I was blissfully unaware of the hysteria - I mean - excitement surround the filming of Joe Lincoln's Cap'n Eri, presently dubbed "Chatham."
For most of that week, I was either up-Cape or on Nantucket. Although I did run into a few poseurs when I ventured downtown to CVS or Dunkin' Donuts. You could have cut the attitudes with a knife.
Several years ago, I predicted that entertainment would be a growth area for Chatham's economy. This was in part because of the light of the Cape, which painters like Edward Hopper discovered back in the 1920s. And in part because of the architecture of downtown Chatham. If we only had a waterfront, we'd be all set.
Then came "Summer Catch." And now "Chatham."
We're being showcased, folks. It's only a matter of time. So be one of those who get in on the ground floor of the area's budding film production industry. We have plenty of willing extras, and as for aspiring writers, well, to quote Tony Shaloub in Barton Fink: "Jesus, throw a rock in here, you'll hit one. And do me a favor, Fink: throw it hard."
But the our local government also has to be proactive here. Perhaps the Selectman should use some of the slack time at meetings (during, say, waste water hearings or the public forum) to work on some script ideas. Here are some ideas they could develop:
The Day Before Yesterday: The Sequel to The Day After Tomorrow, in which a shorefront town, faced with imminent ecological catastrophe from a barrier beach breaking where is has done regularly every 75 years, wrestles with the challenge of whether to keep everything the same by altering nature by spending millions or face the possible loss of uptown.
(read the rest of the column at the Cape Cod Chronicle here)
The ad wasn't in The Chronicle. Town of Chatham. Shellfish Propagation Specialist. June to December. Eight dollars an hour.
Placing an ad in only three weekday editions of a Hyannis daily shows no intention of hiring someone here. It's an excuse for the state's Alien Labor Unit to certify to the federal Departments of Labor no one is willing to work at absurdly low rate. Then the employer can bring someone in on an H2B visa desperate enough to work at this rate. As I wrote in my previous column, the Southern Poverty Law Center called this kind of bonded labor "close to slavery."
This job used to be advertised in The Chronicle. I even considered applying for it, since I've always held our shellfish department and Shellfish Constable Stuart Moore in high regard. But the pay was less than I need to be making when I was clamming, and the dates were in prime earning time.
The pay had never been this low, though.
Bill Burke at the Alien Labor Unit said this was the rate the employer had given them and $8 is the prevailing wage for fisherman. "In Chatham?" I said. "Shellfishermen do not work for $8 an hour here." Wouldn't this artificially low wage mean that employers would prefer to bring people in from overseas instead of paying the market rate?
"Haven't you ever heard of a company that lays off all its employees so it could hire new ones for less?" said Burke.
"And the state is encouraging this?" I asked.
Burke checked a federal wage survey and the only example of what fishermen were actually paid was $14.91 per hour in Oakland, Calif. So he connected me to the state's Economic Analysis office.
Thus began a journey through layers of bureaucracy leading to a decision from the Division of Career Services that my inquiry be made as a public documents request. But with a price tag, since the Alien Labor Unit would have to work overtime because explaining themselves is not something they normally do.
In other words, pay a Boston bureaucrat extra to find out why they think workers here, who are breaking their backs, are overpaid.
A request to the town of Chatham had more success, but led to more questions put straight to the Department of Labor Certifying Officer in Atlanta and their Wage and Hour Division in Boston.
(read the rest of the column at the Cape Cod Chronicle here)
Thirteen names are inscribed on the memorial in Sears Park, "Erected By the town of CHATHAM in memory of those that fell in the rebellion of 1861 to 1865."
They are, distantly, my townsmen and kinsmen. And they must be spinning in their graves. The town they left, to give their lives fighting for right of all free people to say "No", has embraced a system of indentured servitude. Or, as a recent report on guest worker programs by the Southern Poverty Law Center describes them, "Close to Slavery."
This is not an exaggeration. I married an H2B guest worker. I heard stories from her and her co-workers reminiscent of the Black Codes in post-Civil War Mississippi, company towns in the Industrial Revolution and serfdom in Central Europe. I was disgusted and outraged that such things would happen in modern America, and especially that it would be going on in my town. I had thought, in smug Chatham fashion, we were better than this.
The H2B process works like this. You have a business. You advertise for help. You can't find anyone to willing to work for you on a seasonal basis for what you are paying. So you go to the feds and the state, and say, "I can't get the dishwashers I need."
The bureaucrats check into it, and say, "Well, we think dishwashers in Chatham make $10 per hour, so we'll let you hire people from overseas and work for that rate. They can only work for you, no one else, and only as a dishwasher. You have to help them find a place to stay. Pay them overtime. If they quit, they have to go home immediately. If you fire them, you have to pay their way home. They can stay for up to 10 months." The cost is about $1,400 plus other fees.
To be clear: The H2B is a NON-IMMIGRANT visa. Accepting the visa means an intent to return to their residence overseas.
Kind of a funny theory, though: Increase the supply of something and the price remains the same. Also puts an employer in the position of great power.
(read the rest of the column in the Cape Cod Chronicle here)
(read Southern Poverty Law Center report "Close to Slavery: Guest Worker Programs in The United States" here)
To be a native Cape Codder, and to remain here, one learns to worry. Historically, we've had to make hay while the sun shines. If you come from stock that 400 years ago stepped off a small sailboat in the dead of winter on the other side of the world, there's over a dozen generations ingrained of "how are we going to make it through this year?"
So I worry. But if I worry, blame half on nature and the rest on nurture. Being a single father is just icing on the cake.
I worry about state-mandated health insurance. My main employer is based out of state and uses both contractors and employees. The state mandate is for businesses to offer insurance if they have 10 or more employees. I worry that instead of being offered health insurance, my job will change to a contract position. And I worry that the state will not recognize that the cost of living on the lower Cape requires a Boston-sized income, and will deem me affluent enough to afford my own insurance.
I worry that many self-employed people, tradespeople and professionals, will fall into the same boat, look at a diminishing amount of real income at the end of the month, after housing and taxes, and with a heavy heart make a rational decision on their future - in Maine, North Carolina or Florida.
(read the rest of the column in the Cape Cod Chronicle here.)
A couple weeks back I attended the housing summit at the Chatham Bars Inn. For the most part, the irony was lost on attendees that the same entity that converted several of its dormitories into guest rooms, thus pushing scores of seasonal workers out into the local rental market looking for housing, was now hosting a summit where the public was expected to address a problem it had helped create.
Maybe it was the breakfast buffet. It also helped turnout, too. I've never seen a poorly attended, yet well-catered affair.
Because the state mandates that 10 percent of the town's housing stock be affordable, and Chatham is less than halfway there, there's a lot more that would need to be created to get out from under the Chapter 40B threat of unrestricted condos.
After reviewing the results of the housing survey completed last year (where 15 percent of respondents expressed a need for housing), everyone broke into groups. It didn't take long for everyone to connect the same dots. Glaring was the expressed willingness or desire by over 100 homeowners to have an accessory apartment in their home.
(read the rest of the column at here)
Just before Christmas, Sofie and I went out to gather various cuttings for her grandmother's garlands. With various live Christmas trees planted over many years, this is not too hard. And the invasion of bittersweet at least produces something of value, with plenty of those red berries and yellow husks. (I also want it to go in the record that the roadside holly tree down the street from us was felled and dismembered after Dec. 25, and is otherwise a complete coincidence).
Rambling down our little road, I fended off Sofie's repeated attempts to gain control of my branch loppers with redirecting her to stories of animals I've seen. She's particularly interested in coyotes and wolves. Several members of my family have lost cats (playmates of Sofie's) to coyotes. Other people in town have had smaller dogs taken by them, too. So Sofie has deemed them as bad and scary.
My daughter weighs less than the larger of our two corgis, so I am not about to dissuade her from having a healthy apprehension when it comes to the largest wild predator on the Cape. After all, I've seen a pack heading down our road, four abreast, with so little regard for my car that they barely parted to let me pass.
On the other hand, I've told Sofie that her two dogs will always protect her from coyotes. During our walk, she asked in detail about the things coyotes eat. Then she wondered if anything eats coyotes. "Wolves," I said. So now when we read "Little Red Riding Hood" or the "Three Little Pigs," she has a built-in sympathy for the protagonist. Sofie insists wolves are nice.
(read the rest of the column here)
My goal on Thanksgiving was simple: to eat at least four different kinds of pie. As it turned out, I had not anticipated the banana custard, the ice cream and white potato pudding. Or that, by the end of the weekend of leftovers, I would have surpassed my goal so well that I could leave out the words "different kinds of."
So when I heard that the inevitable had happened - the southern tip of South Beach had merged with the northern tip of South Monomoy Island - I saw it as an excuse to lose a pie or two from my bathroom scale.
I like to tell myself that every year I've walked from the Chatham Lighthouse to the end of South Beach since it first became possible. During the summer of 1991, I even waded across a narrow channel in front of the lighthouse to the island that was South Beach, to go body surfing. But those yearly treks skipped a few times. The last time was on a brilliant afternoon of March 2004.
Every time I have gone, the beach had grown. So the walk became longer as I have grown older. Probably for the best, then, that South Beach collided with Monomoy.
The former Southway -->
Portrait in Frustration -->
Beach Glass -->
Who's Voting This Time?
Long ago, while a freshman at American University, I learned the three factors that determine whether a person will vote. The third was age. Second was income. The first was education. The higher the amount you have, the more likely you are to vote. Not coincidentally, these three are also fairly good indicators of whether a person writes a letter to the editor.
Having just come off an election, we're still sifting through the results. I don't want to get into who won or lost and why. I'm more interested in the greater issue of who didn't vote and how we can get and sustain a greater turnout.
Normally, high voter participation is marked by some great controversy. The 1896 election pitted Republican McKinley against William Jennings Bryan, the latter championing the cause of pegging the dollar to silver at a high fixed rate.
With the U.S. firmly on the gold standard, this could have effectively devalued the dollar by 50 percent, doing the same to bank accounts for the urban wealthy and debts for the rural poor.
In that election, income played a larger part than age or education. Everyone in the country had a dog in that fight and turnout reflected it.
What I also learned in that same freshman Intro to American Politics class is that both parties fear greater participation. At the time, Reagan was president and Democrats held both houses on Congress. There was parity, and enough power to go around. Turnout in 1984 was just over 53 percent of those eligible to vote.
That means that, unless there is a complete blow-out, no one is winning election to office with the approval of a majority of the people. Meanwhile, the word "mandate" is thrown around loosely these days by anyone managing to squeak out the narrowest of pluralities. But this should not be expected in our winner-take-all system...
(To read the rest of the column, you can click here.)
For posterity, here are the results provided to me by the Town Clerks of the towns of the 4th Barnstable District.
MALOY-R PEAKE-D Write-Ins Blanks TOTAL
Chatham 1959 1827 15 132 3933
Eastham 1334 1642 0 92 3068
Harwich 3186 3086 3 259 6272
Orleans 1815 1860 3 120 3798
Provincetown 309 1601 5 41 1956
Truro 364 821 2 37 1224
Wellfleet 523 1235 1 52 1811
TOTAL 9490 12072 29 733 22324
Percent 42.51% 54.08% 0.13% 3.28% 100%
Unlike those provided by the Secretary of States' office, included above are the numbers of write-ins and blanks. Without these numbers, the percentages for each candidate would be incorrect and misleading. Like votes for either candidate, a write-in is an expression of the voter, as is the withholding of a vote.
Relying upon preliminary returns from Chatham and the Cape Cod Times this morning, results of the 4th Barnstable District race are:
The Cape Cod Times is not counting write-ins and blanks in their numbers. Because both candidates were perceived to represent the extremes of their respective parties, it was believed that many voters in this very balanced district would either pass over this race on the ballot or write-in the centrist incumbent, Shirley Gomes, whose retirement left the seat open. We will attempt to ascertain the correct and complete numbers as they become available.
Chatham polls closed promptly at 8 PM.
Individual write-ins had not been tallied by 8 PM, and so accounts for differences in what is now being reported.
For a Republican, the towns of Harwich, Chatham and Orleans must be won handily, and split Eastham.
Speaking on WCAI on the evening of the election, Maloy held the State GOP responsible for his loss by not backing him. Maloy claimed he could have held the seat if given monetary support by the Republican State Committee. He said instead party leaders chose to spend money on a race everyone knew was going to be lost -- referring to the governor's race.
Maloy went on to say that IF he were to remain in the Republican party, he would want to see a reforming of the state party. WCAI later reported Maloy conceded the race to Peake.
Later speaking to Mindy Todd on WCAI, Peake said that her first step in the legislature would be to work on the housing issue and reform the Community Preservation Act. In the district, she said she said she would try to be meeting with various constituency groups.
When asked by Len Stewart on WCAI, Peake credited her success to "Door knocking... spending time in the communities... showing up at meetings, being there and being present..."
In 2004, when Peake first challenged Gomes, results were:
Initially, it would appear that 2006 is a mirror image of the previous race, with the parties roughly switching percentages. But looking at whole number, it shows that in two years of campaigning and tens of thousands of dollars raised and spent, Sarah Peake gained only 519 votes.
As write-ins and blanks are counted, percentages of each of these candidates will, of course, diminish.
(Photo credit: Emily Sussman, The Provincetown Banner)