The newly proposed location for the Western Massachusetts Rehabilitation Center on Wason Avenue has resulted in mass opposition, with hundreds of residents signing a petition to stop the development. City leaders have also voiced their discontent. Yet through all of this, Mayor Sarno has neglected to hear the residents concerns of the North End.
His consent for the relocation of the Rehabilitation Center appears to be no more than a capitulation to a political ally. The sudden outpouring of residential criticism, led by organizations such as Boricua en Accion, the North End Concerned Residents, and Women on the Vanguard, Inc., far outnumber the few approving voices, led notably by Sheriff Ashe.
In addition to driving down property values for surrounding homes, and posing a potential danger to the young families living nearby the location, the facility would pose inevitable strains on the city’s economic resources. Yet the mayor still supports the Western Massachusetts Rehabilitation Center on Wason Avenue.
Last year in a similar situation, the mayor proved his ability to put his foot down when he saw a possible economic burden on the city of Springfield.
He lashed out at the Center for Human Development, and city leaders in Northampton, trying to curtail the mission to provide housing to homeless families.
A Boston Globe article quoted him saying that “urban centers have become a dumping ground ... what I’m doing is sounding the alarm. We do not have the capacity to take this on. The burden lands on my doorstep as mayor of Springfield.”
Yet today, that rationale seems to be shared by everyone except the mayor and the sheriff. The concern is not only from the surrounding neighbors.
Both Ward 1 City Council Candidates Adam Gomez and Zaida Luna have specifically voiced their opposition to the move. Our former Mayor Mike Albano has publicly voiced his disapproval on his Facebook page, stating “this is not the right site.”
Mr. Albano even offers up an alternative that “the state should build new on the site of the Hampden County House of Correction in Ludlow and expand services to all in need.” Yet, these concerns from both his constituents and his peers have yet to be addressed in any significant manner.
The situation speaks to an inconsistency in the mayor’s rationale, as the new rehabilitation center would inevitably drain the city’s resources in a similar way to housing homeless families.
Yet, the key difference seems to be that the homeless families were spoken for only by CHD, while a friend and politician of significant clout support the new rehabilitation center.
It is the mayor’s responsibility to work as an objective advocate for the people he represents. Rather than standing by while developers and the sheriff make decisions that negatively impact our streets, he should be listening to the people and fighting on their behalf.
However, what is of more consequence than his attitude on any one specific issue is the mayor’s lack of consistent principles.
We need leadership that we can trust and rely on.
Johnnie Ray McKnight