggest challenges? The greatest challenge is how to assess the appropriateness of our current operating methods without appearing interested in any outcome. How do I open discussion about what days are the best days for Town Meeting, or do we want bylaws on how to vote budget articles or how we rescind votes? Whatever I do I will appear to have an interest in the outcome, and Moderators must be impartial.

Carlisle gives the Moderator a great deal of power, perhaps too much. This is based on the expectation that the Moderator will make all decisions impartially under any and all circumstances. I am greatly honored by that trust and certainly do not want to suggest that it is misplaced. The arrangement has suited Carlisle for years and I hesitate to be the one to change it. Still, there are very few bylaws to guide the Moderator's decision-making or act as the voters' primer on how the Meeting addresses certain issues. I'm not sure yet how to best address this. Perhaps the solution is to record our traditions, without involving bylaws, and let that printed body of information become our handbook.

What have you learned? I am continually reminded that you have to study hard, be quick mentally, and still you'll be surprised on Town Meeting floor. As we test the details of the statute regarding the Community Preservation Act, Carlisle is breaking new ground.

I continue to ask questions of and advice from town staff, elected officials, town counsel and a few concerned citizens about the most appropriate processes for Town Meeting issues. Their help will always be critical to a seamless Town Meeting.

What do you plan to change? The five changes I've made are: introductions of town officials, requiring a show of hands for a vote, the bylaw change to waive counting some 2/3 votes that are obvious, setting up chairs for speakers waiting at microphones and establishing speakers' time limits for both presenters and voters. Those changes were designed to improve collegiality and accuracy, and to speed up the process. They have been successful, but I'm going to watch a bit longer before I propose any other changes.

John Ballantine for Selectman Three-year term

Tell us about yourself. I moved to Carlisle in 1985 from New York City, Greenwich Village. Now, we live in a log house on the Cranberry Bog. I have been married for over 25 years. Ann and I have no children; and we are strong supporters of education. I run, bike and walk in Carlisle.

Professionally, I am a banker, consultant, economist, professor and entrepreneurial spouse. In my prior lives, I worked for Chase Manhattan Bank and Arthur D. Little. Currently, I teach at the International Graduate School at Brandeis University, I am a research economist at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard , and I work with my wife, Ann, in our e-publishing software company in Carlisle ­ we continue to raise money and sell practical easy-to-use products.

Your background and experience? My town experience is longstanding. I have been on the housing authority, school council, finance committee, personnel committee, municipal land committee, and the board of selectmen. I was a board member of Carlisle Communications and a Forum staff writer. I am also a member of the First Religious Society. I enjoy serving and being part of the community.

What are the biggest challenges? The biggest challenge facing us is the increasing costs of the Carlisle we all enjoy: services, schools and "rurality." I feel that we will continue to confront ongoing budget pressures for a number of years. This creates problems of fairness and equity for many people working for the town and living here. Many employees are not covered by union contracts and a large number of people are vulnerable economically.

To slow the tax increases I believe we need to change our demographic mix. We should encourage more developments like Malcolm Meadows, oriented towards a mature, retired, non-school-aged family, than the recent developments in town. If we can become a more heterogeneous community, with fewer school-aged families (now 35-40 percent of Carlisle) then the demand for services and costs will grow in a more controlled manner. I am not sure this is doable.

New sources of revenue for Carlisle? New sources of revenue for Carlisle are limited. Unlike Lincoln and Concord, I feel that we have little throw-away land that can be commercially developed. Cell towers will only bring in so much revenue, even if we install two on town land. I also believe that we can only go so far in terms of DPW and school fees before people scream. Carlisle will continue to be a high-tax, high-quality community in a rural setting. I believe that is why people are here, and sadly this is why people are leaving.

How can we improve the CCHS budget process? The high school budgeting process (CCHS) needs more coordination and communication. Carlisle has always been out of sync with the high school, since Concord establishes their budget priorities in the early fall and the Carlisle Fincom doesn't really begin to meet until September - October. More importantly, the CCHS budget is driven by Concord since they have over two thirds of the students. We have a strong advisory role that sometimes is persuasive in budget discussions. This year we have a number of coordination issues, along with some significant differences in priorities. Carlisle has a much higher assessment ratio (more students to CCHS) which skews our share of the budget, and Concord is in an operating override position, which is very unusual for them. This means that Concord (selectmen and school committee) is supporting greater increases in the budget than Carlisle due to our budget pressures. I expect we will resolve the CCHS budget at the ballot box and through a special town meeting this June.

How can we improve this process? I feel we should coordinate, communicate and understand that the towns will have different priorities due to local pressures. We can also move toward averaging the assessment ratio over three years to avoid sudden year-to-year jumps or declines in the ratio.

Finally, we must all remember during these challenging times to take a deep breath and be thankful for all that we have. Thank you for your continued support, vote and good humor.

Vivian Chaput for Selectman Three-year term

Tell us about yourself. As a 27-year resident of Carlisle, I bring to the town a unique long-term commitment and varied background, My husband Ron and I have been involved in many town activities and our daughter Noelle attended Carlisle school K-8 and the Concord-Carlisle high school. I served 17 years on the planning board, six years on the board of selectmen and several years as a director of Carlisle Elderly Housing, Inc. at the time that Village Court was built. I also bring professional experience in landscape architecture, planning, real estate management and development and a master of business administration degree. My background and interests have served me as the town's representative to the regional planning agency of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Fiscal Policy Committee of the Massachusetts Municipal Association as well as the Sudbury Assabet Concord (SuAsCo) Wild and Scenic River Stewardship Council.

Your background and experience?

I am a team player. My efforts along with those of many others assisted in achieving certain of the town's goals, including land preservation and open space objectives such as the O'Rourke farm purchase and the passage of the Community Preservation Act. I am also actively working toward increasing the town's financial reserves with the development and proposed sale of a lot in the Carriage Way subdivision. I helped establish the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee to protect the safety of schoolchildren and others who use town ways.

What are the biggest challenges? Maintaining the excellence of our schools and town services in the face of escalating costs and taxes will be the major challenge. Among the rising expectations and mandates, we cannot forget that townspeople wish to maintain the character of the community, both in rural and personal terms, and retain the wonderful people who have helped to make it so. We also must begin to recognize and respond to the town's needs for affordable housing in a way that is proactive rather than reactive,

How can we improve the CCHS budget process? Unfortunately, Carlisle is in the position of owing a growing percentage of an escalating budget while still having a minority stake in the process. More communication is definitely a requirement for making the process more efficient. Sharing our issues and concerns with our Concord counterparts through joint meetings of the finance committees and selectmen has been done but has not effectively prevented a mismatch of budget options. The regional school committee as coordinator and the finance committees and selectmen as fiscal overseers need to work harder at synchronizing our financial issues.

Possible new sources of revenue for Carlisle? We have already investigated the possibility of taxing in-home business occupations but have found that the state income tax is the only method of generating those revenues. Personal taxes do come to the town on business equipment and furnishings. Since there is significant interest by cellular phone companies in establishing a cell tower in town, we are currently exploring the possibility of using town-owned land for the location of a cell tower and generating rental income from that source. Tests are underway on the DPW site for that purpose. Protection of the neighborhood and surrounding properties must, of course, be of paramount concern in any discussion of cell towers. The Community Preservation Act, while a local property tax, also generates a revenue stream in the 100 percent match from the state.

Charles Ferraro for Board of Assessors Three-year term

Tell us about yourself. Your background and experience? I have been a resident of Carlisle for over 20 years. My wife Nancy and I have two children Craig, 18, and Laura, 14. We all enjoy the many benefits that Carlisle has to offer. During my tenure as a Carlisle resident I have been ctive in several community efforts. I have always found these community activities very rewarding. I have worked for over 20 years in the real estate finance business. This work requires the review of real estate appraisals and interaction with appraisers for purposes of establishing loan parameters. I have an MBA from Babson College and BA in Economics from Fairfield University. During my

work career I have started several business and built a successful consulting practice.

What are the biggest challenges? The biggest short term challenge facing the Board is the orientation of the new Principal Assessor.

Do we need an interim re-assessment next year? It is critical to maintain parity amongst homeowners in times of rapidly changing values. While the market sets values we are responsible for reporting it accurately and in compliance with state law. The last few years have witnessed a tightening of supply while the demand continues to grow leading to a swell in values.

How would you assess a smaller older home on a conforming lot? Reassessing a smaller older home on a conforming lot would be a matter of tracking the most recent sales of similar properties with similar designs to establish the market value. One of the biggest drivers of the increase in values for all properties on conforming lots has been the increase in land values. This increase impacts all conforming lots the same regardless of the type of improvements to the land.

Lisa Davis Lewis for Board of Health Three-year term

The Mosquito did not receive a reply to our questionnaire from Lisa Davis Lewis.

Alan Lehotsky for Housing Authority Five-year term

Tell us about yourself. I have lived in Carlisle for four years, and I am an enthusiastic believer to the concept of small-town direct government and citizen involvement. I have been a Massachusetts resident for thirty-three years; beginning with 4 years at MIT and continuing through a series of jobs with New England-based high-tech companies. For the last 8 years I have been self-employed as a consultant. My wife and I have a 14 year-old daughter in the eighth grade in the Carlisle system.

I am running for Housing Authority because I believe that affordable housing is not just ethically right, but will be beneficial to the town. Ensuring that town employees have personal involvement in the community is a good thing. Establishing a long-term plan to increase the affordable-housing stock will help to maintain our independence and prevent Comprehensive Permits that would not be in our best interests. It's better to proactively manage growth than to reactively cope with outside forces.

Your background and experience? Last year, the CHA developed a comprehensive long-term plan for affordable housing, presented it at town meeting and received an overwhelming vote of approval for the concept of affordable housing. Meeting with a wide variety of town boards and interest groups to formulate the plan was very valuable.

My engineering training has taught me to seek practical solutions to problems. My management and consulting experience has helped me to understand how to compromise and focus on critical issues.

I also bring my own personal brain-trust to this position. One of my sisters was the manager of a city housing authority in Pennsylvania with significant experience in grant writing and operating public housing; my youngest brother was involved in REIT investment pools for privatized public housing; and my son is about to graduate from Harvard Law School.

What are the biggest challenges? In the short term, the housing authority must continue to pursue identifying what portion of the Town Farm/Town Forest is usable for housing. We also need to work with other town entities to take maximal advantage of the Community Preservation Act monies. The housing authority needs to continue educational efforts to explain the Community Preservation Act.

What is the housing authority doing to develop affordable housing? Long-term, it is critical that the housing authority work with the town's land committee, RecCom and ConsCom to acquire property that will allow for a mixture of municipal, education, recreation and conservation purposes. Building a sense of common purpose for the town's needs over the next twenty years and establishing a long-range process is the key to establishing a viable mix of affordable housing stock.

Felix Conti for Library Trustee Three-year term

Tell us about yourself. I am a Massachusetts native and a graduate of Tufts University. After living in Illinois for a number of years, my wife and I moved to Carlisle in 1982. Our son is a graduate of both the Carlisle Public Schools and CCHS. I have retired after a financial career of over thirty years, first in the life and health insurance industry, and later in managed health care services.

Your background and experience? While living in Carlisle I have supported, used and enjoyed the services of the Gleason Public Library. It is one of the town's services that is available to all residents, from the youngest child to the most senior citizen. More recently, I served a three year term on the finance committee during which I was the Fincom's liaison to the Library Trustees and to the Library Building Committee. Through this work, I gained additional knowledge of the Library's budget, operatio and plans for the new building. I believe this experience and my business background will help me to be an effective Library Trustee.

What are the biggest challenges? Over the next three years, the Library Trustees will be challenged to rebuild the Library's private endowment which was used to reduce the cost to taxpayers of recent new building construction. Another challenge will be to maximize the Library's services to the public, under the ongoing constraints of a limited budget and rapid town growth.

The library has objected to the town's uniform personnel review policy. What is your position? My general position on personnel review systems results from having used formal personnel review programs throughout my management career, and from my experience serving as a member of the town's wage study committee. Now that the town has updated its job descriptions, addition of a uniform personnel review system for the departments and boards that have not previously used one is a logical next step. It is also an important tool in moving toward an integrated employee compensation system that allocates wage increases, at least in part, on measured job performance.

However, just as important as creating an evaluation form, is assuring that it is used effectively to achieve the goals for which it is intended. The appropriate implementation and monitoring of a uniform system creates its own inherent issues. How will the evaluation system be uniformly applied across diverse town departments? How much of the review will be based on subjective evaluation vs objective measurement? Will it be goal/objective based or job description driven? Will all personnel managers be trained to use the same "scale" for subjective evaluations? Will the review system be understood by management and by the employees being evaluated?

Carlisle town government does not have a sufficient number of employees to compare its performance evaluation results to expected statistical distributions.

The burden will therefore fall upon the Selectmen to develop other means to assure that the system is providing an equitable outcome. It is likely that the evaluation system will need to be adjusted, and emerging problems will need to be resolved. This can be achieved over time. Both employees and management will benefit from the resulting fair and competitive compensation system.

I have not seen details of the town's new performance evaluation form or of how it will be used, but my understanding is that the Library's concerns arose from the fact that they already have a goal based evaluation system in place that works effectively for them.

Michael Abend for planning Board Five-year term

Tell us about yourself. About Myself ­ I grew up in the area, moving to Carlisle in 1995 and have been on the Planning Board since 1997. I have an AB from Middlebury College (Geography) and an MBA from The Johnson School at Cornell University.

Your background and experience? I have 20 years of experience in land use planning, primarily as a partner/owner of Abend Associates, a traffic planning consulting firm in Burlington. On evenings I am not attending Planning Board meetings I am attending Planning, Zoning, or Selectmen's meetings in other communities, either working for those communities by reviewing development

projects on their behalf or by representing developers. This experience is directly applicable to reviewing development plans presented in Carlisle.

What are the biggest challenges? The Planning Board has two critical challenges in the coming years. First is the growing pressure on privately owned property to be developed for single-family homes. The board has been very successful in recent years working with residential developers to design their projects so that open space is maximized and the layout has a minimal impact on the adjacent neighborhoods. Maintaining this track record will be a challenge. The second challenge is the handling of an inevitable "cell tower" application. The board will need to balance the restrictiveness of the current by law with the potential for an appeal by an applicant as well as be sensitive to the tower's neighbors.

How can the planning board help manage rapid growth? The planning board is only one player in the town's team effort to control growth. The board's primary function is to regulate development by ensuring that developers and landowners are following the rules of the town, not to control development per se. As much as the board has revised and refined its rules and regulations over the past few years to make developments more appropriate, the town as a whole must follow the board's lead for growth restrictions by supporting proposed growth control measures at public hearings and at town meeting.

Can Carlisle take advantage of the new state law on clusters? Carlisle has reasonably progressive cluster bylaws, allowing conservation clusters and common driveways. These development tools are encouraged by the board whenever possible. The state's cluster legislation is designed for large communities with far greater growth pressure than Carlisle, where developers regularly propose subdivisions or multi-family developments with dozens and sometimes hundreds of units. Many of the incentives for this type of development focus on the benefits of concentrated sewer or water services and almost exclusively include significant bonuses for developers ­ additional units for clustering homes. Carlisle has a strong residential permitting system that would not benefit from this option as currently designed. As special permit uses the board has more control over the design of these developments, something that would be lost if the state's cluster by law were adopted.

Christy Barbee for School Committe Three-year term

Tell us about yourself. Your background and experience? I've volunteered for years at the schools, notably on the School Council and School Building Committee. Professionally, I have a long background in journalism, and today I plan, edit, and write publications, usually for corporate clients. I'm married to a child psychiatrist, and we have two kids in the middle school, one of whom will attend CCHS in the fall. We've lived in Carlisle for more than 16 years. I'm running for the School Committee because I'm excited about the issues before us.

Chief among these is the need to balance our desire for quality education for a growing school population with the town's and the region's budget realities. This is going to take creativity, patience, and flexibility from parents and the community as well as educators. There is not a single easy fix or approach. Through my work on the School Council and school building committee, I've had a good exposure to what the challenges will be. And I have an idea how much I've yet to learn. I welcome the opportunity.

What are the biggest challenges? Even as Carlisle pursues important decisions about growth, the school committee has a full agenda of issues affecting the quality of education we expect here. Over the next three years, the committee will choose a new superintendent. It is important that we replace David Fox-Melanson with an educator who will be forward-looking, who will be similarly respected by the faculty, and who is as energetic in pursuing outside funding for school programs.

In various public meetings, I've sensed a growing concern about the price tag for a new teachers' contract. The school committee will be starting from a very good baseline, and I feel it's reasonable to pursue a contract that keeps pace with inflation. It's also important to negotiate a contract that motivates teachers, that rewards those who further educate themselves in order to bring improvements to the classroom.

I believe it's inevitable that we will need to build a new school facility in Carlisle or make very significant modifications to our existing campus. As a member of the building committee, I'm helping to interview architects and educational planners about our options. It's fascinating work. We are also searching for the right engineers to build the wastewater treatment plant that will replace our septic system, which has been in failure since the construction of the Grant building. Yes, even wastewater can be interesting.

Do you support charging fees for non-mandated services, increasing class size, closing the school library, holding salary increases to the rate of inflation?

· Fees for activities and services: In principle, I don't object to asking families to pay their own freight for extracurricular programs their kids use. But educational programs, such as the kindergarten, are rightly a part of the school budget. As a community we should decide whether we want a full-time kindergarten and stick to that decision as part of the schools' mission. Let's stop batting it around every year.

· Class size: Let's keep them in the low 20s. It's the best way to give kids with different learning styles the attention they need.

·Possible library closing: The library/media center has only just recovered from the closing of the early '90s. However, curtailment of some services may be warranted to maintain classroom programs.

How can we improve the CCHS budget process? Carlisle's role in developing the budget for CCHS: I think many of us have viewed the high school as a far-off place to which we've contributed out kids and "some" tax dollars. It's time we be more activist in our community, through local hearings and information sessions, about programs and funding at the high school. It's our school, too.

Nicole Burkel for School Committee Three-year term

Tell us about yourself. In 1991, I grudgingly agreed to move from Los Angeles to Carlisle with my husband and two year old son. Having been raised in California and France, it was inconceivable to me that a human being would actually choose to reside in a locale where the temperature dropped below 65 degrees on a regular basis, a residential lot exceeded 75 by 150 feet or the city garbage truck didn't appear weekly. I never imagined that I would come to enjoy the changing of seasons, the splendor of snow covered trees and fields, and the charm of living in a small community where people actually knew me by name.

Your background and experience? Following my graduation from Santa Clara University I held several positions in the financial services industry. Next I spent ten years as a Business Operations Manager for the now defunct Digital Equipment Corporation. Currently, I am the Business Manager for a medical education company headquartered in Carlisle town center.

As a business manager I have extensive experience evaluating the financial implications of budgets, business plans, contracts, and policies. In the past I negotiated contracts and pricing as a vendor. I now negotiate them as a customer. My career has taught me how to successfully develop a common ground between groups that initially had competing goals.

During the past 10 years I have volunteered my time and skills to numerous local organizations ­ parent volunteer in the CPS classroom, Carlisle Recreation Department, Class of 2003 treasurer, treasurer for Friends of the Gleason Public Library, communication coordinator for youth hockey, Cub Scouts and Brownies among others.

What are the biggest challenges? During the next two years, in addition to dealing with annual budget and policy issues, the school committee will face the challenge of hiring a new superintendent, renegotiating a teachers' contract, and evaluating space constraints. I believe my experience as a business manager, as a volunteer, and as a parent of two children at CPS, could benefit the school committee as it grapples with solutions to these complex issues.

Do you support charging fees for non-mandated services, increasing class size, closing the school library, holding salary increases to the rate of inflation? I believe in taxpayer-supported schools. I believe that the school committee needs to strike a balance between the requirements for an excellent academic classroom education and what the community agrees to support financially. Rather than eliminating non-academic programs I support implementing user fees to fund them. Those who benefit from these programs should be given the option to contribute towards its expense. In the interest of safety, bus service shoul d be available to all students with no fee charged.

The education of our town's children is one of the most important contributions that we can make as citizens of Carlisle. However, Carlisle is a community of 5,000 citizens with different priorities and interests. Over 60% of the town budget is allocated to education and it is important to me that the entire town understand and support the school budget. The teacher contract, which is the largest expense in the school budget, must be a fair reflection of teacher and student needs and negotiated prudently.

It is important to develop additional sources of revenue to maintain a high quality school. One way to generate revenue would be to increase parent-sponsored fundraisers such an auction, a wine tasting or direct solicitations. The money could be used to enhance the curriculum, for teacher development, and to support "extras" that make CPS such a special place. Fundraising not only raises money but also provides the community an opportunity to have fun and to work together to accomplish a common goal.

Michael Fitzgerald for School Committee Three-year term

Tell us about yourself. My wife Susan, our sons Adam and Reid, and I moved to Carlisle in 1989. I grew up in neighboring Concord, attended the Concord public schools and graduated from the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. I hold both a Bachelors of Science degree in Economics and a Master of Business Administration degree from Bentley College.

Your background and experience? I have focused my professional career in the field of finance and accounting, working in the life sciences industry with small emerging biotechnology companies. In 2000 I helped form Hypnion Inc., a drug discovery company focused on developing novel therapeutics for the treatment of central nervous systems disorders. I currently serve as Hypnion's Vice President of Finance and Administration, and Chief Financial Officer.

I have been involved in town affairs since 1990 when I was first appointed to the Finance Committee. After serving five years on the FINCOM, I was elected to the Board of Selectmen in 1995 and 1998. Currently I am a member of the Carlisle School Building Committee and the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School Space Utilization Committee. Throughout my involvement in town affairs I have advocated for our public schools. Our schools have become a central focal point of the community, and I believe that we as a community succeed when our children and our educational systems succeed. I also believe that our children have a greater chance of success when we provide them with the best available public education that we can afford.

What are the biggest challenges? Our schools face significant challenges. In order to minimize the effect of any budgetary reductions we need to rethink how we allocate valued taxpayer dollars. We also need to look beyond conventional funding sources and identify new ways to finance existing programs. In addition we need to address the issue of overcrowding in the classroom, examining the possibility of constructing a new local school, and renovating and retrofitting the High School.

Do you support charging fees for non-mandated services, increasing class size, closing the school library, holding salary increases to the rate of inflation? Many suggestions have been made to deal with the current budget shortfall including raising fees, increasing class size, and closing the library. The school currently assesses fees for services outside of the core program. I do believe that we need to review the underlying cost structure and the associated charge for existing fee-based programs while introducing new fees for services beyond the core program such as the full day kindergarten. Class size should not go beyond the range of 22 to 25 students per classroom. Closing the Library should only be done as a last resort solution to the budget problem. While we should investigate further collaborations with the Gleason Public Library as a potential way of reducing costs, I feel it is essential that the school maintain the vibrant and well stocked library / media center that invites children to learn and explore.

We also face contract negotiations with the local teachers union as well as the High School teachers association. We need to convey to both associations that while we value and respect the work that our teachers perform, we will not be able to continue offering solid educational programs if the total value of the contract exceeds the rate of inflation. We will need to examine trade-offs within the contract including salary expectations and non-salary related compensation.

How can we improve the CCHS budget process? This year much has been said about the manner in which we have dealt with the budgeting process for developing the annual spending plan for CCHS. One vital component of the process is the level of Carlisle's involvement in the process. Communications between the towns of Carlisle and Concord need to improve. We need wider involvement in the budgetary process from town boards and committees. Only with wider participation from Carlisle representatives will the regional school operate as a true partnership between the two communities.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito