Like many of you (but not everyone, even in Newton), I still suffer the pain of Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday. I take some consolation, however, in going four for four in the ballot measures, i.e. batting a thousand. Here is why I came down No, No, Yes, and Yes.
Measure 1: Why limit the expansion of slot parlors in Massachusetts if gambling is already legal? For one thing, gambling amounts to a regressive tax in that it hits those in the bottom half of the income range harder than those at the top. The wealthy, not the poor, should pay a greater share of our public expenses.
Now Barney Frank has argued that prohibiting gambling is like censuring sexual preference. Government, he believes, has no abiding interest in essentially private activity. As for gay rights, I stand with him, but gambling is another matter. Some of those who gamble become as obsessed by it as others are addicted to opioids. Though it may be too late to eliminate the lottery and the gambling establishments already in existence, I’d like to draw the line right where we are- no new gambling joints.
Measure 2: While holding signs on election day, I had a decent discussion with an administrator of a charter school about the reason for my opposition. I allowed that many of the charters in Massachusetts are prospering (far from all, even in the hub of American education). Still, charters nationwide are part of the trend to privatize the public sector, and their existence inevitably isolates the remaining public schools. Governor Dukakis recently put it well; pilot and magnet schools serve the same purpose and present a better model.
Former students and student-teachers of mine have not fared well in charters. Without union representation and well-articulated workplace procedures, charter teachers work at the whim of their headmaster or principal. They also earn lower salaries. In other states, charters are run by private corporations that treat each charter as a franchise. I cannot support this direction in public education, nor can 63% of Massachusetts’ voters!
Measure 3: This measure passed by a greater margin than the charter school measure failed. It was long overdue. Commerical producers have for far too long held the animals they raise for consumption in utter contempt, as if they have no feelings or sensibility. The more research scientists conduct, the more they discover how much in common animals have with their human masters. They do think and they do feel. The least we can do is improve their living conditions along the way.
Measure 4: I struggled a long time over legalizing recreational use of marijuana, first supporting it, then retreating before finally embracing the cause. To be clear, I have no interest in touching the stuff myself: been there, done that. I treasure my sobriety. Modest consumption of beer and wine constitutes the extent of my involvement with intoxicants. Still, millions of my fellow citizens are dope smokers, even some people my age. The current law is unenforceable, and rather than leave the distribution of marijuana to criminal elements, I’d rather the Commonwealth controlled and taxed its sale.
But what of condiments like pot brownies and pot candy? I have been told that the state legislature can establish the conditions of their production and sale. My hope is that the sale of pot products be limited to those with medical prescriptions. If private citizens make pot cakes in their own ovens, for their own consumption, I have no objection. Otherwise, I’d prohibit commercial sale of those candies and cakes. The legislature should also make regulations to discourage driving under the influence of pot, as they have done with alcohol. All these steps need to be in place before recreational pot goes on sale.
Whatever happens on the national level, I take pride in the decisions made by voters in Massachusetts. Would that the national electorate had been so wise!