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Patrick's work in Western Mass. just can't be denied

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
Since many folks in Western Massachusetts walk around with a chip on their shoulders -- deservedly so -- when it comes to relations with our fellow citizens to the east, one must note that at least we have a governor who, as I write this, actually seems to care about this part of the state.
I know that is a dangerous statement to write as it reveals a certain level of faith in the concept that government is indeed an institution that, at its core, is supposed to reflect and serve the collected needs of a group of people. This goes counter to the current popular belief that all government is evil and only does bad things.
We would be a lot better off without Big Brother's Social Security, highway systems, clean water, police, fire departments and safe food and medication, right?
I take a view that government is made up of humans and it is our job as citizens to watch those folks and help them resist some of the baser characteristics of our species.
Well, putting popular philosophy aside for a moment, I can't remember a governor whose ties to the four western counties seemed so consistent consistently good.
Deval Patrick visited Western Massachusetts more than even Acting Governor Jane Swift ever did and she is a North Adams native. Mitt Romney? Heck, he didn't even want to show up for the Big E. Of course, he was barely in the state during his four years.
Perhaps the late Foster Furcolo, who ascended to the position of governor after serving in the same Congressional seat as Richard Neal, visited his 'hood frequently when he was in office from 1957 to 1961.
When I worked at the late and lamented WREB from 1982 to 1987 as a talk show host, Gov. Michael Dukakis took interest in Western Massachusetts and for at least two summers in a row came to the area with his entire cabinet for a week. At the time, it was considered a fairly radical public relations move.
On might be cynical and say that Patrick's home in the Berkshires might be the reason he is here as much as he is. He's just passing through. Again, though, consider the appearances and accomplishments of Jane Swift, whose home was also in Berkshire County.
Now, I don't agree with everything Patrick has done or said, but there have been two major things he has done for this area that can't be denied. His decision to put the state's back-up computer data center at the site of the former Technical High School in Springfield is significant. This decision followed the announcement the green high speed computing center would go into Holyoke.
These two developments, especially the Holyoke project, will have a lasting positive economic impact on our area.
So call it what you will, depending on your level of jadedness, but it's refreshing to have a governor who can find places west of Worcester without the guidance of his state police escort.
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I was listening to Chris Collins on WHMP last week and heard a story about a group of people determined to keep the Amtrak station in Amherst. As part of a multi-state effort to built high-speed rail along the Connecticut River corridor, Amtrak will be moving the route of its north and south bound trains away from Amherst. The new route will go through Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield.
It is the height of selfishness to be blind to the advantage of the new route as it will allow many more people access to rail travel. The student population in Amherst can easily use the Five College bus service to reach the new station in Northampton.
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There are 40 people who were honored by BusinessWest last week as part of that publication's annual "Forty Under Forty" recognition.
I'm happy to say I know several of the recipients and they certainly deserve the attention.
I'm particularly pleased that former staff member Natasha Clark was among this group. Natasha did great things here at Reminder Publications and she is continuing her tradition of accomplishment with Springfield School Volunteers and her own business, The Lioness Group.
Congratulations!
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