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Casino in West Springfield would be a mistake


Jan. 9, 2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

news@thereminder.com

Has there been a more perplexing suggestion of late than to put a casino on the grounds of the Big E?

Consider the fact that rail giant CSX is working with state and local officials on a plan that will move increased tractor-trailer traffic from the West Springfield rail yard onto Memorial Avenue. Now, add the fact that Memorial Avenue is home to dozens of businesses. Top that consideration with the amount of traffic generated by all of the events at the Exposition grounds, including the annual fair.

The result would be a tremendous mistake in urban planning.

I'm writing this column before the Hard Rock and Big E people have formally announced their last minute development plan. I am confident that they will be underwhelming. I can't wrap my head about how a resort casino could fit on the Big E property without affecting the fair buildings.

How will they address the traffic mitigation simply posed by the rotary on Memorial Avenue? People don't know how to use the [expletive deleted] things now. Imagine when there are thousands of more cars spinning around it like balls in a roulette wheel?

The more I think about a potential casino, the more I believe that either the Page Boulevard location that Ameristar had or the Wyckoff Country Club in Holyoke were the best in terms of an undesired impact on traffic patterns. It's too bad those locations are off the market.

I still maintain I would be far more comfortable if two or three high tech manufacturing companies were vying for space in our region rather than casinos.

***


While I was walking through the new exhibit at the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History on the life of President John F. Kennedy, several things struck me.

The exhibit includes color photos of the Kennedys in Dallas, Texas, before the assassination. I had always heard about Jacqueline's pink dress she wore, but I had never seen it before.

I was 9 years old on Nov. 22, 1963, and remember that day and the subsequent events all in black and white. We didn't have a color television – who did in those days?

All the major news I watched on television from that time is burned into my mind in black and white. Is that the case with my fellow 50-plus readers?

The other thought the exhibit inspired was the impact made by Springfield's own Lawrence O'Brien on Kennedy's career. O'Brien, whom I had the pleasure of meeting back in my WREB days, was a consummate politician. He guided Kennedy's senatorial campaign and was then appointed to be the director of his presidential campaign. He served in President Lyndon Johnson's cabinet as Postmaster General and was the head of the Democratic National Committee at the time of the Watergate break-in.

He later served as the commissioner of the National Basketball Association and was president of the Basketball Hall of Fame for two years.

O'Brien was an ultimate insider who saw the transition from more traditional ways to campaign to one based on the use of volunteers and organization on the ground.

And he was one of our own.

***


The proclamation on the Daily Beast that Springfield was the 14th drunkest city in the nation was the kind of story that means absolutely nothing. It's a Kardashian-style story – a moderate amount of invented sizzle and no steak.

According to the new website, "To figure out which cities imbibe the most throughout the year, The Daily Beast first reached out to market researcher Experian Marketing Services for recent data on the average number of alcoholic drinks per month per adult, in each metro area. As well, we pulled data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the percentage of residents who are binge drinkers and heavy drinkers. For the final ranking, the average drink per month rank was weighted 50 percent; the binge-drinking and the heavy-drinking population for each metro area each got a 25 percent weighting."

To what purpose? Creating Facebook buzz?

Springfield really consumes more booze than Las Vegas? San Francisco? Really?

There are good things happening here, but I suppose they are not worthy.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com 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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