Friday, October 29, 2004
Carlisle needs more volunteers New group recommends shorter meetings, non-citizen inclusion
Debbie Bentley and Elissa Abruzzo, representing a newly-formed Civic Support Network, presented recommendations to the Selectmen on Tuesday, October 26. According to Bentley, the purpose of the network is to encourage greater participation in town government. "There are more and more boards and committees, and there doesn't seem to be the supply." Bentley also spoke to the need to encourage women and newcomers, two groups she believes are currently under-represented. She pointed to "a lack of diversity in the Selectmen," noting, "While you're all very broad-minded men, I was relieved to see Deb Belanger join [an otherwise all-male group]."
The committee believes several factors stand in the way of greater participation. According to Selectman Deb Belanger, committee heads complain they often make dozens of calls trying to fill a slot, and hear over and over, "I just don't have the time." Other barriers include late hours, all-evening hours, lack of sitters, lack of knowledge of jobs and requirements, and fears of confrontation, particularly on committees with "yes or no" authority.
Some recommendations include shorter, better run meetings with three-hour time limits, more use of subcommittees and advisory roles, so people can be involved without the major commitment, and more support, including a clerk for each committee. The committee would like to see more avenues used for recruitment, including job descriptions, Mosquito articles, and better use of the town website. In addition, the committee asked the Selectmen to reconsider the prohibition against non-citizens serving on town committees. As a member of the foreign-born community herself, Bentley noted there are a large number or foreigners in town, many of whom might welcome a chance to participate. State law allows communities to include non-citizens in voting roles and town government. "Why would we exclude a segment of the community with many intelligent, well-educated people who might be willing to serve?" Bentley asks.
The Selectmen are reviewing the recommendations and will discuss them at their next meeting on November 9.
© 2004 The