|By G. Michael Dobbs|
There's a lot going on this week. The myth that this time of year is a "slow" news period is just that!
Does Westfield really need another big box mall area? That's the questions residents of the Whip City should be asking city officials.
The plan to put a new shopping area in a remote undeveloped tract of land near Barnes Airport strikes me as a little short sighted. Yes, there would be jobs and tax money generated, but the area is important to the city's water supply. One would hate to see the construction of another Wal-Mart mess up a municipal water supply.
I worked at the Westfield Evening News in 1979 and people were concerned about the health of downtown back then. What would another big box store area do to the remaining retail in the downtown? Those merchants would be squeezed between the existing retail strip and this proposed one.
If you have a concern, now is the time to organize and speak up. Residents can do something about commercial development in their town just look at Agawam.
The news that Holyoke Catholic High School is going to have a permanent home should be welcome news for many people. And it's welcome news for downtown Chicopee. The school should strengthen efforts to bolster the downtown area.
I imagine folks in Holyoke might greet the news with some mixed feelings as while the future of the school seems more secure, there is no chance of it being in the city of its origins.
For Holyoke parents who are considering the school as an education option it won't be open in Chicopee until the fall of 2009 at least the new location is closer to Holyoke.
I had written an upbeat column about developments in Springfield several days before the announced trash fee that was published in the East Longmeadow edition of The Reminder. And then the trash fee story hit.
I'm still optimistic about the future of the city that I call my home, but I have to say that Mitt Romney and his Finance Control Board have little skill in presenting these ideas to the public.
Several days after the good news that the city will be undertaking a $325 million capital improvement, Romney announced legislation that would include measures that some people saw as good switching city employees over to a state pension system and others saw as bad extending the Finance Control Board's reign over the city until 2010.
Romney apparently did not try to enlist any support from members of the Legislature before announcing his ideas. That, of course, has been his undoing since his first day in office.
Romney hasn't learned a thing about governing. He doesn't lead, he directs, but unlike the private section those "under" him the Legislature are not obligated to follow.
Romney is about as effective as the Pointed-Hair Boss in Dilbert.
Now I do think we have some forward movement when we can begin to improve the city's infrastructure and when a private/public coalition also announced it intends to build 100 homes over the next five years in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
We can at least see the signs pointing to the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm more than willing to give Romney's Control Board credit for many of the positive steps we've taken.
The governor, though, should understand that the progress made hasn't been easy and that we still do not have the teachers' contract or the patrolmen's contract settled.
Rather than writing a bill about Springfield's future and hope the Legislature will pay attention to it, the Mittster should leave Beacon Hill, come to Springfield and do a little bit of listening.
I would love to see him pay the kind of attention to us that he devoted to listening to voters in other states as part of his "maybe" presidential campaign.
This column represents the opinions of its author and no one else.
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