Saturday, June 23, 2007

Beyond Spartan (Off Topic) - Stoneham Axes Sports Program

Call me sentimental. My children saw the Red Sox win a World Series without waiting fifty years. Okay, so that doesn't apply to Conor, who's an Orioles fan, falling on hard times.

Stoneham, vetoing a property tax override, has dismantled the entire athletic department. Local resident and Stoneham AD Mike Lahiff, has departed for another AD job, and as for the Stoneham children, no soup for them...

Growing up with the Red Sox, I followed all the local teams (the Bruins weren't dreck) and competed against the area high school teams, and even played on the Stoneham Legion baseball team. Stoneham had a terrific baseball team, a State Championship winner, with Bill Walczak, Carl Smith, Jim Haugh and others. They had some terrific hoopsters including Joe Donahue and Phil McLaughlin on an undefeated team. Stoneham's boys' soccer team won championships. Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan hails from Stoneham. Now they have nothing. Why?

Some communities, like Stoneham, have minimal inustrial or business revenue, and as a middle class community, have a limited tax base. The younger homeowner versus retired or older citizen dynamic leaves communities divided, with schools the casualties. Seniors, living on fixed incomes struggle to meet their needs and can't justify overrides that don't impact them directly. Some realize that better schools maintain or escalate their property values, but can't afford the overrides.

Community services, from police, fire, teachers, and so forth constantly increase in price, and state politicians sometimes seek to curry favor by reducing taxes, ultimately reducing state aid to communities. Ultimately, a new kind of class struggle emerges, not rich versus poor, but the older versus the younger. Younger workers fund older citizens entitlement programs (at barely sustainable levels) and simultaneously face Draconian cuts from seniors caught in between.

Participation in athletics improves girls' health (diminishing osteoporosis, breast cancer, and teen pregnancy), achieve higher academically, and have higher graduation rates. They have higher self-esteem and lower depression rates.

Students who don't participate in extracurricular activities are 'at risk'. (CLICK below to ENLARGE)

I'm not suggesting that the Red Sox have any obligation or duty to fund school sports, in Stoneham or anywhere else. What I argue is that a society which will pay top dollar for entertainment and entertainers can do better by its youth. As a youth coach locally, I put my time and my money where my heart is.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

this is a phenomena that is, unfortunately, not unique to Stoneham or Mass. Many seniors remember playing kick the can in the street. they don't understand soccer, T-ball, Babe Ruth...what do we do to help bridge the gap?

Anonymous said...

It would be great if the situation were as simple as Stoneham simply not having enough of a commercial tax base, but Stoneham's problems are more with the voters in the town and the commercial tax rates/town officials that are driving away business more than anything else...You can't both keep voting down development projects because nobody wants them in their backyards and also vote down overrides...and not expect there to be ramifications.

There are also vacancies all over Main Street in Stoneham while the Town of Reading has businesses climbing over each other to get into their Jordan's furniture development area.

Why is that? That's the $3 million question...