Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a solemn day. A day of commemoration. A day to honor our fallen soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, and coast guardsmen. Memorial Day should not be confused with Veterans Day, a day for honoring all people who serve and served in the armed forces, both living and dead.

Some historical points about Memorial Day:

· Memorial Day roots go back to Civil War

· 1863 – Wives, daughters, sisters and other loved ones decorated graves in Columbus, Missouri

· 1865 – Freed slaves decorated the graves of Union soldiers in Charleston, South Carolina

· 1866 – Henry Welles, pharmacist in Waterloo, New York, closed his drugstore to honor all soldiers, Union and Confederate, killed in the Civil War

· 1868 – General John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30th to be Memorial Day

· 1915 – Moina Michael conceived of the red poppy to honor those who died serving this country during war

· In the 1920s – The VFW and American Legion picked up the tradition of the red poppy which continues today

· After WWI, Memorial Day was expanded to honor and commemorate military service members who died serving their country in all wars since the American Revolution

· More than one million Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice since our declaration of independence from England

· Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor our men and women who are the true heroes of these United States, the protectors of our freedom and liberty, and the guiding stars that light our way to a more promising future

Read these words written by Charles M. Province:
It is the Soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us Freedom of the Press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us Freedom of Speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the Freedom to demonstrate.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial;

And it is the Soldier--who salutes the flag,
Who serves the flag, and
Whose coffin is draped by the flag--
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

I ask everyone to continue to make a difference with your words and actions. God bless our fallen soldiers and God bless America.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sagamore Bridge: Army Corps of Engineers gives us the big middle finger

We all agree that we need to maintain the Cape Cod Canal bridges so that a tragedy such as what happened in Minneapolis doesn't happen here.

On the other hand, we learned a very valuable lesson from the St. Anthony Falls Bridge collapse: A 1,216-foot, 10-lane bridge can be built in one year, one month and 18 days. A similar project here in Massachusetts, assuming availability of funding, would likely take 8 to 12 years, just to get the permits lined up.

The conversation about replacing the Bourne and Sagamore bridges has been reignited by the Great Mother's Day Gridlock of 2012. And for good reason. These bridges were completed in 1935 and have long been inadequate to accommodate the traffic to and from Cape Cod, particularly during the tourist months from April through October.



The Sagamore Bridge traffic crisis, however, is an immediate problem that will not be mitigated with a long-term solution. The Army Corps of Engineers has been working diligently for years to maintain the two canal bridges, ensuring safety and lengthening lifespans. It does appear, though, that the pace of preventive maintenance (PM) has picked up over the past five years with joint and deck replacements and now the repair and replacement of structural components.

This accelerated PM schedule has not gone unnoticed by locals, one of whom I visited yesterday, the owner of a Bourne restaurant whose Mother's Day business was decimated by the hours long traffic jam leaving the Cape. Everyone who would normally head down to her restaurant, including many people with confirmed reservations, gave up when they realized that they'd be tied up in traffic for over an hour.

Frustration abounds among commuters, visitors, businesses, and residents just trying to get around town. Anticipating the impending disaster on Mother's Day, the Cape Cod delegation of legislators requested that the Army Corps' contractor clear the bridge for the weekend, or at least for Sunday. The response back was a clear waving of the proverbial middle finger, citing lack of progress on the repair work due to the inclement weather over the past two weeks. That's understandable, but the fact that one of the two shifts scheduled for Sunday was called off is not. Is it possible that too many workers called in sick on Mother's Day?

Bridge crossers waited in a giant, New York city style gridlock for hours only to discover no one, not a single person, working on the bridge. The disrespect for the people traveling to and from Cape Cod by the Army Corps and their contractor is incredible. They claim that the three hours it takes to move the equipment off the bridge is not doable. Compared to what, I ask? How much time, fuel, frustration, missed appointments, late arrivals to work, etc., do we collectively have to endure because three hours of their time trumps the tens of thousands of hours that we waste?

The Cape delegation of state legislators asked for a number of changes to mitigate the problem:

1) "Smart" cones that provide up-to-the-minute traffic data that would be shared online, on the 511 info line, and on radio stations. That request has not been addressed but we'll press for that for the fall lane closures.

2) Moving the equipment off the bridge on weekends. The three-hour process of moving the equipment (about 11 pieces, best I can tell) would be a much better alternative to leaving thousands of people wasting their time waiting to leave Cape Cod.

3) Closing the Exit 1 on-ramp. The traffic people are not convinced that this will increase the number of cars crossing the bridge. If it does not, then the effect will be that the line on Route 6 will grow longer. However, the traffic jam in Sandwich would be lessened with only the cars headed for the Bourne Bridge traveling via 6A and the side streets of Sandwich. I'm willing to give it a shot while measuring the traffic count crossing the bridge so that we know for sure if closing the Exit 1 entrance would improve the situation.

4) Accessing the base as an alternate route. We also requested this as a temporary solution and were turned down because a) the 24/7 security of the MMR cannot be compromised, and 2) the condition of the roads that would be used are only fair now and would not support the increased traffic. All of this is debatable, of course, but we did make the request.

We'll continue to push for changes to the traffic plan (or lack of one) over the summer with the hope that we can lessen the pain when the Army Corps picks up on this project after Labor Day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Phone call from an addict

One of the important aspects of my state representative job is reaching out to constituents about issues kicking around in the joint committees on which I serve. Nothing we've been working on has been more high profile and critical to Cape Cod than opiate addiction.

I received a call the other day from a friend who is an addiction counselor at a rehab facility. He told me that he was sitting in his office with Faye, a 21-year-old cocaine and heroin addict who had been at the facility for 18 days. She was insisting on being released so that she could get back to her neighborhood to get high.

The rehab facility cannot force people to stay, but my friend told her that she needed to speak with her state representative before making her final decision. I am in no way qualified to counsel addicts; I'm just a father of six with a passion for changing our model for dealing with addiction.

With Faye now on the speakerphone, I asked her why she was abandoning her treatment plan. She told me that all she wanted to do was to get high. Nothing else mattered. She and her boyfriend had overdosed on a narcotic a few weeks before. He died. She survived, but the need to get high had clearly overtaken her free will.

I told her that I have six kids and have worried about them getting involved with opiates, even innocently by taking pain medications after a wisdom tooth removal. I asked her what I should say to convinced them to steer clear of opiates. Faye suggested that all I would need to do is to introduce my kids to her. After seeing the impact of drug addiction on her, my children would never consider using.

I asked how Faye views her future. She had no thoughts of what might become of her, other than to say that she'd probably be better off dead. What was important to her, however, was getting out of the rehab facility to chase her next high.

Faye was released later that day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

June Fusco, where are you?

Doorbell rang.

UPS delivery.

Two boxes of flowers from 1-800-FLOWERS.com.

Both addressed to Mary, my wife.

One from Chris and Dan (sons number 1 & 3).

One from Kim and Rob. We don't know these people. The flowers were meant for June Fusco, according to the card inside. Both boxes had mailing labels addressed to Mary at our house.

June's not going to have a happy Mother's Day.

Kim and Rob are going to wonder why June's a little cold to them this year.

Help us save Kim and Rob.

Mary called 1-800-FLOWERS.com and waited for 15 minutes on hold. Finally, she gets a customer service rep in a call center somewhere in a foreign country who assures her that the flowers were probably meant for her.

June, we're kinda thinking that you're not getting any flowers from Kim and Rob this year.

June Fusco, where are you?


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Chamber and restaurant owners against hike in meals tax

The Sandwich Chamber of Commerce has gone on the record opposing Article 12 of the warrant to be debated at next Monday's (May 7, 2012) annual town meeting. In an email sent yesterday, the chamber states its case:

The Sandwich Chamber has taken an official position opposing Article 12 - Allowing the town to charge a local meals tax in addition to the existing state tax on restaurant meals. The Chamber continues to oppose this tax as a unfair burden, singling out one sector. The Sandwich Chamber opposes any increased taxes further burdening one industry as an unfair tax.

In another email circulated by a local restaurant owner, a laundry list of reasons to vote against Article 12 is presented. See that appeal here.

Proponents argue that 75 cents on a $100 bill is insignificant and the $250,000 or so that the tax is estimated to add to town coffers is needed to pay for important services and to close the ever present budget deficit.

Are you for or against adding three-quarters of a percent to our meals tax, bringing the tax to 7% versus the current 6.25%? Vote in the poll at the right and add your comments below.

To vote for real, show up to town meeting on Monday. There is no vote at the polls on this issue; it will be decided at town meeting.