As we head into 2018, it seems like a good time to look back at 2017 and revisit some of the issues I covered in columns last year. Speaking of the column, this coming August will (unbelievably) be the 10-year anniversary of the first Bumpkin’s Corner article. Time flies when you’re having fun. It also flies when you are annoying people apparently.
No mention of last year would be complete without mentioning the passing of longtime Gazette editor Jane Lopes. It was Ms. Lopes who offered me the column way back in aught 8. She was smart, funny, witty, and selfless.
While 2017 was an eventful year, there weren’t any issues that I was particularly invested in. There were, however, a number of issues I was interested in. Early in the year we got the news that the state of Massachusetts was going to skip the long-promised rotary flyover. Instead they were going to undertake a comprehensive redesign of the rotary that basically involves picking up three cans of paint (hopefully from Wilmot’s) and painting some lines on the rotary. The main thing that irks me is the way politicians tend to come around just before elections and promise us a bunch of things that seem to vanish once the election is over.
While we are on the topic of transportation projects, we saw the South Coast Rail project opt for a non-ideal route that passes through Middleboro. This current plan necessitates closing the Lakeville Station and opening a new station off of Route 105 behind the old Chevy dealership. The project seems to have something for everybody to dislike. Lakeville is losing their station which affects all the housing that has been built in that area. Middleboro gets traffic concerns at an already busy intersection. Commuters in Fall River and New Bedford get an uber-long commute compared to the one they would have had with the original South Coast Rail route through Hockomock Swamp. I’m of the opinion that commuter rail is rushing headlong toward obsolescence as driverless vehicles become commonplace in the near future and undercut the expenses involved with running passenger rail.
Middleboro voters opened their pocketbooks in a big way to approve a debt exclusion override to fund a new high school. The previous year saw voters approve another debt exclusion override to fund a new police station. One has to wonder how many more times voters are going to agree to go that well when the subject of new DPW facility comes up.
Higher education is a topic that is near to my heart and even nearer to my wallet. My oldest child, Bumpkin Junior, graduated from Middleboro High in 2017. I spent significant brain cycles and column space writing about college options — mostly to educate myself. Ultimately, I became convinced that community college was the best choice for the vast majority of students. It allows them to stay at home while they mature just a bit more. It is inexpensive so that the cost of failure is low. It provides a path to four-year degree programs and also offers Associate degrees and certificate programs that theoretically allow a student to get a decent job if they don’t want to do an entire four year degree. Spawn of Bumpkin has just finished his first semester and has a GPA that can quite properly be described as spectacular. So far, so good.
One column that generated a lot of positive feedback was an “Investing 101” article that explained the basics of investing in an extremely simple way that anyone could understand. Beyond simply understanding it, they could apply the information in this short column to create investments that would lead to boatloads of money if done properly. By “boatloads” I mean in excess of a million dollars over a 25 to 30 year investment window. I would argue that investing in the stock market is something that everyone should be doing regardless of how much money they earn. The days of keeping money in a bank in exchange for a free toaster are long gone.
Many will ask where they could possibly get the money to do any investing. Nearly everyone has some frills they could cut out of their spending. In April of 2017 I wrote a column about one of my pet peeves — the Massachusetts State Lottery. This should more properly be called The Massachusetts Tax On The Mathematically Challenged. The average Massachusetts resident is paying $740 per year on lottery tickets. Properly invested, that would turn into $145,000 over a 30-year investment period. There are lots of places where people could trim their spending to save some money toward retirement or some other long term goal. A few that come to mind are cable TV, iPhones, expensive cell plans, $5 coffees, frequent dining out, and bathing with hot water. OK, maybe not that last one.
Every year I have a few things brought to my attention that are not earth-shattering controversies. They are “small” issues that I promote in my column to bring attention to something that seems worthwhile. I wrote about the Plimoth Cinema, a nice venue at the Plimoth Plantation, that is quite different from your run-of-the-mill megaplex. I became interested in an effort by former town manager Jack Healey to bring an innovative learning system to help people who have difficulty reading. I wrote a column promoting the Friends Of The Middleboro Library and would urge people to give the library a fresh look to see all the great things it has to offer.
The rule of bad timing
In August I wrote a column extolling the new signs of life in downtown Middleboro. The internet ink was not even dry when Benny’s announced they were closing. I’m standing by my hopefulness about downtown. We have some solid businesses, we have an upswing in housing, and we have the Massasoit Community College campus. High Point has not turned into the drug Chernobyl that some people were expecting. It has renovated the crumbling St. Luke’s building and brought in a bunch of jobs. Star Mill and Shoe Shop Place have decent housing in buildings that would otherwise be vacant.
Since abandoning plans for a Middleboro Casino, the Mashpee Wamponoag are in a limbo that looks to end soon — but not in a good way for them. They are hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to a Malaysian company — The Genting Group — that has been bankrolling the tribe for a number of years. The money has dried up as it appears more and more likely that an imminent decision from the Secretary of the Interior will not work in the tribe’s favor. That will effectively kill their chances of building a tribal casino — which is kind of ironic because the project has really been dead since 2009. This will just make it more dead.
Happy 2018 to all.
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