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What I learned during my ‘winter vacation’

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
I’m hoping that those of you who have spent the better part of a week in the dark and cold are reading this newspaper in the light and warmth. This past week has been quite an ordeal for thousands of people. People here will feel the cost of replacing food and the effects of lost business for a long time.
This year has been an absolutely horrendous one from a weather standpoint: blizzard, tornado, microburst, tropical storm and now Nor’easter. And let’s not forget the earthquake — just be thankful it was a mild one.
Holy crap.
We missed having a tidal wave — although if we had one of those, we would had to have kissed ourselves goodbye.
Was there a lesson from this year’s events? So did we learn anything from all of this? We should have. I did.
I learned I wished I’d had solar panels on my roof to generate electricity when I needed it throughout this year. I should have had a back-up emergency generator. Our electrical and telephone infrastructure cannot rely on wires hanging on poles. I would have thought by now that communities have the snow-clearing resources to actually clear off streets in a timely manner.
I also learned that insurance companies that are supposed to be able to handle such weather emergencies could easily be overwhelmed. I learned that getting adequate compensation from them is some sort of hideous game.
Some politicians see a natural disaster as a challenge to be met, while others see them as an opportunity for photo ops.
I learned that while many people show the depth of human kindness, others steal and lie to benefit from the misery.
In this world of high tech communications and computerized everything, six inches of wet snow on top of branches still laden with leaves could stop us cold.
Isn’t it time we as a community and as a state look hard at the lesson from this year? Shouldn’t we be admitting what weaknesses are and seek solutions for them?
When President Barack Obama talks about improvements to the nation’s infrastructure, some people make snide remarks. When Gov. Deval Patrick speaks about building broadband capacitates across the state, some people say leave it to the private sector. After this year, it should be clear to all of us that such work transcends ideology and would truly build a better and safer nation.
***

With the entrance of the Hard Rock casino organization into the local mix, it’s clear there will now be one hell of contest for that Western Massachusetts casino license.
It’s also apparent that the fight is not just going to be between casino developers, but also between those who want a casino and those who don’t.
I’ve been to Atlantic City and seen that the millions of dollars in development money doesn’t even cross a street. Drive down Ocean Avenue and tell me what you see.
On the other hand, building a destination resort such as Foxwoods seemed to have worked better in terms on a minimal impact on adjoining communities.
I don’t gamble. I love Las Vegas for its sheer outrageousness and surreal nature. Holyoke and Palmer will not be like Las Vegas and I’m sure I don’t want them to be like Atlantic City.
The question will be if either community is picked — I don’t see a casino being located in Springfield at the former Westinghouse plant — will a casino have a Foxwoods effect or be like Atlantic City? Will we see some positive trickle down if there is a casino in either community or will there be an increase in crime?
What do you think?
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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