The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 18, 2008

Opinions

Wanted: summer jobs for student entrepreneurs

“The worst summer job market in 60 years,” the headlines blare, but this news seems all too familiar. Every spring, it seems, the media predict “the worst” ever for teenagers and college students looking for summer jobs. It’s bleak enough to make every jobless young adult on summer break sleep till noon and spend the rest of the day texting.

It’s obvious that the weak economy is far more harmful to inner-city teens than Carlisle kids, who statistically live in one of the Commonwealth’s three most affluent communities. But there’s more to working for minimum wage than just spending or saving that coveted paycheck. A summer job in business – restaurants or retail – often exposes students to a variety of experiences: diverse coworkers, unreasonable customer demands, Simon Legree-esque bosses and arbitrary rules to follow. Sometimes the summer job experience is enough to make the unwary student yearn to be back in Calculus class.

On the other hand, local students who scoop ice cream at Kimball’s or Great Brook Farm or work as camp counselors are less likely to confront the harsher realities of the marketplace. Working in a congenial atmosphere teaches valuable lessons about responsibility, courtesy and just plain getting along with people.

Experience in the job market promotes empathy for others, which might not always be gained within the boundaries of Carlisle. As a college student, one of my friends waitressed on the Cape for several summers. Thirty years later she still feels great empathy toward the wait staff at every type of restaurant, treats them respectfully and tips them generously.

There is another category of summer jobs, one that doesn’t involve the traditional fast-food and retail setting. It’s called entrepreneurship and the concept is thriving in Carlisle. Need proof? Just scan the Student Services ads on page 17. The Mosquito publishes these ads free of charge, and there are twice as many this summer as in years past. High school and college students are eager to weed your garden, walk your dog, deliver compost to your house, fix your computer and beautify your car. They will teach you or your children to play the guitar, improve your tennis game, speak French or swim.

A group of Concord-Carlisle High School drama students headed for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August has created a job bank to raise funds for the trip. They offer a wide variety of services, from baby sitting to helping out at parties and cleaning out garages. There is a ton of young energy, skill and talent in our town, asking for a chance to be useful, learn about being an employee and earn a little cash.

Does your lawn need mowing? Weeds need whacking? Isn’t it time to clean out the garage or that catch-all shed? Hire an enterprising Carlisle student – it’s a win-win situation. ∆

A paradox of the Commonwealth

On the one hand is the strong sense of community and communal pride of place celebrated at Old Home Day. On the other is a strong streak of Yankee independence that makes some feel that community isn’t relevant to what they can do on their own land.

Town boards have the task of balancing the values of community with the rights of the individual. The Rules and Regulations that deliberative boards adopt in support of local zoning bylaws or state statutes serve as more or less consistent guidelines through the years for decisions on what does – and does not – get built in Carlisle.

As a member of the Planning Board for many years (and an observer of other town boards), I have had ample opportunity to observe this process. And I have heard periodic complaints from participants and observers about the time from application to approval and the accompanying expense. The cry: “Simplify the regulations!” arises from an understandable, though simplistic, assumption that simpler regulations would mean better outcomes reached more quickly.

This call for reform is misguided. Whatever complexity exists in most town regulations is there to provide boards and their members reviewing development proposals flexibility in achieving the best balance, preserving that which we hold dear. Simplifying regulations might save some time, but it would necessarily do so by turning more aspects of the process into absolutes that may not result in the most desirable outcomes for all concerned. Perhaps you’d get quicker decisions, but the decision might more often be “no,” when the better outcome might be “yes, but….”

For an applicant, changing plans is time-consuming and costly, but it is part of the process by which town boards actually assist applicants in getting as close to what they want as is consistent with agreed-upon town goals. Pre-filing meetings with town staff can be useful, but unfortunately the devil is in the details. Proposals must be sufficiently detailed for board members to properly assess them. Then careful and diligent review is required.

Understanding what is at stake in any proposal – from a seemingly simple addition to a major subdivision – is rarely simple or cut-and-dried. Each hearing is a learning experience for applicants, abutters and board members alike, regardless of their expertise. From the inside, I am actually amazed at how efficiently we volunteer boards operate, without even considering our limited resources and the conflicting demands of our professional lives. And the staffs of various permitting boards work together behind the scenes to facilitate the process more than may be obvious at separate public hearings.

Once built, development is “forever.” Once a permit is granted, it is generally too late to fix something that wasn’t properly addressed beforehand. Permitting boards are far from perfect at anticipating all consequences and conditioning permits accordingly, but the fewer negative unintended consequences, the better.

A good hearing is a process with some give and take that allows each permitting board an opportunity to guide development in the best interest of the town. Some Planning Board Rules and Regulations have also allowed it to negotiate considerations such as cisterns and pathways that benefit citizens beyond the development.

It is fitting that zoning bylaws are adopted by two-thirds majority vote at Town Meeting and that Rules and Regulations to administer them are discussed at public hearings. It may be useful to keep this in mind if and when our individual plans bump up against one regulation or another. The time and expense involved in working out the details may be frustrating, but it is not wasted; it is an investment in the future of the entire community.

 

 

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