Friday, June 14, 2002
End the budget madness
By mid-June we should be concentrating on graduations and the Red Sox, but this year we still have unfinished budget business. Concord and Carlisle did not agree on a budget for our regional high school and raises for our town employees were forgotten in the "no-override budget."
We can end the budget process at our Special Town Meeting next Monday evening and the override election on June 26. At Town Meeting we need to appropriate an additional $125,000 for CCHS, the amount requested by the regional school committee (RSC), and an additional $136,000 for a 2.5% salary increase for town employees. Town salaries will be covered by newly found revenues of $178,000, but fully funding CCHS will require transfers of cash out of existing town funds as well as $75,000 in new taxes. A $75,000 override of the Proposition 2-1/2 levy limit will have to be voted on the 26th.
Regardless of how you voted in the last town election or how you feel about the 7% CCHS increase, there are many reasons why it is not productive to fight the high school appropriation and override.
First, at this point Carlisle has no control over the high school budget. If we turn down the RSC's request, we will be forced to settle the regional budget at a joint Town Meeting with Concord where we can be outvoted 3-1/2 to 1. We will then be required to fund the high school at the agreed-upon level most likely at the expense of our strained town departments. In fact it's impossible for Carlisle to refuse to pay the requested assessment.
Second, a joint Town Meeting will be expensive - $15,000 - and divisive. In the words of, RCS chair Betsy Bilodeau, "It will be a fight." A stand-off with Concord will provide a bad start for negotiating next year's budget.
Third, a $75,000 override is small even in a small town like Carlisle. It will increase the tax rate by half of one percent and add about $42 to the average 2003 tax bill. It's not worth the fight.
It's time to settle the budget in the fastest way possible. Then let the summer begin.
A Middle East peace plan
I would venture to guess that most American citizens, myself included, would like to see peace in the Middle East. Many US administrations have tasked their brightest and most capable people with solving this problem from Henry Kissinger to George Schultz to Colin Powell. So I sat down to think outside of the box a little bit.
It occurred to me that a very important ingredient for a solution might be a large amount of money. That led me to wonder, who has lots of money just waiting for the right opportunity? Living here in Carlisle, so close to Route 128, the first thing that popped into my head was: "venture capitalists." But to get VCs to part with their money, you have to offer them three things:
• A large investment opportunity. They can't afford to make small investments anymore. Their funds are large and their staffs are modest, so they have to make a few big investments, not a bunch of little ones.
• A high rate of return. They aren't looking for savings bank returns. Venture capitalists like to invest in bold new ideas that promise big rewards.
• A sustainable competitive advantage. Once they turn a bold idea into reality, VCs want to make sure that someone else can't come along and create a me-too product or service.
So I came up with the following business plan. First we buy 4,000 square miles of land in Florida, New Mexico or Arizona, where large parcels are still available. We buy an equally large parcel in northern Australia. We develop these parcels to the point of putting in roads and other basic infrastructure necessary for human habitation. Then, again using venture funding, we buy all the land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River from its current inhabitants for a combination of cash and equity in this new venture, and offer them equivalent parcels, at a discount below our cost, within the 8,000 square miles acquired earlier.
Then we engage the Disney Company as our primary contractor/partner and have them build the ultimate theme park on the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. "Religion World" would cater to three religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It would feature many attractions, including the Wailing Wall, reenactments of the crucifixion of Christ, Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac, and Mohammed's ascent to heaven to view paradise. Because the Temple Mount and the Haram Es Sharif are one and the same place, Disney engineers would be tasked with the magic of recreating the Temple of Solomon and the mechanism to swap it hourly with the Al-Aqsa Mosque that stands there now.
Since our initial goal was to build a sustainable peace in the Middle East we have to look at the sustainable competitive advantage offered by Religion World. This is a no-brainer. Because there is only one Jerusalem, if someone else were to create a "Religion Land" theme park they would be at a distinct disadvantage because they could not offer the "real thing." With regard to the economic well being of those previous inhabitants of Religion World, we would offer preferential employment to Israelis and Palestinians. Working at Religion World would be very lucrative, and they could do stints of several months before returning back to their new homes in the United States or Australia. Security in Religion World would be maintained by Disney. Anyone breaking park rules would simply be escorted out.
Could the answer to a sustainable Middle East peace be found in commerce instead of wars and politics?
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito