Friday, March 19, 2010
Maintaining Carlisle’s special character
If Carlisle residents were offered the opportunity to receive a guaranteed, risk-free governmental match of 29% on their money, many people would figure out a way to take advantage of such a fantastic offer, even during these difficult economic times. Wouldn’t such an offer be just as attractive to the town of Carlisle too?
Townspeople will have an opportunity to express their opinion on precisely this issue at the Annual Town Meeting this May when the Community Preservation Act (CPA) will be discussed. Currently, through the CPA, Carlisle is able to receive a 29% match on the funds it raises via a 2% real estate tax surcharge.
Under the enlightened leadership of Chairman Tim Hult, the Board of Selectmen voted last week to authorize a non-binding, “sense of the community” referendum on CPA participation in Carlisle. The Selectmen should be commended for approving this compromise between those who wanted to have a binding referendum and those who wanted CPA funding to remain in place without any referendum.
At the Town Meeting and ballot box, citizens will have the opportunity to confirm their support for this important funding source. In many ways, it will be a referendum on all that CPA funding has done for our town to date and all that it could continue to do in helping to shape Carlisle’s special character for future generations.
Since CPA funding commenced in 2002, Carlisle has received over $1.9 million in state matching funds. That is $1.9 million that Carlisle would not have had otherwise and which has been used to underwrite many important initiatives that continue to distinguish our town. Among other projects, CPA funds have been used to refurbish the façade of our historic Gleason Public Library, create pathways throughout the town center, fund the War Memorial, preserve open space and develop affordable housing on the Benfield lands, improve town trails and generate a Council on Aging needs assessment.
Critics would be correct in arguing that much of Carlisle’s special character had already been created long before the existence of CPA funding. However, while once upon a time the state was in a financial position to create Great Brook Farm State Park and facilitate some other large projects in Carlisle, most people would acknowledge that the days of state support for such endeavors are long gone.
Given that our resources are limited and knowing that expensive school building projects loom on the horizon, it is doubtful that Carlisle would be likely to commit funds for anything other than schools and basic services in the foreseeable future unless it can take advantage of the impetus and 29% extra funding provided by the CPA program.
In short, we can’t afford to become complacent and hope that we will somehow retain our town’s desirable attributes for future generations. Instead, with gratitude for the foresight of previous town leaders, we must undertake an ongoing, proactive commitment to more than just Carlisle’s wonderful school system. With its 29% matching dollars, CPA funding provides one of the few attractive and available funding sources that would allow us to continue that important effort.
During these challenging times when our town needs to be frugal and resourceful, CPA funding offers one of the most compelling means by which we can continue to support those initiatives that have helped Carlisle become such a special community. ∆
[Note: Luby is on the board of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation.]
Lingua Franca 2010
A recent article in the New York Times bemoaned the coinage of new words like “celebutante” (to define Paris Hilton) and “prehab” (to describe the actor Charlie Sheen’s decision to enter drug rehabilitation as a “preventive measure”). All these buzzwords (like “buzzword,” “Obamaspeak,” “Bollywood”) that claim to become the next big thing seem fatiguing and often even rude, don’t they? And then there are the phrases: “the next big thing” (a predicted trend), 50 is “the new 30” (50-year-olds today are in as good shape as 30-year-olds used to be), that is so “five minutes ago” (out of date). Nothing D&M (deep and meaningful) here.
Fear not, frustrated logophiles. For those of us who rail against what we perceive as assaults on our language, the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (www.spellorg.com) may quell our outrage. The rest of us must take what comfort we can in the realization that this lexical manipulation has been happening since the language wrenched itself out of Old German, Saxon, and all those other etymological origins and became living, breathing English.
I used to soothe students resistant to Shakespeare’s language by exhorting them to give the bard a break. After all, if Shakespeare visited just about any modern home, just think of all the things he would not recognize and could not name. Light switches, telephones, televisions, iPods, computers, automobiles, not to mention appliances and smoke alarms. The overstimulation would probably kill him. But I run ahead of myself: the poor man would not even know what to make of indoor plumbing.
In his day, Shakespeare was the maker of buzzwords, the setter of fashionable (his word) and sometimes very tacky trends in speech. His audiences delighted in his innovation and wit, but you can bet they also chucked a lot of rotten vegetables at actors who uttered awkward lines like “O, there has been much throwing about of brains” (poor, stupid Guildenstern). However, Shakespeare added 1,500 to 2,000 words (estimates vary) to our common parlance, and also invested existing words with modern meanings. He gave us, in their present contexts, “manager,” “investment,” “advertising” and “retirement.” He added prefixes or suffixes to existing words and they became “marketable,” “eventful” and “remorseless.” He changed parts of speech around, and now we “elbow” and “humor” each other. And, like those ruffians who are trying to force “prehab” and “celebutante” into common usage, he combined existing words to create new meanings: “undervalue,” “cold-blooded,” “softhearted,” “lackluster” and “downstairs,” to name a few.
Always evolving and always influenced by invention and technology, our language has expanded exponentially in the last century alone, when we turned “handkerchief” into “Kleenex®” and finally (even though it still has a registered trademark), “kleenex.” “Aeroplane” became “aircraft” and “plane,” “electronic mail” became “email” (a noun and a verb), and so on and on. The key question is not whether the new words and phrases are annoying, but which of them will stick and become part of our vernacular. New verbs like “to text” (to describe the act of punching keys to send a message by cell phone) may have staying power, but we have to hope that the tacky “celebutantes” and their like will go the way of the “bodkin” and the so-500-years-ago “gadzooks!”
© 2010 The