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Voters should thank whistle blowers

October 31, 2011
By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
This is the last column I can write about the upcoming election and I have to say that voters in the area have real races between viable candidates.
In Holyoke, there is the choice between an experienced mayor and former city councilor with a track record and a very bright and aggressive challenger who has some good ideas. Whether he wins this election or not, Alex Morse is someone to watch in the future.
Agawam voters will also have a real decision to make between a popular incumbent mayor and a popular former state representative and School Committee member. These two candidates are both veterans in the field of public service who each offer a distinct record. Personality and the voter’s personal knowledge of the candidates will undoubtedly influence that race.
West Springfield is at a crossroads. With Mayor Ed Gibson’s decision not to run, voters have a choice between two candidates to bring the city into a new direction. Gibson should be thanked for his years of service in the difficult job as the city’s first mayor.
Businessman and political neophyte Gary Lefebvre would like to bring a new management style to Chicopee and voters will have to decide if a change is needed. While the mayor’s race has provided few fireworks, Chicopee has maintained its status as one of the most brutal political arenas with conflict in the city clerk’s race and well as in one school committee contest.
Springfield not only has a large group of city council candidates to consider, but citizens must decide who they would like to be mayor for the first four-year term in the city’s history.
The two candidates have considerable experience and track records, but have different campaigning styles. How form influences a judgment on substance will be the subject of my post-election column.
As always, I will not tell you how your vote should be cast, but rather simply urge you to vote on Nov. 8.
***
Back stage stuff: Let me share with you the often-time twisted existence of being a reporter. I am the ultimate insider and get told things I could never repeat.
I’ve heard more secrets than many parish priests, only I can’t offer salvation.
At the same time, I’m an outsider. There have been times when I’ve walked into a room and people have instantly stopped talking simply because I’m a reporter.
The public relations person who loves you one day, whines at you the next because an item they submitted didn’t get the ink they thought it deserved. When they offer something to you the next time, they love you all over again.
The source that promises you an exclusive will often give it to everyone.
The result is that you develop a thick skin, a jaded outlook and, in some cases, a fondness for the distiller’s art. You also appreciate the people who are real and don’t play any games. I’m fortunate for knowing quite of a number of these individuals.
I’ve discovered that deep inside the most cynical reporters beats the heart of a true believer – someone who wants to believe in our system of government and the basic decency of people, despite the evidence they see to the contrary.
This condition gives us a renewed ability to be outraged, an important quality to have in this job.
I’ve been very tired of late, but the news this week of the audit of the finances at the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical High School certainly relit my pilot light of anger.
The activities that happened at the school are reprehensible and every one of the parties involved should be fired and/or prosecuted.
And frankly, while he didn’t assume any responsibility publicly, School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram should have done so.
It isn’t just Ingram’s fault that these unethical and, in some cases, criminal practices were taking place on his watch, but one has to wonder how Ingram didn’t know something was happening there. Isn’t supervising principals part of his job?
At least Mayor Domenic Sarno said the buck stops with him.
I was taken aback by the revisionist history about how this investigation came about. The new principal of the school called for it about the same time as City Councilor Tim Rooke.
The Sarno Administration, though, has framed the 14-month audit as just coming from the School Department. Rooke and other councilors have been working in conjunction with School Committee members for months.
Last week, Rooke had invited the mayor, the superintendent and the School Committee to a meeting at which all of the officials would issue the report. Rooke, with Councilors John Lysak and Melvin Edwards, were shocked to find out the superintendent had instead scheduled his own press conference at which the audit would be issued. I and other reporters broke the news to them as we had been sent an advisory earlier in the day.
City councilors have often complained to me about a lack of communication between them and the Sarno Administration and this is another example of the strained – at best – relationship.
The voters should thank Principal Gilbert E. Traverso and Rooke for their efforts to reveal the culture of corruption that existed at the school.
Hey, agree with me? 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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