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The Great Barrington Fairgrounds in action in the 1960s. Photo courtesy BerkshireArchive.com

Alan Chartock: I Publius

By Saturday, Oct 26, 2019 Viewpoints 9

I really don’t like the idea of bringing horse racing back to Great Barrington. It is potentially lethal for the horses and it is the last thing that already crowded Great Barrington needs at the southern end of town. What with Guido’s, the Great Barrington Bagel Company, Big Y, and all those other great stores, we just don’t need more traffic. I’m beginning to worry about the disconnect among the tax-paying citizens of the town and the elected selectpersons and, most especially, our elected state legislators. The town meeting, of course, is the purest form of direct democracy. Short of that, let the townspeople vote on whether they want the racing. If they do, fine, let’s have it. But, if they don’t, we don’t want a bunch of solons in Boston calling the shots for all of us at this end of the state, which they often appear to have no understanding about.

That’s why a group of good folks has been collecting signatures to put a stop to the imposition from far away (Senate Bill 101) that would make it happen whether the people who live here like it or not. That bill has a sinister, stinking smell (SSS) to it that, as a seasoned legislative watcher, I have come to recognize. The fact that our own state Sen. Adam Hinds saw fit to take his name off the bill tells me that he has been hearing from many of you on the matter. We all know what happened: They want to have the racing here because it really wasn’t working out on the other end of the Commonwealth. Let’s face it: This is all about money and we know that from the top of this country on down, it’s all about the money. That’s the way lobbyists make their dough and use some of it to support elections.

I am suggesting that all is not well in this deal. Now good people are getting angry enough to stand up on street corners and collect petition signatures not far from our wonderful Town Hall, itself a symbol of democracy. That should make our elected representatives nervous.

More and more, we are seeing that the policy is not representative of what the people want or need. It is set by people who may be more concerned with their own self-interest or with crassly bringing tax dollars into the town than by the well-being of its citizens.

In the end, it is time to say we don’t like it, whether in the name of the horses who can’t speak for themselves when they have to be destroyed because they get injured or because of all the extra the traffic in the town. The good politicians, people like Sen. Hinds, see it coming. That’s why he took his name off that stinker of a bill and I certainly hope that he has the courage to vote against it when the moment of truth comes. I’ll be watching, and you should, too. As the old saying goes, “Money talks, all others walk.”

So how can those of us who give a damn put a stop to this very bad idea? We can write letters to the paper. We can call both our town and state representatives. We can sign petitions. We can make it clear that this is our town and that it’s supposed to be run for the good of all of us, not just for a few characters from the east.

There will be those who say that we used to have horse racing and will ask, “Why can’t we have it now?” As Sen. D’Amato once said, “That was then, this is now.” Back in the old days, there were lots of rumors about the races. Now we have a better understanding about what racing does to horses. It’s a bad idea. Let’s fight it.


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