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Disputes arise over safety costs

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Over in Agawam, the men and women who patrol the streets of that city are seeking a new contract. The Patrolmen's Union has been in official negotiations since May and casual talks since January.

It's now mid-September and there is no resolution. If I was an Agawam resident I'd be a little concerned.

I live in Springfield where the police officers went years without a contract, a problem the current administration inherited from the previous one. Needless to say, the morale of the officers was frayed for years.

Mayor Richard Cohen released a statement on Wednesday that read in part, "I am a tough negotiator. I am very mindful of what our public safety personnel and out employees do for our community; I also have to be cautious over what our residents can afford. I am sure some of our residents have not even seen a cost of living [increase] in their jobs this year. As the mayor, I will continue to be fair to not only the residents of the Town of Agawam I represent but also to the employees of the Town of Agawam as a tough negotiator."

What might complicate these talks is the mayoral race in Agawam. I don't know if Cohen's opponent Susan Dawson has a stance on the police contracts, but this issue could be a point of contention between the two candidates.

Frankly I hope it isn't as the contract shouldn't be about politics, it should be about public safety.


I'm not going to apologize to our conservative readers but while I had the chance I had to ask Congressman Richard Neal about the possibility of impeachment proceedings taking place against President Bush.

I know the 25 percent or so of the people who still support the president don't want to hear such things, but it's a valid question.

Neal said that with a year to go in Bush's term, impeachment wasn't a possibility.

As a card-carrying liberal I carry a MasterCard, a library card, a Pioneer Valley AAA card I want to see someone in the Bush administration to be forced to go through a trial questioning their actions in our war in Iraq.

Republicans put Bill Clinton through an impeachment for crimes far less severe than involving this nation in an unnecessary war. I disowned Clinton for his actions that led to the impeachment much less for his signing of NAFTA, a dark day in this nation's economic history.

Clinton's actions that led to his trial didn't cost a single American their life. It didn't throw our nation and another into conflict.

My fear is that members of the Bush gang will get fat book contracts, go under contract with FOX news as consultants and commentators and profit from their actions. I'd hate to see people profit even more from this war than what has happened already.


In Springfield the mayor's race is heating up a bit and City Councilor Domenic Sarno took a shot at the proposed request to the Finance Control Board that $1 million be set aside to pay for overtime for police officers.

Sarno issued a press release on Wednesday that criticized this action, saying it was a "band-aid for a much bigger and long-term problem that has hurt the image of Springfield for several years."

He said he would advocate the governor, if elected, for more funding for additional officers.

"There is an issue with what the facts are or alleged to be. If, in fact, crime is decreasing in our city as has been reported by and through Mayor Ryan's office, then why would we ask for $1,000,000 for additional overtime pay? Has crime decreased or not?" Sarno asked in the statement. "The voters need the facts and facts are indisputable when reported accurately. Crime is out of control."

There are several questions this release raises. One is whether or not Sarno is accusing Ryan or Police Commissioner Edward Flynn of cooking the books. Flynn took over a department that was criticized for having out-dated crime reporting procedures and modernized them.

If Sarno is accusing either one of them of manipulating the statistics, what are the correct ones and how does Sarno know they are correct?

The other question is how is Sarno as mayor going to get the permanent increase in state aid needed to pay for more police officers? Part of the problem of the previous mayoral administration is that it hired officers with an influx of federal money. When that money was gone, we had considerable lay-offs. Would the Legislature go along with more money for Springfield?

Inquiring minds want to know!

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.