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Where have you gone, Jack Villamaino?

Aug. 27, 2012 |

By G. Michael Dobbs news@thereminder.com The following is an open letter to Jack Villamaino: Dear Jack, Since you won't return the phones calls from Chris Maza, the reporter assigned to the voter fraud case, I'm forced to take this means to communicate with you. It's been two years since you and I have had any sort of communication. The last time I saw you was at your fund-raiser at which Sen. Scott Brown appeared. You were running for the same seat for which you are now running and against the same candidate. Interesting, isn't it? "Déjà vu all over again" as Yogi Berra is alleged to have said. Now we're very far from being friends, but we've tried diligently to give you an opportunity to address the unattributed reports in other media that involve you with this amazingly stupid scheme to switch Democrats over to the Republican side through absentee ballots. Our goal has been to do this story carefully and correctly. We hoped that you would see the value of speaking on the record with a newspaper that has covered you fairly. You see, I really don't think that relying on leaked information from an unnamed police official is the best way to report a story. I had hoped that you would at least have done your duty for the voters of East Longmeadow and show up at the Selectman's meeting to do your job. I can understand ducking the press, but skirting your responsibilities? Well, you decided the best thing to do was to quit and do so by email — classy and manly. Are you out of the race for state rep as well? You know you are going to lose. Are you actually going to speak about what happened or do we all wait for the report from the district attorney? Most public relations professionals would have advised you to approach this issue head-on. You have not. That will probably prove to be a big mistake. The question I have is this: Is your desire to be a member of the General Court so strong and over-powering that you have been willing to be the object of nasty rumor and conjecture for two weeks? Is the job that important? What are you going to do next, Jack? Drop Chris Maza or myself a line or give either of us a call. That note of resignation wasn't quite satisfying enough for our readers or us.
Now my wife and I do love Las Vegas. As I've noted before in this column, neither of us are big gamblers. Give us a roll of quarters and we've satisfied that urge. We like Vegas for its sheer singularity, its ballyhoo and its eagerness to amaze. To see just how successful Las Vegas is, go to Atlantic City. For my book on the Fleischer Studios (the folks who made the Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons, among many others) I interviewed a studio employee in her Atlantic City home in 1978. Driving into the city was like venturing into the legendary elephant's graveyard. Once a hugely successful resort destination, in 1978 it had begun as a run-down retirement community of sorts. Fast forward many years and I'm in Atlantic City again to cover a video store convention. The casinos are long established, but I was struck by just how little economic development had trickled from one side of the street to the other, where there were shabby buildings and vacant lots. The choices our elected officials will make concerning casinos in the next few months will affect our communities for years to come. The big question will be whether that impact is positive or negative.
As I came out in a slight daze from the MGM Grand presentation — one that rivaled any glitzy tradeshow event I've attended in Las Vegas — I thought, wouldn't it have been nice if manufacturers had been willing to fight over locating in Springfield with the same determination as this hugely successful gaming and hospitality company demonstrated? It's sort of sad that many people see a casino in Springfield as some sort of last-ditch effort to jumpstart the engine of this city. We're like the chubby kid who is praying to be called to the dodge ball team and eager for any attention. I'm still very conflicted about any casino in Western Massachusetts, especially one in a downtown area, but I grow just a little sick considering how the trade policies of the last 30 years — something from both parties — have put an area like Springfield and the rest of the country in this position. The outsourcing of jobs and the erosion of local businesses have caught up to this city. I shake my head in amazement when the city that gave this country so many innovations gets so exited because a Sonic and a Golden Corral opens on Boston Road and it's seen as economic development. Fast food warrants that kind of enthusiasm? The reason Springfield grew and prospered is because of the critical mass of trained skilled labor created by the founding of the U.S. Armory. Will a casino, even the best damn one in the world, bring about the kind of synergy that happened here around manufacturing? Would I like the tax revenue and the jobs that come with a casino? Sure. But do I wish they were coming from another business? Afraid so.

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