Friday, September 17, 2004
Should Carlisle stay dry?
As one of the smallest towns in the area, it is amusing — distressing to some — to see how often Carlisle appears on the pages of the Globe. Last week, we were in the news again as one of three quaint towns (with Rockport and Harvard) which will be voting on their dry status this year. Only 17 dry communities remain in Massachusetts, all of them very small. On November 2, Carlisle will vote whether to permit the sale of beer and wine or all alcoholic beverages. The question last came up in 1996 and lost by a margin of two votes.
The original reasons why Carlisle is dry are buried in the history of another century, but many citizens believe that there are good reasons to maintain the ban today. Some argue that a package store within walking distance would provide an opportunity for those who don't drive and should not be purchasing alcohol — minors and alcohol abusers who have had their licenses revoked. Others feel that staying dry is an important part of preserving the feel of Carlisle — simple, quiet and wholesome for families. Many just don't trust change; they even oppose pathways.
Proponents argue that citizens should have the right to decide. Personal freedom is a bedrock American principle. Restrictions on our personal lives are acceptable only if they protect us from significant dangers.
On the other hand, do we really need another place to purchase alcohol? Judging by the number of wine and beer bottles recycled at the transfer station and the number of beer cans along our roads, a wide range of consumers appear to have adequate access to alcoholic beverages. Beyond potentially enhancing the finances of one or more town establishments, or providing the occasional convenience, does the town as a whole benefit in any way from the sale of alcohol within town limits?
In the past two years the issue of creating "community" has been discussed in a number of town planning sessions and on the pages of the Mosquito. A café in town has been proposed many times as an antidote for "Lonelyville." In addition, a Revenue Enhancement Committee appointed by the Carlisle FinCom has suggested that a social club could generate "tens of thousands of dollars annually" to support the town budget. While no one equates being social with consuming alcoholic beverages, it is common wisdom that without the sale of such beverages it is much more difficult to make a club financially self-sustaining, never mind generate excess revenues for the town.
It is important to recognize that a vote to make Carlisle undry does not immediately become a permit to sell alcohol. There are safeguards. The Selectmen and other town boards will have the opportunity to review and place conditions on any applications before issuing a permit. In addition, by state law, Carlisle will need to vote two more times, in 2006 and 2008, before the town can become permanently undry.
It is unlikely that in this age of mobility the opportunity to purchase alcoholic beverages in town will contribute to a significant increase in crime, delinquency (Larry Bearfield at Ferns won't sell to you and will tell your parents) or the destruction of the Carlisle way of life. Could it actually make Carlisle a more cohesive community? Wouldn't it be nice to have a place to go in the evening to chat with friends over a glass of wine? Or, maybe meet new friends and neighbors while watching a ball game on the social club TV? Let's give it a try.
Share the road
Okay — so my last Forum piece got me in trouble with the bikers. Some were offended that I might be so deluded as to mention "bikes" and "clogging" in the same sentence. All right, maybe I was a little indiscreet. One person suggested that I should move to Beacon Hill, implying that I might not be fit to travel on the same road as a biker. I herewith apologize to any biker I may have offended, adding only that I am concerned with the safety of all who travel our delightfully scenic roads and remember all too well having been run over by a rubber-necking motorist. Fortunately for me, I escaped with minimal harm. The driver escaped under a technicality; the car and my bike were not so lucky. But enough with such morbid detail. I will learn to share the road with more equanimity.
But it is a challenge. What with scenic roads and other curiosities, there are enough goings-on along the byways to get a person killed if he does not keep his eyes strictly to business. Who knows what those two two-wheeled cruisers might be conversing about as they weevil along two-abreast and the harried four-wheeler checks the dinner schedule and junior's soccer match and, oh, by the way, what are they doing to that house (never mind This Old House)? The very thought of a bicycle as a radiator ornament scares the bejesus out of me!
Carlisle's roads are scenic both by accident of history and local fiat. They attract quite a few more users than there are Carlisleans on any given travel day. This is a testament to the perceived quality of our lives and our cherished "rurality." In any given roadside meadow, one might glimpse a significant number of white-tailed deer, a flock of turkeys, fisher cats, bobcats, turkey vultures, hawks, owls; even an occasional bear or moose. What could be more spectacular on a Sunday toot in the country than to see a moose? (Having seen one, getting the ice cream out of your lap while negotiating the next curve can be pretty exciting also.)
Did I mention the ubiquitous cell phones? Maybe I should check my messages before I get home in case the little lady needs a little something extra before the company comes. Please enter your password. Perhaps the "cue-phone" should be a clue-phone and the message should be "please pull over or give this device to your passenger before you cause an accident."
At any rate, I rant. I am sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings. I do ride my bike in town and I certainly wonder if the person about to pass me in their very large, all-but-armored conveyance is really paying attention. Oh dear, I may have offended somebody else now!
© 2004 The