Friday, November 30, 2007

Under the Rainbow

Dear Auntie Em,

It’s been eight long months since the tornado picked up me and the farmhouse and swept us out of Kansas.

I hope you and uncle Henry still aren’t living in the root cellar, and have since found a new place to live. I haven't seen the farmhouse in awhile.

I just wanted to let you know that I got home late that day because I’d met a very important-looking man named Professor Marvel on the way home from school. He claimed to be able to see the future. Then he gazed into a crystal ball and told me that certain things were inevitable. That didn’t seem right to me, so I got out of there as fast as I could.

I ran home, but once I got there, the tornado was in full force, and no one could hear me stamping on the root cellar door.

And that’s when the tornado picked me up and took me away.

After a pretty wild ride, it eventually dropped me in a strange and miraculous place called the Land of Oz. At first I felt all alone - like I stood out like a sore thumb - being from another place and all.

But I wasn’t alone for long. I soon made some friends who didn't think things were inevitable, either. So we decided to stick together.

Like I said, Aunti Em, Oz is a very strange place. There are wicked witches, good witches, flying monkeys and Lollipop Guilds. Perfectly nice looking trees throw apples at us. And then there are the lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

Everywhere in the Land of Oz, Auntie Em, vast fields of poppies spring up out of nowhere. They look so beautiful, and smell so lovely, that many people cannot help but to lie down and fall asleep, where they dream of wondrous things.

But I’ve learned that those poppy dreams can quickly turn into nightmares. And when you wake up, all you have is a big headache.

Sometimes Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, helps us out with the poppies. Sometimes all it takes is some fresh clean air and the truth.

So, in June I thought it would be a good idea to start a journal, because I didn’t think anyone would believe all the strange things I saw and experienced here in Oz if I ever made it home again. And I let everyone read it.

Mid-way through July, my friends and I started traveling down the Yellow Brick Road. This road took us to some faraway places, where I met many wonderful people, and made even more friends.

But, at the end of July, things got really crazy in a place called Munchkin Land. A plane flew overhead, and I was sure it was someone come to rescue me and take me back home. But it was not to be.

So, I dusted myself off, and prepared to be stuck in the Land of Oz for a while.

In August I found out that when the tornado dropped our farmhouse, it landed on top of the Wicked Witch of the West’s equally wicked step-brother. This is not as bad as it sounds. He was really pretty wicked - and not in a good way. All that was left of him was an orange t-shirt and a gray ponytail.

But the Wicked Witch was pretty ticked off at me about it, and, for some strange reason, my little dog, too. I'm not sure why she was so angry at me. I’d just been a passenger in a hijacked farmhouse after all. It wasn’t my tornado. And I was just telling people what I saw going on in Oz.

At the end of August we made it to the Emerald City to ask the Wonderful Wizard of Oz for his help. I thought he must be a truly wonderful wizard to live in a city like that, but he turned out to be nothing but a big disappointment. He wouldn’t even grant us an audience. Then, in September, he started sounding a lot like the Wicked Witch of the West. I suspect poppies are involved.

In October we followed the Yellow Brick Road all the way to the Capitol of Oz. There we met people like us from all over the world.

In November I watched 17 great and powerful people, from kingdoms all across the Land of Oz, stand up to the Wicked Witch of the West, and tell her what she could do with her poppies.

But the Flying Monkeys still come at us at every turn. They spit at the Tin Man, hoping his mouth will rust shut. They throw flames at the Scarecrow, hoping he'll burn out. We’ve even intercepted some of their communiqu├ęs - which hint of dastardly deeds.

I don’t know why they do these things, Auntie Em. I have no special powers. I can’t make poppies grow by waving my hand, or draft public policy or sign million dollar agreements. I don't have easy access to bazillions of dollars. I’m not a good witch or a bad witch, and so I don’t have my own broomstick to carry me to high places where I can get lots of attention. All I am, is farm girl from Kansas. I can’t do great and powerful things. So I just tell the truth - and watch great and powerful things happen.

So maybe that's why.

Well Auntie Em, I’ve got to go. I can’t see the end of the Yellow Brick Road yet, but don’t worry, my red sequined ballet flats were built to last. Glinda likes to tell me that all I have to do is click my heels together three times to get back to Kansas and the life I used to know. But I know better. I’ve learned that sometimes it takes a lot of hard work to do the right thing. But it’s worth it. Because there’s no place like home.

Take care, and say Hi to Uncle Henry for me.


P.S. Please send money. The flying monkeys stole all our signs.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mitigate This

I know that, to some, it seems like I pick an awful lot on Adam Bond and the other Middleboro Board of Selectmen.

It’s just that they give me so much material.

Back in the day, folks made liberal use of the expression “going off half-cocked” to describe a person who’s actions preceded their better judgment. Or any judgment. And if someone was in fact, “going off half-cocked”, they were dangerous. They did foolish things.

And so “going off half-cocked” pretty much perfectly describes how I perceived the Board of Selectmen and their flock of feathered followers over the summer.

Land was sold, lawyers and UMass Dartmouth professors were marched out, dissension was squelched, opponents threatened and never, ever was there any thoughtful public discussion about the appropriateness or the regional impacts of a mega resort casino.

Except to say that “mitigation” money would solve everything.

It was one big three-month-long Kool-Aid soaked orgy of promises, threats and potential mitigation.

After the Town Meeting, as the dust settled, I figured they'd settle with it. The hangover would fade, and they’d come to their senses.

But no. They’re still going off half-cocked.

In a recent letter to the Boston Globe, Middleboro selectman Adam Bond, double-dog dared Massachusetts Legislators to pinky swear that they’d take all the money they’d collect from a Middleboro casino and return it back to the town and it’s surrounding communities.

See what I mean about going off-half cocked?

First of all, the only reason Deval Patrick wants to carve up our state like a trio of virgin sacrifices is so he can pay for his campaign promises off the backs of the people living in the bull’s-eye.

So it’s a little late for call-outs, don’t you think?

And if a casino, or several, are ever built, do you really believe the State will serve us up a big juicy slice of mitigation pie?

"Mitigation" is a magic word which implies much while offering nothing. It's a word spelled with promises and erased with pet projects. It's the scraps that the kitten gets after the fat cat gets done eating.

Legislators vote themselves pay raises while servicemen and women in combat zones go without effective body amour.

And what portion of the sky-high cigarette tax goes to help wean the nicotine addicted? Well… let’s see… when’s the last time you saw a state-funded anti-smoking commercial?

Believe me, if any casino ‘mitigation’ money ever actually trickles it’s way down to my town, they’d just use it to buy fur-lined sinks for the high school - and I’d still have a traffic jam in front of my house.

And the fact remains, you can’t mitigate every wound with a wad of greenbacks.

I mean, you can fill an empty well with thousand dollar bills, but you can’t bring the water back once it’s gone.

And if Adam hadn’t gone off half-cocked this summer, he’d have known that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Giving of Thanks

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If you think about it, sometimes, you can be thankful for things you never imagined.

For instance, I’m (sort of) thankful for a man I’ve never met, who sold some beautiful land, in my hometown, to some people who wanted to build an Indian casino.

Because it made me come back.

And because it made me sit through my first selectman’s meeting, ever.

Which made me realize I should have been going to selectman’s meetings ever since I’ve been able to vote.

And that made me realize the importance, depleted by years of cynicism and the electoral college, of my one vote. Of my one voice. And of my, and of everyone’s participation in our government.

And I’m thankful for the people of character I’ve met, through a rare hardship we’ve all shared.

I’m also thankful that the few talents I possess have been of some small value to a cause I truly believe in.

I’m even thankful to have been silenced, so that I learned to speak louder.

And thankful to have been edited, so that I wrote more.

I’m thankful for my opponents, however callous, vicious, or persistent, because they've made me realize I can be strong. And I wish them all the happiest of holidays.

I’m thankful to have been born into this time, and this place, which offers me opportunities my predecessors never had, to be counted.

I’m thankful for those people I so admire – the ones who’ve asked me to participate in this fight, and to step outside a place I found safe, and in doing so, to become more than I thought I could ever be.

I’m thankful I’ve had to venture beyond my boundaries, to have faced my fears, to have stood up, to have raised my voice - because I never might have.

I’m so thankful for discovering new places, finding new friends, and for witnessing the leadership of others.

And I’m thankful for you - sincerely thankful for your humor, your kind words, and of your support.

And I'm thankful, more than anything, for my family and friends, who’ve stood by me and supported me through this incredible year. I always just wanted to be there, 24/7, for them, yet in the past 8 months, they seemed to spend 24/7 watching me run off to meetings, rallies, forums and cancel plans, spend hours at the computer, or be otherwise unavailable. Despite this, when they could, they've willingly joined me in the effort. For that, and for everything else, I am humbled.

My friend Jesse Powell always concludes her e-mails with a quote from Margaret Mead:

'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

When I unknowingly entered this ring, back in May, I thought that sentiment was hopeful, quaint, optimistic.

Now, as I dust myself off from the latest fray, look around at my collegues still there, I understand it’s truth. It’s strength. It’s promise.

We've made a difference.

And so, while I’ll never be thankful for this predicament, I hope you'll understand that I’ll ever be thankful for the challenge.

Love and Thanks!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fear and Loathing on the South Shore

Dear Adam,

I just read the Globe article in which you and representative Calter exchanged disparaging comments.

I wanted to let you know that both Calter and Rep. Canessa did indeed argue passionately for Middleboro at the regional task force meeting that night. The only thing missing were some lighted candles and a man playing a violin.

As for insisting that they not attend further task force meetings as some sort of protest - Adam, must I remind you again, that it’s not all about you? These men represent other towns. And by not attending meetings, they miss the opportunity to listen to the concerns other towns have regarding your beloved proposed casino.

In fact, they also represent the town of Middleboro, which, though it authorized you and the other riders of the apocalypse to sign the casino agreement, also voted overwhelmingly that they didn’t want a casino.

But you keep forgetting that fact, don’t you?

But then, facts aren’t necessarily important to you, are they? Because if they were, you’d know that our region does have serious water issues. Nevertheless, you seem confident that "there's plenty of water". Perhaps you’ve already added the title “Aquifer Engineer” to your resume?

Had you ever bothered, Adam, to hold an informational forum for the people of Middleboro with anybody except lawyers or Glenn Marshall, you’d have heard about the water issues, and many, many more issues your pet project has raised - including the anticipated 50,000 cars a day.

Fortunately, Rep. Calter did listen to the issues raised. I applaud him for doing so. I wish he were my rep.

By the way, Adam, I find it interesting that you suggest Rep. Calter should be speaking to the Tribe. I’d like to turn the tables and suggest that you start listening to someone other than the Tribe.

As a matter of fact, why don’t you come to the next meeting of the Regional Task Force? You’re very popular there ever since you responded to their concern about where the all the garbage generated from a casino would go by saying that you didn’t care where it went - as long as it didn’t stay in Middleboro.

I’ll save you a seat.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You Can Get Anything You Want, At Gladys’s Restaurant…

In honor of the silent auction at Thursday’s CasinoFacts fundraiser, Gladys is asking you to make a bid to:


It’s not much – just a bite - enough to get you in the door - and once you’re there – you might want to spread the word that a Middleboro casino will not only siphon off restaurant customers, but their employees too!

So, while they're still open, come sample our fabulous restaurants! See what wonders exist on the other side of Rte. 44! Find out what it's like to dine with folks with no orange t-shirts in their closets! Get to know your neighbors!

Featured bites:

Castaways - Rte. 18/28
Two bars, live bands, dancing or just a nice place for lunch. My recommendation - save your certificate for summer, and then lean back in an Adirondack chair and stretch your toes in the full sand beach out back!

The Chatta Box – Winter Place Plaza – Rte. 18/28
Have an exceptional out-of-continent experience. Voted the Best of the Bridgewaters several years running. A favorite of Gladys and the whole family! Truly - an eat-in or take-out treasure!

Ron Emma’s – Pleasant Street – right off the Bridgewater exit on Rte. 24
A great place to hoist a beer with your foursome after an afternoon at Olde Scotland Links, or to sit out your nightly commute with a pizza or perhaps the legendary lobster roll. And while you’re there – tell Crazy Ron that he’d be CRAZY to support a casino!

99 Restaurant and Pub – Roche Bros. Plaza – Rte. 18
Take the family! Meet old friends! Make new friends! The 99 is fun and friendly and always a comfort food heaven.

Roche Bros. Supermarket – Rte. 18
This supermarket was one of the reasons I moved to Bridgewater. Never cook again once you see the new prepared food section. Behold the incredible produce, fine and affordable wines, walk-in cold case, delectable seafood deli and vast ice-cream wing. And much much more! And if that still isn’t enough, experience the rare priviledge of having a nice person cart your groceries out to your car for you.

TAKE A BITE OUT OF BRIDGEWATER is the perfect gift or stocking stuffer for the Bridgewater afficianado in your life!

And please! If you’re going to be at the fundraiser – make sure to introduce yourself! I want to meet you! Give me your ideas for future blogs! Let’s share flying monkey stories!

Come on people! (as Adam would say...) Bid 'till it hurts! Bid 'till it bleeds! We need the money!

Take a chance! Make it happen!

See you there,

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Apathetic and the Dead

Imagine picking up the Boston Globe one morning to find, on it’s front page, a large map encompassing several towns, one of which was yours. And, under a swath of red, you recognized the place you called home. And not just your home, but your neighbor’s. And your whole neighborhood.

A key at the bottom of the map indicated that the same Tribe which owned the world’s largest casino, one town over, was interested in taking this additional land into trust for gaming purposes.

It would turn out that this red corridor on the newspaper you were holding included somewhere in the vicinity of 700 residential homes and farms across three towns.

According to the story accompanying the map, there would be millions of casino dollars paid to towns to “mitigate” the “impacts”, and a fair market value would be offered to land owners for their property. Not that anyone living there had much of a choice in the matter, anyway.

Within minutes, you and your neighbors would begin dialing the number to town hall. There would be public outcry. A grassroots effort would be organized. Lawn signs denouncing this action would pop up all around town. Eventually, a referendum, taken in those three towns would pass overwhelmingly to oppose the annexation. An expensive and lengthy legal battle would ensue.

Meanwhile, the Tribe was befuddled as to why these citizens were so riled up. Because, for twenty years, the towns around their reservation hadn’t made a peep. Some people had even encouraged casino expansion. And, when a few individuals had spoken up, their towns did not support them.

Some sort of fractured fairy tale?

No. Welcome to Ledyard, Preston and North Stonington Connecticut circa 1993.

And if you think opening up casinos in Massachusetts, whether commercial, Indian, or both, won’t effect your life, think again.

Southeastern Massachusetts, even the parts considered “rural”, are more densely populated than the area around Foxwoods. Therefore, it is very likely that the negative effects experienced in that location would be amplified in ours.

If you drive a car, have a child in school, own a home or business, if you patronize a local business, if your community depends on a reliable water source, if your emergency services are already stressed, and if you care about, or deal with people in your daily life, you will be effected in ways you probably haven’t even thought of yet.

And if you think Massachusetts will stop at licensing three commercial casinos, I’ve got a prime piece of swamp land you might be interested in.

Think about it... our state didn’t exactly stop at one lottery ticket, did it? No, it found it could make more and more money for the state by issuing more tickets. Now it has come to depend on this lottery revenue. You can’t stand in line at the convenience store without being weighed down with a gallon of milk while the guy in front of you spends twenty minutes picking and choosing scratch tickets with more thought and effort than he probably gives to his diet. And you can’t even escape the lottery in the form of ubiquitous Keno games at the mall or your favorite restaurant.

And it still hasn’t stopped – because now, our state treasurer, who runs one of the country’s most successful lotteries, wants to open casinos in suburbia.

So, do you really think you won’t wake up one morning to find your neighborhood painted red, on somebody else’s map?

Don't wait. Act now to stop casinos.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Seat at the Table

I’m trying to imagine the conversation:

“You do it.”
"No, you do it."
“I don’t wanna do it – you do it.”
“I don’t wanna do it..."
"Hey! Let’s get Tankman!”
"Yeah! He'll do it. He'll do anything!"

However it actually went down, the result was that Pat ‘Tankman’ Rogers, the least offensive member of the Middleboro Board of Selectmen, came to be standing in front of the 18 town Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts, hat in hand, pleading his town’s case for a seat at their table.

And with Task Force delegate Sandra MacFarlane of Kingston professionally gagged, hog-tied, and stuffed in a locked closet somewhere in the Lakeville Library, and her fellow selectman perplexingly evangelizing Middleboro’s glory from his uninvited pulpit at the front of the room, (cheered on at the sidelines by reps Canessa and Calter) it looked momentarily as if good old Tankman might very well be warming a chair at the table by the end of the evening.

Fortunately, smarter heads prevailed.

I’ve heard a lot of reasons why Middleboro does or doesn’t deserve to be a part of the Regional Task Force - which is expected to vote this week on whether to allow Middleboro a seat at the table.

As the only individual from another town to regularly attend meetings of Middleboro’s own Casino Impact Study Group over the course of the summer, I feel I have a unique perspective and valuable insight to offer on this issue.

At that first meeting in Middleboro, I identified myself, the fact that I lived in Bridgewater, and that my purpose for attending their meeting was to better understand what the impacts of a Middleboro casino would be on my own town.

After sitting politely in the audience through 2 - or sometimes 3 hour meetings, I would raise my hand, wait for recognition from the committee chairman, and ask my questions. The committee would politely listen - and then essentially assure me that I had nothing to worry about - that everything would be fine.

But actually, I found lots to worry about just by watching Middleboro ‘study’ the casino on it’s own.

Like, for instance, how they based their formal opinion as to how a casino would effect local crime rates on only one published study – a study which used only small and large cities and riverboat gambling communities as comparison towns.

And as far as addressing the fact that a casino could increase Middleboro’s intake of water by 1.5 million gallons a day, the proposed solution was to lay more pipes to pump in more water – without addressing the fact that other towns depend on the same limited original source aquifer for drinking, industry and agriculture.

And with a 95% employment level and local businesses already hard pressed to hire qualified help, where would the additional 10-12,000 person casino labor force come from? And live? And it’s children go to school? Well, according to Middleboro, a casino could easily tap that last unemployed 5% already living here. Which tells me that they don’t quite understand that at 95%, pretty much everybody who wants a job, has one.

Meanwhile, the school committee was busy suggesting creative ways it could “collaborate” with the casino such as by the “Establishment of a ‘good neighbors’ program which would allow for reasonable access to tribal/casino staff and facilities for the benefit of district students and staff including but not limited to operations tours, guest speakers, discounts and a sharing of expertise and equipment”, and offering their hope that the casino would participate as a site for student career/intern program.

Yikes. This is k-12, right?

And what of the residents whose property values decreased, or the businesses which were going to lose customers to the casino? Well, rest assured - at least Middleboro will be safe. That's because none other than the Honorable Glenn Marshall promised he’d personally deliver a check to local homeowners and restaurants to ease their suffering.

As for the social impacts of local casino, Middleboro scratched it's head and agreed that they just couldn’t figure out how address that – and so decided to rest the entire issue on the Commonwealth’s shoulders. And therefore, something as intuitively essential as a discussion about the effect increased gambling addiction might have on the town and region – simply never took place at all.

And though Middleboro had access to such resources as the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District and the Old Colony Planning Council, the Middleboro casino juggernaut rolled forth without guidance, crushing, gaveling and bullying anyone who disagreed with it. In fact, one of the casino agreement’s biggest cheerleaders was a certain sitting Middleboro selectman who currently boasts on his web site to have handled “the political marketing of the casino concept”.

But, in my opinion, the moment Middleboro officially jumped the shark occurred after I related my own personal apprehension about an increase in traffic. You see, I live on a direct route between Bridgewater and the proposed casino site, and which currently supports traffic to the college, prison, KOA, Rte. 44 and the commuter rail. The prospect of a percentage of 40-60,000 daily casino visitors looking for a back road in, and driving at all hours down the same street where my kids wait for the bus had me quite concerned. But a member of Middleboro’s Casino Impact Study Group assured me that my road wasn't busy. The reason he knows? Well, he drives on that same road twice a day - to and from work. I was incredulous. I live on that street - and, since I work from home, I’m pretty much aware of the traffic situation around the clock. I said as much to the study group, but no, there was no problem. Everything would be fine.

The defining moment however, for me, as an outsider looking in, was that evening when a member of that same Casino Impact Study Group brought up, for the first and last time, the fact that the town of Bridgewater might have some valid concerns - to which another member stated, with a roll of her eyes and a wave of her hand, that she didn’t "give a damn about Bridgewater.”

Apparently my repeated questions and continued presence as a member of one of the surrounding communities had made little impression on the group. And it was obvious then, as it is now, that with their shallow research, pat answers and disregard for the surrounding communities, Middleboro has nothing to offer the Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts.

I’ve heard it suggested that the Task Force allow Middleboro to sit at it’s table due to the intrinsic wisdom of keeping one’s friends close and one’s enemies closer. But I assure you that Middleboro wants that seat for exactly the same reason. And what better place to sit and pass around that pitcher of Kool-Aid, and to whisper in our ears that there is nothing to worry about - and that everything will be just fine.

Bridgewater, a town of 27,000 people, all of whom reside within five miles of the proposed casino, has been unrepresented at the last two meetings of the Task Force. I know this because I've attended both of those meetings.

So, when I’m asked whether I think Middleboro deserves to be at that table, I look at Bridgewater’s empty chair and wonder why Middleboro should, once again, have a voice when I do not.

I am, however, filled with thanks, not to mention hope, as I look upon those many chairs filled by delegates from other towns. And while I realize that their towns and mine may have different concerns, at least I know they share my perspective.

No. I suggest that at subsequent meetings of the Regional Task Force, Middleboro’s place be the same as mine at their meetings - to sit politely in the audience until the question and answer session, raise their hand to be recognized, and then and only then, be allowed to speak.