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Essex House collapse raises questions about plans for other Holyoke buildings

Date: 12/18/2014

In Holyoke, there is a new game being played: who is to blame for the Essex House? It is obviously one people play in private.

At the press conference on Dec. 12, following the partial collapse of the former hotel, Mayor Alex Morse was very careful not to point the finger at anyone. Ward One City Councilor Gladys Lebron-Martinez was also resistant to accuse that City Council inaction brought about the collapse that complicates the demolition of the long-shuttered eight-story building on High Street.

She called for people to move beyond the issue of blame and forward to removing the Essex and repairing the damage to buildings either struck by debris or threatened by the crumbing building.

That’s fine and noble not to further politicize the situation, but the issue here is also how to prevent such events happening in the future.

Holyoke’s 19th and 20th century manufacturing and commercial buildings may have once been considered a burden, but in the eyes of many they are now valuable assets. Entrepreneurs have shown how these building can be reused.

Are there any others buildings in the city that are in a similar situation of the Essex? Is there a plan to stabilize them? Remove them?

How would you vote?

Have you been following the effort by actor Mark Wahlberg to secure a pardon for his conviction of criminal contempt, assault and battery, and assault and battery by a dangerous weapon (two counts) and possession of Class D controlled substance?

Wahlberg committed the crimes in 1988 when he was 16 years old. He was tried as an adult, sentenced to two years in jail, but had 21 months suspended.

Now 43, Wahlberg’s attorney has filed a pardon petition. One might wonder why so many years later Wahlberg would bother to go through this procedure. He is a successful actor and producer who has a family business and has raised millions of dollars for charity. Does he need this pardon for his own peace of mind? Does he want to show that he is a changed person and is deserving of such a legal designation?

What interests me is there are plenty of people who commit a crime, pay the price and then must deal with the consequences of their actions for the rest of their lives. They don’t have the financial resources or the pull to attract the media that Wahlberg does.

Reportedly there hasn’t been a pardon granted by the Commonwealth in more than a decade.  

So should we reward a changed life with a pardon? If state officials do in this case, how many other people are there who have turned their lives around and deserve this status?

A complication to this story is that Wahlberg, because of the felony conviction, can’t get a liquor license for his two Wahlburgers restaurants. Since there has been plenty of press about how Wahlberg and his family want to greatly expand the chain, a somewhat sordid financial element is part of the story.

He wrote in his application to the state, “My hope is that, if I receive a pardon, troubled youths will see this as an inspiration and motivation that they too can turn their lives around and be formally accepted back into society.”

What would be your call?

The clock is ticking

Remember how the Diocese of Springfield said it would make a decision about Cathedral High School by Christmas? Well scratch that.

According to the spokesman for the diocese, the decision will be now made in mid-January.

Frankly, I think this is pretty terrible. First, the diocese pulls a 180 and announces doubts about rebuilding. Then it sets a deadline for a decision. Now that deadline has been moved.

How do you think the thousands of people who support the rebuilding of the school view the diocese now?

Yes, there are some big questions here. Will it be rebuilt? If so, how would a new Cathedral look? What would be changed in order to make the school self-supporting?

If it is not rebuilt, what is the future for Catholic education in this region? How will the diocese use the insurance money?

The supporters of the high school have been working hard to solicit pledges for the endowment fund and to raise awareness about the school itself.

They deserved a decision on time.

Agree? 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.