Friday, August 1, 2003
Hooray for RecCom
The third and final two-week session of the RecCom's "Carlisle Summer Fun" was about to begin and the timing was perfect. My seven-year-old grandson Neil, who lives in Iowa City, Iowa, had planned his visit to Carlisle to take advantage of another summer of learning to swim, play tennis, do arts and crafts, and maybe have some time for his grandparents. Neil's cousin Zhenya from Russia had gone to the camp for the past three years, but this year would be staying at home in Vologda to continue his English lessons following a trip to Sweden to take part in a kung-fu competition.
There were a million questions I wanted to ask Neil after that first day at camp. "Were any of the friends you made at camp last year there this year?" "No," responded Neil with a disappointed expression on his face. "And the swimming lessons, where are they being held this year?" I asked. "Oh, way on the other side of town," answered Neil. Later, I learned it was at the Hughes pool on Acton Street. I wasn't sure that the pool was on the other side of town, but it did remind me of how generous the Hugheses and the Forsbergs on Autumn Lane have been in donating their pools for Red Cross swimming lessons, year after year. Although the Bohns on Westford Street have been in town for a much shorter period of time, they too have shown the same generosity. And who would argue with the fact that learning to swim in a quiet backyard pool with a handful of children, instead of a municipal pool with many levels of activity going on, isn't more enjoyable and productive.
Following his second day at camp, Neil was more talkative. Yes, they would be putting on a play the last day of camp, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" was the way he explained it, and he would need a costume. I thought for a moment and asked if he would like to dress as a Russian soldier. I was pretty sure I could find the Russian hat and uniform that his dad brought back from a CCHS trip to Russia in 1981. That idea didn't get much of a response. I tried several other suggestions, but we still couldn't come up with a firm decision yet.
Tennis is at the top of Neil's list of favorite activities. This year he has Ben Nock for instructor. Nock was cousin Zhenya's teacher last year. And of course, there is time to spend in the school playground at the end of the day.
The Carlisle Summer Camp, or as it is known this year as Carlisle Summer Fun, has been in existence in one form or another since the early '70s. Karin Lemmermann was one of the original organizers, and by the way, she will be returning this session to teach pottery to the older students. Cindy Nock, Jan Deyoe and Lorraine Stone are the organizers this year. Cindy Nock has been at the helm for the past 15 years.
So we thank the organizers and the student counselors who have made this a positive experience for Carlisle children and their Carlisle families. And even the grandchildren.
Beetles or ballots?
Thank you, Selectmen, for so many things, but mostly for deciding not to have a Town Meeting in August.
Japanese beetles are my Number One focus right now, followed closely by crabgrass. I am highly preoccupied with how to eradicate both in an ecofriendly manner. I'm cooing to my beneficial nematodes, rooting them on toward the roots of my lawn and the grubs that hide within. I launch sneak attacks several times daily on the gaudy insects making lunch of (and making love on) the vine I've nurtured for months.
In short, although business is slow, I'm busy. I'm not ready for Town Meeting.
I've noticed the last few years that, by summer, I'm emerging from a low-hanging cloud of worry left over from the Town Meeting and override season. I need a vacation. I've accepted that as long as I live in Carlisle, I will spend April and May and maybe some of June thinking hard about getting out the vote and doing what I can to make sure we're supporting the schools and the town the best we can.
Getting out the vote on local issues is labor-intensive, even with e-mail, and frankly, never as satisfying as you'd hope. This year 433 people showed up for Town Meeting in May, and 1,185 turned out for the election. Even last year, the most contentious election season we'd had in town in more than a decade, only 541 showed up for TM. A week later, 1,561 voted in the election, nearly 50% of the registered voters in town.
Anyone who's advocated for anything that needs to be put to a vote in this town knows that the effort is not just about getting out a message. It's also about getting people to show up and votenot just at the polling place, but first at Town Meeting.
How can we make Town Meeting a better draw? The options are limited. Earlier in the evening? Not everyone is home from work. Later in the evening? Parents with younger kids either have to split up, sending just one voter, or find baby-sitting on a school night. Change the day of the week? We have diverse schedules. A weekend? My guess is that turnout would be lower than ever.
Town Meeting is an essential part of the town governance concept in Massachusetts. I think it's a pretty interesting way to know your town. I recognize it's not everyone's idea of a good time.
At the national level, we see proposals to make voting easier. Someday we'll be able to vote on-line. We won't have to remember to drop by town hall or stand in line for a couple of minutes on election day. Maybe some day we can watch TM on cable and call in our comments and votes or cast them on-line. Equal access to high-speed Internet could become a political imperative!
Meanwhile, I'm just glad we don't have to scare up voters in August, a month in which (judging by the traffic at Daisy's already) the good tradespeople from out of town will likely outnumber us two to one.
© 2003 The