|By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor|
With too many people these days, Springfield has become a Rodney Dangerfield kind of city: it gets little respect.
And yet the Pioneer Institute, which describes itself as "non-partisan think tank advancing the core values of an open society individual freedom and responsibility, prosperity, and limited, accountable government," is recognizing Springfield with 2007 Municipal Leadership Award on June 26.
The annual award recognized the city for its "tremendous progress and innovation in municipal operations."
The reasons included:
Savings of more than $18 million in health insurance costs
The successful negotiation of all city and school department labor contracts
The implementation of an integrated financial management system for the City and School Department
The collection of more than $25 million in back taxes
A $25 million increase in retirement system earnings
Greater accountability for city employees with personnel policies and performance measures
An increase in the City's Fire and Police personnel
An upgrade of the city's bond rating from junk status
Sound pretty darn good to me. Come on Western Massachusetts give us a cookie, too!
Citizen journalist, blogger extraordinaire and all-around nice person Heather Brandon and her family will shortly be leaving Western Massachusetts to relocate to Connecticut and this is a loss for us.
Heather's blog, "Urban Compass" detailed not only what it was like to live in Springfield, but also covered many stories concerning economic development and city planning issues. Heather did these stories with a level of detail that was very impressive and she earned a very loyal readership.
At a time when too many blogs either re-spin opinions on national issues or present material that is only appealing to the writer him or herself, Heather's focus was very welcome. Highly professional and yet her posts revealed a passion for her family's choice to live here.
Good luck, Heather. I'll be reading your new blog.
Some folks on the right wing like to talk about how the press in general is left leaning. Generally, I find a lot of reporters to be mistrustful of anyone in power left or right and the corporate ownership of most media tends to produce products that advance their own status quo agendas.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently released an analysis of talk radio that is pretty eye opening for folks who feel that somehow talk radio isn't "big" media and that it isn't dominated by a single point of view.
Take a moment to go to http://www.americanprogress.org/pressroom/releases/2007/06/radio_release.html and read the whole report for yourself.
Here's one of their major points: radio stations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission are supposed to serve their local area. Are they actually serving the public good by running one kind of viewpoint and eliminating most local programming?
From the report: "Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.
"Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk-10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.
"A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.
"Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management.
"'There is little free speech or free choice in a market system that pushes out one-sided information 90 percent of the time on the radio,' said John Halpin, senior fellow at CAP. 'Radio stations are licensed to operate in the public interest. Promoting one point of view over all others does not meet any reasonable public-interest standard. We need to restore the original purpose of broadcast licensing to ensure that radio stations are responsive to local and community needs.'"
Interestingly, they found that corporate-controlled radio is conservative, but radio stations owned locally or by women and minorities tend to be progressive.
Here are their suggestions: "This analysis suggests that any effort to encourage more responsive and balanced radio programming will first require steps to increase localism and diversify radio station ownership to better meet local and community needs. We suggest three ways to accomplish this:
Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations.
Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing.
Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting."
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