Friday, October 3, 2003
Looking for new money: beyond raising taxes and cutting costs
Driving through Acton, I am constantly surprised by the pace of commercial development in our neighboring town. Recently a glitzy shopping center has opened on Route 2A and an assisted-living complex on Route 27; two new golf courses are under construction. I imagine that Acton residents never need to cross the town line; they can be fed, clothed, housed, schooled, employed, and entertained within its boundaries. I don't envy them that. What I envy is their lower taxes, due to high revenues from non-residential sources.
In little Carlisle, 1,600 households have to split the cost of the schools and all town services. There is very little commercial income and few opportunities for economies of scale. Living in a small town is expensive.
Last week the Revenue Enhancement Committee (REC) presented its report on possible non-tax sources of revenue. (See article, a synopsis and the entire report on the Mosquito web site, www.carlislemosquito.org.) The ideas range from pedestrian to hallucinogenic.
It's hard to argue with better housekeeping. Increasing fees to reflect actual costs of services and better management of each town boards' revolving funds is something we should be doing even if the revenue potential is limited. But simple improvements in housekeeping will not take us to a new level.
To establish a really meaningful new revenue stream, we must focus on the new initiatives and services. Not all of the ideas in the report are new. The Selectmen and Planning Board are already looking into placing a cell tower on town-owned land. My personal favorite is the social club at the Bog House, which I promise to visit every morning with my best walking companion, as long as they serve both hot coffee and doggie biscuits. However, I'm not sure it would be a very rewarding venture; my gain in weight might be greater than the town's gain in profits. My least favorite suggestion is commercial advertising on town property. Sneaker ads on school buses?
It is very easy to point out that many ideas are undeveloped, many numbers soft, and some revenue extrapolations downright unrealistic. However, if we focus too quickly and too critically on the numbers we will defeat ourselves before we get started, and discourage others from looking beyond the obvious. The real value of the REC report may not be in the ideas it generates but in the ideas it stimulates. The report is a starting point. We must continue to brainstorm as well as to identify and refine the best of this crop of proposals.
Thanks to the committee for putting in many hours and not being afraid to think boldly. Now that the REC has completed its mission and been disbanded, the Selectmen need to rally more citizens to continue this effort.
The Carlisle Film Society
Picture this. The room is dark. Bodies are close. An arm is raised. Eyes widen in terror. A knife plunges. The person next to me yawns. It's nine a.m. and we're studying, frame-by-frame, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. A college course I had taken as a lark had opened my eyes, literally, to the film as a work of art. Viewed at this speed, individual frames composed by this master director could easily pass as still life tableaus composed by a master painter. Add the bonus of a story line and a film combines the stimulation of visual media with good literature's themes, symbolism and, even in a film like Psycho, humor. Was it just coincidence that the moment the hero realizes who the killer is the frame reveals that a light is directly overhead? Think of the possibilities for analysis and discussion. Forget the highbrow talk. Think of the joy of being able to go out to a movie in Carlisle.
And thus, the Carlisle Film Society was born.
This is a call to arms. My spirit is willing, but my knowledge and experience are limited and, from a technological standpoint, hopelessly outdated. Twenty-five years ago, here's how the Dunster House Film Society worked. A cadre of undergraduates avoiding serious study selected films (the term "movies" is demeaning slang) out of catalogs from companies that probably no longer exist. Even then, the classics were cheap. The film reels arrived through the mail in flat round metal canisters. On movie night we set up a projector and screen and arranged chairs. For films with more than one reel we needed two projectors so there would be no delay when the first reel ran out. We charged a dollar at the door. How quaint!
After technology, logistics will be the next hurdle. We'll need a gathering place. The third floor of the library? The school auditorium? Union Hall? Someone's barn? Someone's private media screening room? We'll need to answer the hard questions. Will people be able to stay awake for a movie and a discussion? Why are those foreign films so famous? Will we need a mission statement? Crowd control? Entrance exams? And what about refreshments? The obstacles will be many, but the benefits will be worth it.
We could impress our friends and business colleagues with film trivia. Who are Nick and Nora? What is Un Chien Andalou? Have you heard of the Rashomon effect? We could see the original. We wouldn't be limited to the homogeneous offerings of the movie house oligopoly. We could stage a Clint Eastwood film festival, orchestrate The Sound of Music sing-alongs, watch Orson Welles gain weight over the years. Where else would we be able to see Bambi Meets Godzilla?
Entertaining. Educational. Intergenerational. The Carlisle Film Society. Picture that.
© 2003 The