Friday, April 30, 2004
It might be prudent to re-evaluate the sound system used for Carlisle's Town Meetings, especially after the recent squeaker, where a controversial topic brought out a high attendance that almost overflowed the auditorium.
Even though the Benfield Land question had generated a large emotional response among residents, officials decided to save money by not setting up a sound system for the cafeteria. If a few more people had tried to attend, the Moderator would have been forced to call off and reschedule the Special Town Meeting. This can be merely inconvenient, or it can have serious consequences. In this past case, the Benfield Land purchase passed by only 9 votes more than the required 2/3 majority. Would people on either side of the issue have felt comfortable with such a verdict if the meeting had been delayed, and scheduling conflicts changed the mix of presenters and voters able to attend?
Years ago, Town Meeting used the school's sound equipment, but eventually rental equipment was preferred to improve the sound quality. According to Carlisle resident Jack O'Connor, the school has a "generic" system that is easy to operate, but not very adaptable and has poor speaker fidelity. He witnessed Town Meetings where people had trouble hearing all those who spoke, and suggested the town switch to the current rental arrangement. He obtains concert quality sound equipment from a company in Cambridge, and charges the town about $20 per hour to deliver, set-up, and run the equipment. It costs $600 for a Town Meeting held in the Corey Auditorium, and O'Connor said it would cost at most $200 more to also deliver sound to the Corey Dining Room.
It is important that a reliable sound system be used for an overflow crowd in the dining room, because, according to Moderator Tom Raftery, Town Counsel has warned that whenever the meeting is divided into two rooms, people must see and hear all the same information for the voting to be valid. Besides sound, the cafeteria would also require an associate moderator, and additional presenters to operate a second laptop or viewgraph to display visuals.
With our current arrangement, there is always a guess about how much equipment to rent and whether the cafeteria will be needed. The cafeteria was used successfully for a large Town Meeting several years ago, but recently the extra equipment was rented at least once when it was not needed. The decision about whether to wire the cafeteria is made by our Town Administrator, Madonna MacKenzie. O'Connor said that he requires 24-hours notice to obtain the extra equipment.
The question of preparing the cafeteria was discussed at both the FinTeam meeting Tuesday morning and the Selectmen's meeting that evening. Officials do not expect a large turnout for next Monday's Town Meeting, but MacKenzie said she would look into the possibility of getting the auxiliary room ready.
Attendance varies quite a bit, but overall, our population is rising, and the trend has been toward more than one Town Meeting per year. Is there a better way to manage the sound equipment in order to reduce the chances for a canceled meeting?
Residents might wish to eliminate the guesswork and routinely have the cafeteria prepared for possible overflow crowds. Another option to consider would be to purchase sound equipment suitable for Town Meeting needs, and perhaps permanently install it in the auditorium and cafeteria. Wireless broadcasting to the cafeteria is another idea. These options might be prohibitively expensive, but we will not know unless we look into it. During the last decade all three churches in Carlisle have purchased sound systems and might be able to provide information or recommendations.
See you at Town Meeting!
Why I did not attend the Patriots' Ball
Many readers have probably been asking themselves why I was not at the Patriots' Ball two weeks ago. The reasons are embedded deep in my psyche. They stem from my experiences 45 years ago at the Dan Dailey Dance Studio in Santa Monica, California, where I had a summer job at the Rand Corporation. One evening my phone rang and a chirpy young woman explained that I had been picked for a free dance analysis. Though I demurred at first, she asked, "What have you got to lose?" I couldn't think of an answer quickly enough (the right answer was $75), and so the next evening I found myself assigned to Miss Castanet, the Spanish dancing instructor, for the free analysis.
The room was dimly lit, with mirrors on two walls and a lot of elderly women pirouetting about in the arms of elegant young men in pegged pants. Miss Castanet and I stumbled among them, she trying to follow whatever it was I was doing. After a while, she led me to an inner sanctum where one of the young men sat with a dance analysis scorecard. I don't remember the details, but the gist of the analysis was that, while I did rather poorly on actual dance achievement, I had the native talent of Fred Astaire (rhythm, natural grace, lithe movements, etc.). Still, when they added up my score, the total was only 67 — three short of their minimum requirement for accepting new students. I was crushed. Fortunately, Miss Castanet realized that she had made a mistake and I was awarded four more points. I hastily signed my check for $75, and the lessons began.
Things went rather well at first, and I mastered foxtrot, elementary waltz, and even tango, including a maneuver called the fall-away twinkle. But then came the cha-cha-cha. The dance is simple enough — you just take three steps toward your partner and then three steps back, all the while swaying your hips in time to the music. Anyway, for some reason my hips didn't sway; they just sort of locked up like the tin woodman's after a rainstorm. Eventually, Miss Castanet had me practice all by myself in front of a mirrored wall. You can imagine the ignominy, me hopelessly clanking back and forth, and behind me all those ladies and elegant young men gracefully swaying and turning. My hips seized up to such an extent that three chiropractors have since failed to undo the damage.
Things were clearly not going well, so Miss Castanet reassigned me to conventional ballroom dancing under the tutelage of Miss Ribcage (not her real name), a blonde physical education major from UCLA. Her theory of dancing was that the man and the woman should keep their ribcages touching so that the woman would be able to sense what the man was going to do. It was a poor theory because, while our ribcages were touching, even I didn't know what I was going to do. I would try easing her away so that I could hear the music better, and she would gently admonish me by murmuring, "ribcages," whereupon I would again lose track of the music, the rhythm, my feet, and indeed everything except the pressure on my chest.
After that experience I realized that I was destined to be a wallflower, and I never went back. I also skip the Patriots' Ball. There are still four and a half hours of unexpired dance lessons available in my name, and anyone who wishes to claim them is welcome.
© 2004 The