Hazy, Hot, Humid and Hectic

Last month. The Legislature winds up its 1997-98 session July 31. Just 12 more days to tackle, or attack, a stack of pending legislation. With the budget done, we'll be getting to ATM regulations, HMO legislation, non-group insurance, courthouses, and a few hundred other bills.

Finally. Tax cuts. The biggest in the history of Massachusetts. We passed them this week, and you've already heard the details so I won't repeat them. You'll get a bigger personal deduction, taxes on unearned income go down, and businesses will save big bucks on unemployment insurance. But I'm still hoping for further tax cuts in the personal income tax. From 5.95 to 5 percent.

In truth. The Legislature really continues to meet past July 31st. But, after that date, we cannot do anything controversial.

Relax. Teachers, please relax. It's summer. And the Education Committee has effectively killed the legislation that would have mandated tests for veteran teachers. We're still working on getting the teacher retirement bill to the floor for a vote. Thank you, Peter Miller and Jack Lampiasi, for your lobbying visit to the State House on behalf of the Westfield Education Association. You do good work.

Tourism. It's a big season for visitors in the State House. And everyone is welcome to wander the halls, take a tour, visit their legislators. You can do a self-guided tour, by picking up a guide on the second floor at the Beacon Street entrance, or join a free tour led by our Doric Dames. Last month alone, 19,036 visitors took tours through the State House. And, now, we're open Saturdays as well.

From where? From everywhere. Our visitors to the State House in the past six months came from around the world. The largest percentage, of course, some 61.5 percent, were from the Northeast. Then, 15.3 Southwest, 10.5 Midwest, 7.85 the Southeast, and 4.096 from the Northwest. Worldwide guests broke down to 21.3 percent from Europe, 3.3 from Asia, 5.2 from South and Central America, 1.7 from Australia and New Zealand.

Grand Staircase. In the center of the State House is our Grand Staircase, the center of activities throughout the year. If you're part of a group that would like to perform there this fall, here's your chance. Performing groups from public and private schools, colleges and other non-profit community organizations are invited to entertain either on the Grand Staircase or in Ashburton Park, adjacent to the State House. You might even have some of your expenses subsidized by the Bureau of State Office Buildings. For details, call Tony Cannata at 727-1100, ext. 540.

Chiggers. Again. Suzy tells me she actually got chiggers once. Remember? Mom always said, "don't sit on the grass, you'll get chiggers." Suzy further tells me that the cure those many decades ago was clear nail polish. It suffocated the chiggers and stopped the itch, supposedly. Well, her mom only had red polish. The polka dot effect was mortifying, she recalls. Later, someone invented chigger stuff, pink in color and gravelly in texture, to smear on the skin.

Mosquitoes. Never wear red. Someone in the know says that to wear red you might as well ring the dinner bell for mosquitoes. The average mosquito consumes about one millionth of a gallon of blood per bite. It would take 1,120,000 bites to drain an average adult.

Celebrate. It's appreciation day at Stanley Park today. From 2 p.m. on it's music, dancing, food and fun. The grills are hot, just take your own food. Beverages provided. Stanley Park--one of this city's biggest assets. Some 300 acres of woods and fields, flowers and playgrounds, ponds and walks.

And swans. Mark Lavoie, the king of Stanley Park, tells me that their two swans are alive and well and healthy. Swans do mate for life, by the way, and Mark says his have been there for more than 15 years. Same swans. They live a long time. Perhaps, 40 years or more. Stanley Park will be fifty years old next year.

Flagpole. Congratulations to all who organized the Fourth of July extravaganza on the green to mark the 100th birthday of our beautiful flagpole. The flagpole, with previous lives as a tree and as a ship's mast, now has a beautiful, new, gold ball at the top. Coming next month, a huge flag, 25 feet long, which I have purchased for the city. We'll let you know when ceremonies will be held.

Bears. They're everywhere. Even in our cities. Even in Westfield. Our Massachusetts black bear population is increasing by about eight percent a year. We probably have more than 1,500, according in the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

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