Friday, January 9, 2004
Efficiently managing our 10,000 acres
At the All Boards meeting last month, chair of the Selectmen Tim Hult emphasized the importance of communication between Carlisle's many boards and committees. (See story on page 4.) Communication doesn't just happen. While a meeting of all boards once a year is useful for sharing a few key goals and objectives, there are few mechanisms in town government that facilitate the flow of information on a routine basis.
One notable exception is the Finance Team which exists specifically to share information between boards and departments that manage the town's finances. Twice a month the FinTeam brings together representatives from the Selectmen, Finance Committee, and Long Term Capital Requirements Committee with the Town Clerk, Accountant, Assessor, Treasurer/Tax Collector, Carlisle School Business Manager, and Town Administrator. Participants each mention the financial issues that are before them. While no decisions are made in these 90-minute (or shorter) meetings, frequently creative ideas emerge on how to tackle a difficult problem, speed up a timetable, or share expenses more efficiently.
It would seem that Carlisle's land management agencies — including the Selectmen, Board of Appeals, Planning Board, Board of Health, Conservation Commission, Trails Committee, Building Inspector, and at times the School Building Committee, and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee and Footpaths team, the Community Preservation Act Committee, DPW/tree warden and the Housing Authority — would profit by forming a similar "Land and Housing Team." While each group has a unique assignment, they all focus on managing some fraction of Carlisle's lands, and there is considerable overlap.
Sharing information on a routine and timely basis will be particularly important as Carlisle faces its second 40B comprehensive permit application. At the same All Boards meeting, chair of the Board of Appeals Terry Herndon recognized this as he encouraged all Carlisle agencies and officials with appropriate expertise and information to attend the BOA hearings on the proposed Carlisle Woods 40B development off Maple Street. Attending each other's meeting may be needed in this case, but it is generally time consuming and inefficient.
Even small land or housing projects may profit from a sharing of information, expertise and ideas. For example, a plan for an addition to an existing residence may profit from a quick, early, simultaneous review by the Building Inspector, Board of Health (septic issues?), Conservation Commission (wetlands or buffer zones?), and tree warden (tree cutting on a scenic road?). A small investment of time in better communication between land boards may save considerable time and frustration over the course of a project. It may accelerate a project by suggesting a better siting plan that avoids possible pitfalls, or the unfortunate occasional situations when recommendations by one board create problems with another. It has happened.
It may also lead to better and more efficient ways to manage our irreplaceable common wealth, the 10,000 acres within Carlisle's boundaries.
What a year it was
Looking back on the past year, it's hard to believe that so many momentous events occurred in the space of a mere 366 days. In case you spent 2004 ensconced in a spider hole awaiting the national alert system to turn back to yellow, here's a quick recap of the year's events.
In January, the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary flung the entire Democratic nomination process into disarray. Parochial Iowans threw their weight behind next-door neighbor Carol Moseley-Braun, while traditionally unpredictable New Hampshirites gave Dennis Kucinich and his "Live tax free, we're all going to die anyhow" slogan the nod.
February's primaries further muddied the waters. Kucinich lost momentum when he admitted that as a young man he had fathered a child with a Republican debutante from Shaker Heights. Meanwhile, John Kerry picked up steam by retracing Peter Fonda's Easy Rider sojourns on his Confederate-flag-covered Harley. With no Democrat frontrunner emerging, President Bush decided to corral swing voters by proposing the "Lower Taxes for Everyone" bill, whose small print defined everyone as "citizens who make more than $200,000 per year." Bush's poll numbers immediately skyrocketed as Fox News predicted that the trickle-down effect would raise all boats "very soon," although it admitted on a 2 a.m. broadcast that people who didn't own boats would get socked with higher fees and fewer government services.
When the Dems' nominating convention rolled around, no candidate had a majority of delegates. In a quandary, party leaders retired to a smoke-free, Beacon Hill bistro to plot a winning strategy. Aiming at the six-pack-a-day Dad and moral Mom, they turned to two wholesome American icons: superstuddess Angelina Jolie and empathetic Tom Hanks. This combination electrified the electorate, quickly catapulting it over Bush-Cheney in the polls. In a counter move, Bush announced on the eve of the Republican convention that Osama Bin Laden had been captured and would be suspended in a steel cage above the podium throughout the festivities. This drove TV ratings though the roof, putting the incumbents back in the driver's seat.
The campaign really heated up in the fall when the National Enquirer discovered that Bush's Bin Laden was actually a stunt double from Hoboken, and that the real Al Qaeda leader was residing at a posh resort on the French Riviera. The Jolie-Hanks ticket enjoyed only a brief advantage though, when — trying to distance herself from her French heritage — the photogenic flyweight revealed that her real last name was not Jolie but Joelstein.
Come November, the election was a toss-up. Remarkably, the voting split right down the middle, with only the Hawaiian ballots uncounted. In a final twist of fate, just as the polls closed, the newly installed optical scanners were hit by a worm launched from a Baghdad Internet café rebuilt by Halliburton, throwing the entire election into confusion. Bush appealed to the spirit of fair play, suggesting that the Supreme Court should cast the deciding vote. Jolie counterpunched by appearing on every known talk show dressed in black spandex declaring, "If baby Bush wants a piece of me, let him come and get it," which made no sense, but so incensed Laura that she enrolled George in six-hour daily prayer meetings, short-circuiting his extralegal efforts.
Finally, after weeks of wrangling, the combatants agreed to hold a runoff election in Hawaii using paper ballots. Bush flew over the islands in a Black Hawk helicopter, showering the locals with leaflets dubiously declaring, "Bush raises all boats . . . and oceans, too!" Jolie simply parachuted onto the beaches in a string bikini and smiled coyly. Results are expected any day now.
© 2004 The