Friday, June 8, 2007
Why I am still a Republican
When I was first asked to write for the Forum, I was expected to take up the Republican cause, balancing the views of our noisier Democratic citizens. It is a duty I have followed only fitfully. These are not easy times to be a Republican, what with an unpopular and discouraging war, a congressional record of scandal and excess, and a president not just unpopular but regarded by many with genuine loathing. And yet, as I look at the new Democratic Congress and the Democratic candidates for president, and listen to their plans for the future, I cannot find it in my heart to go over to the other side.
For one thing, the Democrats seem almost mindless in their readiness to blame President Bush for everything that is wrong in the world, even exulting in his failures. Certainly he led us into war in Iraq, and certainly no weapons of mass destruction were found (though Saddam had used them in the past and every intelligence service in the world supported the view that they were there), and certainly that war has not so far turned out as we had hoped. But Bush's motivations — to free the Iraqi people from a cruel despot and to sow the seed of democracy in the Middle East — were legitimate aims that history still may vindicate. Having come as far as we have in Iraq, to throw in the towel and never mind the consequences, as the Democratic candidates uniformly recommend, seems both ignoble and unwise. We must find a more honorable solution, and perhaps the added troops and new strategies will turn the tide.
For another thing, the Democratic candidates seem imprisoned by traditional positions that even they cannot all believe in their hearts. It requires a rather fanatical view of abortion rights to countenance partial-birth abortions, which even Daniel Moynihan (a Democrat) called "close to infanticide." It seems almost willful ignorance not to assign some of the credit for today's vigorous economy to prior tax cuts. It takes a degree of cynicism not to take steps to rein in the tort bar, which has evolved into a scandal that enriches lawyers and cheats lawful claimants.
While there are reasons to criticize America's healthcare system — among them failure to insure some 45 million Americans and excessive costs — there is much to praise, including the innovations in drugs and devices that are largely centered in America, the increased longevity and healthiness (by any historical standard) of Americans, and the readiness with which foreigners of means with serious health needs seek their care in this country. And yet the Democratic candidates seem eager to introduce a government-run system that solves some problems but seems certain to diminish these praiseworthy accomplishments. Not only do they embrace a system with known undesirable consequences, as attested by healthcare systems elsewhere, but they ignore alternatives, such as health savings plans, which have proved popular and effective.
Needless to say, during the past seven years the Republicans have made their share of mistakes and deserve to be punished for them, as they were in the last congressional elections and may well be in the presidential election to come. But it is not enough just to be against Republican mistakes. The Democrats have failed to make the case that they know how to do better, and so I will stick with the party that more closely conforms to my hopes for a better world.
School's building project needs your input
The Carlisle School Building Committee (SBC) wants your opinions as it refines proposals to either repair the Spalding Building at a cost of $2.3 million over 10 years, or replace it with a new building costing between $12.9 and $28 million. On May 31 they held two presentations (see "New Carlisle School building plans discussed at forums," and "Carlisle School enrollment decline continues,") Besides school volunteers, town officials, and members of the press, there were very few townspeople who attended. Yet citizen participation and input are very important. Chair of the Selectmen Tim Hult estimated that a $20 million Carlisle School building project would add $1,500 per year to the average real estate tax ($9,754 in 2006.) The large tax impact will affect the town's ability to support other programs and services.
Space needs at school — "needs" vs "wants"
Last year the school completed a Master Plan for school facilities which included options for renovation and expansion. In light of fiscal constraints outlined by the town's Long Term Capital Planning Committee this past winter, the SBC is preparing a more modest set of new construction options. As of press time, Option 1 includes a new building to replace the 50-year-old Spalding Building. The new facility would be about 47% larger, and besides replacing Spalding rooms it would provide one extra classroom, a teacher prep room, an additional Special Education office and an office suite for guidance and the elementary principal. Option 2 would also include four more classrooms, space for art and music and a conference room.
Option 3 would provide about twice the space of Option 1, and would include: everything in Options 1 and 2, a multi-purpose room, a small gym, four additional classrooms, another Special Education office, a community center with a separate door, a staff daycare facility, a kitchenette and Council on Aging (COA) offices. The cost of Option 3 is estimated at $28 million.
How many of these items are really needed for maintaining educational quality in the coming years? Which educational programs will benefit most by more space? Does the declining enrollment (70 fewer students since 2001) lessen the need for more space?
Is it a good idea to include office space for community groups such as the COA in a school building? Where will the seniors park? What about other town departments that need more office space? (Presumably, if plans include community use during school hours, then that might signal a relaxation on the uses possible for the old Highland school building.)
What about repairing Spalding?
The SBC says Spalding could be maintained for the next ten years for an estimated cost of $2.3 million. Repairs mentioned include: a new roof, new carpeting and painting, electrical and plumbing upgrades, heating controls, new doors and windows and masonry repairs. Would repairs be cost effective? Is Spalding, judged in "fair condition" by the architechts HMFH in the Master Plan, structurally sound enough to be worth repairing ?
The SBC is planning to bring a request for design funds before voters at a Special Town Meeting in the fall. Design funds are usually set at 10% of a project's expected cost, or between $1.3 and $2.8 million. Why not wait until enrollment increases? Alternatively, why not wait until after the Massachussets School Building Authority (MSBA) decides whether to approve partial reimbursement for construction of a new school. The town may lose eligibility for state aid toward any spending the town authorizes prior to MSBA approval.
The SBC is asking for your ideas as they develop their plans in the next few months. The project will affect your pocketbook (especially when combined with the proposed plan to build a new high school). It will also also affect municipal services that will need funding in the coming years. And the project will have a big impact on Carlisle's children. Speak up and share your comments with members of the SBC (Christy Barbee, chair), the Finance Committee (David Model, chair), or the Selectmen. Your input will help insure that the town's needs will be fully understood and addressed.
© 2007 The