Sometimes I'd Do Better If I Was Absent

Look, I love eagles and salamanders and snakes. Rivers and streams and oceans. And I have a particular fondness for bear, deer and other four legged creatures than roam our part of the state.

And, I don't think the Audubon Society's ranking was fair.

I know, I sound like the third grader, telling his mom he flunked math or playground etiquette....but he has a great excuse. The teacher doesn't like him, the dog ate his homework, he only hit Willie after Willie hit him first.

But the 20 percent rating I got from the Audubon Society was, to say the least, disappointing.

There were only two issues that Legislators were rated on--the Open Space Bill, which I supported, and the Rivers Bill, which I opposed.

So, I should have gotten a 50 percent rating.

Heck, I would have gotten a 50 percent rating if I'd been absent for every vote. Talk about failing math. The Audubon Society gives you 10 points for missing a vote--no points if you vote against something they're for, and 20 points if you vote for something they like.

Anyway, the Audubon Society based it's rating on five votes--one on Open Space, one on the Rivers Bill, and three other votes that were strictly procedural votes. I really don't think the society is being as fair as they should be with the public.

I'm not alone at the 20 percent rating. Two of my neighboring solons, Rep. Dan Keenan and Rep. Walter DeFilippi, scored the same, for the same reasons.

Yes, I supported the Open Space Bond Bill. And the legislature set aside $500 million to preserve undeveloped land.

But, I admit I was one of only seven legislators voting against the Rivers Bill. I felt--and still feel--that the legislation was flawed.

In effect, it amounted to land-taking, with people unable to use their own land, even responsibly, if it abuts moving water. I felt that too much leeway in enforcement was placed in local conservation committees, which may be terrific in Westfield and not so fair in other communities. I felt that Western Massachusetts communities were penalized, when the majority of the problem is in Eastern Massachusetts.

And, I felt that the rules were not being equally enforced, with cities on one side of a river forced to obey, and the cities on the other side of the same river exempt. And, I withheld my vote until I was certain there would be enough votes to make the Rivers Bill law.

You may disagree, you may think the idea is terrific, but complaints about enforcement are already beginning to cross my desk.

Don't misunderstand. I want clean water, clean air, a clean environment, just like you do. I recycle everything I can. I don't litter.

I totally support green space, open space, and responsible use of our natural resources. I like wind power. Some 18 years ago I invested in solar energy to heat my house and water.

I have trekked the woods with environmentalists searching out wildlife for protection and studies. I've taken pride, and publicly shared my knowledge about the subject, when our eagle population soared.

But some legislative attempts are destined to fail, and I think the Rivers Act will face some tough battles in the years to come.

Most of all, I question the Audubon Society's means to an end. The society's spokesman claims that, by letting citizens know what their legislators are doing on Beacon Hill, they'll be sure that our open spaces, water supply and endangered species are protected.

But, a low rating, based on three meaningless votes, and two important votes, is misleading. And there's no incentive to work with the Audubon Society in the future. After all, please remember, if I didn't vote at all, my rating would be a respectable 50 percent.

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