Friday, April 29, 2005
Choosing our leaders
The Concord-Carlisle League of Women Voters will be holding a Candidates Forum this Sunday, May 1, at the Carlisle Town Hall from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. There are contested races for Board of Selectmen, Board of Health and Housing Authority. This is an opportunity to meet our future leaders, the candidates for whom we will be voting at the town election on May 31.
A number of issues critical to the future of the town will be before our boards in the next few years. Carlisle must meet the state requirement of 10% affordable housing, or approximately 170 units. We currently have 18. How will we get there? Will we reach into our pockets and build the hundred plus units? Or will we allow developers to file 40B applications and acquire four times that many units?
Any growth in town will require a corresponding increase in town services, especially our schools that are already begging for more space. Both the Carlisle school and our regional high school are preparing plans for renovation and expansion.
Unfortunately, the additional tax moneys provided by real estate growth do not begin to pay for the cost of increased services. As state aid continues to shrink, rising local taxes become a major concern, particularly for our seniors living on fixed incomes.
While we are a small town, we each have our individual interests and concerns. Some of us are most concerned about rising taxes, others worry that development next door will decrease their property values and privacy. Stll others see Carlisle as the place that will mold their children and excellent schools are at the top of their list. Most of us came to Carlisle seeking a place that reminds us of an earlier, less-complicated life. We love the open space and are willing to put up with no trash collection. We don't want Carlisle to change.
But Carlisle must comply with the laws of the Commonwealth and Carlisle must change. As the issues become more difficult and more complex, we need leaders that can balance multiple, frequently conflicting demands, and find the best path for the whole of Carlisle.
Three candidates will be on the ballot for the important race for two seats on our five-member Board of Selectmen, the executive branch of our town government. All have had some experience in town government, but none so far have served in a civic position which demands this level of leadership. Alan Carpenito, of 493 South Street, is currently a member of the Benfield Task Force which is planning the development on the town-owned Benfield Land. Bill Tice, of 38 Audubon Lane, is a past member of the Carlisle Planning Board. John Williams, of 104 Hart Farm Road, a two-year resident of Carlisle, was actively involved in Lincoln (Mass.) town government, on number of environmental issues.
On Sunday we will hear these candidates introduce themselves and respond to a range of questions. It will be an important opportunity to decide which candidates have the best understanding of the issues, the ability to represent multiple constituencies, and the ability to get things done. We need people that can work productively with others, who respect different opinions, but are not paralyzed by change, complexity, disagreement or incomplete information. It is not an easy job.
We must thank the Concord-Carlisle League of Women Voters for sponsoring this session. This will also be an opportunity for Carlisle citizens to meet League members and learn more about their programs. The League is a valued contributor to our community.
Another reason to live in Carlisle
On a recent Saturday afternoon, while looking for a shipment of bees in Billerica, a friend suggested that our families go for a canoe outing on the Concord River. A little after eight o'clock the next morning we found ourselves at the boat launch on the Route 225 bridge at the Carlisle/Bedford line. It was bright and sunny, late by any fisherman's clock, and there were half a dozen vehicles parked along the access road. But we were alone. We launched our canoe and two kayaks and headed downstream toward Billerica and the Route 4 bridge.
The spring runoff from previous snowmelt and rains still flooded the banks and glittered among the silver trunks of swamp maple far into the swamps on either side of the main channel. Higher up on the rounded hillsides that surrounded the flood plain of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, white pines lifted their dense green wings over the thin maple spires. Pines dislike getting their feet wet for a month or two or three every spring, and remain at a respectful distance from the seasonal swamps.
A mile or so downstream the river turns to the north. On the western Carlisle bank we passed low, marshy bottomland. Behind the acres of white cattails, clumps of brush, and windrows of swamp maple we passed the broad expanse of Foss Farm, Carlisle's mid-western prairie.
We drifted past several large homes on the eastern Billerica bank, whose owners had cut swathes through the brush and maple to open a river view. Along the hillside a lovely brick Georgian manor house, with four corner chimneys, slid into view.
The water under the canoe was virtually black and appeared to be currentless. Farther downstream, ruffled by wind gusts, it flashed blue in a nearly cloudless spring sky.
A pair of Canada geese flew upstream, their flight feathers whistling. We glided by a stationary rowboat, its occupants fishing a small, reed-ringed bay.
After half an hour the river swung around again to the south, and we entered the approach to Billerica's Route 4 bridge. A cluster of homes lined one bank, their backyards running down to docks or floats in the river.
Beside the bridge we docked our small fleet and stepped into the Riverview Restaurant. The large room was humming with talk and the sounds of breakfast cooking on grills at the back. The place had the happy chatter of good local restaurants like Helen's in Concord. People of all ages came and went as we took our seats. Our eggs and hash browns, juices and coffees arrived in a hurry, and the cook told us to have a good day as we left.
Fueled and rested, we cast off from the bank beside the bridge and headed back up the cold, black waterway toward home. The river ahead appeared to lead into a sealed bay, but as we fetched a bend it opened up to the southwest. Another pair of geese whistled overhead; a lone paddler in a kayak passed us and nodded. The sight and sounds of cars crossing the 225 bridge finally broke the quiet hum of nature.
We pulled into the launch, beached our craft, and hoisted them on our cars for the five-minute ride home. So simple. So beautiful. And right in our backyard. Some day — when Carlisle's population reaches 50,000, gasoline is $50 a gallon, and driving is permitted only every other day — we'll pine for the simplicity of life in 2005.
© 2005 The