|By G. Michael Dobbs|
Here are a couple of statements that I feel comfortable as presenting as "facts":
The new MassMutual Center is a wonderful addition to the area and should prove to be an economic engine;
And Mitt Romney doesn't care at all about helping to settle the longstanding contract disputes between the city and municipal employees.
Romney successfully got through the picket line that was intended to slow down his entrance for the Center's grand opening. I know that because I was one of members of the press who ran out of the building to see what was going to happen and protesters told us that they missed him.
I doubt that the 100 or so fire fighters, police officers and teachers carrying signs directed at him and Mayor Charles Ryan made much impression on the man who has spent more time figuring out if he should run for president rather than another term as governor.
Perhaps the picketers will just be fodder for Romney's latest jokes about Massachusetts he likes to tell on the campaign trail.
Here's the twisted legacy of the Romney Administration for us. Besides getting rid of veteran politician William Bulger from his lucrative gig as UMass president, and giving the city of Springfield a $52 million credit line (that came with the considerable strings of a Boston-dominated Finance Control Board), Romney okayed the construction of the MassMutual Center.
These are good things. Thank you, Mitt. The Center was a good call.
But at the same time, the Romney Administration has shown little regard for the kind of detail that labor talks represent. You just can't say to people who have lived up to their side of a contract that they don't deserve the respect of working with them on a new deal.
Of course I wouldn't be writing this column about Romney if the previous mayoral administration had settled these contracts when they came to be renewed. That's a fact that doesn't seem to be stated enough during this mayoral election.
Romney's administration is the body that wanted Ryan to sign away collective bargaining rights. Ryan didn't, which preserved the union's ability to negotiate for their members.
Like other residents of this city I want to see the contracts settled yesterday. I only hope that the politics of a mayoral race does not impede talks.
During the opening festivities of the Center, I walked through the "Pioneer Valley Promenade," a mini-trade show that had 50 exhibitors of various tourist attractions and services.
This was not just a Springfield event. Holyoke and Chicopee with its attractions such as Wistariahurst in Holyoke and the new hotels in Chicopee were well represented. Holyoke has a great "passport" program that calls attentiont to many events.
You, know for someplace where too many people complain "there's nothing to do," we really do have a lot to offer. I'm sure that too many of us take it for granted.
The promise of the Center to bring conventions to the area must be met with a new and concentrated effort to market the attractions we have.
We have a unique chance with the MassMutual Center and every effort should be made to maximize its economic potential for the region.
These are my opinions alone. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA, 01028.