Friday, April 18, 2003
We have choices: Candidates differ on key town issues
Twelve candidates for town offices and about 25 involved Carlisle residents put civic responsibility above the pleasures of spring cleanup to participate in a Candidates Forum sponsored by the Concord Carlisle League of Women Voters. There were few surprises at the Sunday afternoon meeting as candidates and questioners alike addressed pressing issues such as the balance between fiscal realities and popular services, the affordable housing conundrum, the value of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) under which the state matches a local tax surcharge, and the unfolding of the pedestrian and bike safety (footpath) project in the Town Center.
Moderator Louise Haldeman of Concord called the candidates to the table in groups of two or three according to offices sought and whether those posts were contested. Each office-seeker was asked why he or she was running and what qualifications each possessed. Then the floor was opened for questions directed to that group.
Candidate for moderator
Leading off from the first group of unopposed candidates was attorney Tom Raftery, who was brief and to the point. "I think I can do a good joband none of the many other qualified members of the community are running." His only question from the audience was whether or not, as moderator, he could continue to draw his weekly cartoons for the Mosquito. Noting that he was banned from that activity during his term as selectman, he said the decision was strictly up to the newspaper.
Town Clerk Sarah Andreassen, a veteran of 14 years in that post, declared that there were few questions about Carlisle that she couldn't answer from "Why hasn't my trash been picked up?" to "How do I stop the deer from demolishing my shrubbery?" But characteristically she cited "daily interaction with townspeople" as "most important to my decision to run."
Candidate for board of health
Engineer Michael Holland, who is seeking to fill the post on the Board of Health being vacated by long-term member Steve Opolski, noted that he had acted as a BOH consultant in the past and hoped to give some continuity to engineering aspects of the board's work. Currently an owner of an engineering and architectural firm in Cambridge, Holland has served as chairman of the center water quality committee, member of the Town Hall building sub-committee and consultant to the School Building Committee.
Unopposed to continue as a member of the housing authority, real estate agent Jack Bromley said he found it regrettable that the term affordable housing conjures up an unfortunate image which is far from applicable to Carlisle's target population of teachers, police, engineers, elder citizens and working-class buyers. He recommended a four-fold approach to the shortage of affordable homes: revamp a reconstituted non-profit affordable housing authority, seek "friendly 40B approaches", re-investigate potential town properties and "work creatively with conservation groups" to find multi-use solutions
Observing that of the 1,629 homes in Carlisle, he had counted 41 on 10 acres or more and 429 on 4-plus acres, he declared "That's a tidal wave coming at us." He followed up with assurances that the equity in Carlisle homes would not be threatened by construction of affordable homes. In fact, he said, the history of evaluations in area towns that have done far more to alleviate the housing shortage has shown no such drop in valuations
Unopposed third term candidate for the school committee David Dockterman said he found it good to have served on a committee responsible for such a successful school system and wished to follow through on the daunting challenges now facing it. Asked by League member Cindy Nock how he felt about fees for non-core services such as busing and sports, Dockterman admitted that the Carlisle schools "have lots of them" to offset funding shortages, but added, "It has appeared to me that such non-core fees are acceptable to citizens here."
Three candidates running for board of selectmen
A good half of the two-hour discussion was devoted to the three candidates for two seats on the Board of Selectmen, namely, two-term incumbent Doug Stevenson, and challengers Francene Amari-Faulkner and five-year Finance Committee member Tony Allison.
Stevenson led off with a Carlisle native's biography as a graduate of the local schools, a dispatcher at age 15, 12-year member of the Carlisle Republican Town Committee, currently lieutenant in the fire department, and also a graduate of Boston College working for a construction company. Describing himself as "fiscally conservative," he added that he also believed that the old adage, "you get what you pay for, also applies to town government." Noting that he has three children headed for the Carlisle schools and retired parents resident in town, he is well versed in the importance of striking a fair balance between school expenditures and a rising tax rate.
As a three-year employee of the Town of Carlisle serving as Conservation Dommission assistant and assistant to the Historical Commission, Amari-Faulkner said she has learned a lot about the way the town works. Holder of a degree in architecture from the University of California at Berkeley, she was elected to the Planning Board in Concord and holds a Massachusetts real estate license. In her introductory comments she expressed particular sympathy toward senior citizens who she said "should not be displaced at a financially vulnerable time in their lives." As organizer of a neighborhood group that monitored changes in Concord's municipal light plant operations, she said she would like to see an active emergency network put in place here. She described herself as "a dedicated environmentalist who values the vision that Carlisle has shown in the past." Amari-Faulkner is convinced that the town's problems are not restricted to bottom line considerations and called for better communication between departments and a less heavy hand in the formulation of homeowner regulations.
A 12-year resident of Carlisle, Allison has served five years on the Finance Committee and three on the Fin Team where he worked closely with other town boards and departments. Former owner of a software company, he is now a consultant at his alma mater, Brown University. Allison identified the town's three top priorities as a quality school system, a commitment to open space and efficient municipal services (particularly fire and police). However, he warned that citizens and government must realize that not everyone in Carlisle is wealthy, and many are on a fixed income • hence the necessary balance between tax levies and popular services.
Affordable housing and 40B
A question from Nock as to how Carlisle can work toward the goal of increased affordable housing without having to accept the lower zoning requirements allowed under the state's 40B mandate was directed to all three perspective selectmen. Allison answered that Carlisle does not have the infrastructure to absorb large developments. However, he reminded his listeners that attempts to place affordable units on town lands have not worked in the past, because people say it's fine as long as it's somewhere else. "I think it's going to be very difficult to find a solution."
Amari-Faulkner also expressed "mixed feelings," saying she would like to see seniors accommodated as a first step but felt that some of the 40B proposals under consideration "would never work for environmental reasons." Stevenson said he views the Laurel Hollow 40B proposal off Lowell Street as a test case. Pointing out that the selectmen have whittled it down from 24 to 16 units, he still questions whether that is workable, but is doubtful if the town can get it much lower.
Shelley Reeves of Carleton Road asked about the feasibility of a regional approach. Stevenson said it made sense and noted that a lot of work is going on at the state level. However, because the problem is so complicated and Carlisle's concerns almost unique, he said he finds it hard to know what improvements to hope for.
Amari-Faulkner called for caution, saying we would undoubtedly lose some control in a regional agreement and might not gain enough to make up for the loss. Allison was a bit more hopeful and felt that the wider approach should be looked at seriously to see if it could work.
Selectman candidates differ on footpath plan
Estabrook Road resident Marilyn Harte asked the trio where they stood on the $150,000 footpath construction proposal. Allicson replied that he had voted against it on the Finance Committee "because other priorities are more important, and the timing is not good." Stevenson said he has been an advocate in the past but could not support the $150,000 price tag this year. He felt that "biting off a smaller bite would be better.". Amari-Faulkner indicated support as a matter of public safety, but suggested that the town explore some creative sources of revenue, such as the suggestion for selling wood chips from the NStar tree removal activities.
Different views on CPA
Carlisle Conservation Foundation president Art Milliken sought the candidates' positions on the community preservation act (CPA.) The results: Amari-Faulkner • "great and exciting;" Stevenson • "skeptical A lot of people want to get their hands on the money; Allison: "In financial terms matching funds [from the state] are great, but what we're doing is over-taxing today to under-tax later, so I'm neutral.
Planning board race
Two of the four candidates seeking to fill three seats on the Planning Board were introduced, namely two-term member Dan Holtzman and four-year Carlisle resident Tom Schultz, both of whom are vying for one three-year term. David Freedman and Rich Coleman, unopposed for two five-year stints, were not present.
Schultz, a product line architect engaged in strategic planning with an IBM affiliate stated that his motivation for running was in part to help reverse "an unfortunate trend toward unopposed candidacies." He described his family's search for "something special" in a new hometown, and reported they had found it here. Thus they harbor a desire to keep their new community unique and have experienced growing concern about the possible effects of irresponsible development. Believing that the town and not the developers should be masters of Carlisle's growth, Schultz said he wants to see farming encouraged and conservation resources maintained. In other words, he supports "responsible development that preserves Carlisle's rural aspects."
Holtzman revealed that an original inclination to step down had been reversed as the inevitability of pressures caused by the state's 40B affordable housing mandate became apparent. Concluding that his expertise both as a civil engineer and knowledge about the "unbelievably complex world of wireless technology" would prove useful, he decided to run again. Stressing that the job of the Planning Board is "not to prevent development but to control it," he suggested, "If you like what we (the Planning Board) have done over the past five years , you might want to vote for me."
Two candidates for Gleason Library Trustee
Brooke Cragan, the first of two candidates for the post of Gleason Library Trustee, has served in that position for four years, bridging the period of construction and transition to the enlarged facility. That period also included inception of the "tremendously successful" Art at the Gleason program. Cragan considers the building up of the endowment fund to be the trustees' next big project and said she would like to help tackle it. In conclusion , she was able to announce that the trustees have chosen a new head librarian.
Long-term resident Ted Read, holder of an economics degree from Harvard University and a technical writer by profession, has also thrown his hat in the ring. In his position as manager of CPI's tech writing department he has gained experience in administration, departmental finance and public relations. His avocations include classical music and photography, and he has served as treasurer of the Carlisle Council on Aging. Read says he loves the library and is not looking to change it, but rather to make it even better. His suggestions included monthly publication and display of the library's new acquisitions, a piano for the third floor meeting room and writing of a series of articles titled "Know Your Library."
To a question about the effects the state's financial crisis might have on local operations, Cragan said it is a definite challenge, but felt present services could be maintained, in large part due to volunteer help. Read responded that none of his suggestions would cost anything. Both candidates agreed that Sunday open hours would be at the top of any library wish list.
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