Friday, September 20, 2002
Do these priorities make sense?
One of the ironies of budget reduction is that preventive solutions too often lose out to the need to contain flash fires. I was reminded of this during a recent conversation with Carlisle Police Chief David Galvin who noted that over the summer the police department was forced to add extra patrols on weekends due to the prevalence of under-aged drinking parties "of as many as 50 to 70 youngsters." At the same time taxpayer dollars were being diverted to these extra patrols, the DARE program, which educated Carlisle elementary school students on the dangers of drinking and drugs, was eliminated this year due to the loss of $6,000 in state funding.
According to Galvin, some of the party-goers were repeat offenders whose parents, in spite of repeated warnings, "didn't feel it was a priority to be home on weekends." Such irresponsibility deserves a penalty, and my proposal is as follows: that repeat offenders be fined. This would work the same way that some police departments levy fines for repeat house alarm calls. Would a $250 fine make parents think twice about leaving teens unsupervised?
I further propose that these funds be set aside to help reestablish DARE. In an interview this spring, Galvin noted DARE was an important step in student education about drinking and drugs, and one that established rapport between students and police. By cutting this program, we are taking a "penny wise pounds foolish" approach, one that will only result in more extra patrols in summers to come.
If you are interested in helping out, donations to keep DARE can be sent to Carlisle Police DARE, PO Box 821, Carlisle MA. 01741.
Simple pleasures are the best
While major league players and owners flirted with a strike this summer, I had the pleasure of attending two minor league baseball games: one in Dayton, Ohio where I went to help my mother pack up her home of 45 years for a move to a continuing care community in Bedford, and the other in Lakewood, New Jersey, near where we were vacationing at the Jersey shore.
Both the Dayton Dragons and the Lakewood Blue Claws, recent additions to their respective A leagues (the same level as our local Lowell Spinners, three giant steps from the majors) have spanking new stadiums. They compete against some teams with names that make you smile just to know they exist: the Lansing Lugnuts and Savannah Sand Gnats to name just two.
Reserved seating sells out well in advance, so we settled for general admission tickets to both games, which entitled us to a patch of grass in the sloped lawns just beyond the outfield fences. In Lakewood, we were called the Sod Squad. We brought blankets, pillows, and binoculars and settled down among the multitudes to enjoy the spectacle.
This occasionally meant watching the games, which both times included some hometown heroics with home runs and diving catches amidst some not-so-stellar play. Breaks between innings feature a variety of goofy entertainments with mascots spoofing with umpires and fans. A highlight of the Lakewood game was an attempt (successful, I believe) to set a Guinness World Record for most people simultaneously singing and signing "YMCA." We had to sustain this for five minutes to qualify; the Hickory Crawdads players waited patiently on the field until we completed our umpteenth refrain.
Even the low minor leagues, with their multi-million-dollar stadiums named for corporations, are big business, and the players have a lot at stake as they try to make an impression and move up the ladder to double- or triple-A. But the overall feeling among the fans seemed to be that nothing really mattered aside from having a good time.
And for that very reason, we did. Despite the very modern trappings of the ballparks, we had a good old-fashioned time. In Lakewood, my son snared one of the dozen or so T-shirts slingshotted into the stands. We bought souvenir Dragons and Blue Claws baseballs. We enjoyed a sense of community sitting on the lawn with other families we'd never met and would probably never see again as we shared the simple pleasure of rooting for the home team but not caring too much one way or the other. We drove home smiling.
I don't know if this is anything more than a paean to minor league baseball, but somehow these games helped me keep things in perspective in ways that feuding major leaguers and owners or a pennant race that still includes the Red Sox in September (wait till next year, again) did not.
There are a lot more important things in life, as we pass the anniversary of 9/11 and listen to the dispiriting debates about risking the lives of soldiers and civilians and fundamentally altering our nation's no-first-strike policy perhaps in an attempt to make up somehow for what we couldn't do to prevent the attacks a year ago. But we do still live in a country where we have the opportunity, without guilt or fear, to enjoy simple, perhaps mindless, pleasures such as I did in Dayton and Lakewood this summer. And for this I am grateful.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito