It's amazing that the series finale of "The Sopranos"
could have been so poorly conceived, so insulting to its viewers,
without any government involvement at all.
Usually when I am yelling insults at the TV set, some politician is
speaking. Like last week, when Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., was
complaining that none of the immigration "reform" bill opponents had a
better plan - ignoring, as do all proponents, the urgings and proposed
amendments to "just enforce existing immigration laws" or, "first,
secure the borders!"
Sometimes I am hissing at special-interest groups, like the striking
Quincy teachers union, and wondering why teachers who are violating the
law against strikes by public employees aren't in jail. Poor babies,
they don't want to pay more than 10 percent of their health-insurance
premiums. My better plan in this case: Fire them, and see how they like
private-sector health insurance.
Yes, usually it's the public sector that is insulting our intelligence
and breaking its real or implied commitments.
Take the story in last week's Boston Herald, in which I am quoted saying
that I don't mind the MBTA being forced to build railroad crossings for
critters -- including a mama duck and her ducklings -- to get safely
across the tracks. Though estimated to cost $1.15 million, the crossings
were promised by the T to the state as a condition for building the new
Greenbush Line through federally-protected wetlands. If the pledge had
not been made, the line may have not have been built, saving taxpayers
over $200 million.
Enough already with government entities making and breaking manipulative
promises of convenience. Though bravo to the state Division of Fisheries
and Wildlife, for insisting that the crossings now be built.
Speaking of environmental concerns: Many citizens supported the passage
of the state Community Preservation Act (CPA) in 2000, and many others
have voted for a local CPA with its property tax increase, in order to,
we all were told, achieve "open space/recreation, historic preservation,
and affordable housing."
I'm for open space and once voted for a specific Prop 2½ debt exclusion
so that Marblehead could buy a particular piece of land. I figured that,
if sold to a developer, the usual unaffordable (to people like me, at
least) McMansions would be built. And their owners, who apparently can
afford them, would then be able to afford higher taxes and might vote
for permanent Prop 2½ overrides, which make all our housing less
Many taxpayers struggle with property taxes that, while funding teacher
pay raises and superior benefits, cut our own after-tax incomes.
So I have never supported the CPA, which also raises property taxes, but
gives the money to unelected local "community preservationists" to
propose how it will be spent.
Get this: In some places, the open space/recreation money is being
offered for replacing grass and woodland with artificial turf!
According to an opinion piece in the May 14 issue of Lawyer's Weekly by
Newton attorney Guive Merfendereski, some activists are fighting back
and lawsuits are pending, one against a Newton proposal for "a project
that would convert five acres of existing natural grass playing fields
in a wetland area into artificial turf made of plastic and toxic
granulates of used tires." Fortunately, "an enlightened group of
aldermen decide to hold back on CPA appropriation."
My favorite is this one: "In Concord, a group of citizens has organized
to question the proposed demolition of acres of the historic Walden
Woods for artificial turf fields."
Historic! Walden Woods! Can you hear the usually mild-mannered Henry
David Thoreau yelling from his grave?
Fortunately the original CPA legislation does not allow this
interpretation of "open space/recreation" and the lawsuits are expected
to be won.
But not to worry, all you CPA supporters, the Legislature's Committee on
Community Development and Small Business has taken over the issue. It
held a hearing this week on Senate Bill 137, filed by Senate Revenue
chairman Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, that would change the original CPA
legislation to allow Walden Pond to be paved over for an athletic field
if the Concord CPA Commission likes the idea.
You will be happy to know, however, that under the new bill,
"'Recreational use' ... shall not include horse or dog racing or the use
of land for a stadium, gymnasium or similar structure." Probably can't
build a gambling casino there either, though some could reasonably argue
that playing the slots is recreation for seniors who can no longer play
soccer or, for that matter, wander Walden Woods.
My first recreational trip after I moved to Massachusetts in 1971 was to
Walden Pond, then to visit Thoreau's grave. I was both horrified and
amused a few years later when taxpayer dollars were spent to build a
replica of his cabin at the Walden Pond parking lot (for tourists'
convenience -- the actual site requires a walk into the actual woods).
Henry didn't like government much, or taxes spent on things of which he
To paraphrase Journey [make
Tony's juke box selection here], "Some will win, some will lose, some were
born to sing the blues; but this column never ends, it goes on, and on,
and on . . ." Black-out!
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens
for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and
Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and
Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the
Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.