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A rewards program could help local businesses

Date: 7/30/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

My buddy Joe is a Springfield native who has retired to Mesa, Ariz., but he keeps up with events in his home town through reading our website ( - along with about 14,000 people every month, according to Google.

Joe shared with me in his latest email a program Mesa has undertaken, which has helped increase the support of local businesses.

Mesa is about three times the size of Springfield in population and has a local sales tax of 0.0175 percent. The city has set up a program that anyone who shops in Mesa can turn in their sales receipts for 'Mesa Bucks,' which in turn can be used for tickets to various cultural events.

The local add-on pays for the tickets. Shoppers underwrite the program through the additional tax and the cultural and arts scenes gets great exposure and, I'm a sure, repeat customers.

According to the website for the Mesa Arts Center, 'The city of Mesa appreciates the importance of the arts and making them available to everyone. That is why consumers who make purchases in Mesa are rewarded with discounts on arts and cultural offerings through Shop Mesa! Get the Arts. Shop in Mesa to earn Mesa Bucks towards buy one get one free admission to select shows at Mesa Arts Center, as well as buy one get one free entry to Mesa Contemporary Arts, Arizona Museum of Natural History, and Arizona Museum for Youth. Mesa Encore Theatre and other resident companies who perform at Mesa Arts Center will be accepting Mesa Bucks for their shows.'

Joe loves the program and I think we should be taking a look at something like this as well. Our area is rich with museums and music venues, as well as two professional sports teams.

Would I be willing to pay a fraction more sales tax knowing it would support the creative economy? Yes. In Mesa, the program has a time limit, but the 'bucks' never expire.

Yes, I know it would take home rule legislation, but at a time when it makes the best economic sense to keep our money in the area, this is a great idea.

Perhaps a program should be to band together with Chicopee and Holyoke and take a regional approach.

What do you think?


The immense tragedy in Colorado naturally brings the question of gun control back to the center of the nation's political debate, only the two candidates for president - as I write this - have been noticeably quiet.

The president has been the subject of some right wing criticism that he is going to 'take away your guns,' although he has not initiated any legislation to that effect. Calling for additional controls might cost him votes.

Gov. Mitt Romney, who signed the bill banning assault rifles in this state, has made a number of statements indicating his revised support of gun rights, possibly to counter what he has actually done.

In government, talk is cheap, but legislation is dear.

The National Rifle Association has also been silent and has declined to issue an official statement until 'all the facts are known.'

Here is the Second Amendment: 'A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.'

It has been hotly interpreted and re-interpreted for years and incidents such as this latest in mass killings re-ignite the debate.

Personally, I think people should have the right to own guns. If they fulfill local and state laws, they should be able to carry guns. If they are hunters or sportsmen that's fine, too. If people are lawful and responsible, I don't have a beef.

By the way, I don't own a gun, but that's my decision.

So, are incidents such as the one that occurred last week the price the nation must pay for the right to bear arms in its current state? Did those people die in order to preserve someone's ability to own and arm an assault rifle - depending upon the state, of course.

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control reported there were 11,493 homicides in the United States that involved a gun.

That's 31.48 deaths every day. Are we to ignore these deaths?

So are preserving the present laws worth the cost in life? If you write me a letter on this issue, please address that question rather than just calling me a name or questioning my patriotism. That is easy. The answer to the question is difficult. Thanks.

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.