The Salem Evening News
Wednesday, January 3, 2001
Replace the Christmas music with Ennio Morricone's "Film
Music." It's time to make the list of "the good, the bad and the ugly" of Massachusetts politics in the past year.
In order to have a "good" category, I shall use the broad
dictionary definition of politics as "the science of government" and include the "best" thing about the
The Massachusetts state constitution which gives us the
right of initiative petition, so that citizens were able to vote themselves an income tax rollback and validate the
charitable deduction already passed by the Legislature earlier in the year. Also good: the support for
this petition from Governor Cellucci and several legislators.
Bad: The politician part of the same November ballot, which
gave very few legislative challengers a chance to do a better job than the incumbents featured in the next item.
Ugly: The Massachusetts House passing a $22 billion state
budget during an all-night "Animal House" session, and the members giving themselves a back-door pay-raise through their
unaudited "expense" budgets.
Good: "City and Town," the excellent monthly newsletter of
the Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services. Its December issue featured a good thing that happened this
year: the modifications to the school building assistance (SBA) program that now gives
reimbursement for cost-effective alternatives to construction, and points for maintenance.
Although too late for those communities whose educational
establishments neglected maintenance en route to getting state funding for new buildings, the SBA modifications
should encourage more responsible management in the future.
Good: The decision by legislators to allow more charter
schools, a release from the teachers' union monopoly of education for children whose parents cannot afford private
schools. Also, the determination of the Cellucci/Swift administration and, so far, the legislative
leadership, to continue with MCAS instead of letting kids graduate without
reaching certain standards.
Ugly: The Mass. Teachers Association TV ads against MCAS
which imply that students are being tortured by a requirement that they learn certain facts before being allowed to
Bad: The Legislature's Teacher Retirement bill that will
exacerbate the teacher shortage over the next few years; the bipartisan override of Governor Cellucci's veto of this bill.
Good: The ongoing commitment to welfare reform, and the
beginning of reform in the special education program.
Good: New, long-overdue "Turning-22" program for mentally
retarded adults. Unlike welfare and special ed, this is a human service program that can't be abused in a way that
creates long-term greater problems. Elderly parents of mentally retarded adults will begin to
receive services and a chance for community-based placements.
Bad: The Legislature and Governor's willingness to take
private property for the benefit of the Red Sox management.
Good: The Boston City Council's resistance to this taking.
Good: Andrew Natsios' closing of the credibility gap between
the Big Dig management and the Feds, as well as the citizens of Massachusetts who were lied to for over a decade about
the true cost of the enormous public works project.
Bad: The increases in drivers' license fees to help pay for
the pre-Natsios cost overruns.
Bad: Radical anti-smoking regulations which hurt local
restaurants and, at their most ridiculous, let zealots charge a veteran with the crime of letting someone smoke at the
Marblehead VFW. (The trial is pending.)
Ugly: The youth conference which, when it received state
funding, was intended to encourage a safe environment for gay youth in commonwealth schools; instead it was a
seminar on the joys of gay sex for very young teenagers. The three state
employees who were part of this promotion of homosexual activity, which can be life-threatening to careless
young men, were eventually dismissed.
Ugly: The judicial decision to forbid dissemination of the
tape of that gay sex-ed lecture which was made by two outraged Newton parents, who so far have each run up $20,000 in
legal bills to defend themselves in a civil lawsuit. Quite a few other judicial decisions,
including the light sentence for a young man who sliced his former girlfriend's throat and left
her to die.
Bad: Lawsuits and legislation that blame guns and tobacco
for decisions made by bad or foolish adults.
Ugly: A year in which personal responsibility, property
rights, children and justice were under assault, as usual, in Massachusetts politics.
Good: A political system that always lets us hope for
improvement in the New Year.