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Shortchanging the Youth of Salem

Aside from the legacy of asthma, lead poisoning and cancers that our industrial waste society is leaving to our children, our reckless land use policies are shortchanging youth in simpler ways. Beware when a developer touts this or that project as "good for the community" or "good for youth." In the nothing-but-spin culture in which we now live, be prepared for such platitudes to be their exact opposite in disguise. 

There is a small baseball field on one corner of the current landfill, which was part of a long-term agreement to benefit the youth of Salem, specifically those 10 and under. Now, the college wants to parlay the existence of this field (hey, there's already something on it--why can't we keep building?) into a building project four or five times its size. Right on cue, touting the new field as "good for youth," the college wants to abrogate the long term agreement and install an artificial turf field all along the wetland buffer. At a meeting on the current project, it came to light that the outgoing Salem mayor apparently signed an agreement, unbeknownst to the residents or their elected representatives, that did NOT include previous language about this benefit to Salem youth. 

How is this possible? Can such an executive decision be honored in good conscience? Shouldn't there be an outcry, an investigation, some sense of outrage? Instead, the Borg want their project to continue, holding out the carrot of letting the local high school varsity (only varsity) baseball team use the field for home games (only home games, no practices). By the college's own admission, this will amount to about ten uses per year. In the world of spin, though, it doesn't matter. Those who oppose the project are accused of blocking something that would "benefit youth," in a cynical and manipulative perversion of the truth. But we say they just want to build something that is good for THEM; how it affects the community and the environment aren't on their agenda.

Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. Some of his articles have been broadcast on radio, and translations are available in up to 20 languages. Links to the website are appreciated at danielpwelch.com.