Friday, April 1, 2005
Electing the right candidates
The headline in the March 11 Mosquito read, "Town caucus to convene on Monday, Two Selectman positions are open and no candidates in sight." Three days later, at a well-attended town caucus, 14 candidates stepped forward as candidates for town offices, including four for selectmen (after a run-off vote), two for a two-year position on the Board of Health, and two for the three-year position on the Carlisle Housing Authority. Remaining candidates will be running unopposed.
Certainly this was heartening news to the citizens of Carlisle. Maybe some of these candidates had been encouraged to run after reading Debbie Bentley's guest editorial "Carlisle needs you to volunteer" also in the March 11 Mosquito. There she wrote about the findings of the Carlisle Civic Support Network "Committee members 'give up' their free time because they can contribute, or they think they can do a better job than others, but primarily they volunteer because they love Carlisle."
Although the Town election date has yet to be determined by the selectmen, Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 23. Customarily, the election is held the following week. A notice of that date will appear in next week's Mosquito.
It therefore appears that Carlisle voters will have almost two months to learn about these candidates. The League of Women Voters will be scheduling a "Meet the Candidates Forum" sometime closer to election day, and the Mosquito will feature write-ups and photos of each of the candidates in a forthcoming issue.
But what do we know so far? This week we learned that Susan Evans is withdrawing from the race for selectman due to family obligations. See her letter on this page. Town Clerk Charlene Hinton reports that no other nomination papers were filed by the March 21 deadline.
That leaves three candidates vying for two openings on the Board of Selectmen Alan Carpenito, Bill Tice, and John Williams. Alan Carpenito of South Street is a neighborhood member of the Benfield Parcel A Task Force which is planning the development on this town-owned parcel; Bill Tice of Audubon Lane served on the Carlisle Planning Board from 1995 to 2000 and the Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee 1998-1999; and John Williams of Hart Farm Road is a two-year resident of Carlisle who previously lived in Lincoln, where he was involved in environmental issues facing the town, including Hanscom Field and Route 2 traffic.
The two other contested races have Bill Risso of Wolf Rock Road running against Larry Bearfield of North Road for a two-year seat on the Board of Health and Eugenia Harris of South Street running against Susan Stamps of Cross Street for a three-year position on the Housing Authority. Many of us know Larry Bearfield from Ferns Country Store. Susan Stamps has been active in the Town Democratic Committee and has served on the Town Personnel Board. We hope to become better acquainted with Risso and Harris and the other candidates running for town offices as they embark on their campaigns in the weeks ahead.
The Town of Carlisle is at a crossroads. With the threat of developers building high-density Chapter 40B housing, thus breaking Carlisle's two-acre zoning, it is imperative that the town have the best leadership possible. It is the civic duty of every registered voter to get to know the candidates, including those running unopposed, by attending the LWV Candidates Forum, attending or sponsoring a neighborhood coffee for one or more candidates, reading the Mosquito, and just talking with friends who are knowledgeable about town affairs.
It is up to all of us to make sure we elect the right candidates to lead us in the right direction during these difficult times.
Sharing the load
Carlisle is a marvelous little town on the verge of not being small-town any more. It is about to become a victim of its own success, beauty and fortuitous location. Some would say that Carlisle is a victim of its own arrogance, self-preserving isolation and navel-gazing. No matter. We have met the enemy and it would appear to be us. Pogo had it exactly right. We are looking out over the side of our ark and witnessing the rising tide of new lot-consuming homes, 40B proposals, septic waste dilemmas, ball fields, diminishing classroom space and water quality questions that will float our boat for years to come and may irretrievably alter Carlisle's self-image — for better or worse. We are being dragged kicking and screaming into the mainstream of community development issues. The many letters and warnings from knowledgeable board and committee members and concerned citizens have laid bare our vulnerabilities, and many are in a quandary as to what should be done.
So with the advent of our bicentennial, it's a good time to ask: What is it that is essentially Carlisle? What do we as a community of stalwarts and newcomers truly value about our town? What will keep us here or drive us away? Have we become a community of master bedrooms or are there still people out there who feel strongly enough about their home and hometown to stand for office and move Carlisle forward? It is not simply enough for folks to turn out for the ice cream socials and Old Home Day, school plays and sports events.
The Town has held innumerable "planning days" which have prioritized all sorts of issues. Mostly, the upshot of all this meeting and talking is that citizens want the town to remain the dreamy idyllic hamlet of yesteryear. In our dreams! We face lots of problems aside from the obvious ones. For one, very few people serve the community interests of the town. I can hear the gasps: what is he thinking? Look at longevity on the various boards and commissions; look at who serves on the various sub-committees, ad hoc committees and other focus groups. But when the midnight oil is burning in Town Hall, it is, more often than not, the same people and a lot of them are tired. Certainly there are a lot of bodies in service but many are dragging themselves away from their families night after night and sometimes into the early mornings. Many have done so for too many years.
So the issue is not a "to be or not to be" conundrum. Carlisle is teetering on the verge of becoming the town that many of us do not want to contemplate. If you agree, what are you going to do about it? There is a plethora of ability in our town. We are so blessed in the abstract. I would like to think that you might be able to serve the community interests of Carlisle. As we head towards another Annual Town Meeting, remember that you are what makes Carlisle what it is and your failure to show up or care dooms us all to our worst nightmares. Don't make Town Meeting attendees call to beg you to be part of the minimal quorum needed to conduct town business. Stay for the whole meeting, not just "your issue." Stand for one of the vacant positions on any of the boards or committees. We are all busy. But if you have an opinion, don't just fire off a letter to the Mosquito and, as Rumi (the great 13th century Sufi mystic and poet) said, "don't go back to sleep!"
© 2005 The