Friday, March 12, 2004
Learn the facts about the CCHS budget
To the Editor:
CCHS is at a crossroads this spring. The school has consistently provided extraordinary programs and opportunities. The quality of our graduates speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the programs. The students who attend CCHS are wonderful young people who come from homes where they are loved and nurtured. They enjoy a thirst for knowledge and a desire to be successful. The teachers at CCHS are intelligent, sensitive and caring professionals who inspire students to explore, create, and excel. The community has valued education and has manifested that value with appropriate funding. The quality of the youth we see is not changing and will not change, because the community and family structure are essentially sound. The quality of the professional staff will not diminish because those who are here are completely committed and excellent candidates apply. The reference to the crossroads is that the appropriate funding may be in jeopardy even though the community value for education may not change.
This spring voters will debate the merits of appropriately funding the education system at CCHS in particular. Just this week I saw a [Concord] Journal letter reference to a "bloated" budget. The budget problems are not the result of bloating. In fact, we have been cutting each year I have been here. The budget problems are directly related to state reductions in transportation, special education, and Chapter 70, general education support. What has not been reduced has been level-funded in the face of escalating costs.
There are no new programs. Course additions or changes are either grant-funded or at another course's expense. Secretarial, custodial, and maintenance staff have been reduced. Supplies, materials, and textbook accounts have been reduced more than 20%. This year, without appropriate support, reductions will include administrators, teachers, and programs. Some of the programs are encompassed within the school day. Most are after school co-curricular and sports. No question, the essential richness of the CCHS education is at stake. I ask that the citizens become familiar with the issues. Attend Parent Association meetings, School Committee meetings, and Town Meeting. Ultimately, vote your conscience, but base your vote on knowledge of the facts.
More thoughts on Benfield land proposal
To the Editor:
As an owner of property next to the Estabrook Woods I have experienced the very constructive results of Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) activity to preserve conservation land. As a 22-year resident of Carlisle, I have a growing concern regarding the process associated with the disposition and allocation of Parcel A of the Benfield property. Specifically there are two issues that Carlisle residents might wish to consider prior to voting on March 23.
First, exercise of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) is revealing poorly written underlying legislation that sets up conflicts and allows land-use policy to be heavily directed by a non-elected committee — the Community Preservation Committee (CPC). The Act mandates the composition of the CPC whose appointed members control the use of CPA funds. While the CPC states that town residents control use of CPA funds, in fact, any proposal based on use of CPA funds must first be approved by the CPC in order to make it to the floor of Town Meeting. In other words, Carlisle residents will never be allowed to vote on proposals for use of CPA funds unless they are appealing to the constituents of the CPC.
In the case of Parcel A, the powers of the CPC provoke additional concern. Because of the dynamic between the CCF — a tax-exempt charitable organization with access to considerable private funds — and the CPC, public land-use policy in Carlisle is being influenced by a small group not necessarily representative of Carlisle residents at large.
While residents will indeed vote on this issue on March 23, that vote is strongly affected by the information we can gather from public meetings and from this newspaper. Since the aforementioned public (CPC) and private (CCF) effort is a major source of the information we need to make a decision, it is critical that it be objective and the process transparent. Since voting for the CCF proposal could commit us to significant additional future tax liability, it is even more crucial that the information upon which we base our vote is impartial, unbiased and complete.
Vote "no" at Town Meeting
To the Editor:
Carlisle taxpayers approved a CPA 2% surtax surcharge, limited to five years, by a narrow margin. CCF wants the taxpayers to use all of $2 million of CPA money to purchase Lot A, which CCF exercised: $200,000 non-refundable option on. As per FinCom estimates, this will strip CPA of funds to execute the objectives of the 2% surtax for the next ten years, resulting in Carlisle gaining yet another lot for conservation, recreation, low-income housing, blah, blah, blah. Voting "yes" means the continuation of CPA surtax without taxpayers' vote and funding low-income housing development. Developing low-income housing with taypayers' money is a subsidy; there are better ways to achieve that goal. Voting "no" means the town gets 24 acres of conservation land free, as per the ANR plan, and retains $2 million of CPA money to fund planned projects. Therefore, why pay $2 million for a free gift, make 2% surtax permanent, and strip funding of planned projects? The Selectmen, CCF, and the CPC, by providing the taxpayers with a "take it or else choice" on March 23, will force the residents into increasing taxation without planning or accountabililty. Vote "no" on Lot A purchase so we can get the benefits we were promised when 2% surtax was voted in and 24 acres of conservation land for free.
Fifty Acre Way
To the Editor:
In my letter to the Editor published March 5, I dropped a digit. The price of the Benfield Parcel "A" is $1.985 million, not $1.85.
Kenneth J. Harte
Carlisle Conservation Foundation writes
To the Editor:
Carlisle residents have asked how a conservation organization like CCF gets involved in land development. The short answer is that CCF uses multiple tools to maximize open space and to preserve Carlisle's rural look and unique character.
Limited development is one such tool, which CCF through its affiliate, Carlisle Land Trust (CLT) has used for more than 20 years. In 1983 Bates Farm divided 53 acres into four house lots, totally saving as fields the streetscape along Bedford Road. Limited housing on Clark Farm has saved over 45 acres in open space with Concord and School Streets connected by a walking trail across the fields. Malcolm Meadows has tightly clustered town houses surrounded by open space with a trail access to Estabrook Woods. On the Wang-Coombs Corn Fields two house lots were sold to fill the town's funding gap, preserving 34 acres. This caused an abutting developer to donate another 78 acres to the town for open space, trails and a potential aquifer.
In 1999 after the Wang-Coombs acquisition, it was clear that Carlisle residents were no longer going to vote funds solely for open space. Furthermore, state and federal funding dried up. Fortunately, a year later the legislature passed the Community Preservation Act with state matching funds for historic preservation and for town identified needs — recreation, community housing and open space. A broad coalition helped pass the CPA in 2001 and the Community Preservation Committee was formed, in part, to evaluate opportunities to acquire multi-use land parcels. Having twice supported the CPA at Town Meeting, the voters' message was clear: "we want conservation plus affordable housing and recreation."
During 2001-2003, CCF worked with the Benfield trustees on the 14-lot limited development, preserving 100 acres along West and South Streets (even aside from Parcel A). CCF negotiated and exercised the option to buy Benfield Parcel A and has offered it to the town to maximize conservation values while providing an inventory of land for CPA purposes including affordable housing and active recreation after a planning process and Town Meeting approval.
Art Milliken, president
Carlisle Conservation Foundation
Repeal the CPA tax surcharge
To the Editor:
The CPA surcharge is calculated by using your assessed value minus the first $100,000 of valuation times the tax rate times 2%. This is a tax that can be repealed. How often can that be said of a tax? Carlisle can vote to repeal this tax at the annual Town Meeting of 2006.
If we obligate CPA funds that we currently do not have, we lock ourselves into this tax until that obligation is paid off. There are huge capital expenditures looming on Carlisle's financial horizon (high school renovation and maintenance costs and possibly a new school for Carlisle).
We should work to keep Carlisle affordable for the people who live here now. We should strive to keep our current diversity which includes blue-collar workers, people currently unemployed and those on fixed incomes (elderly, retired, widows and widowers).
Repealing the CPA surcharge could go a long way towards helping a lot of Carlisle residents. It may also help to make future capital expenditures less of a burden to residents.
Vote "yes" at Town Meeting
To the Editor:
Among the many good reasons for the town to seize the opportunity to buy Benfield Parcel A are the town-wide benefits which accrue when the town undertakes to provide community housing. Consider this:
Under Chapter 40B's 10% requirement, Carlisle needs about 170 units of affordable housing, but when affordable housing is privately developed, the town has to accept three market rate units with every affordable unit, the "three-for" effect. That means that private development of 170 units of affordable housing will require the town to accept a total of 680 units.
On the other hand, if the town buys Parcel A and allows 26 units of affordable community housing to be built, all of which count towards 40B's 10% requirement, the three-for effect, which would be 78 more units, is eliminated.
Carlisle doesn't need the 680 market-rate units that it will take to satisfy 40B through private development, but it does need affordable housing. It is astounding that the housing shortage is so bad and costs so high that housing is deemed "affordable" if it is priced so that a single person earning $46,300, a couple earning $52,950 and a couple with one child earning $59,550, can afford it. We all know someone who qualifies and 70% of the affordable units can be reserved for people who have ties to Carlisle like town and school employees and young people who grew up in town so that they can stay in the community.
Carlisle's only affordable housing, Village Court on Church Street, contains 18 units on approximately two acres. Surely we can find room on Parcel A's 45 acres to place 26 units of affordable housing with as little impact on the neighbors as Village Court has.
Please support the town's purchase of Parcel A at the Town Meeting on March 23, 2004.
Laura Snowdon and Alex Parra
Bellows Hill Road
Come to Highland Open Studios
To the Editor:
I would like to invite all Carlisle residents to visit the artists' Open Studios at the Highland School building (113 School Street) on Saturday and Sunday, April 3 and 4. The Highland Studios are home to 11 local artists, including painters and printmakers, a children's book illustrator, a photographer, and a published poet and writer. This annual event provides the opportunity for the public to meet with the artists and talk about their work. We would be delighted to see old friends and some new faces as well. This is the only time we open our studios to the public, so please come.
Love and marriage
To the Editor:
On February 11, a constitutional convention was held by state lawmakers to consider an amendment legally defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I learned with concern that both our state senator, Susan Fargo (D), Lincoln, and our state representative, Cory Atkins (D), Concord, voted against the two proposed amendments, either of which would have moved this issue forward in the right direction. The matter was taken up again on March 11.
While marriage is a sacred union in every religion, there are also many secular arguments in favor of maintaining the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The primary purpose of marriage has been to bring children into the world and to raise them to become members of society. Until the beginning of the 20th century in some Western nations, this was true for every society around the world. In many marriages, personal fulfillment has become the primary end, rather than the good of the children or the social order. Sexual love has its place, but it cannot be enshrined into the law as the sole criterion for marriage.
Contrary to what Justice Margaret Marshall wrote in the majority opinion in Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health, marriage is not "an evolving paradigm." Marriage is primordial. It is fundamental to the well-being of children and the enduring strength of society. The institution of marriage was not created by any government and it should not be redefined by the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts.
I urge every reader to contact our representatives and ask them to support an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
Susan Fargo (D), Lincoln, State Senator, 3rd Middlesex District, SFargo@senate.state.ma.us, 1-617-722-1572
Cory Atkins (D) Concord, State Representative, 14th Middlesex District
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