Friday, September 29, 2006
RecCom's second chance
Several times a week, year-round, my dog Lily and I take our early morning walk on the Banta-Davis Land. She runs, I walk on the asphalt track on the upper field. We often meet other dogs and their owners, runners, walkers and an occasional roller-blader.
The last few mornings I've been studying the landscape and thinking, "Here's where the second multi-purpose field would go. Over there would be the other Little League field." I walk to my car in the parking area and the old Joanie Mitchell song, "Pave paradise, put up a parking lot," echoes in my head as I envision a lot for 200 cars.
I was one of the 477 voters who said no in town elections last spring, sinking the Recreation Commission's (RecCom) plans to expand the Banta-Davis fields. I felt I was under-informed, and the proposed addition of Astroturf to one of the playing fields tipped me into the "no" column. Full disclosure: I did not attend Town Meeting.
After studying what went wrong (inadequate voter information, hastily conceived plans, the last-minute Astroturf add-on), the RecCom has unveiled a modified plan to present to Town Meeting on October 30. (See "RecCom prepares for new town vote," Mosquito, September 22, 2006).
This time around, I will pay attention to the RecCom's proposals, and then decide what I think is best for the town. As a senior, I have no children or grandchildren in town who will benefit from the expanded fields; I recognize the need for more fields in town, but I question the necessity for concentrating them on Banta-Davis.
I also wonder about the need for the proposed pavilion. I gaze across the fields on my walks and enjoy the open space, unblemished by a structure except for the wastewater treatment facility, off in a corner, which now seems to blend into the landscape.
Many years ago a Carlisle resident questioned whether a proposed structure in the town center was appropriate for the "natural, homegrown, idiosyncratic nature" of Carlisle. This is how I feel about a wooden pavilion on Banta-Davis. Is it necessary? Was it tossed into the plan in an attempt to balance the emphasis on playing fields? If playing fields are so "desperately needed," let's focus on them and debate the Astroturf issue without the distraction of a pavilion.
RecCom Chair Alan Deary said in last week's Mosquito that "we need to do a better job of educating folks this time." Toward that end, RecCom will hold a meeting tomorrow morning, September 30, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Town Hall to explain the details of their Town Meeting requests and to hear voter input.
I have many questions, not the least of which is: what will be the impact on my ever-escalating tax bill? But now, it's time for my walk.
No rush to judgment
I have loosed two licensed teenage drivers onto the roads. Driver's Ed did its share of the teaching, and I've done my time, white-knuckled, in the passenger seat. Now comes the arguably more important part: the learning the kids must do, continuously, on the road. This is part of the pact we make as a society of drivers. We teach, but we can never impart all there is to know, to gauge, about every situation. We license, then we wait for judgment to grow.
Around the nation, states grapple with the issue of the driving age. It's never a very satisfying debate. For one thing, it often arises after a horrific accident involving young drivers, as it did this year in Massachusetts, as a wish for a sure-fire preventative that can never be.
Judgment doesn't develop on command. You can't will it into being. It comes from experience. It comes sooner in some than others. But chauffeuring your kids until they're 30 is not an option. (That's the age I was when my mom remarked, so generously, that I had become a good driver.) This variability of judgment is why an age standard will never be perfect, but it's probably as good a guide as states can use.
After the Massachusetts legislature rejected the notion of raising the driving age from 16-1/2 to 17, Rep. Cory Atkins said she didn't believe the biological difference in those six months would be enough to warrant the change. "I researched studies of juvenile brain chemistry and adolescents' propensity to engage in risky behavior," said Rep. Atkins, "but none proved to me that an increase was warranted." (Judgment, or lack of it, by the way, is why it's not okay for kids to drink alcohol.)
One opportunity for the state to improve the odds for young drivers is the pending legislation that would require driver's education courses to include 12, rather than six, hours on the road. In addition, those with learner's permits would have to drive 40 hours with a licensed adult before getting a license, rather than the mere 12 required now.
I'd rather switch it around: put kids on the road with instructors for 30 hours, with parents for 40, and reduce the classroom hours to something like 12. Having experienced two different driver schools, one pretty bad and one reasonably good, I believe much of the classroom time is worthless. What is there to say for 30 hours? It's practice that helps a teen learn when it's safe to make that left, how far to pull up at a half-blind intersection, when to pass, and why she should give a distracted fellow motorist a really wide berth.
Parents need to judge whether their teens have the focus and patience to take on the serious responsibility of propelling a ton of metal about in the company of other tons of metal. Parents shouldn't rush kids into getting their licenses — no matter the temptation to stop being their chauffeur. Nor should parents hold kids back from initiating the long process of developing judgment. Once they're on the road, we have to lay down rules about when and where they can drive and with whom in the car with them. Take a ride with your new driver from time to time. Don't stop nagging, er, teaching. It's your job.
© 2006 The