First day of summer finds life in Bay State crazy as
© by Barbara Anderson
The Salem News
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
For some reason that I have never understood, the
very first day of summer is traditionally known as "Midsummer's Day,"
even though the middle of summer is really in August. If you count from
solstice to solstice, today is actually Midyear's Day.
Nevertheless, it's always been one of my favorite holidays, resonating
with romance and magic.
In June 1970, I wandered the woods outside Athens, imagining I'd find
Shakespeare's Puck cavorting with Lysander and Hermia. Years later, I
visited Bergen, Norway, the setting for "Song of Norway's" lovely duet,
in which composer Edvard Grieg and his beloved Nina pledged to wed on
Midsummer's Eve. Another Norwegian composer, Hugo Alfven, delights with
his lively "Midsommarvaka," celebrating midsummer's madness. Of course
there are many kinds of madness, some not quite delightful.
Except for Wiccans, who observe the summer solstice with celebration of
the season's abundance, the closest we come to a holiday here is the
notorious Bunker Hill Day, which applies only to those who work in
Suffolk County, home of the Statehouse.
I'd forgotten about this paid politicians' holiday until I tried to call
legislators Monday about the Revenue Committee hearing on a Proposition
2½ bill filed by Citizens for Limited Taxation and several Republican
senators. Senate 1702 would allow only one override attempt a year; if
it failed, proponents couldn't come back and annoy the voters until at
least 12 months later.
Another provision, filed by Rep. Paul Casey, D-Winchester, would give
every community's voters the right to collect signatures and place a
Prop 2½ "underride" on their local ballot to cut property taxes. Right
now only the cities and a few towns that have an initiative provision in
their charters can do this.
This would be a handy law to have available just in case Gov. Patrick's
promised "property tax relief" never materializes. Disappointed voters
could enact their own relief, town by town.
Of course, Patrick might not be pleased with this version. He made it
clear during the marriage amendment battle that he isn't a big fan of
voters deciding issues. We were told that a gay marriage ballot campaign
would be too divisive and everyone would benefit if the issue just
disappeared from the public arena.
Maybe so; but why then, when they won, did gay activists announce their
new campaign to change the Massachusetts law that doesn't allow gay
couples from other states to get married here? Just a little midsummer's
madness, I guess. Here's more:
President Bush and Sen. Kennedy are pushing their immigration bill
again this week. John McCain insists that doing nothing is "de facto
amnesty." Yes, but why is our choice between doing nothing and doing the
wrong thing? Can't we just do the right thing and pass real reforms?
So the incoming Salem school superintendent just signed a
$133,000-a-year contract that includes a 40-day sick leave buyback when
he retires. This particularly ridiculous public sector perk is another
reason to hate the property tax. Why can't public employees just be
grateful for good health?
But my co-worker, Chip Faulkner of Wrentham, can top that story. The
principal of the King Philip Regional High School, retiring after five
years, has been given lifetime health insurance, with the school paying
75 percent of all premiums until he dies; his spouse will then get the
plan for the rest of her life. As a result, the former principal's new
employers in another state can afford to pay him a higher salary since
they don't have to pay for his health insurance.
In a burst of midsummer madness, Chip, a former teacher, has
the position, and provided a copy of his cover letter to his local
"I'm really looking forward to this job because I'm 61, intend only to
be principal for five years and will then leave KP with the mother of
all health insurance plans. ... Since I don't have a spouse, I intend to
will the benefit to some person with longevity in their family so they
can really milk this giveaway. Of course the King Philip school
committee won't mind giving me this deal. They have plenty of money to
spend otherwise they wouldn't have even dreamed of handing out this
costly benefit. Keep in mind, though, through this whole process both
the school committee and I agree on one thing: We're doing it for the
Well, let's end this midsummer indulgence with some good news. Though
we've been hearing about the decline in honeybees nationwide, my
neighbor, Chip Ford, thinks he saw one in our adjoining yard.
Of course, the yard is mostly clover, with some buttercups and
dandelions. Wonder how many of the environmentalists who blame global
warming for the decline of honeybees (as well as the decline of
civilization in general) have a mowed meadow instead of an
I also have a full-grown meadow that is my side yard with wild grasses
-- the kind we used to carry between our lips, wild daisies, and a mock
orange bush that scents the air in my office as I write this.
Birds, bees, butterflies and squirrels are happy there, as am I. Happy
summer to you all!
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.