A Native Not Much Noted
THE First Parish (Unitarian) of Milton, Mass., will hold its harvest dinner tonight. If some moseying about the town of Milton this week bears any clue, nothing much will be said about George Bush, who happened to be born there. Bush was elected president a year ago yesterday, Nov. 8. The Milton Record-Times then accorded the honor of ``favorite son'' to a Miltonite named Anglin running for the state house. Under the subhead ``In Other Races of Note ...'' the Record-Times observed: ``George Bush's birthplace rallied to his banner as he carried Milton by 573 votes - 7,761 to 7,188 for Gov. Michael Dukakis.'' It added: ``His margin of victory was slimmer than Ronald Reagan's in 1984.''
The political litmus: Democrats 9,343, Republicans 2,374, independents 5,105.
Bush stayed only a few months in Milton after he was born there on June 12, 1924. The Bushes lived at 173 Adams Street - named after the two presidential Adamses, who share with Bush and John F. Kennedy a birthplace in Norfolk County, Massachusetts. The hitherto most famous Adams Streeter was William Hutchinson, the colonial governor ousted in the Revolution.
The former Bush property is overgrown. Its many-gabled house is randomly painted in grays, greens and blues. Beehives stand on the front lawn among fallen apples. No sign marks the house. It stands opposite the preferred side of the street, whose homes have lawns that slope down to the great salt marshes of the Neponset River.
The Milton Public Library has no George Bush display but keeps a folder of clippings.
Milton seems to have returned the favor of George Bush's turning his back on his native state. Psychohistorians may want to probe why this ``silver top,'' locals term for the old rich, shifted his allegiance to Texas, after schooling at a north-of-Boston prep school and Yale. Bush himself describes an awakening to the diversity of Americans. Railing at ``liberal'' Massachusetts may help in conservative bastions elsewhere. But his complaints - as about Boston's polluted harbor into which, past his old doorstep, the Neponset flowed - suggest a deeper Bay State rejectionism.
If not George Bush, what is Milton talking about this week? Well, money, mostly.
Tuesday night the town held a special meeting in the high school auditorium. At issue was a $438,000 midyear cut in its $32 million budget. The budget would be nickeled and dimed. The police would take a $15,000 cut in new equipment. Leash-law enforcement would be reduced by $5,000: The dog-pound telephone would be disconnected; owners in search of pets would have to dial a neighboring farm for information. The cemetery would not get a new $10,100 hydrant. The holiday celebration committee would spend one third less.
Worse, a $2 million shortfall is due the next fiscal year. Proposition 2 1/2, the Massachusetts voter initiative passed in 1980, the same time Reagan was elected, limits local tax hikes to 2.5 percent a year, unless voters pass a special ``override.''
``How can you run anything with a 2.5 percent tax increase and 4.5 percent inflation?'' laments John A. Cronin, the town's executive secretary. Strategy: Override.
``The town is not cheap,'' says Jeffrey S. Grant, chairman of the Milton Handicapped Commission. Grant points out special parking spaces, ramps, for which he'd lobbied.
Cronin drives to the dump. Milton's landfill is the last within Route 128, which rings Boston. It could go another 14 years, engineers said Monday, if the town spends $5 million for leakage control.
The Rev. Mark Harris, minister of First Parish, worries about housing: ``Over 50 percent of the people in town cannot afford the home they live in.'' And the environment: ``I'd like to see Milton do something in the way of recycling.''
The Neponset River is cleaner than when paper mills upstream spewed their filth into its waters. Bluefish, a few stripers, are caught down at the wharf. Seals appear in winter.
Change is coming to Milton. Boy Scout Troop No. 3 has a dozen black youths, and three Asians.
A president might have been born here. But his star is eclipsed by the Massachusetts adage, ``All politics is local.''