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Dedication to cause makes all the difference

Date: 4/17/2012

April 16, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

If you don't think a good idea, a couple of dedicated people and old-fashioned labor can't make a difference, think again.

Last week I was invited to attend a celebration noting a milestone for the all-volunteer organization Link to Libraries. In just four years, this group founded by Janet Crimmins and Susan Jaye-Kaplan has delivered more than 50,000 books to local school libraries.

I find that both amazing and inspiring.

And they've expanded the program to include a family literacy effort and to get books into the hands of homeless children.

Education has always been the vehicle in this country for personal advancement and what Link to Libraries has done is to underscore the importance of reading and the access of knowledge.

If you are looking for an organization to support in some way, Link to Libraries is a good choice. Learn more by going to

And thanks Sue for providing me with a rare event: inviting me to something and telling me not to cover it!


So, by the looks of things, the city of Springfield is facing grim financial times again. I wrote a story last week detailing a letter Mayor Domenic Sarno wrote to Gov. Deval Patrick asking for a fairly substantial list of assistance, including a revised plan to allocate state aid on a more equitable basis.

Sarno is right. The way state aid is passed out isn't fair. His predecessor, Charlie Ryan, beat that drum as loud as he could. State Rep. Sean Curran actually came up with a plan to revise the system, but his efforts didn't go too far.

Let's face it. No one in the Legislature will want to support a new aid plan if his or her district is benefiting from the current set-up.

Patrick — whom I believe actually gives a rat's backside for this region, unlike other governors — can only do so much in that regard.

Now if the state government would actually live up to its obligations to reimburse the city for school bus costs, that would be a great first step to achieving some fairness. But is that likely to happen?

The Sarno Administration's solutions to help the city include the increasing of some fees and taxes. I don't think that raising a city hotel tax is a good idea, as we want the city's hospitality sector to be competitive with other communities. Increasing the trash fee? It should never have been decreased in the first place.

What about sending the city's health insurance needs out to bid? That could save some coin. How about bringing in cost experts — a friend of mine works for such a company — who could examine everything the city spends money on, with the exception of personnel, and make recommendations?

There's no money upfront for their services, either.

The bottom line that few elected officials want to talk about is this: because so many jobs have left Springfield since the closing of the Armory in 1968 and the departure of Westinghouse shortly thereafter, there is less of an ability to grow a middle class in this city, which is vital to the city's health.

This problem has been growing for decades.

While Springfield's problems are not unique, I shudder when the city's most heralded economic development project has been creating a parking area downtown — with the use of the adjoining building still undetermined — and moving the School Department into a building with a 20-year lease.


There are several rules in journalism that old school guys like me keep in mind. One is always consider the source, while another is always show attribution.

Readers of this newspaper might have caught on over the years that we put people on record. We don't use anonymous sources in our stories.

So, I was distressed to see reports about comments made by Florida Congressman Alan West stating that he has "heard" there are about 80 Communists serving in Congress in the guise of Democrats.

We've been down this path before in American history when Sen. Joe McCarthy — then a not-very-respected legislator — told a group in West Virginia, "The State Department is infested with Communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department."

That speech launched a very dark period in American politics and society, and while I don't think West's comments will ignite another witch hunt, I do think that someone needs to ask him to actually document the people he believes are "Communist."

If you're going to make such a claim, you better have the facts to back it.

But then again, I'm old school.

Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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