There's a lot bouncing around my cranium this week. Allow me to share.
I was walking through Tower Square the other day and was struck by just how many of the retail spaces are now dark. With all of the office workers who either walk through the building or work in the building one would think there would be a core audience there. Is that not the case?
I remember that the old Bay State West commercial complex was supposed to compete with Eastfield Mall and then Holyoke Mall by providing the same kind of shopping experience an enclosed mall smack in the middle of downtown. Linked to Steiger's with a bridge over Main Street, Bay State West always seemed to be an iffy proposition, success-wise, which led some people to wonder if the concept of an urban mall actually works.
The way the place looks today seems to answer those questions.
Sometimes I just have to admit I'm stumped: I didn't understand what the point of the discussion hosted in Holyoke last week by Attorney General Martha Coakley was all about.
Here was the AG and people from Holyoke and Springfield speaking about how they are reacting to what is anticipated as an expensive heating season before us. People spoke about the importance of conserving fuel, making sure elders were okay and not using space heaters inappropriately. This was all good information, but the supposed point of it was to compile it in a report that would then be used by state officials to form some sort of reaction to the high cost of fuel and its impact.
One colleague leaned over to me and said, "It's a dog and pony show." I had to agree.
Sometimes as a reporter I get tired of covering events that, well, are more theater than substance.
What can the state do? More funding to fuel assistance programs? That's fine. More emphasis on existing programs to help the elderly and kids? Nothing wrong there.
Here's the real issue, which was mentioned by some who spoke: middle class people are turning up at food banks and are clearly in trouble. Do they fit into any of the current programs? No.
Why do all of this public searching for answers now? We've known for months the costs of even a moderate winter would exact a terrible toll on many. Why weren't these public discussions conducted in May when at least there would be time to try to figure out some strategies?
I was heartened this week with the opening of NUVO Bank as it's evidence that such an enterprise can garner the necessary support even in these trying times.
I wonder if people are now making the decision more to keep their money locally. Farmers markets in the area have reported a big boost in sales this summer. Could we be turning a corner with people realizing that patronizing local business makes the region stronger? I hope so.
I kid my boss Dan Buendo a fair amount within the levels of approaching termination but I'm happy to give him his due when he deserves it.
Recently Dan attended the convention of the Independent Free Papers of America a big national trade association in Seattle, Wash., and was surprised by being named the recipient of Distinguished Service Award for his work with the group.
He was lauded for his leadership and vision as well as his initiatives on creating a new vehicle for selling classified ads our sister company, Access 2 Media.
Presenter Robert Munn said, "The success of Access 2 Media bolsters the revenue source that is the foundation of each of our national and regional industry associations and makes them stronger. Anybody could have done that. One guy did."
So Dan, my next non-alcoholic beer will be hoisted in your honor. Congratulations.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.
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