I am an unabashed Robin Crosbie fan, but one item in the Town Manager’s proposed $12.9 million five-year capital plan is simply a shock to me.
Replacement of Town Hall columns due to severe rot and insect infestation will cost $27,500.
Yes, my fellow columnists and I have written a number of Town Hall columns. But to characterize any (or all) of these columns as “severe rot” is harsher criticism than we deserve. I would say some of my own Town Hall columns have qualified as “rot,” but not “severe” rot. I can remember one in particular that might have been fairly described as “near-rotten,” but nothing close to “severe.”
Furthermore, while I have written about insects — maybe a lot (OK, maybe too much) — I wouldn’t call my columns “insect-infested.” I might call them “insect-influenced.” This would be fair. As far as I’m concerned, we need more attention, not less, given to the insect problems that plague Ipswich: Swarms of winter moths rising from the dead, again and again, every time New England turns the teeniest bit mild. Hoards of ladybugs marching up the sides of my house, invading my kitchen, circling my light bulbs and soup bowls like Soviet soldiers on patrol. Greenheads like stern nannies dictating our beach times. Mosquitoes turning Essex County into one huge blood donation table. Indeed, insects deserve to be called out in newspaper columns, and I for one intend to continue.
And to be precise, I have not written any insect-oriented Town Hall columns — although this is a darn good idea, and I’m going to give it some thought.
It’s ludicrous to “replace” columns anyway. Once a column appears in the paper, it’s gone. “Now it belongs to the ages.” It’s out there. You can replace it in the archives, but people have already read it. Already laughed or cried or recoiled in horror. Junkies have already saved it to their hard drives. You can’t replace a column. You can only replace a columnist. Wait — strike that.
Finally, let me address the proposed $27,500 price tag for replacement of Town Hall columns. This seems high. From the beginning, I have written “The Outsidah” column on a strictly volunteer basis. You don’t have to offer me $27,500 to stop writing rotten things about Town Hall or about insects. Even if all the Ipswich Chronicle’s columnists divvy up the $27,500, this is still a lot of money — more money than the typical columnist ever sees at one time.
No one from Town Hall has consulted me about how much money I would need to make an adjustment in my Town Hall columns. If a selectman had casually dropped by my house, ostensibly just to say hello, but then nonchalantly slipped a couple hundred-dollar bills into my pocket, and then if said selectman had mentioned, with something of a chuckle, that I needed to lay off writing about Town Hall, I would have felt more than adequately induced. I don’t need a line item in the Town’s capital budget, and I certainly don’t need to be an Article at Town Meeting. I am happy to stop writing rot about Town Hall at the drop of a bribe.
It will be harder to give up writing about insects, though. I love to hate those little guys.
Reach Doug via http://www.Outsidah.com