Tired of Budget Talk? Let's Lighten It Up!

"Can't you write about something other than the State Budget and money? " said my visitor.

"Well, of course I can. I guess three weeks in a row of columns about money is a bit much. But, you know, it does occupy a great deal of our time."

"Right," he said, "but you must have a life beyond the budget."

He's right of course. I do. And I can tell you about a few other things. So, here's a quick snapshot of other items on the agenda. And on my desk.

Public Funding of Elections: The State Supreme Judicial Court has ordered the legislature to either fund or repeal the so-called "Clean Elections Law," approved by voters by ballot initiative. Several potential candidates have hailed this decision, and Westfield's SJC Judge John Greaney agreed with the 67 percent majority of voters who like the idea. I don't like the idea and I don't know that anything will get resolved for the upcoming fall elections. I don't like the idea of spending tax dollars on political races, for me or anyone else. By all accounts, the state doesn't have enough money to fully fund many programs and will be eliminating others. What line items will the Legislature cut to get the funding? Education? Social Services? Highways? The Soldiers Home?

Sports Report: Go Patriots! The SuperBowl! Who would have believed it? Now no one will question their presence in Foxboro. Of course, we are in period before the game when every sports guru, on the air, in the press, at meals, in the office will talk about what could, should, might, will happen. And, naturally, the Pats stopped by the State House on their way to the airport Monday as they headed to New Orleans. What a rally! My favorite players urged the fans to "do your thing and we'll do ours. We're going down for business."

More Sports: With new ownership of the Boston Red Sox, what will happen to plans for Fenway? We don't know. We appropriated some money last year for infrastructure renovations around Fenway but the new owners haven't followed up. I happen to be one of those who likes it just the way it is. But I know that big price tags for teams means they need more seats for more fans. While winning ball games will be the number one priority for the new owners, I'm sure the legislature will be hearing from them soon about renovation or rebuilding plans. But, what business did Attorney General Tom Reilly, a generally good guy, have getting involved?

Inaugural Ball: Mayor Rick Sullivan had a grand party last weekend at Tekoa to mark the beginning of his 5th term. The place was packed-about 400 people. (Why did I order chicken for the 8th time in a week?) We had the pleasure of sitting with former Mayor John Palczynski and his wife Shirley. John is a very bright and thoughtful person. And Rick is a pleasure to work with. Honest. Direct. Hard working. The same can be said for Lisa Sullivan, who is an equal asset to our city with her huge involvement in civic events.

Not Forgotten: Speaking of past Mayors, Harold Martin seemed to be one of Westfield's favorites. And while I knew him for a brief time before he passed away, I got to know his wife, Detta, much better. She wrote for the newspaper, was very involved in the community and a very classy lady. Last week I came across a cassette tape recording of the very first radio show she did for WLDM in the early 80's. For someone who hadn't spent much time in the broadcast media, she was excellent. A very warm, friendly voice. Not surprising since she was a warm, friendly person.

Same Martins: Did you see the story about Westfield Whip? Carol Martin, former Mayor Martin's daughter, is an owner. You can still buy a real, handmade whip, from the only whip factory in town. Stop in the factory, and see the store, "A Horse of Course."

Cigarettes: Yes, contrary to public opinion, it is indeed legal to give away a pack of cigarettes. So, buy two, get one free is legal. But, only one free pack per person per day. Ditto for wine. Buy one, get one free, is okay.

Christmas Cards: I save my Christmas Cards each year. I've tossed out the 2000 cards and flipped through 2001. A few observations. Seems to me fewer cards with a clear religious message. Fewer cards with doves. Three cards tried to put Christmas and Patriotism together. All the politicians sent cards. Not many lobbyists. And, there were the cards containing excessively long, detailed "my family activities for the year" letters. For those closest to me, in my own family, I don't have that much information. And finally, a card from a friend out of state who wrote to say that after 37 years they had decided on a divorce. And a merry Christmas back to you?

More Stuff: Gateway schools need more SBAB money, DTA needs more funding, Holyoke Soldiers Home budget shortage still not solved, our Housing Bond conference committee is meeting, hospitals need more Medicaid money, kids want more after school programs, all the Western Mass legislators looked great in the Holyoke St. Patrick's photos taken this week. I wish politician's campaign managers wouldn't call me on my cell phone.

Next week: More of the serious stuff from the pile next to my desk.

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