Monday, July 9, 2007

Wooden Nickels

I am old enough (though I was very very very young at the time) to remember when Middleboro celebrated it’s 300th birthday with a summer-long, town-wide block party bestowed with the unwieldy title of “Tercentennial”.

The Four Corners were cordoned off, bands played for the public, and grownups got dressed up in colonial costumes and danced in the street. Girls and women went around wearing bonnets. A man bent down and handed me a ‘real’ wooden nickel with a picture of the town hall embossed on it. "Remember," he said, "don't let anyone give you any wooden nickels," and laughed. It seemed, that summer, that the sidewalks were filled with laughter and smiling faces. It was all delightfully goofy.

And it was apparent to me, even at my tender age, that this was a town in love with itself. America was a new nation compared to most, and yet the town of Middleboro had officially existed for 300 years, emerging as a united entity a full 107 years before the thirteen colonies signed the Declaration of Independence. From the clapboards of the North, to the rock walls of the South, from the bogs in the East and the swamps in the West, residents poured into downtown Middleboro 38 years ago to proclaim that they were damn proud to be a part of it.

So, what the hell happened?

When did everybody give up, nail up the For Sale sign, and decide they were a lost cause?

Three hundred and thirty-eight years after several scattered villages united to become the second largest town in the state of Massachusetts, and almost four decades after grown men square-danced down Main Street in breeches and three cornered hats in a buoyant demonstration of local pride, Middleboro residents will receive just five days, less than a week, to review an agreement designed to sever a part of itself forever.

Deborah Sampson would be outraged.

You should be too. This agreement isn’t about building a mall, or a housing development, or an office park. This is about offering up a slice of your three-hundred and thirty-eight year old history to the highest bidder. It will be gone, out of your control, a sovereign nation, untaxed and in full operation every minute of every day, forever. It’s wealthy investors will forward their own agenda at your town hall, and soon that once-proud voice will be reduced a whisper.

And your town leadership has the impudence to give you only five days to mull it over before you vote on it?

Speaking of which, if it hadn’t been for the constant pressure and due diligence of the good people at CasinoFacts.org, it's doubtful you would have even been allowed a vote. If your current pack of selectmen had their way, it would have been done behind closed doors with the ink dry before you’d gotten a whiff of it.

And eventually, you would have gotten a whiff of it - because the whole thing stinks like a bucket of dead herring. Since May, I have heard many reasons why the town is rushing this agreement past you. From a play for sympathy for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and their long wait for recognition, to the need to make a deal quickly with your ‘new friends’ or in the end they wouldn’t deal well with you, and now the latest - that this treacherous dash for approval is intended to prevent further polarization of the town.

Folks, this casino wasn’t even on the radar in March of this year. And an agreement is scheduled to be completed by late July? Is it any wonder your population is polarized? Last time I checked, this was still the United States of America, and open debate is how We the People reach decisions. With open debate now denied at town hall, is it any wonder it's being hashed out on web sites and street corners? Where are the all the open meetings promised after the land sale? And since when does Middleboro need a bunch of lawyers from Deluxebury, Oklahoma and New York City telling her that they know what’s best?

Make no mistake, this rush to agreement has been engineered by the law firm of Whitten, Whittlesey and Bond. And their clients are the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and their multinational billionaire investors. Not you. Trust me, you're not even in the room. Even if you want a casino, you should be fuming with apoplectic indignation over how the democratic process is being trampled in town hall.

Remember, don’t let anyone give you any wooden nickels. The time to stand up and be heard is now.

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