|By G. Michael Dobbs|
Every Chamber of Commerce, every mayor, every person trying to sell his or her house dreads it when their community gets labeled as "dangerous," "corrupt" or a "has-been."
We've seen it happen before in our area and we're seeing it again.
Remember the dire predictions about Chicopee after Westover closed as an active duty base? How about people speculating about what would to Westfield after Digital left that community?
And what about Holyoke? It's been a poster child as a "bad" city for too many years.
Many of the predictions have come up false. Many of the assumptions have been over-turned by reality.
There's another city on the chopping block now.
You can divide humanity up in many ways and one way these days is putting those people who still have faith in the viability of Springfield on one side of the room and those who don't on the other side.
Now I'm in the former group. My wife and I have lived in an inner city Springfield neighborhood for nearly 16 years. Before that we lived in a very working class Springfield neighborhood for nine years.
I truly love this city. I'm very comfortable here. At this point in my life I really can't imagine moving.
That's not the popular view with some people these days.
The city's crime problems are not to be discounted. They are serious and they've created a pall over the city. There is forward movement, though, on addressing these problems.
The investigations into corruption have caused in some people's minds a public relations problem. I don't see it quite that way. I welcome the investigations that are rooting out the remnants of past administrations.
The city's finances have made significant improvements, although we all know that the contracts with the police and teachers unions must be settled.
Overall, I think Springfield is getting a bum rap. I'm no Pollyanna. I know the problems. My sidewalk has too much broken glass and dog droppings for my taste, but I also see things that are positive.
Some folks think that people want to be fed a diet of doom and gloom and I'm sure there are those people who gravitate to a darker view of life.
My theory about life is that things can always be worse. So please tell me the good news, because there's always enough bad news floating about.
Think about this figure for a moment: there are 35 events planned for the month of March at CityStage and Symphony Hall. Those events are projected to bring in 12,000 visitors to the downtown area.
Did you know that the monster truck show recently presented at the MassMutual Center drew 11,000 patrons for three shows? Martina McBride's show was a sell-out and officials there expect Larry the Cable Guy's March 12th show to sell out as well.
The MassMutual center will be hosting the NCAA Division II Men's Championships next month as well. The championships will also be here in 2007.
The anticipated attendance at the Springfield Museums for March is 38,300 people. The Science Museum opened a new interactive exhibit on Feb. 18 called "Earth Attacks: Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis."
What do all of these people know? That there are positive attractive events in this city that are worth attending.
The city will be getting some national exposure this month, too. ESPN will be broadcasting the $100,000 Texas Hold'Em Billiards Championship on Feb. 18 from 4 to 7 p.m. and then will re-broadcast the show on Feb. 27 from 2 to 4 p.m. and on Feb. 28 from 3 to 4 p.m. The show was shot at the Basketball Hall of Fame and there is a 30-second plug for Springfield tourism in each hour.
We have some new spots opening in the still thriving entertainment district and there are new homes popping up in neighborhoods throughout the city. There are people seriously working on developing the riverfront area.
It seems some people need somebody to kick. For years, Holyoke got the "Curse of the Living Dead" title and guess what? Through good civic and private leadership, Holyoke has made significant advances. Springfield is heading in the same direction.
It's too bad that too many people don't want to hear this side of the story.
These are my opinions alone. You can send your reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028.