Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Silence of the Lambs

Middleboro selectman Steven Spataro has had enough.

He has had his fill of seeing his town repeatedly blown off by the Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts, and darn it, he’s not gonna take it anymore.

During Middleboro’s most recent Selectmen’s meeting, Spataro was a veritable simpering simmering teakettle of indignation that had reached it’s boiling point.

And so he decided to let off some steam.

According to Steven, you didn’t see Middleboro complaining when they built the Galleria or the Colony Place Plaza in Kingston, did you? Even though (in a stunning admission of the reality of regional economic impacts) he claims that those two places have had a negative effect on Middleboro’s retail businesses.

Middleboro didn’t fight the more prosperous industrial parks in other towns, did she? Even though their trucks traveled and trumbled down her roads.

And she didn’t make a stink when SEMASS built it’s giant incinerator on her border, and stunk a popular local restaurant right out of business.

Nor did she protest the Commuter Rail layover station - which apparently you can hear and smell from two miles away.

So why, Mr. Spataro wonders, does it seem like every town within 20 miles is suddenly pointing a loaded bazooka at Middleboro these days? Heck, it’s only a casino. A five-star deluxe gazillion dollar constantly sprawling sovereign nation of a casino, sure, but still… why pick on Middleboro?

I’ve heard this argument before. In fact the first time I heard it, I believe it was from Adam Bond whining to the press about some initial casino-related inquiries from the Bridgewater Board of Selectmen (in one of their a rare public appearances.)

The next time I heard the argument was at a meeting of the Casino No-Impact Advisory Committee, the precursor to CRAC, when one of it’s members blurted out that she didn’t ”give a damn about Bridgewater”. Bridgewater, she claimed, didn’t ask Middleboro if they could build a prison, did they?

I have to say, I do especially enjoy it when someone brings up the prison.

Folks, none of us (not even Wayne Perkins) were alive when they built that prison. And I can assure you that in modern day Bridgewater, the Penal Industry would not be at the top of the economic development wish list. And though the prison may not be able to compete with the glory and excitement of hundreds of new casino housekeeping jobs, let’s face it, it does already employ a lot of Middleboro residents while offering them a real living wage, a State job, and good benefits - there is even a waiting list of people who would like to work there. And importantly, instead of generating more crime - it keeps a lot of bad people off the streets.

I’ve also, amazingly, heard criticism about the college. Bridgewater gets a college, so why can’t Middleboro get a casino? Bridgewater State College, incidentally, was also built before we were all born, but most people would agree it is a good thing. It provides an excellent education at a reasonable cost, close to home for many South Shore residents, including the ones in Middleboro. But just so you know, it does cause a drain on Bridgewater town services, creates one hell of a traffic jam during Spring commencement, and is under no contractual agreement to provide us with any ‘mitigation’. But then, it also doesn't force us to publicly support and promote it in every endeavor.

And SEMASS. The eyes always roll at the mention of SEMASS. The one that got away. The mother of all trash incinerators that Middleboro could have had but didn’t want. So Rochester got it and stuck it on the edge of town. Well of course they did. Icky projects always go on the edge of town. If Middleboro had built SEMASS they’d have stuck it on the edge of town and would still have had stinky air. Wherever SEMASS was going to go up, someone’s quality of life was going to go down. Good for Middleboro for taking the high road on that one. I therefore suspect that Adam Bond was not involved.

Ah, and then there’s the commuter rail. It’s one of the reasons I moved to town. Me and about 10,000 other people. But it beats fighting the traffic to Boston or finding a place to park once you get there. And now our colonial subdivisions sprawl across a once pastoral countryside, the schools burst at the seams with our children, the library’s closed and the town can’t pay it’s bills.

Industrial park traffic? When I was young and growing up in Middleboro, the school bus would take us by a rambling bovine paradise called Leona Farm. Emerald green manure covered hills as far as the eye could see, and which, in the ensuing years, has since become home to an industrial park of colossal warehouses within spitting distance of the Middleboro Rotary - and right on the main road out of Bridgewater. I’ve had a lot of time to wax nostalgic about Leona Farm these days – especially while I sit in my car behind an eighteen wheeler for twenty minutes inching closer toward the Rotary. Since trucks have a terrible time negotiating fast-moving rotaries, I'd like to know who’s idea it was to build an industrial park the size an international airport next to a one, turning what was once a quick jaunt to the next town into a time consuming ordeal I have to plan my day around.

But the granddaddy of regionally offensive projects can be no other than the Plymouth Nuclear Power Plant. What other development put more Massachusetts residents in harm’s way in the name of a revenue stream than good old Pilgrim Station? But hey, what’s a potential core meltdown compared to a few years worth of construction jobs? And what’s wrong with the Mayflower sharing the same harbor as Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish, anyway? In the absence of any recent nuclear catastrophe, we’ve all grown rather relaxed about Pilgrim Station - that is, until we pass those little blue signs on Rte. 44 which have a way of reminding us that we’re all in this together.

Kenneth Tavares, Plymouth’s eloquent delegate to the 18 Town Regional Task Force recently reminded us that while Pilgrim Station did bring with it some heady days of wine and roses, with the hangover came consequences. Initially Pilgrim lowered everyone’s taxes considerably. Uncontrolled growth followed, and with it uncontrolled spending. Essential and public services were stressed to disastrous levels. Taxes ballooned to keep up and now, along with a towering tax rate – it still has a nuclear power plant. Adding insult to injury, the town didn’t even get to keep those cheaper nuclear generated kilowatts – because the plant was owned by Boston Edison while Plymouth was serviced by Comm Electric. Plymouth had to buy back the energy their resident power plant produced while they paid higher electric rates and lived with emergency loud speakers looming ominously over their neighborhoods. Tavares also went on to add that if he were on the Plymouth Board of Selectmen in the sixties when Pilgrim I was being debated, he suspects the outcome would have been a different one.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it. We’ve always been able to look through the lens of perspective and recognize the folly of the past.

But wouldn’t it be great if we could see those faux pas before we made them? Before they became a de facto part of our world?

When we enter the voting booth to choose our community leaders, aren’t we hoping that we’re casting our votes for lions - and not for lambs? For people who’ll defend us? And our quality of life? Not merely figureheads who’ll quietly sit on the sidelines while an irresponsible neighbor puts that at risk, or who’ll be content with a hand out in it’s aftermath. Wouldn't you rather prevent a potential illness instead of being forced to look for a cure once you have one?

And if someone were trying to locate their traffic-clogging, character-altering, business-stealing, poorly located, self-serving revenue stream next to you - a project which also had the potential to lower your quality of life, stress your emergency services, lead to uncontrolled growth, increase your taxes, overburden your schools, and place members of your community in harm’s way - would you really want your leaders to stick their heads in the sand?

Or would you want them to stand up and demand accountability?

Well someone is. It’s known as the 18-town Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts.

(Not to mention


Carl said...

Gladys, you continue to roll. Did you intend to refer to Spataro as "she"? He does remind me of some evil step-mother.
Like it has been said, "If we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it."

jacquie said...

Although far from ideal to be located in someone's town, a prison presents minimal impacts to the community.... since prisoners CAN'T LEAVE IT...that's why it's called a PRISON! Can't people see the difference? 24 hour traffic, no DUI's, no noise...

And as far as the college goes, I'd much rather have an educational facility that promotes LEARNING rather than one that entices to take all of the money from those who barely have it....

carverchick said...

Another excellent blog, Gladys. I too get irritated when "people" bring up the prision...or the powerplant, or SEMASS. You are right on...learn from the past and don't repeat it.

Comparing the college to the casino? Jeez, is that a joke or something?? vs. gambling - that should be a no-brainer...but then again, so should the decision NOT to sign an agreement that allows a group of individuals to build a mega-resort casino with an ambiguites clause in the "projects" favor, be one also.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for a proponant to make a valid point. The 20,000 jobs that are going to drop out of the sky is getting quite old. Another good one is all the money that our residents spend in Conn. I don't get it? It's wrong for people to lose money in Conn., but right to lose it here? Same story, same pile of smelly mess. I could go on and on. Well done Gladdy, God love ya.

Anonymous said...

SEMASS! Ah! The Wonder of It All!
Each time it is brought up, the person fails to mention that Middleboro got NEW SHINEY TRASH TRUCKS and MEANINGLESS TRINKETS!
Middleboro likes new shiney things, like new town ambulances.
But no one tells you that Middleboro has el cheapo dumping fees that mean more than you can imagine because they're too lazy to do their own research and calculations about what Middleboro has saved.
What until that contract expires!
You think the Trash Fees are excessive now?
Middleboro will pay the going rate at that time. It'll be staggering!

Middleboro Selectmen vote to allow ONE SELECTMAN to sign the bills. Nothing is public. Nothing is discussed. Everything in Middleboro is a SECRET.

Anonymous said...

Bravo to the Regional Task Force!
We need to support them and Rep. Tom Calter for speaking the truth and the facts.
Where are the other cowards?

wayne said...

Excellent point Jacquie!

Business is traditionally good for communities; they don't send children to schools, they (usually)
close at night. Commercial buildings have such things which single family homes do not, such as security and fire-suppression systems. In short, their payments to the town usually exceed their drain.
But as we all know, this casino is nothing like and other business.
(Even Adam's favorite comparison, Disney World, closes at night!)

Maybe the Bridgwater prison may consider opening up a wing for all of the new law breakers which will most certainly come with the opening of a casino...
They could pay Middleboro a "finders fee", as the agreement will not even come close to covering our costs.
We will need to become very creative to make up the difference!