Friday, October 22, 2010
Time to study the ballot choices
The November 2 State Election is less than two weeks away and it is time to learn about the candidates and the issues. Carlisle voters will find 11 contested positions and four questions on the ballot. There is information about them available both online and in the Mosquito.
Statements from State Representative candidates Cory Atkins and K.C. Winslow and State Senator candidates Susan Fargo and Sandi Martinez begin on page 5. They have described their qualifications and shared their views on several legislative issues in response to questions posed by the Mosquito. In addition, candidate statements were printed last week for those running for the position of U. S. Representative from the Fifth Massachusetts District: Niki Tsongas, Jon Golnik, Dale Brown and Bob Clark.
In addition, the Concord-Carlisle League of Women Voters held candidate forums this past week. The forums are expected to be rebroadcast on CCTV. Check www.concordtv.org for listings.
The first three questions on the ballot are: to repeal the state sales tax on alcohol beverages and alcohol; to repeal Chapter 40B; and to reduce the state sales and use tax rates to 3%. Question 4 is a non-binding referendum on single-payer health insurance (see letter, page 21).
How will the outcome of the ballot questions affect Carlisle? Reducing state revenues via Questions 1 and 3 may lead to reductions in state aid to schools and municipalities. In most respects Carlisle is less vulnerable than many municipalities, since state aid contributes a relatively small percentage of the budget. However, income from the state sales tax is used by the Massachusetts School Building Authority to fund school projects. While funds are already set aside for the Carlisle School renovation project, a cut in the sales tax might lower state assistance for the proposed renovation of the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School.
On page 1, Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky has outlined reasons to keep 40B, while Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Chair Ed Rolfe has provided arguments in favor of repealing 40B.
Passage of Question 2 (the repeal of 40B) may have a significant impact on the town’s plans to build affordable senior housing on the Benfield Land. If passed, it will affect projects which do not yet have a building permit by January 1. The Benfield project received a comprehensive permit from the ZBA in July. However, according to Lehotsky, the developer will not be ready to apply for a building permit for at least four or five months, depending on whether they can secure grant funding this winter.
If 40B is repealed the Benfield project could still move forward by means of enlarging Zoning District M, as long as Town Meeting continues to support affordable housing. The purpose of Residence District M, created for Carlisle Village Court, is to provide multi-dwelling housing for the elderly.
Socialism? Works for me!
As a former libertarian/conservative, elections in Massachusetts once filled me with dread. But those days are over, because I have learned to stop worrying and love socialism.
It is not necessary to change your personality to switch political philosophies – oh no! I am still the same man I was when I embraced the political right: I still love money and I still have contempt for the little guy. Indeed, my dream is to be like the fellow on the Monopoly money – complete with handlebar mustache and monocle! It’s just that I realized that I can do far better for my wallet by shifting left.
For example, take property values. The best way to increase the price of our homes is to artificially limit the supply of new houses. With two-acre zoning, stretch-building codes, curb cut-out permit fees, and fastidious wetlands-protection enforcement, Carlisle slowly but surely raises the barrier to entry.
Even more powerful than regulation is taxation. By increasing local government spending, we invite the tax increases that squeeze the left-hand side of the economic bell curve. Indeed, we’re moving toward spending around an eighth of a billion dollars on repairs for our schools. And bear in mind, initial estimates are usually low. The original cost estimate for renovations to Newton North High School was $39 million, but the final cost was $197.5 million. With taxes like ours, all those working stiffs commuting from New Hampshire can keep on driving!
I’ve also embraced the wisdom of concentrating power at the federal level. Why has the bridge on Westford Road in Concord gone unfixed for months? Because we are waiting for a FEMA grant! Perfect! I’ve never had so few cars drive by my house. If only we could get the U.N. involved! The turn of events is stark: In 2008, there was discord with the Bridge to Nowhere, but now we’re going nowhere with our bridge to Concord.
It’s the Chivas Regal effect – people equate quality with price and exclusivity. With each housing-cost increase, Carlisle will become more unobtainable and desirable, and we’ll see more bond traders and real-estate tycoons move in. Will the last tradesman to leave Carlisle please turn off the light? Indeed, when I survey the table at my regular poker game, I see a collective net worth greater than the GDP of Moldova.
Will this high cost of living really drive some people away? You bet! It is estimated that after the 2010 U.S. Census ends, Massachusetts and New Jersey will lose one electoral vote each, and New York will lose two. Georgia and South Carolina will get one each, and Texas gets four. And stay out!
Our neighbor to the north, Chelmsford, is doing things a bit differently. After 24 years and $165 million dollars, they have built a sewer system with 190 miles of pipe – facilitating inclusiveness and easing the construction of new homes for young families. Opportunity and diversity . . . Silly Chelmsford!
Once I realized that we can leverage the state to turn Carlisle into our own private enclave by fiat, the decision to move left was simple. Some Carlisleans agonize about whether to send their kids to private schools, but let’s face it: the Carlisle School is a de facto private school already, as the barriers to entry are already insurmountable for most. Indeed, enrollment at the Carlisle School has dropped from 815 in 2005 to 671 this year. All that’s left is to build a moat. I propose we raise taxes to do it! ∆
© 2010 The