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Local activists could teach Congress a lesson

Date: 2/27/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

With yet another crisis in government looming – if Congress doesn't act this week the sequester cuts will go into effect – I have to admit a certain numbness at how this scenario is playing out once more.

So, last year, the president wanted the debt ceiling heightened and the leaders of the Republican-controlled House agreed to a compromise that created a special committee to find ways to cut the budget. If they didn't, draconian cuts would be imposed automatically.

Naturally, the super committee did nothing. Thanks. And we had a fingernail biter just a few weeks ago when the Congress finally took action to move the sequester to March 1.

I'm not opposed to budget cuts, but I can't support a method that blindly removes money from the budget and, therefore, from the fragile economy.

All of this shows a certain lack of guts from both Democratic and Republican members of the Congress in actually looking at programs and determining if they are appropriate and cost-effective. That would be too difficult. After all, an honest evaluation might offend the lobbyists and corporate supporters who in many ways actually make policy.

It also means thinking, sincere debate and compromise. When was the last time we saw that in Congress?

Instead of addressing those kind of issues, we see all too many of our elected officials deliberately jumping into the mire of social issues and ideologies in an effort to take the minds of the citizenry away from real issues.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of this unnecessary conflict. Why can't Congress actually do the business of the American people?


Let's look at the bright side and some people who are actually doing something to improve our region.

It's reassuring to know there are people who, locally at least, are trying to make a difference in the area. Perhaps there are elected officials who could take a lesson from this short and certainly not complete list.

The issue of food security, as well as supporting local farms, is something many people have addressed through organizing farmers' markets. Put a gold star on your calendar if you've been involved. In Springfield, for example, Belle Rita Novak has done an excellent job coordinating the farmer's market that has made its home at Forest Park. In Chicopee, the Valley Opportunity Council has led the way in that community and the mayor's office in Holyoke has been essential.

Another great effort has been Link to Libraries. Susan Jay Kaplan and her associates get books into the hands of children – absolutely essential.

Promoting Springfield as a great community in which to settle is a fine website Founded by Katie Stebbins, the site is a place to see the resources available to families in the city.

Speaking of websites, Shera Cohen has been promoting the performing arts in the four western counties for a long time and her In the Spotlight ( publishes previews, reviews and stories of entertainment events.

Brian Hale is doing something that would be daunting to most people: he's turning the old Bing Theater into a community arts center. It's a big job, but slowly but surely he is making this important project happen.

From time to time I'll going to add more names to this list if nothing else to offset the other news of the day.

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.