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Lees' departure creates turmoil

Date: 4/3/2012

April 2, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

When I received the release recently that veteran politician Brian Lees — now serving as Clerk of Courts — would not be seeking re-election, I could almost hear the turmoil that announcement caused.

In Western Massachusetts, all it takes is one political domino to fall to start off a massive chain of events.

So, almost immediately the mayor of Chicopee, Michael Bissonnette, announced his intentions to consider a run for the office. If he does, and if he wins, Chicopee will have an interim mayor for a year. The subsequent mayoral race in that city would be an active one, to say the least.

It would be a great reality show.

Bissonnette has been an attorney and does understand how the courts work.

Springfield City Councilor Thomas Ashe has also been mentioned as a candidate, which would mean the person who came in at 11th would be elevated to that body, if, of course, Ashe wins.

Is the Clerk of Courts a sexy job? No. Is it important? Sure, as everyone wants our over-burdened courts to run as smoothly as they can with the meager resources Boston allots them.

What I find interesting is if any of the candidates for Lees' job would have thought to have actually challenged him. I'll be asking that one.

I'm sure there will be other candidates for this job emerge. Can you imagine the political furor when Sheriff Mike Ashe decides to retire? The candidates will be forming a long line.

And I would like to write about a person who is thinking about a return to politics with a run for Governor's Council, but I can't until he declares. I'm waiting anxiously.


Perhaps his chances to beat Congressman Richard Neal are between slim and not-at-all, but I'm enjoying what Bill Shein has been talking about. Shein is actually discussing issues, which I'm afraid I'm not getting from Neal's other opponent, Andrea Nuciforo.

Shein noted how Neal supported the "JOBS Act," which Shein called "a grab-bag of long-sought-after and dangerous deregulation."

Shein is an articulate critic who shows little concern about the political status quo — an admirable quality.

If either of these candidates hopes to achieve traction against Neal in this race, they have to talk about real issues. So far, only one of them is doing so.


And then there was one less standing. I received an interesting release from Palmer Town Council President Paul Burns crowing about the withdrawal of MGM from its proposed Brimfield site for a resort casino.

Naturally, Burns believes this move strengthens Palmer's chance of being selected as the lone casino site for Western Massachusetts.

So let's recap: Mayor Alex Morse in Holyoke isn't very enthusiastic about any casino in the Paper City, but there is still development being considered. Springfield has one definite site — the former Westinghouse factory location on Page Boulevard — one rumored site — the Howard Street block in the South End — and one area that the city's Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy has said would be his choice — in the North End not far from Union Station.

And there are locations in Chicopee under consideration.

So in your opinion, where would you like to see a casino go? Where would it do the most good for our economy? Where would it do the greatest damage to existing businesses?

I find it interesting that Kennedy, in remarks made only to this newspaper, stated that he was in favor of a downtown casino, a notion that was roundly rejected by voters over a decade ago when the casino issue was at a hard boil. What has changed between now and 1996? Is it simply a jobs and tax issue now?

Is there any business sector downtown, other than the strip clubs, that would benefit from the competition a casino would bring?

Hey, agree with me? 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.

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