In last week’s Advocate, Editor Erik Sokolowski wrote about the mental brakes slamming on when he was trying to put a column together. He was right. It can be slow torture to develop a worthwhile idea into a string of paragraphs you think someone else might be interested in reading.
Another problem that sometimes plagues me is an over-abundance of ideas. Each might interest me, but none enough to blossom into a full column. That’s where I’m at this week.
The first item that grabbed my attention recently was new Adams-Cheshire School District Superintendent Kristen Gordon’s public questioning of what could be done to counteract the district’s declining number of students.
Adams-Cheshire School District faces many of the same kinds of problems facing school districts throughout Massachusetts. The federal government didn’t order our state to slim down by one congressperson because it’s booming. There are less people here than there once were, and they tend to move more often.
The budget for each public school district’s financial aid is calculated by the state based on student head count. Mix in fierce competition for students created by both school choice and charter schools with an overall population drop and the outcome is inevitable. I’ve been opposed to both school choice and charter schools since they were first approved for just that reason. But both programs are still going strong.
Another topic that is a long term thorn in the side of most communities, especially upscale communities, is affordable housing. It’s a thorny issue, because exactly like public education, it directly hits local property owners where they live, either in their quarterly real estate tax bill or the future value of their home.
Currently, the real estate in the center of the eastern Route 2 approach to the Village Beautiful occupied by the flood ravaged Spruces, along with some surrounding land, seems to be in the mix. A couple of local committees directly involved in recommending the best path forward for the town are publically discussing what that path should be.
It’s easy to say that a community as snug as Williamstown should just make room for affordable housing, and that’s that. But whenever public officials consider the best use of public land, or especially land that will be made public through the use of eminent domain, it is never a simple issue.
I think Williamstown has long been wrestling to find an honest and creative approach, and just like Massachusetts public school superintendents, needs to satisfy very different constituents with very different demands.
Weaving those first two topics into an entire column about public finances and the programs for which they pay briefly occurred to me; however, the third topic I wanted to cover doesn’t fit too well with that topic. But it has been nagging me very strongly lately, so I decided to make it the third mini-column within a column this week.
This is a topic I’ve written about before, but it’s begging for a quick return. And that’s the way we drive. Simply put, much of our driving stinks. I like to spend time outside, walking and jogging around local streets and byways, and I regularly find myself exasperated by the sloppy, rude and downright dangerous habits of some local drivers.
First and foremost, we tend to drive too fast. There’s no other answer for that except slowing down. And we all know the evils of texting. I’ve learned to spot the woozy lane bouncing of an oncoming texting driver and I make sure I walk as far to the side as I’m able.
But from a particularly pedestrian point of view, nothing is as bad as our behavior when it comes to crosswalks. We ignore them. Crosswalks are designed as safe street crossings for pedestrians. When a pedestrian is in one, we are legally required to stop. So, stop.
Well, that’s it for this week. Enjoy these three columns. Next week I’ll be back with one.
Bill Donovan writes regularly for The Advocate. Feedback is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.