|By G. Michael Dobbs|
Coming from an Air Force family, I'm always interested in what is happening to help the nation's veterans. That's why my ears perked up when Larry Scott of VAWatchdog.org was on Thom Hartman's talk show last week. Scott was reporting on recommendations that had been made to the Bush Administration over the care of wounded personnel. While Scott said there were indeed good things in the proposal there was the following language: "Change DoD [Department of Defense] Disability Entitlement for those deemed unfit for duty for combat-related reasons by providing an annuity based solely on rank and service, rather than percent disability."
Scott wrote on the Web site, "This would make a sergeant's disability worth more than a private's disability. Is this the right message to send to the troops? Also, this sets up a two-tier disability system because it only covers 'combat-related' injuries, not other injuries in the line-of-duty."
So if a group of soldiers or Marines were attacked and received similar injuries, their benefits would be based on their rank and how many years they served instead of the nature of their injury.
Does this make sense to you? I bet it will make sense to the Bush Administration.
Check it out at www.vawatchdog.org.
When I was sitting in the vintage restored rail car covering a story about the services that could be provided to industries in Holyoke by the Pioneer Valley Railroad, I couldn't help but think about the potential this little railroad has.
Actually, Western Massachusetts has potential all over the place.
Chicopee's downtown has plenty of possibilities and appears to be on the way of seeing at least some of them become reality.
Every time I visit Open Square in Holyoke I see what can be done with a building that just a few years ago would have been viewed as a millstone around someone's neck.
Springfield City Council candidate Karen Powell recently sent out a press release urging people to understand the positives in the much-maligned City of Homes.
After listing the fact the city has good housing stock, great museums, the Basketball Hall of Fame and investments along State Street and the riverfront, among other attributes, Powell wrote, "To sum it up, we can offer cultural, educational and recreation amenities that can't be rivaled anywhere. We are a small, inexpensive city in which to live, and now, we need to get the message out!"
I listen to Air America programming a fair amount and the state of Michigan runs a regular flight of ads touting its features to attract businesses and residents. Would our state government have the willingness to spend money promoting the potential of our part of the state? Should Western Massachusetts try to do something on its own?
I'm going to answer Springfield City Councilor Domenic Sarno's question: "Do you feel safer now than you did two years ago?"
Well, I don't feel any less safe.
My wife and I lived for nine years in Indian Orchard and in Maple High Six Corners for the last 17-plus years. I don't think either of us has felt we were in peril while living in Springfield.
We've had items taken from our front porch and seen some activities that ranged from annoying to illegal but we've always accepted that no matter where you live a couple of bad neighbors can screw up an area. The police can't be everywhere at all times.
I do miss the community policing approach, which built ties with every neighborhood in the city.
We don't see a lot of police in our area, which I suppose that indicates we're not one of the "hot spots" Commissioner Flynn has talked about for the past 19 months.
This is not to say the city doesn't have real crime problems. It does.
Part of solving those problems relates back to my previous point about potential and understanding the positive aspects of our community.
Springfield has made great strides in solving many of the problems that came about through the mismanagement of previous mayoral administrations. There has been real progress.
Constantly under-scoring its challenges without speaking about its advances doesn't help the City of Homes.
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