Cele's 2000 Columns

Memories of spending billions, staying awake during an all night legislative session. Memories of cars and squirrels. And a trip to a 40th high school union (on Mesaba airline). And a column dedicated to Carla Moran, the best employee anyone could ever hope to have, on her wedding day.

Here We Go Again ... Gearing up for 2001

Here We Go Again ... Gearing up for 2001

"If somebody is looking for an easy path in life, don't seek elected office."

The words of Tom Finneran, the state representative from Mattapan, and current Speaker of the House. Also, the man sure to be re-elected Speaker for the next session.

The next session starts next Wednesday. By law, it always starts on the first Wednesday of a new year. This session will run for two years, 2001 and 2002.

And, there are several changes in the session to come.

It is the last session before redistricting, when legislators in both Senate and House may find their districts radically changed. Sometimes changed in such a gerrymandered way as to eliminate certain parties from winning, or retaining, seats.

Also, this coming year, we will get raises. I'm not sure yet how much, but let me remind you that we in the legislature didn't set the new amount. In an attempt to avoid the public's criticism of previous raises, the way to change legislator's salaries was voted on, by you, the voting public, two years ago. It's based on median family incomes changes, both up and down.

There will be some changes in the membership of the legislature as well. A few incumbents lost-Walter DeFilippi of West Springfield and Evelyn Chesky of Holyoke among them. Altogether, five incumbents won't be back because they lost primary or general races.

A few others decided not to run for personal or health reasons, or because they assumed other jobs. So, there will be a dozen new faces for this reason.

Republicans are fewer than they were before, sinking from 27 out of 160 members of the House down to 24, and declining from 7 in the 40-member Senate, down to 6.

And the Democrats have a new state committee chair, Philip Johnson of Marshfield.

The Speaker is sure to name new committee chairs and vice-chairs. All Democrats, of course.

Both Democrats and Republicans will have new members in their leadership teams, because each lost a member who resigned to take other jobs or retired.

All departing House members had the chance to give their formal "goodbyes" last month.

The speeches were varied. Recounting races and victories, ignoring the advice of spouses and parents, thanking their cohorts and leaders, announcing future plans, reviewing successful legislation, giving advice to the future legislature.

A Marine honor guard escorted Mary Jeanette Murray into the well for her farewell. Not only a retired legislator, but a retired Marine!

Another tradition, another year. More will leave during the year, if the 2001 session is like any other. And, a year from now, the speeches will be made again.

Looking at the new session, some legislation will be coming around again. Like the Death Penalty, for sure. (Most surveys show it's destined to fail again.)

But, let's stop here. That's only one of about 8,000 bills that have been filed. Deadline for filing was earlier this month.

I'll try to keep you posted on the most important ones, the ones that will affect your daily life, as we proceed through the new session of the legislature.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year, to all of you!

Please pass the Lutefisk and Limpa

Please pass the Lutefisk and Limpa

I always blamed my Norwegian friends for lutefisk. It's traditional holiday fare in Scandinavian homes--and one of the few Scandinavian customs that we had growing up.

Yes, I blamed the Norwegians for lutefisk. As Swedes, we always blamed the Norwegians for everything. Even if it wasn't their fault. After all it was my friend Suzy's Norwegian mother who cooked it for us every year. And we would go to their house after church Christmas Eve for this traditional meal.

Unfortunately, we had to eat it.

I think lutefisk is Norwegian for "codfish-dried-in-lye-and-reconstituted-in-a-milky broth-that-is-inedible-and-you-may-
get-violently-ill-after-eating-it-or-even-looking-at-it." At least the Swedes doused it liberally with melted butter to make it palatable. Or camoflauge the real taste.

There was also some form of strange meat imbedded in gelatin. Kind of like head cheese. Something like silt. Stuff you wouldn't want to eat. Luckily, it only showed up Christmas Eve.

Maybe lutefisk ranks right up there with pfefferneuse when it comes to holiday food. Cookies so hard that if you drop them on the floor the tile cracks. Aunt Lill supplies them to us every year. We don't eat them, but please don't tell her. Other than a few rounds of "Oh Tannenbaum" and "Ring, Glocken" that's the extent of German tradition in the Hahn household.

There is, however, a Swedish sausage, flas korv, a delicious pork and potato sausage that we had every Christmas. I used to make it from my grandmother's recipe, carefully stuffing it into natural casings. Now I buy it, in Auburn.

Limpa bread as well. Christmas just isn't Christmas without korv and limpa.

Actually, we have few traditions in our household when it comes to the holidays. But there certainly are a few Christmases I remember.

The year Curt and I ordered an 18-foot tree to go right up to the cathedral ceiling. No one warned us that the tree would weigh hundreds of pounds, so getting it in the house and upright was accomplished only with the help of strong neighbor boys, a few bags of sand to hold it upright, and some 8-inch bolts. We bolted the tree stand through the carpeting and into the floor.

The year we wired the tree to the ceiling to keep it from toppling when the cats climbed it. They did anyway, and the wire didn't hold. Lost the coffee table and the tree.

The year the Saint Bernard set herself on fire when we (not advisable but we did) let her eat all the leftover turkey scraps, skin, fat, and gravy. She belched a great big Saint Bernard belch just as she touched me, creating static electricity and her "gas" caught fire! The flash was so fast we didn't believe it, but her burned and missing whiskers and eyebrows were proof.

The same Saint Bernard ate all the Christmas cookies while we were at Church one Christmas Eve.

Now, our cats are the thieves. They've moved the five stuffed reindeer off the piano. I retrieved the three big ones, but they've hidden the tiniest two. Maybe they're holding them ransom for the reindeer-horns made for well-dressed cats to wear for the holidays.

A truly memorable gift, probably the only one I remember from my childhood, was the bike. The Schwinn bike. Rose-colored and silver, and big and fat and flashy. Probably around 1950.

Which reminds me of all the family photographs of mom, dad, my brother Gene, and Honey May, the cocker spaniel. My brother and I were always wearing red flannel or red plaid and Kodak red eyes. Every picture.

Christmas memories. So many over the years. This year, I hope we'll create a few more. I've learned that it's the memories...the trees, the music, family...that is, of course, most important. When all the gifts are used up or worn out, when all the food is eaten, when the cookies are only crumbs, it's the memories that remain.

I hope you'll be creating some Christmas memories this year as well. And I wish each and every one a joyous season, filled with love, happiness and peace.gislature.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year, to all of you!

Catching up on the Little Stuff

Catching up on the Little Stuff

Lottery-Is a $10 lottery ticket too much? Are we encouraging Baystaters to gamble? The state's first ten dollar ticket was so successful they've printed a new one, and they're predicting it will bring in twice as much money as the last one. This one is the $400,000,000 Spectacular.

O'Brien-Shannon O'Brien, state treasurer and Easthampton native, says you should be able to spend your dollars anyway you want. "My philosophy is from ancient times, whether it was building the aqueduct in Rome or Washington's Continental army, or Harvard and Brown building their campuses, selling lottery tickets has been a longstanding way to give people a voluntary way to pay for the public goodI'm of the opinion that adults have the right to spend their money as they see fit."

Bedding-Your tax dollars at work. Noise from Big Dig construction is rattling the beds of some of the folks in the construction area. Solution? Buy $2,000 bed frames for the residents to reduce the quaking and shaking. I am not kidding. They have to use their own mattresses.

Voters-We're at an all time high in Massachusetts. Some 4,000,218 of us have registered to vote. Two-thirds of the state's population. Of new voters signed up this year, 55 percent are unenrolled, 25 percent democrats. Republicans stayed at 14 percent.

Trash-Governor Cellucci says cities and towns are to blame for not meeting recycling goals. They collect the trash, not the state, he points out. The state's municipalities failed to meet the state's goal of recycling 46 percent of trash by this year. By about 10 percent.

Spending-Want to know how much I collected in campaign contributions last year? From whom? And how I spent the money? You can find out by accessing the state's Office of Campaign Finance page and find the latest finance reports from all candidates, winners and losers. Just go www.state.ma.us/ocpf/images/imagestart.html

Abuse-As many as 109,000 Massachusetts women experienced some form of abuse over a one year period, according to the state's public health officials. Most at risk are women aged 18 to 24. And, the incidents had nothing to do with race, income or education.

Keeping Track-Like all other states, Massachusetts public health officials have to keep track of a lot of things, by Federal mandate. For instance, consumption of fruits and vegetables, incidences of HIV and AIDs, weight control, exercise, health care access, tobacco, chronic disease. On its own, the public health department also keeps track of statistics on domestic abuse, calcium intake, osteoporosis, quality of life, oral health, asthma and disabilities.

Pregnancies-From those statistics, the state has found out that 31 percent of pregnancies are unplanned.

Overall, however, 72 percent of sexually active women in Massachusetts use birth control. This state ranks second in the nation in mammography screening and fourth in pap smear screening.

Safety belts-Massachusetts has compiled statistics on highway fatalities for 1995-1998. During those years, 1,198 were killed on our roads and highways. If all of them had buckled up, almost 600 of them would have survived. Massachusetts last year had an average safety belt use of 52 percent-46th in the nation. And, one of only three states to experience a decline in safety belt use in 1997 and 1998.

Just some of the things I learn, that you might like to know, as I work in the State House as your representative.

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