Friday, March 28, 2008
Bring ideas to A Liveable Carlisle Community forum on April 5
What do Carlisleans want? On Saturday, April 5, from 9 a.m. until noon, A Liveable Carlisle Community (LCC) will invite townspeople to join them at the Carlisle School’s Corey Dining Room to try to answer that question.
A private grass-roots organization, LCC’s charter is to facilitate “vitality and connectedness in the present Carlisle community and to plan for a future Carlisle community” that will likely include an aging population. The upcoming event will be a follow-up to two planning days held last spring at which many participants spoke of the need for a community center. However, according to Chair Marlene Fine, the intent of the April 5 meeting is to “bring people together, not advocate for any particular program.”
The formation of the LCC arose from Fine’s work on the last gubernatorial campaign, when her canvassing in town uncovered many senior citizens who felt their needs were not being addressed. As a 59-year-old with a son at CCHS and another in college, Fine had been out-of-touch with the “senior demographic,” though she admits, “I should be thinking ahead.” Fine is also a college professor teaching communications, and “very interested in how people engage with the political process.” She convened a group within the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) that included Kathy Coyle and Roy Green, and they soon decided the issues required town-wide, non-partisan input. The three then took the committee outside the DTC and recruited membership representing a broad swath of the community.
There are currently nine members of the steering committee, representing a range of ages and life-situations. Fine says their goal is to “think creatively about issues and find ways to create more flexible programs” as the town plans ahead. As examples, could new school buildings take into account the needs of constituencies outside the school? Could a senior center include activities for non-seniors? Other issues, including transportation and housing, need to be discussed with an eye toward changing demographics. Will seniors be able to reside comfortably in the Carlisle of the future?
Fine notes the LCC has been very busy over the past year "having lots of meetings with various groups in the community" including the Selectmen. "The reception has been really positive, and that makes us feel there is a real need for a coordinated effort here."
They have also been in touch with planning entities of other towns. Lexington provides a model for gathering substantial public input befor redisigning the town center. "The told us we need to have many, many more conversations to set proirities and build consensus," says Fine.
Past town priorities
Carlisle is a town that likes to plan, and over many decades, committees have been formed, surveys conducted, and planning days held, all in an attempt to arrive at consensus long-term twon goals. According to information provided by the LCC, a 1974 survey that netted a 50% response on the then 880 homes discovered taxes and growth to be the big issue in Carlisle, with 98% in agreement that the first priority should be retaining small-town character. Retention of farming, acquisition of conervation land, slower population growth and a reduced tax rate were the highest priorities with increased economic and racial diversity and solving the "nuisance insect problem" also highly rated.
Having a consensus may have spurred the town into action. Land purchases were targetted to preserve open space, and from 1973 to '78, over 450 acres of land, including Greenough, Banta-Davis, Conant, and the Davis Corridor were acquired by the town.
Not all problems lend themselves to solution (the town is no more racially diverse, and the mosquitoes are still here.) John Ballantine, a member of the LCC, has been involved in town planning for many years, and he admits it's easy to be pessimistic amidst the current atmosphere of financial belt-tightening. But he adds, "We need to get a dialog going and get a sense of where the town is." Once a direction is determined, "then we can figure out what the next steps are." ∆
© 2008 The