Yes, You Can Drive in Barefeet

From the piles, piled higher than ever.

Because two week’s of budget negotiations and the priority of answering constituents’ questions and helping them solve problems have pushed the general mail off to the side.

Here goes.

What do Massachusetts residents say is their top priority? Health care. It’s as important as education, taxes, jobs and the economy, crime and the environment, according to a poll by Kiley & Company.

Contributing to that health care concern are insurance premiums, the cost of prescriptions, the number of uninsured people, financial problems facing hospitals.

The good news, according to the survey, is that 76 percent of those polled say that our hospitals are doing a good job.

But, they’re worried about the health of the hospitals themselves. And, well they should. This is the fourth year in a row that hospitals have been in the red. More than half of them are losing money.

Money. Fleet Bank, with $61-million in deposits, has a 23 percent market share in New England. In second place is Citizens Bank, with deposits of $16.5-million, for a 10 percent share of the market.

Citizens, by the way, is considered the only real local alternative to Fleet for large commercial borrowers. Its parent bank is Bank of Scotland which, when it acquired London’s National Westminster Bank, became one of the world’s largest banks (assets of $400-billion).

There are 78 coastal communities in Massachusetts.

The Commonwealth owns roughly 500 buildings.

And, we’ve acquired some 100,000 acres of open space.

The Executive Office of Environmental Affairs has 3,500 employees.

Remember those old mercury thermometers. As a kid, we’d break them and play with the mercury. Today? Not a chance. They’re considered health hazards.

If you break one, causing a "mercury spill," it could cost you $1,000 to clean it up. The state now has a zero mercury goal, to be achieved in part, by collecting mercury thermometers and replacing them with alternatives.

Did you see the Boston Globe ByDesign article on Columbia’s Superb Bike? The exact reproduction of its 1941 model? Coaster brakes, electric horn?

Better a bike than a wedding. If you want to rent a hall and feed the folks in Boston, save your money. Ritz Carlton Hotel? A $32,000 minimum for a Saturday night.

Or, reserve a spot in the Public Garden. It’s free.

College bills? The average for all kinds of student loans is $4,719 annually.

One in ten people over 65, and nearly half of those over 85, have Alzheimer’s disease. Some 19 million people have a family member with dementia.

A dip net is used to harvest sand crabs. The daily limit is 50 edible crabs.

One bushel equals four pecks, or 32 quarts. Most baskets and buckets are 10 quarts.

More than half of all households carry credit card balances. The average household balance is $7,000, which results in $1,0000 in finance charges.

And, yes, you can drive barefoot in Massachusetts. Don’t believe me? Ask AAA for their 2001 Digest of Motor Laws.

Just some of the things that people think I should know.

You should see what I throw away.

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