The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 31, 2008

Opinions

Question 4 is binding this time

The presidential election will be uppermost on people’s minds next Tuesday and passage of ballot Question 1 to repeal the state income tax may have major consequences, but Carlisle voters should also give consideration to Question 4. The final question on the ballot asks voters: “Shall licenses be granted in this town for the sale therein of wines and malt beverages (wines and beer, ale and all other malt beverages)?” If approved, Carlisle will officially cease to be a “dry” town. If the question fails, it cannot be brought before voters again until the next state election in two years.

When first printed, Tuesday’s ballot indicated that the question was non-binding, which is not true. The state reprinted the ballots at no cost to the town because the error was at the state level. However, the town did pay the postage to notify roughly 450 absentee voters that they had an option to recast their ballots using the correct version.

The lengthy process to shed the town’s dry status began in 2004, when voters were given two choices: residents voted against allowing the sale of hard liquor, but voted 4:3 to allow the sale of beer and wine. According to state law, a town must vote three times to shed its dry status. In 2006 voters reaffirmed their approval of selling beer and wine in town; this time by a margin of 2:1.

Since the first vote, the Board of Selectmen was allowed to issue temporary licenses for the sale of liquor, and in 2006 they granted a one-year off-premise liquor license to Ferns Country Store, contingent upon completion of the proposed store renovation. The license has been renewed each year, although the renovation project was delayed.

The state allows up to five off-premise liquor licenses for beer and wine sales in a town of this size. Once a license is approved by the Selectmen, it must also be approved by the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) before the Selectmen can issue the license. The Selectmen cannot arbitrarily deny or revoke a license and an applicant may appeal a local decision to the ABCC. According to the web site www.mass.gov/abcc/faqs122.htm, the most common reasons ABCC denies a license are because the town’s quota has been met, the applicant owes state taxes, or the applicant did not supply all requested information.

Those are some of the nuts and bolts of the process, but what about the vote? A random sample of Carlisle residents turned up a variety of responses. Some raise concerns about increased under-aged drinking, or mid-day imbibing by tradespeople leading to accidents, or easier access to beer and wine by any alcoholic residents who have lost their driver’s licenses. On the other hand, others point out that alcohol is ubiquitous, and it may not increase underage drinking because Carlisle youth are more likely to buy liquor out of town farther from parental gaze. Many appreciate the convenience of shopping in town, or want to support Ferns, the only store in the center. Whichever your choice, your vote is important and can make a difference in Carlisle’s future. ∆

A particularly Halloweeny year

Another All Hallows’ Eve, that night when the spirits of departed souls get to transport themselves abroad and cause general mayhem. Now evolved into a lighter celebration, Halloween spans the jolly silliness of costumes and candy to the annual spate of slasher movies. I shrink from those movies and from frightening stunts and costumes. After all, mayhem is hardly limited to one night’s mischief done by the spirits of those who have shuffled off this mortal coil. There is plenty out there in the real world that is truly frightening; why invent more shocks and chills?

In the late 17th century, which, believe it or not, I do not remember personally, some Salem settlers let their fear of events in the world boil over into a hysteria that cost the lives of 19 people and two dogs. In 1692, witches were terrorists, and the dogs were their familiars, sent by them into the community to do bodily and spiritual harm. Conditions were depressed and depressing in Massachusetts then. People scratched a living out of the rocky soil. Starvation always threatened, winters were bitter, and there was a leadership vacuum in the British government such that colonial laws governing real estate, speculation and trade were either non-existent or not enforced. People really thought that indefinable, evil strike-forces under satanic rule were at work in Massachusetts and they turned on each other in their fear.

Sound familiar? We are experiencing a presidential election so beset by fringe hysteria in the media and on the Internet that both candidates repeatedly have to ask people to calm down and be respectful. Leadership vacuums have resulted in such loss of economic control that panicky words like recession and depression crop up daily; we are staring down the barrel of a cold winter with expensive energy costs, and a “war on terror” is being waged scattershot against an enemy none of us understands. In another generation closer to our own, rising national hysteria prompted playwright Arthur Miller to write The Crucible, evoking the disastrous events of 1692 in Salem as a warning of what can happen when emotions get out of hand. Will cooler heads prevail today?

This seems like a particularly Halloweeny year, with plenty of shocks and chills on our doorsteps. Carlisle surely is a nice place to be in times like these. We have our faults (notably, in the last few years, a reprehensible penchant for vandalizing or stealing political signs), but I am glad to live in a community where Halloween means the Great Pumpkin Spectaclular, the Carlisle School Halloween Parade, Pumpkins on the Common, donating treats for trick-or-treating in the Town Center and neighborhood parties. I am glad to live where political discourse is passionate but not hysterical, where people work together through troubles and are invested in learning about each other and understanding the wider world. These people smile and chat in the Town Center or at the Transfer Station or while walking in our forests. We can wave to them while they hold political signs on election days whether we support their candidates or not, because they are our friends and neighbors. It comforts me that, generally speaking, Carlisleans like their Halloween mayhem with a spoonful of sugar and face real mayhem with generous dollops of thoughtfulness, understanding, and constructive collective action. I wish more people could be like the people who live here.

 

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