Friday, April 4, 2003
Keeping an eye on Hanscom
"The challenge of containing, or at least understanding, the aviation industry/Massport is one of extreme complexity and impossible to gauge from the simplified coverage of the general press." These are the words of Steven Lerner, Carlisle's new representative to the Hanscom Field Advisory Committee, who spoke to the board of selectmen on March 25.
Lerner said that Hanscom Field is the second busiest airport in New England after Logan Airport. The two commercial carriers currently operating out of Hanscom are Shuttle America and Boston-Maine. In addition, private and corporate planes, and the air force also use the facility. Hanscom Field and Air Force Base cover about 1,120 acres straddling the towns of Bedford, Lincoln, Lexington and Concord. Total air traffic there grew 6% between 2001 and 2002.
Pollution may be a bigger threat to surrounding towns than is generally known. Most people are aware of the noise from airplanes passing overhead, but Lerner presented information linking airports to chemical pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, naphthalene, benzene and formaldehyde. The pollution was said to extend in a radius six miles from a typical airport, and up to 20 miles downwind. Probably most people in the United States live within 20 miles of an airport, and Carlisle is about six miles from Hanscom Field.
The good news from the studies Lerner provided is that airport pollution can be reduced. Newer engines are often more efficient, and reducing the time planes spend idling and taxiing would also cut down on emissions.
What, if anything, should Carlisle do about it? Air travel is a fact of life, and airports will be under pressure to expand as the region's population grows. Managing aircraft pollution is a long-term problem. Probably one of the best things Carlisle residents can do is to make the effort to keep informed about what's happening at Hanscom, and to try to learn more about any impacts to our environment.
Land of the fee
In 1989, the Carlisle Board of Selectmen, facing the rapidly increasing cost of trash disposal, proposed a transfer station fee of $75.00 per household. The ensuing unprecedented uproar resulted in the selectmen eventually dropping the idea of a fee and fully funding the transfer station through the tax levy.
Today, fees for government services like the elusive gophers in the arcade game · are popping up everywhere. Our new governor recently proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in new fees to balance the state's FY04 budget. Here in Carlisle, many residents face a whole new series of local fees. The Carlisle school now charges a $365 bus fee for transporting seventh-and eighth-grade students to school, $350 for two days per week of full-day kindergarten, and $185 for each school-sponsored sport in which a student participates. The regional high school also charges students for participation in school-sponsored sports and for parking in high school lots.
Last year the Carlisle Education Foundation raised enough money to fund the operations of the school library, which faced closure as a result of budget cuts. With another year of tight budgets, some community leaders expect the schools to raise any needed money privately or increase fees. The regional school district recently requested that Concord and Carlisle fund the construction of a new parking lot at the high school. Some have suggested that the school raise the student parking fee to finance the construction. Funding the construction of a publicly owned capital asset, which will be used by many, through the institution of a fee represents a gross misallocation of the financial burden.
A proposal to build pathways throughout the center of Carlisle is currently under review. The first half of the project is estimated to cost $150,000. Do we ask the residents of the center of town, who will most directly benefit from the pathways, to foot the bill? Do we ask the students at the school, who will walk along the paths to Daisy's and Kimball's, to shoulder the financing of the construction? Better yet, do we place a gate at either end and collect a toll from those walking along the paths?
The movement to introduce new fees is all done in the guise of not raising taxes. Who was it that said, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck · it's a duck?" A fee is nothing more than a tax borne by the segment of the population that, theoretically, solely benefits from the service. The current rampant introduction of new fees increases the financial obligations on the individual for many services that have long been considered to be public or common goods.
Our country has a long-standing commitment to public education, safety and health. Horace Mann, considered the father of public education in America, first introduced the philosophy of the public funding of education during the late 18
We need to balance the requirements of providing public services with the ability of the taxpayer to pay for them. While the availability of financing resources may vary, the commitment to providing basic services to the entire community through public funding must never wane.
© 2003 The