The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 25, 2009

Opinions

Special Town Meeting: short and sweet

Be sure to save the evening of Monday, October 5 to attend Special Town Meeting in the Corey Auditorium, starting at 7 p.m. If the required quorum of 150 is reached promptly, it should be one of the shortest Town Meetings on record – and a rare chance to lower taxes.

After voting on the two-Article Warrant, Town Moderator Wayne Davis will end the official meeting and turn the microphone over to the Carlisle School Building Committee (SBC), who will provide an update on plans for the school building project. (See related article on page 1.) Currently in the schematic design phase, the SBC plans to request construction funding next spring.

A copy of the Warrant was printed on page 5 of last week’s Mosquito and is also available at the town’s web site: www.carlislema.gov. The Warrant Articles both relate to monetary transfers needed as the result of changes in state payments for the Quinn Bill and the Grant (formerly known as Link) School Building.

Quinn

Earlier this year the state legislature voted to reduce state funding of the Quinn Bill program that rewards police officers who complete qualifying college coursework. Previously the town and the state each shouldered half the costs. May Town Meeting appropriated the full Quinn funding in anticipation of state reimbursement, which was later cut. Under the terms of the Carlisle Police contract, the town will not make up for the lost state aid. As a result, the town’s budget appropriation is too large, by the amount of the lost state aid, roughly $49,000.

Residents at a Special Town Meeting will be asked to redirect $16,000 of that excess appropriation to use for unexpected expenses relating to Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie’s retirement and the search for her replacement. At her departure at the end of September, McKenzie will be due a one-time payment that includes items such as unused sick and vacation time. In addition, she will be paid to return for Town Meeting on October 5 and to provide a week of training for her replacement, Tim Goddard, who will start work on October 13. The $33,000 remainder of the Quinn adjustment will not be used and taxes for FY10 will be reduced accordingly.

School Building reimbursement

Carlisle used long-term bonding to finance the Grant School Building construction in the 1990s, and since then has made yearly principal and interest payments, partly offset by annual reimbursements from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). However, this year after Carlisle’s annual budget was passed, the state combined the remaining Grant project aid into one lump-sum payment. Special Town Meeting will be asked to vote the necessary adjustments to the FY10 budget. In the end, the lump-sum payment will help the town lower the long-term debt and save on interest payments.

Your help is needed on October 5 – Town Meeting needs a quorum in order to lower the tax rate. The details of the two Articles may be dry, but Board of Selectmen Chair Tim Hult predicts the presentation will be mercifully brief and the meeting should be over within a few minutes. Once that civic duty is dispatched, the reward will be a chance to ask questions and learn more about the plans to upgrade the Carlisle School facilities. This might be a good opportunity for parents to bring along students interested in learning about either Town Meeting or the school building project. ∆

Politics on Parade

In her midsummer editorial (July 3rd issue, “What about a 4th of July Celebration in Carlisle?”) Marilyn Harte wrote that she was willing to accept the banishment of political floats from the Old Home Day parade – apparently to protect the organizers’ non-profit status – if it meant the event could be restored to its traditional spot on the calendar.

I’m not sure how offering equal opportunity to the local political organizations to make floats and march beside them would cause the Old Home Day Association to lose its tax exemption. Perhaps it just feels safer to avoid the passion that politics and disagreements about politics can provoke. I wonder if there’s a connection between our lack of comfort with a bit of politics parading through the town center… on Independence Day no less, and the downward trend of our national political discourse.

Many times I’ve heard seasoned politicians recount how their parents regularly talked politics around the dinner table. These early lessons in civics were formative. Nowadays if parents talk politics in front of their kids, they are more likely to dismiss politics as an inherently bad thing than to engage in a reasoned exploration of the issues.

Mastering the art of a good political argument – keeping enough of an open mind to truly listen to the other side in an attempt to understand why they believe as they do before trying to effectively present one’s own beliefs – is not easy. It requires a fundamental respect for information, for some give and take about its validity, and for thinking that runs deeper than a sound bite. And if both sides bring that to the table, regardless of the disagreements, they can still respect each other’s opinions, and each other.

But when people don’t know what they are talking about – they just Know What They Believe – they tend to shout at each other. And that makes it hard to listen. Unfortunately that’s the lesson learned from the demagoguery and demonization of today’s political discourse – where higher ratings for pundits are more important than assisting anyone in attaining a deeper understanding of the issues. Too many Americans don’t know any other way to “do” politics than to parrot angry slogans.

Allowing our children to watch a few political floats and some politicians marching on Old Home Day isn’t going to solve this problem. But at least they’d learn that politics isn’t something dirty, that it belongs out in the open, and is a natural part of a community’s celebration of its history. And maybe it would spark the beginnings of a political education: “Mommy, why do Democratic buttons have a donkey and Republican ones an elephant? How does one decide to be one or the other? Which are we? Why?”

I understand there are other reasons Old Home Day has been moved. Tradition ain’t what it used to be. People are less likely to stay home on the 4th of July, even for an old tradition like Old Home Day. As Marilyn noted in her editorial, it’s still lots of fun, from dunking booth to cake walk, and we appreciate the hard work of those who make it happen. But I agree with her that something has been lost in transition.

 

 

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