Archive for November, 2007

Massachusetts: Whacked?

I didn’t even get a chance to say hello.  “The end is near,” an alarmed Rick O’Shea said when I picked up the phone. 

I knew from long experience not to begin the panic process based upon anything that comes out of the mouth of my childhood pal.  He has been known to predict the end of the world because a coffee shop was out of his favorite brand of artificial sweetener.  But, the panic in his voice made me curious, so I had to ask: 

Why should I start building a bomb shelter this time, Rick? 

“Haven’t you seen the news?  Some nurse from Arlington put in a law that will outlaw the practice of spanking your own kids.  I mean, sure, some people are out of line and abuse their kids, but to fix that they’re going to make it illegal for everyone.  Can you believe that?” 

Of course I can believe it.  We live in Massachusetts. 

“Can you even imagine how that would work?  Any kid who didn’t get candy in the grocery store line could just whip out their cell phone and call the police.  Suddenly, any time a parent said, ‘no,’ it would be a chance for the kid to make up stories about being spanked.  Kids aren’t exactly known for rational behavior, and they’re the ones who will be enforcing the law.  The entire power structure of the home would change; parents would live in fear of their children.  Never mind what would happen if a person gave his or her kid a pop on the fanny in public.  Why, they’d be hauled off in chains!  Chains!” 

Come on, I’m sure it won’t be that bad. 

“You don’t have any kids; you have no idea what’s going to happen.  You’re an English major, didn’t you read 1984?  Spanking will just be the beginning; once the government gets into your house, they’ll go all the way.  Kids will be encouraged – heck, rewarded if they turn their parents in for any little thing, and Massachusetts will become a police state.” 

Well, I guess you had better call your state representative and ask them to vote against the bill. 

“Tim, I’m a Republican.  This is Massachusetts.  Do the math.” 

Then it looks like you are going to blow the college fund money on Christmas presents this year. 

“Sure, laugh it up.  I’m in serious trouble here.  I only spank my kids in extreme situations, and then it’s nothing to speak of, but can you imagine if this law was around when we were kids?  My mother used to call neighbors over to spank me when her hand got tired; and do you remember The Belt?”  Rick shuddered a moment before continuing, “My dad used to double it up and SNAP!  The noise alone would make a person’s shorts go tan.” 

My aunt one time spanked me with a wooden spoon.  I’m not sure I remember why, or anything else from that day for that matter, but I’m sure I deserved it.  In fact, my brothers and sister still talk about the day my uncle gave The Board of Education to my parents for a gift.  It was a dark day. 

“Without The Board of Education, I’m sunk.  If I even threaten it, they’ll laugh in my face.”  Rick’s voice got very soft.  “Those kids will eat me alive…why, they’ll make me watch the Wiggles…the horror…the horror.”

There was a click, and the phone went quiet.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 29 Nov 2007 No Comments

Thanks for holding onto that for me…

Have you ever gone rooting around in an old coat or an old pair of pants and come out with 20 bucks?  If you haven’t been lucky in the pants lottery, then perhaps you have joined a Christmas club, where a little money is withheld from each paycheck, then returned in a lump sum right before the holidays; designed to make budgeting cash for holiday shopping just a little easier.  What if I told you that over the past 3 years or so, the state government has withheld $450 million from that cities and towns of Massachusetts and that the money is just sitting in an account, waiting to be returned?  Wouldn’t that help to make things just a little easier in towns that have been so recently strapped for cash? 

Here’s the deal:  Starting in Fiscal Year 2004, the state government capped the Massachusetts Lottery proceeds that went back to the cities and towns.  This was done, word was, so that the cities and towns would help to shoulder the financial burden for state programs that might otherwise be cut during difficult economic times.  The cap lasted through Fiscal Year 2006, and about $450 million in aid was held back. 

If you’ve ever watched a television commercial for the Massachusetts Lottery, you know that the Lottery was designed to provide unrestricted aid back to the cities and towns.  The commercials encourage viewers to gamble, knowing that in the end, their lost gambling money will benefit schools and other important town programs.  But, hey, times got tough, so the state needed to use that money for important state programs…right? 

Wrong.

 During the time of the Lottery cap, the Commonwealth’s Stabilization (or “Rainy Day”) Fund grew by $1.5 billion.  That’s 1.5 billion dollars, which I think we can all agree is a pretty serious piece of change, above and beyond the amount needed to run crucial state programs during those trying economic times. 

Now it’s time to get the money back.  House Docket # 4651, filed on October 26th by House Republicans, proposes that the $450 million, which was apparently not so crucial to keep the state afloat, be returned to the cities and towns.  According to the filed legislation, called “Massachusetts Municipal Finance Relief Act of 2007,” the breakdown of payouts for the towns covered by this newspaper would be: 

Berlin:           $120,761

Bolton:          $118,260

Boylston:       $205,169

Clinton:      $1,325,540

Lancaster:      $495,851

Sterling:         $411,990 

The current balance in the Rainy Day Fund is around $2.25 billion, so if the $450 million was distributed, there would still be a balance of over $1.8 billion in the state’s piggy bank.  Now, there is no doubt in my mind that my town, Clinton, could find a valuable use of over $1.3 million, and that the money would do more good spent on necessary local programs than sitting unused on top of another $1.8 billion. 

It was nice of the Commonwealth to play the role of Christmas Club and hold onto the money for the cities and towns, but it’s time that the money was given back so that it can do some good. 

I recommend that everyone who wants this money given back to their town contact his or her State Representative and State Senator and ask them to support the Massachusetts Municipal Finance Relief Act of 2007.  It just makes sense.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 26 Nov 2007 No Comments

Morons 1, Common Sense 0

Ok, so some Cambridge Boy Scouts put out collection boxes for the troops at polling places, and one person complained that the boxes represented a “pro-war” viewpoint, so the boxes were removed. Then, the election commissioner tried to cover her tracks by saying that the Boy Scouts didn’t have permission, when they say that they did. Link

One thing about the “Good Old Days” is that if some idiot had complained about something like that, the election commissioner would have told them to go fly a kite. There are times when common sense needs to take precedence over hyper-sensitivity; even in Cambridge.

Rants Tim 15 Nov 2007 No Comments

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