I was just saying to a friend I’ve made in the course of the casino battle, that the reason I kept coming back to Middleboro in the beginning, and have continued fighting all this time, has been the plain old inherent WRONGNESS of the whole thing.
I mean, every step of the way you can't help but bump into more WRONGNESS.
So here I am, with a year of continual WRONGNESS watching under my belt, perusing a Middleboro Gazette article about the town buying up land for conservation and for maintaining the rural atmosphere of Thompson Street. And that makes me feel all sort of warm and fuzzy – as if WRONGNESS has been banished momentarily in the name of all things good and right. Because Thompson Street is a really special place.
Let me tell you my Thompson Street story.
Back in my younger days a friend of mine, a Midwest city kid, paid me a visit. I took him to a Sox game, Harvard Square, Boston, the beach. But afterward, he simply asked to see cows. Cows? He’d never seen cows outside a page in a book.
Mind you, when I visited his city, I walked through the most amazing museums, ate incredible food at famous restaurants and looked out over two states from one of the tallest buildings in the world.
And all he wanted was cows? I tried to think of the perfect place to see cows. It’d been awhile since I’d lived in the country myself. Then I remembered Thompson Street. The greenest, farmiest, rurally place I could extract from personal memory. And so we drove down to Thompson Street, parked beside a shaggy field where a handful of the black and white manure makers were munching their lunch, then walked into the grass beside a fence.
My friend leaned up against that fence for a half hour with a dumb happy look on his face. I couldn’t see the attraction. Instead I contented myself with the warm breeze, blue skies and the smell of manure – slowly becoming nostalgic for those long ago days when the school bus took me by Leona or Picone Farm, and when, every year, a truck would pull up the driveway and leave behind a stinky embarrassing pile of what my mom called black gold, and which, by August, would transform our backyard garden into a flourishing earthly produce department with everything you’d need to make a spaghetti sauce or a rhubarb pie.
These places were dwindling even then, and searching my friend’s face, I mourned them. I missed them. Then I leaned against the fence and enjoyed the cows.
These days I have a friend on Thompson Street. At the moment, she’s moving and selling her 12.2 acres. And she’d found a buyer, but apparently, the town of Middleboro has the right of first refusal on the property. Which was fine with her since they said they wanted to purchase the land for conservation. That’s nice, I thought, remembering the black and white cows, and the smile on my friend's face. It's a special place.
But wait. As my eyes coursed down the article, they came to rest on that dread phrase I’ve learned has pre-empted much WRONGNESS in the past year: ‘executive session’.
“The selectmen discussed the plans in executive session”…
RED ALERT. RED ALERT. DANGER DANGER!
On further personal inquiry, I discovered that there is no way to attach a preservation restriction on this property. And that, apparently, there has been some discussion of possibly selling it, at some point in the future, to the Tribe.
Oh - ok - when you throw a casino into the mix, it suddenly all makes sense as to why a town that can’t afford to wants to spend money on ‘conservation’ land.
You see, this 12.2 acres abuts the current casino project property. And if a casino is ever built, the town could sell this precious ‘conservation land’ - which the Tribe would then take into trust to be absorbed into it’s largely unregulated Sovereign nation, and disapear off town tax rolls never to be seen or profitable again. And it could, in all likelihood, end up as a parking lot, or yet another part of a sprawling gambling casino resort encroaching even further into the lives of Middleboro families and farmland.
My friend was horrified to learn that the property she loved and had hoped to see used for farm, residential or conservation purposes could be turned around and used for casino expansion. She then offered to rescind the offer to sell. Ah, but too late!
Because someone in the planning department has dollar signs in their eyes (again), and won’t let her rescind the offer!
Listen, I don’t know how that works exactly, since it seems like the ultimate in WRONGNESS, but if Middleboro town officials can find a way to make WRONGNESS work for them and the casino they’ve sold their souls to, then gosh darnnit, take it from me, they're gonna do it. And so, at the Monday Town Meeting the town will magnanimously let the voters decide whether the town should purchase this property which the owner no longer wants to sell, for $244,000.
By the way, for the record, that same amount of money could also be used to keep the COA or Library open, fund emergency personnel, pay for 5 teachers, or give the school department some of the money it really needs.
But I have no doubt that there will be some excellent reasons offered at Town Meeting as to why purchasing this land for ‘conservation’ is more important right now. You may even want to take some of them home and spread them on the garden.