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Long wait for fire academy highlights Boston’s disconnect with the west

Date: 10/10/2014

I’m not ungrateful, really. I just can’t ignore what I heard at the announcement of the construction of a firefighters’ academy in Springfield that will serve any firefighter in the state, but specifically the firefighters of the four western counties.

And it only took 36 years for Western Massachusetts to gain some parity with the eastern half of the state.

Thirty-six years.

I am grateful something as basic to public safety as this $13 million facility is coming to our region. The speakers at the event noted how two different groups of local fire chiefs petitioned state public safety officials over the course of that time as well as worked with elected officials.

Still, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 when the entire country was focused on the training and resources of first responders, we didn’t get it. In the years following 9/11 when millions of dollars were being funneled to states for various anti-terrorism and public safety initiatives, we didn’t get it.

It’s not like that people didn’t work to convince the Boston establishment this was needed. Clearly, people worked very hard and persistently to achieve this goal. The question is why did it take so long?

Would Beacon Hill waited so long for such as a facility in the Boston area? You know the answer.

State Fire Marshall Stephen Coan told a story at the press event. He and his wife and friends were at the last Boston Red Sox game – the one with the Yankees and Derek Jeter. He spotted a Yankees fan nearby and said that none of the anti-Yankee sentiment so prominent at Fenway was on display.

“It was a love fest,” he noted.

He spoke with the Yankee fan and noted that she must have had a long drive from New York. She corrected him that she was from Western Massachusetts and explained that since people in Boston don’t like Western Massachusetts so why should she root for the Red Sox? 

He meant well. Everyone laughed. It’s as cute story, right? It just underscores that in such a small state the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Of course, this story makes me think of the four men and one woman who want to be governor of the Commonwealth. Do any of them really understand the difference between the regions of the state?

Charlie Baker has spoken how Western Massachusetts residents don’t have the advantage in public transit other folks do and he’s right. He acknowledges the additional cost of living because of that.

Nearly all of the candidates talk about the commuter rail connection between Springfield and Hartford, Conn. Nearly all of them mention the need for a commuter rail link to Worcester and the MBTA.

Some have also spoken of the necessity of having high speed broadband throughout the state, especially in the more rural four western counties.

The trouble with me is that the Patrick Administration, headed by the most Western Massachusetts friendly governor we’ve had in years, has talked about most of these initiatives. What progress has been made?

The gap in the state hasn’t decreased in the way it should have and despite what some people might think it isn’t a joke.
Not right

The story about the gubernatorial debate in Worcester on Oct. 27 is pretty disturbing. Originally it was to include all of the candidates on the ballot. Now apparently some have been “disinvited.” 

According to candidate Evan Falchuk, “On Monday morning, Oct. 6, my campaign manager and I received a call from NECN Managing Editor Mary Plansky with regard to the October 27 candidates’ debate which, I, Martha Coakley, Charlie Baker and Jeff McCormick had all been invited to back on Aug. 28. On Sept. 2, we accepted this invitation, co-sponsored by NECN, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Hanover Theatre.   

“In her call, Mary yanked this month-old invitation to me – a candidate officially on the ballot for governor – without any concrete explanation. When we pressed her for reasoning, she offered a generic ‘you’re not really high enough in the polls to be included in the debate.’  When further pressed to say what percentage, exactly, would be considered ‘high enough’ according to this new caveat, Mary hemmed and hawed a bit, then reluctantly said, ‘I don’t know, maybe something like 10 percent?’”

All of the independent candidates have a right to be at the debate. If they are on the ballot, they are legit. This is an example of very bad policy by media outlets that should know better.

I’m sure what is guiding this is formatting issues. A debate with a Democrat and a Republican is nice clean theater. A debate with three more candidates becomes more difficult to manage.


Agree? 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.