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Really how much is in the glass?

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

The worst part of writing for a weekly happens at election time. Three of our papers come out on the Monday before, but the other three don't make it out until the day after the election.

Since I'm not a mind reader, I can't comment on the results, but let me make a couple of comments on the Springfield campaigns.

It's been a classic case of glass half full and glass half empty that is fairly typical in an incumbent versus challenger race. Mayor Charles Ryan emphasized what has been accomplished during his time in office, from long-needed improvements to the infrastructure to the re-establishment of a cash reserve for the city we actually have money in the bank to the hiring of new police officers and firefighters and the purchase of new cruisers.

And while he hasn't been mentioning much about economic development in his ads, under Ryan the city has seen forward movement there from the re-development of the former Basketball Hall of Fame building to the opening of the Performance Food Group facility to the up-coming demolition of Chapman Valve and the York Street Jail.

Perhaps voters need to be reminded of the dire state of the city just a few years ago when the former mayor left this city on the brink of bankruptcy.

Ryan hasn't done all of this alone. The Finance Control Board and a new team in City Hall have all contributed to the beginning of a new era for the City of Homes.

Domenic Sarno is one of the most likable figures in city politics. He's a sincere guy whose time on the City Council has been marked by trying to resolve differences between neighborhoods and businesses with compromise.

Sarno's campaign has focused on his love of the city and what he sees as continued problems, primarily public safety. Sarno said he would hire 50 new police officers if elected. To pay for the cops, he said he would build a budget around "cops and kids."

Whether or not that would mean cuts to other departments is the key question there. Sarno has floated some interesting ideas, including a new city director charged with the development of environmentally sound business practices and a "flex squad" that would address quality of life issues.

Some of these ideas haven't received the play in the local media, as they should. I've been to two of his three positions paper press conferences and was the only print reporter there. At the last one, I was one of two reporters. This is a severe disservice to Sarno and, more importantly, the voters as this is really a critical election for the city. People should be able to make a decision about a candidate from solid reporting rather than political ads.

I like both of those proposals, but as a Springfield taxpayer I want to know just how much they are going to cost and the source of the funding. No offense to Sarno, but the question everyone in Springfield should be asking any candidate making a proposal is "How are you going to pay for it?"

Early on, Sarno said he would eliminate the controversial trash fee. Up until voting day, he was still making that promise; however, he hadn't explained at least he didn't tell me specifically how he was going to replace the revenue generated by the fee.

With elections, sometimes the devil is not in the details. People often vote in response to sound bites, slogans and the way someone looks. All too often policy and accomplishments are secondary considerations. I can only hope in Springfield's case, people turn out to vote and think about what they are doing.

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.