Limited Taxation
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Barbara's Column
August 2001 #1

Does it really matter which Democrat represents us
in Washington?

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem Evening News
Friday, August 3, 2001

We should be neighborly and welcome Lowell to the 6th Congressional District.

From a taxpayers point of view, John Tierney has a 27 percent rating with the National Taxpayers Union, and Marty Meehan has a 25 percent, so what difference does it make which one doesn't represent us?

I'd miss Lynn, of course. But I will always have my fond memories of a long-ago mayor Tony Marino calling me "that broad from Marblehead" during the Proposition 2 campaign.

Sorry that my friends in Tewksbury might lose Meehan to Marblehead. But as a Navy officer of my acquaintance said to another bachelor junior officer who was being transferred from Greece to Antarctica, the goats' loss is the penguins' gain.

John Tierney is presently my congressman through no fault of mine. Though I have to tell you, he didn't break a term limits promise -- never made one, actually -- and we are rarely embarrassed by seeing his talking head defending sex-crazed presidents on television. We rarely see him at all, and that is fine with me. His staff responds nicely to phone calls and faxes.

I almost ran for Congress in this district once myself, when it looked as if Michael Harrington was going to run unopposed in '76. I was a lifeguard at the time and envisioned a flyer with me in a red, white and blue swimsuit giving CPR to a Resusci-Annie doll dressed like Uncle Sam. The caption would read: "She will save America."

Forget about it, fans; the swimsuit no longer fits.

Let's look at the bright side. None of us are in the 9th District, where primary voters have to choose among Cheryl Jacques, Brian Joyce, Steve Lynch and Marc Pacheco. I was rooting for Lynch, who is good on education and the Second Amendment, until he got caught not paying student loans and taxes. He's still better than the others, though.

Of all candidates everywhere, none is worse than Brian Joyce, who ran for the Massachusetts Senate on the income tax rollback.

His paid ad was even better than my imaginary lifeguard ad. There was a drawing of a knight (Joyce) fighting a winged monster, with the words "When others were faint of heart ... One leader had the courage to fight the tax dragon." Then it showed his top priority: "Sponsored legislation to lower State Income Tax from 5.95 percent to 5 percent."

Then four months after winning the election, he voted against lowering the state income tax from 5.95 percent to 5 percent. I guess, as Marty might say about term limits, that was then, and this is now.

Hey, I just noticed: the new 6th district looks a lot like Brian Joyce's dragon!

Living as I do in the hometown of Elbridge Gerry, who invented gerrymandering, I grasp the concept of protecting incumbents with snaky, sliced or surrealistic districts. But in the computer age, how do they get away with it? Why can't they just take our almost rectangular state, put the basic number of people per district as close together as possible, and make a few adjustments to avoid dividing communities?

And what is this minority district nonsense? What the heck is a minority? A Chinese restaurant owner? A Haitian cab driver? A Vietnamese student? A libertarian intellectual like Walter Williams, or a liberal demagogue like Jesse Jackson? Hispanics come in Puerto Rican, Mexican, and many other national cultures and they are, as John Silber once pointed out, Caucasian, just like the Italians and the Irish.

Many Boston activists are arguing that community interests, not race, should be the criteria. In fact, one of their criteria is the vote against the income tax rollback. If I lived in Boston, I'd be a minority in the minority district!

Actually, the true minority voter in Massachusetts is a Republican. Maybe we need a Republican district, starting with my friend Pat in eastern Marblehead and stringing its way, person by person, up and down the commonwealth, until it ends on a farm in Williamstown.

It's important to remember that the 6th recently had a Republican congressman, Peter Torkildsen, who got his start in politics as a result of an earlier redistricting that Peabody and Danvers didn't like. Some unhappy locals voted against the Beacon Hill Democratic leader that they held responsible and instead elected Peter to the Massachusetts House. Eventually he ran for Congress and won.

Unfortunately, there's no way for angry voters in the present Meehan district or Lynn to vote out Tom Finneran, so they should lobby the Senate to change the Finneran plan. If that doesn't work they can always vote Republican in the next national election.

In the end, no matter how redistricting gets done, it's not as if we voters really get ourselves represented in that alien world of Washington, D.C. anyhow.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem Evening News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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