Local candidates share their perspectives at LWV Forum

by Priscilla Stevens

 

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Christine Stevens (right) is competing against incumbent Steve Golson for a seat on the Board of Trustees of Gleason Library. They spoke at the LWV Candidates’ Forum on May 18. (Photo by Parissa Khayami)

 

Carlisle has a number of contested races in this election season. On Sunday afternoon, the League of Women Voters (LWV) Candidates Forum introduced the candidates and their priorities and served to distinguish the viewpoints of those running for office this June. 

Concord-Carlisle LWV member Anne Rarich moderated the two-hour event, held in the Clark Room at Town Hall. Candidates for each board in turn joined her at the conference table to answer questions and share information about the town boards to which they aspire. 

Board of Assessors

David Boardman, an incumbent who is running unopposed for a three-year term on the Board of Assessors, was the first candidate seated at the conference table. Asked about the board’s major concern, he did not hesitate to say that he felt that because residents are paying for the two new schools here and in Concord, taxes will be a major part of what the Assessors will be concerned about. 

Audience member Launa Zimmaro asked about the process and progress of posting assessment materials on the town website, and Boardman said that the Assessors have not yet posted information there, because there is no money in their budget to fund a manager for such postings.

Board of Health

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The three candidates running for two open positions on the Board of Selectmen appeared at the LWV Candidates’ Forum at Town Hall on May 18. Shown are (left to right) Bill Risso, Kate Reid and Nathan Brown. (Photo by Parissa Khayam)

The Board of Health (BOH) has two open positions. Lee Storrs, who is running for re-election to a second three-year term, spoke first, summarizing current operations of the board. Storrs answered a question about being pro-active in maintaining a healthy community, by emphasizing caring for water resources, and strengthening regulations pertaining to water quality. 

Alan Lewis is running to fill the final two years of Cathy Galligan’s term on the BOH. Lewis said that to him, being pro-active means educating the public about health concerns and about what the opportunities are to create a healthier community. He answered a question about disaster preparedness by mentioning the generator at the school, and said that Carlisle does have a good system for monitoring people at risk. He referred to a “rudimentary plan with increasing capability” in town and in the region to deal with communications and emergency issues. Storrs noted that the town has a core group of first responders, and Lewis mentioned the medical reserve corps and ham radio operators. Both agreed that the BOH could follow up with more public education on emergency preparedness. 

First contested race represented: Gleason Library Trustee

The first contested race to be represented at the forum was that for a single position on the Board of Trustees of Gleason Library. The two candidates are Steve Golson and Christine Stevens. Golson has been a Trustee for six years. Stevens moved here a year ago and said that she wants to get involved and represent the point of view of families with children in town. 

Stevens emphasized a need for more activities for pre-school and newborns and their families, but she praised the library for covering many other demographics. Golson agreed, but added that the people in between older citizens and young children could be better addressed, and that the library is struggling with getting teens into the library. Stevens said that new moms feel very isolated, and that catering to their socialization needs would be a priority for her. She also mentioned the need for easier and better access to tech advice, citing a library in California that has “what amounts to a genius desk” for tech information that could be a model for Gleason. 

Energy Task Force member Debbie Bentley said that coordination between the Energy Task Force and the library is wanting, and wanted to know why, for example, the Task Force’s compact flourescent light bulb (CFL) grant “is about to be destroyed” by the interior space plan. Bentley was referring to the grant that the Energy Task Force acquired that has replaced all the light bulbs in the library with CFLs. She was asking if this grant would be wasted if the interior spaces in the library were rearranged. Golson clarified that the interior space plan will not be designed to “throw out the lighting.” The library plans to retain the CFLs and make use of its current lighting fixtures, even if they have to be moved to accommodate space needs. Golson talked about redesigning traffic patterns, and moving services and departments around to better accommodate who is using the library, as well as when and how they are using it. 

Asked about staffing challenges, Stevens said that Carlisle’s relative isolation and size might be a challenge in terms of attracting quality people. Golson said that the staff is the library’s best resource, and that the key thing the Trustees do is to support the director, who in turn, supports the staff. He said that the library is highly regarded because of the quality of that staff, and that it is a library that attracts good job candidates.

Competing BOS candidates field hard questions, show differences

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LWV Forum moderator Anne Rarich poses questions to the four candidates running for two seats on the Carlisle School Committee. Shown are (left to right) Rarich, David Model, Skip Campbell, Christine Lear and Shannon May Lavery.
(Photo by Parissa Khayami)

Board of Selectmen (BOS) candidates Nathan Brown, Bill Risso and Katherine (Kate) Reid took the table next. Brown currently chairs the board. Risso is running for a three-year term after serving a one-year term. There are two three-year positions open on the board. 

Asked about how to garner better citizen involvement in town government, Brown talked about better communication through the town website and about the technology working group that is redesigning it. Reid spoke to the master planning process as a “wonderful way to get the whole community involved.” Brown gave the example of the Energy Task Force, which, he said, “has had great communication with the Selectmen,” and he asserted that the BOS is “paying close attention to their recommendations.” 

Zimmaro asked, “Would having a part-time energy manager be of value and would this person’s salary be offset by the savings that that person would be able to generate?” Risso gave the history that Carlisle did have such a person in the past, in a two-year position, but that the savings were used for other projects that the town needed. He said that the Selectmen have to prioritize any recommendations and savings according to the needs of the whole town, and felt that this has been done more effectively “in house” with the Energy Task Force and town staffers. 

Reid questioned whether it would be “false economy” not to bring in someone to help the town manage energy use. Brown answered that at the time the task force was trying to keep the two-year position open, he struggled with the reality that the tax bill would have to increase to fund it, bringing the two incumbent Selectmen into agreement on this issue. 

Affordable housing

BOS members automatically also serve on the Carlisle Affordable Housing Trust. Brown said, “It’s incredibly important to try to keep Carlisle affordable.” He supports the development of affordable housing, but does not want to “chase the 40B” threat. He said, “There will always be periods of time when we will be at risk for 40B. We need to accept that, but also accept the moral obligation to build affordable housing, and push forward with a plan to do it.” 

Reid mentioned that she dealt with the 40B problem when she served on the Planning Board in Concord. She said that she thinks 40B is a terrible law, and asserted that she would work to get it changed at the state level. “Having said that,” she added, “I am a proponent of affordable housing.” 

Risso also supports affordable housing and also thinks it is unrealistic to “chase 40B,” saying that it would cost the town more than it can afford. He said, “The housing production plan should be looked at hard, and coordinated with the master plan. We need to look at an affordable housing plan that meets our needs, for example, for first responders who need to have quick response time, and need to be able to live here.” Like Reid, Risso supports trying to repeal 40B for towns that do not have public water and sewer systems. 

Moderator Rarich asked whether the candidates believe that Carlisle should have a Housing Coordinator. Risso replied, “Yes and no. We need the services of a Housing Coordinator, but not a full time one. We need to start looking at things more as we would a business.” Reid said yes, that this is a needed position, and Brown favored sharing the position regionally. 

Highland Building

Asked about what to do with the Highland Building, Reid said, “We should consider picking it up and moving it. Put it in a place where we can have parking, and use it. The problem with it is not the building; it’s the parking.” 

Brown provided institutional memory: “I was a part of Highland II,” he said, “the committee to stabilize the building. It really does come down to the parking. I had hoped that we would be able to use it for a community housing, RecCom and perhaps have the Historical Society on the top floor. The cost is significant because it needs to be made accessible.” 

Risso’s position was, “Near-term, we could start using it for storage for records. In the future, ADA is an issue, and about the parking, the real issue is the use for that building that is compatible with the School Committee. Moving it could be very expensive.” 

Four candidates vie for two spots on the School Committee

The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) has two positions open, each a three-year term. There are four candidates, all of whom were present: Skip Campbell, David Model, Shannon May Lavery and Christine Lear. 

Model has served the town, first on the Finance Committee and later on the CSC. The most important issue for the School Committee, he said, is “to have a vision to raise our children to be committed world citizens who are raised with social and emotional well-being.” Campbell has children who need a variety of special support, which he said Carlisle gives to them, and he wants to give back. Christine Lear has volunteered on the Carlisle Education Fund, on the committee that spearheaded the replacement of the Spalding Building, in her child’s classrooms, with the PTO and as the Carlisle representative on the school committee for Minuteman Regional High School. Lavery has a financial background and has worked in education.

The candidates were asked to discuss the relationship between the school administration and the CSC. Model said, “The biggest thing for us is to be sure we find good leaders for the school, ones with vision and leadership.” Campbell believes that the CSC “should be reviewing the personnel and being sure that they are doing their jobs, supporting the excellent administration that is in place, being sure they are being reviewed appropriately and finding good people who find the school attractive.” 

Lear said that standards of expectation are “amazing, very high. The biggest challenge is to get that information out to the community in a way that involves the rest of the community in [the committee’s] day-to-day efforts, and reach out into the community so that decisions are not a shock.” Lavery agreed, saying that the community needs better communication from the school and CSC. “The School Committee,” she added, “should have some educational background and expertise, and a finger on the pulse of what works, so that when you choose someone, you know what best practices are and you can find someone with the appropriate vision.” 

Asked about particular challenges in education today, Lavery said that one challenge is to teach children how to use social media and technology. Lear said, “We do a great job with opposite ends of the spectrum, those well-performing students and those with special needs, but children smack dab in the middle could use some bolstering and attention.” 

Campbell reminded the audience that the CSC “is not just responsible to parents of school age children, but to the whole town because the school budget is two-thirds of the town budget. We need to balance the excellence of the school with the fiscal needs of the town.”

Model agreed that communication needs improvement. “Recent events with social media,” he said, indicate that “we still have a lot of work to do. It’s more than grades or extra-curricular activities; we need to educate our kids in the larger sense.” He agreed with Lear about “the kids in the middle,” and, agreeing also with Campbell, commented that, “Not managing SPED is the one thing that can kill the budget. We can’t lose sight of any of these issues.” 

Asked about the declining population of the school, Model replied, “I expect that all those younger people exploding into the Boston area housing market now will, not so very long from now, be moving out here.” Campbell agreed.  

Lear said that the administration has been effective at coping with sliding population rates by hiring teachers who “are not pigeon-holed into one grade, and they work in teams.” Lavery’s view was that, “Declining enrollment is important. We are in competition with some other towns: Wellesley, Sudbury, Lincoln, Concord, Acton-Boxborough. We need to keep standards high, to a near private school level, and we need to be aware of what others are doing.”

Planning Board

The Planning Board has no contested positions: there are two three-year terms and a one-year term open. Madeleine Blake and Peter Gambino are running for the three-year terms, and Jonathan Stevens is running unopposed for the one-year term. Blake and Stevens were in attendance at the forum. Blake is a securities attorney who has volunteered mainly around the schools as her children passed through them. Stevens has been on the Planning Board for six years. He sees the biggest news for Carlisle as the master plan and is excited to be involved in that. 

Asked about defining the role of the Planning Board in town, Stevens said that the board makes sure that we follow the regulations that “protect everyone’s rights,” and tries to preserve the character of the town. Blake agreed and added that the second prong is the master plan. Stevens reported that the Master Planning Steering Committee will meet starting at the end of May and will report to the Planning Board in October. 

From the audience, Bentley wanted to know the candidates’ attitude about sustainability in terms of the master plan. Blake said she is in favor of it, but that “it needs to be balanced with what is in regulation right now.” Stevens replied, “The biggest issue for the town is to preserve and maintain our sustainability over the next 15 years. We have to be aware of our resources, and our resources are limited.” 

Asked aboutzoning bylaw changes or other resources that could attract young people or take care of older people, Stevens cited the Town Meeting vote on accessory apartments. This, he said, “really opened up this issue of keeping people in town, with elders staying in their homes and renting out apartments, or, conversely, living in the apartments and renting out the big house. It may also serve to attract young people into town. This is a start, but guess what? We have the ability to expand it.” Blake agreed and added, “This is a really important issue. Another question is, can we find a way to keep smaller homes and renovate instead of tearing them down and building huge houses?” 

Next step for Carlisle citizens

Carlisle League member Barbara Lewis reminded voters that the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, June 13. 

[Ed note: Priscilla Stevens is a member of the Gleason Library Trustees and is married to Jonathan Stevens, a Planning Board member running unopposed for re-election. Neither is related to Gleason Trustee candidate Christine Stevens.] ∆