Remember to support your local businesses!
Karlen's thoughts about Current Issues in Concord and ideas for Moving Forward are below.
Dr. Ardis Moe, Karlen's sister, UCLA Medical Center
Our recent transition of power at the presidential level and the COVID virus have reminded us to not take our health or safety for granted. Our town is engaging in several public safety related reviews, including teaming up with the Town of Acton to form a regional 911 public dispatch system, hosting a Phase 1 COVID vaccination site for first responders from several towns, and encouraging mutual assistance agreements with police, fire, and emergency departments in neighboring communities. We have an excellent regional hospital, Emerson Hospital, which provides top-notch health services as do the other fine medical facilities in town. As a Select Board member, I will work with our first responders to protect Concord.
Underpinning the smooth operations of our town are the electricity, water, sewer, septic, recycling, roads, and information systems – key components which we often take for granted. Having the streets cleared of snow, regaining power after a tree fall, using broadband to complete schoolwork, drinking clean water, and keeping the rivers free of pollutants may be a given to most Concord citizens. Interwoven with these programs is our town’s continued effort to make the services available in an environmentally and financially sustainable manner. Infrastructure programs require diligence, support, and constant effort. On the Select Board, I will support these programs and strive to enhance them where possible.
As I mentioned earlier, a big task for the Select Board is to match Concord’s wants and needs with Concord’s Town, Schools, and Enterprise budgets. This coming year will be especially difficult, due to COVID restrictions and revenue shortfalls, to satisfy all desires of the Town and the schools. And there is no guarantee that the following year will be “normal.” As a Select Board member, I will analyze the numbers and work with the Town Manager’s Office, the Finance Department, the Finance Committee, and the community to help prioritize our needs, using an open and transparent approach, and within our budget frameworks.
Karlen interviews School Superintendent Dr. Laurie Hunter and School Committee member Court Booth about planning for the new middle school.
One of the primary reasons people move to Concord is to take advantage of our excellent school system. Later this year we may be voting to approve the proposed expenditure of about $100 million for the new Middle School, which I fully support. I also support the Middle School Building Committee’s work to create a 21st Century school. I hope that the school design includes a top-notch telecommunications component that will meet the needs, now and in the future, for the students, teachers, and administrators. If possible, I would like to see the Middle School’s Media Center be pre-wired and cable-ready to support a mini-TV studio, similar to the high school’s studio. My overall goal on the Select Board is to help our school system ensure quality education, meet the school district’s educational plan and team-teaching approach to learning, and make sure the Middle School construction stays on budget.
Karlen moderates panel on Community Preservation Act which includes Affordable Housing.
Housing is one of our biggest challenges. The average single family home value in Concord is over $1.1 million, a figure well outside the average family’s budget. Affordability for all income levels is critical to our town’s balanced growth, and our town must continue to strive to meet housing demands. Thoughtful planning is part of the process. Finding the right balance of diversity and density in Concord’s housing plan will be a continual challenge to the Select Board.
Old North Bridge at Minuteman National Park.
A large part of Concord’s character includes the many opportunities to walk, swim, kayak, birdwatch, and bike throughout town, enjoying the historic sights and beautiful views. Our school children and their parents take advantage of afterschool and summer recreational programs. Our town will play an integral role the 250th celebration of the Concord and Lexington battles at the Old North Bridge. While on the Select Board, I will work to preserve, conserve, and protect these valuable enhancements to our lives.
I’ll bet each one of us wishes that we had a time machine that could whirl us back to the pre-COVID times -- when we could celebrate the holidays with our families, work with our colleagues, travel to see new places and visit friends, and send our children to school. We will get there, eventually, if we work together. Also, be sure to support our local businesses, especially now.
One positive consequence of the COVID experience is that we discovered new ways, using the Internet and our local cable TV station, to gather together safely. We now participate virtually in programs that would otherwise be held in-person.
We can also improve our lives if we:
1) improve our broadband service,
2) improve our cable TV service, and
3) make Concord more sustainable.
As a telecom lawyer, I know that we need broadband, a high-class form of high-speed Internet access. Whether by fiber, coaxial cable, hybrid, copper, satellite, or wireless, broadband can provide Concord with fast access to the Internet and the Web. In my time on the Town’s PEG Access Advisory Committee, I have learned that not everyone in Town has sufficient broadband service at an affordable price. This must change.
I propose that our Town study its broadband deployment, speeds, and cost structures to ensure that all residents, businesses, and the Town have affordable, fast, and resilient broadband as part of its core information infrastructure. Where changes are needed, we should make the changes.
Furthermore, I propose that our Town investigate the feasibility of a new low-income broadband discount pilot program, operated through our Town’s Concord Light Broadband Internet service from the Concord Municipal Light Plant. My preliminary research shows that a two-year pilot program, designed for those in Concord who meet the qualifications for discount electricity service, is achievable. The pilot program may be expanded if it proves successful.
For more information on the Concord Broadband department in the Light Plant, please visit: https://concordma.gov/467/Broadband-Internet-Service.
Above: Karlen on the Town’s TV station, Minuteman Media Network Channel 8, and YouTube playlist
On April 21, 2024, our current cable TV license with Comcast will expire. This license allows us to watch Comcast TV programs on local channels 8, 9, and 99 (Concord’s Public, Education, and Government, or PEG channels), and all other Comcast TV channels. The PEG channels, televised by our Town-run local TV station, Minuteman Media Network, depend on this cable TV contract to offer our citizens the best, easiest way to watch and stay informed about our Town’s government meetings, educational programs, school events, public service announcements, and local sports, business happenings, and entertainment.
I propose that we jump-start the Concord/Comcast cable TV franchise license renewal process by the end of 2021. As a former Director with the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable, I saw towns’ negotiation positions weaken because they waited to navigate this complex 30-36 months process instead of starting early.
The renewal process includes guiding the Select Board, the PEG Access Advisory Committee (PAAC), and the Town through technical steps -- ascertaining whether Comcast has complied with the terms of the existing cable TV franchise agreement; assessing the community needs in the next ten years for cable TV services, equipment, and capital improvements; and developing a forward-looking game plan for Concord’s cable TV services. As part of this renewal negotiations, I recommend we consider a capital plan allocation to equip a mini-TV studio and workspace in the new Middle School’s Media Center. Renewing the cable franchise agreement and ensuring state-of-the-art upgrades will also benefit our Town’s broadband services as Comcast offers its broadband service to Concord subscribers over the same wires as its TV signals.
For more information on the Town’s PEG Access Advisory Committee, with links to the Concord/Comcast cable TV franchise agreement, the PAAC’s organizational charge, the MA Dept. of Telecom and Cable, the Minuteman Media Network, and more, please visit: https://concordma.gov/2012/PEG-Access-Advisory-Committee.
Above: Sugar maple in front of the Concord Free Public Library
The word “Sustainability” has several different meanings to me.
I am pleased with Concord’s enhanced environmentally sustainable efforts, from the new electric school buses, to greening our Light Plant and Town buildings, to recycling our paper and plastic. The Middle School Building Committee (MSBC) is thoroughly examining many sustainability components for the new Middle School that complement the school’s educational plan. The MSBC is looking at water and energy conservation, stormwater reuse, enhanced air filtration, and making the school solar-ready and Net Zero-ready. These components will all help reduce the school’s carbon footprint and water usage while generating future savings and improving our students’ health.
Financial stability means keeping within our budget and setting our spending expectations at an appropriate level. Concord offers a wealth of services to its residents and businesses; we must strive to keep Concord affordable and support our local businesses.
Trust in our government is necessary to make sure the other aspects of sustainability flourish. The past few months/years have shown that we need to be able to believe and rely on our government to provide services and to listen to our concerns. Openness and honesty in all our Town government dealings, no matter how large or small, is important to me. I intend to help foster transparency to improve trust in our local government.