Friday, April 7, 2006
Where have all the candidates gone?
I was one of only 40 townspeople who attended the brief Town Caucus on Monday night, March 13, in the Clark Room at Town Hall. The outcome of the Caucus was only one contested office — a three-year term on the School Committee— no candidates for two vacancies on the Board of Health, no contested seats on the Board of Selectmen, as well as the rest of the candidates running unopposed.
Last Sunday, April 2, I returned to the Clark Room for the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum. Unfortunately, only 25 Carlisleans came out on this beautiful spring afternoon. Fortunately, however, we learned that two candidates had come forward to fill the openings on the Board of Health and Bruce Hendrickson agreed to run again for the Board of Assessors as a write-in candidate, following the withdrawal of the nominee.
After opening statements from each of the candidates, LWV Moderator Sara Rolley asked the following question: "What do you consider the most important issue facing Carlisle at this time?" Inevitably the answer that was repeated over and over again, in one way or another, was Carlisle's response to the Chapter 40B requirement that 10% of the housing stock be affordable.
Greg Peterson, who is running unopposed for the Planning Board, says that one of the biggest issues facing the town is retaining a sense of community in the face of increased growth. Lori Tucker Goldberg, who is running for School Committee, says the most pressing issue in Carlisle is growth. "We need to maintain the quality of life we have now in Carlisle as well as the standards of our schools." Chad Koski, her opponent, says growth is the most important issue facing the Carlisle School.
Alan Carpenito, who is running unopposed for a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen, believes that debt is the most serious issue facing Carlisle and thinks there are ways to develop affordable housing without using public money. Doug Stevenson, who is also running unopposed for a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen, his fourth such term, spoke about Coventry Woods, a proposed 40B development on Concord Street that has raised concern about higher density development in Carlisle.
At a time like this, with Carlisle facing challenges to its fundamental way of life, notably to two-acre zoning and to maintaining the high quality of our school, why is it that there are so few Carlisle citizens running for office? Is it because, as Planning Board nominee Greg Peterson observes, there are many families in town where both parents work until 7 p.m., just to be able to afford to live here, and neither has the time to volunteer for town government?
There is still time for write-in candidates to step forward. The election does not take place until a month from now, on Monday, May 8. Phyllis Hughes did it in 1988 when she ran as a write-in challenger for a Planning Board seat. She met people campaigning at the Transfer Station and held a banner outside the polls on Election Day.
If she could do it, why not YOU? Carlisle is at an important crossroads as it addresses growth and 40B. Give us a name to write in on Election Day.
Spring is on the verge of "springing" in Carlisle, and we cannot wait for it to arrive. Janice and I, however, have been rushing the season by enjoying two months of spring-like weather in Panama City Beach, in the Florida panhandle.
The weather down there was in the seventies most days, the Gulf of Mexico was a brilliant emerald green, and the golf courses were in great shape. OK, OK, enough of rubbing it in, but I did want to share some of what we have experienced these past weeks. The panhandle is unlike most of Florida to the south. It lies below Alabama in the Central Time Zone. The winter months are mild, and "snow birds" literally flock in from Ontario, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. Winter in the panhandle is actually "off season" and accordingly, the area is much more affordable than Miami Beach or Naples.
The snow birds are mostly retirees, and they come in small clusters of friends and relatives. (We were there with a sister and brother-in-law.) Many are tight-knit groups, including friends made back in high school. The accommodations offer an affordable enclave, complete with beachfront condos, nine-hole golf course, tennis, shuffleboard, fitness center, conference facilities, restaurants, shops and heated swimming pools. One buys an "Activity Card" that provides unlimited use of the facilities as well as scheduled events like ballroom, line and square dancing, and golf and tennis tournaments. A typical week might include church on Sunday, square dancing on Monday, golf scramble on Tuesday, church supper on Wednesday, a travelogue on Thursday, karaoke on Friday, and a sock hop on Saturday. The Community College is 15 minutes away and offers courses like Genealogy, Writing Your Memoirs, Digital Photography, Computer Literacy, Cooking and French, all tuned to snow birds. We have the place to ourselves, and take maximum advantage of everything available.
This is our seventh year at Panama City Beach, and we have grown to know quite a few people who return annually. Most of our friends are 60+ and many are in their mid-70s. Each year, someone we know or know of cannot make it, due to health or family problems, and each year someone has passed on. The bonds are such that those who've lost a loved one usually arrive alone so as to be among friends and to relive memories. As one who has only recently arrived at this magical age, I have tried to become a keen observer of my fellow snow birds and take some clues as to what makes retired life different from work-a-day life. One thing is very clear; they are all grateful to have reached this point in their lives and they intend to enjoy each day to the fullest. They are grateful and humble and caring. They can also be critical, petty, and demanding, but, on balance, are good to be with. At the Valentine's Day dance, I couldn't help but look over the crowd of 300-400 gray-headed revelers, and think about how many might not be here in another 15 or 20 years. Many more moments become bittersweet, more precious, more clearly focused, when you reach a certain age. Last Monday night, after square dancing, we formed a circle, joined hands, sang "Auld Lang Syne," and bade each other a fond farewell "until next year," knowing that some of us might not be back. Several had tears in their eyes. What a time to be alive!
© 2006 The