and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
April #2

Week that was in Marblehead
might have been worthy of reality TV
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Next week is Turn Off the TV Week. Like I'm going to miss the ongoing drama of Fox's "24."

Not that I can't have a dramatic 24 hours of my own. Take one day in the life of a citizen activist from 10 p.m. on Wednesday to 10 p.m. on Thursday.

Before bedtime, I checked the State House News Service and read a report about a possible new tax on "intangible" Internet software. I slept awhile, then got up at 4 a.m. to e-mail contacts at the Statehouse and the business community for more information.

As the morning wore on, I began to get responses and formulate a plan of resistance.

There was a knock on the door before noon. It was either the Merry Maids or Gerald Amirault, who was coming to pick up material for a tax data study he is doing for Citizens for Limited Taxation.

The Merry Maids are a gift from my late mother; she left me money for the specific purpose of having my house cleaned once a month.

One Merry Maid, or technically a "Merry Man," Giovanni, was on the porch with some Marblehead policemen, who told me they had just arrested my other Merry Maid for domestic assault. Someone saw her kicking Giovanni on the way to my house, and called the police.

The officers hoped that I could translate. I tried, but I speak Spanish and Giovanni speaks Portuguese; and the two languages are not as much alike as you might think.

Nevertheless, I was able to reassure him that his "esposa" (Spanish for "wife," Portuguese for who knows what) was safe, and tell him he could pick her up in Lynn after her arraignment.

It was nice to be able to explain to an immigrant that the police here are not his enemy, and that they just don't allow anyone to kick him. The Merry Maid home office said they would help him find the courthouse and that they would send another crew the next day, taking $20 off my bill!

As the Merry Man left, Gerald arrived. We were working on our taxpayer research project when a reporter from The Salem News called about the "registered sex offender" working in my house.

I explained that I would not hire a real sex offender, even if he had paid his debt to society; but that I believed Gerald Amirault to be an innocent victim of the 1970s day-care center witch hunts, and no danger to anyone at all. However, he never was allowed a new trial, so he is now paroled with the usual oversight plus the sex offender registry requirement that the local newspapers be contacted.

I know Gerald is innocent for the same reason that I know you, the reader, even if we've never met, are innocent of any number of crimes that never happened. Informed and responsible people across the country have come to the same conclusion I have that people accused in the 20th century version of the Salem witch hysteria were victims of overzealous prosecutors. Gerald was the last of these victims to be finally released from jail a year ago this month.

Moving on with my day, he and I did the interview, then finished our work. I took a little walk, a little nap, and went back to my computer after watching "The OC," which I am also not giving up for Turn Off the TV Week. At 9 p.m., I watched the school board meeting on Marblehead's local access channel.

Committeeman Jonathan Lederman presented a proposal for dealing with the school and town operating deficit. He said there are three options: 1.) Threaten to cut priority programs to scare parents into voting for higher taxes (traditional model); 2.) Cut programs across the board without setting priorities; and 3.) Use productivity increases and logical class-size loading to preserve priority programs.

The pro-override establishment in the room jerked its collective knee, rejecting productivity increases and logic because Jonathan used a PowerPoint presentation instead of giving all those present their very own paper copies.

One teacher insisted that he spend an hour a day in her classroom. Jonathan just smiled his pleasant smile and continued presenting proposals that would "save art, music and phys. ed. for the smallest children ... ."

I must admit, when he was first elected as a reformer, I thought he would be like all the other men who have run as reformers, then become part of the problem. But Jonathan, who has his own small children eventually coming into the system, is determined to make it better.

So the usual alternative to "better" the annual town override drama begins.

Meanwhile, my long day was over. I had to go to bed early so I'd wake up for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. More reason to be grateful for television, which, did I mention, I am not going to turn off next week.

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