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Lease creates a straitjacket for Springfield

Lease creates a straitjacket for Springfield
By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
There are a lot of things running through my mind this week, so let me get a few of them on paper.
One reason I enjoy covering the Toy Fair are the exhibits generally found on the second level of the massive Javits Center.
There, one generally finds small companies exhibiting funkier, less mainstream items. Often times the people at the booth are the folks who came up with the ideas for the products and the ones who sat up all night before the Toy Fair making the prototypes to be on display.
It's American commerce and invention on exhibit and for the most part it's heartening that even with the odds stacked against them, people are willing to roll the dice and see if their brainstorm catches fire.
One such young company was showing something called "Tushems," plush animals with enormous rear ends. Their slogan is "Everyone has a Tushems."
I didn't say that all of these new products were winners.
I believe in the American tradition of putting your better mousetrap out for approval from consumers. My fear, though, is that it's more difficult to do so.
A good friend of mine forwarded a story from www.alternet.org by David Degraw about the growing divide between the very rich and the poor in this nation. According to his references, this condition is threatening the existence of a middle class.
Degraw wrote, "The government has come up with clever ways to downplay all of these numbers, but we have over 50 million people who need to use food stamps to eat, and a stunning 50 percent of U.S. children will use food stamps to eat at some point in their childhoods. Approximately 20,000 people are added to this total every day. In 2009, one out of five U.S. households didn't have enough money to buy food. In households with children, this number rose to 24 percent, as the hunger rate among U.S. citizens has now reached an all-time high.
"We also currently have over 50 million U.S. citizens without health care. 1.4 million Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2009, a 32 percent increase from 2008. As bankruptcies continue to skyrocket, medical bankruptcies are responsible for over 60 percent of them, and over 75 percent of the medical bankruptcies filed are from people who have health care insurance. We have the most expensive health care system in the world, we are forced to pay twice as much as other countries and the overall care we get in return ranks 37th in the world."
Degraw blames both the Republicans and the Democrats for allowing this to happen and I urge you all to read his article.
***

The lease that has put the city of Springfield in a straitjacket preventing it from even considering a more affordable destination for the School Department offices other than the former Federal Building is a disgrace in my humble opinion.
How the Finance Control Board could go against the common sense of picking a location through a bidding process defies not only common sense, but also the very ideals of financial transparency the Control Board purported to support.
The fact the taxpayers will have to come up with over $500,000 more every year for the next decade to pay the rent on the space is another issue. With increasingly tight budgets, where is that money going to come from?
No one is saying, but I'd love to know just who was the architect of this deal. But I doubt anyone will step forward and take the credit.
***

I love the nature of how celebrity works. I was at the Hasbro showroom for Toy Fair and was told Taylor Lautner, the young actor who portrayed the dreamy werewolf in "New Moon," was in the showroom as well.
I was warned I couldn't speak with him, seek an autograph or take a photo. That's fine.
I managed to see the back of his head and then at another point I saw his face. Almost as soon as I did I was about 20 feet from him a security guy with the shape of an upright Buick stepped in my line of sight. He sort of smiled at me.
What he didn't understand is that I cared much more about a flying Millennium Falcon toy that was near the ab-tastic actor than Lautner is all his bronzed glory.
I'm a 55-year-old "Star Wars" fan. Han Solo's space ship that really flies makes my heart pitter patter, not the latest favorite of the teen magazines.
Lautner is going to play Stretch Armstrong in a movie based on the Hasbro toy from the 1970s. My advice: fire your agent and save your money.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to news@thereminder.com or to 280 North Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028.


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