, Salem, MA

November 29, 2013

Our view: Cheers, jeers for newsmakers

The Salem News

---- — CHEERS to the MBTA for coming to its senses and realizing it made a mistake when it jacked up fares for disabled riders a little more than a year ago.

The MBTA announced earlier this week that it plans to make amends to users of the Ride paratransit program, which offers door-to-door public transportation for people with disabilities, by cutting fares from $4 a ride to $3 per trip.

In 2012, the MBTA doubled the cost of a ride from $2 to $4, causing an outcry among its 30,000 or so users and their advocates, who said the agency was seeking to close its significant funding gap by taking money from those who could least afford to give it up.

A study earlier this year noted that 17.6 percent of Ride users have cut back on their medications, and 22.3 percent made partial payments or skipped payments entirely for utilities; 71.5 percent said they have less spending money. Ride users generally have less than $2,000 a month in income.

The new, $3 fare should go into effect sometime in January.

A pre-emptive JEERS to anyone who would oppose a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature by state Rep. Paul McMurtry, a Dedham Democrat, that would allow the granting of liquor licenses to retirement homes. The idea is to allow the facilities to serve residents drinks with their meals.

After it was reported out of the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, the House gave initial approval earlier this week to the bill (H 3779) that would allow municipalities to grant liquor licenses to a continuing care community or retirement community.

“Some of the long-term care facilities almost have a restaurant, so it makes some sense,” said Rep. George Peterson, a Grafton Republican. “We didn’t have a serious concern on that one. Listen, I might be in one of those places someday.”

It isn’t just self-interest but rather good sense that should lead legislators and the governor to support the bill. We’re talking here about serving alcohol to responsible adults who, given their maturity, are less likely than any other age group to go cavorting down the streets in a drunken, rabble-rousing frenzy. If these retirees would like the option of having a drink with their meals, it is the height of overweening state nannyism to say they cannot.

CHEERS to three local women who have done the region proud in the world of sports. Jane Heil, the highly successful coach of the Peabody High School girls basketball program for the better part of four decades, was inducted into the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame last weekend.

Heil’s coaching record stands at 512-167. She even led the team in 2004, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She stuck with her team for every practice and game while undergoing chemotherap y and radiation.

Heil wasn’t the only one earning honors – Dartmouth College senior Abbey D’Agostino of Topsfield (and the pride of Masconomet High School), won the women’s NCAA Division 1 cross country championship in Indiana last weekend.

For those of us keeping track, D’Agostino has now won five national championships in three track seasons (1,500 and 3,000 indoors, 5,000 outdoors and two cross country titles). That’s two more individual crowns than any Ivy League track athlete ever.

D’Agostino wasn’t the only one to do well in Indiana – former Peabody High star Caterina Rocha, now a freshman at Providence College, helped her squad earn the national team title.

CHEERS to the arrival of the holiday season. Hanukkah already is here and Christmas is coming. It is a festive time for sharing with friends and family. It is, to quote the song, the most wonderful time of the year.

Today has become known as “Black Friday,” which seems a terrible name for a happy time of year. The traditional kick-off to the Christmas shopping season is losing some of its luster as holiday sales begin ever earlier, encroaching even into Thanksgiving Day itself. Still, there’s no question that if you find yourself in a store today, you will not be alone. The late arrival this year of Thanksgiving means fewer shopping days before Christmas, adding a little extra urgency to the shopping frenzy.

Gift-giving is as much a joy for the giver as the receiver. But we shouldn’t let it take over the meaning of the season. Remember to take time for thoughtfulness and worship, for renewing friendships and familial connections. Remember also the less fortunate.

We wish all our readers a safe, healthy and joyous holiday season.