|By G. Michael Dobbs|
A gentleman at a community meeting in Springfield's South End asked a killer question after he heard a presentation about a $47 million re-paving project of Main Street that includes new sidewalks and other features.
He asked city officials, "Why are we doing this?"
His point was the neighborhood's business base has eroded and that better-looking sidewalks might not be the best way to address vacant storefronts. Instead he would like to see part of the millions of dollars allocated for that road project to be spent in getting new businesses into vacant buildings.
With the federal stimulus package made law by the time you read this, many people will be asking similar questions. Will the provisions of the massive bill actually put money into the creation of jobs and into deserving infrastructure projects?
In Chicopee last week, the reality of an ancient water delivery infrastructure was hammered home with two water main breaks. Clearly every community has a lot of work that needs to be done.
And the area mayors with whom I've spoken all have plans ready to enact once the stimulus money comes their way and ideally these public works projects will put people to work in the short run of the next two years.
Personally, I'm not sure if a newly surfaced Main Street in the South End will attract new life to the neighborhood. We do need to address business development and retention, but I'm not hearing very much on those topics.
Here's a question for you to ask your parish priest if your parish is closing their school as part of the new reorganization of Catholic education here: what are you going to do with the school building?
The redevelopment of church property is an emotional subject. Regardless of how many people once went to a church, the remaining members seldom like to see a historic building that was part of their lives and community torn down to make room for something with a drive-through, like what happened to St. Joseph's in Springfield.
Now with school buildings empty, what will happen to them? Does the diocese have a plan or will it be left up to individual parishes?
With development dollars the subject of hot competition around the region what are the chances these buildings will be reused in a way that benefit their neighborhoods? Is it a better bet they will simply sit idle?
Frankly I think the diocese would be working with the communities in which these schools are being closed to develop a new use for them.
I was in a bookstore the other day and couldn't help but notice the section of books, magazines and other items celebrating the election of the nation's first African-American president.
I also couldn't help but notice the number of books on the new release table that are critical screeds against the president.
He's been in office three or four weeks now, right?
I made the mistake of listening to a moment of Glenn Beck's radio show in which an end-of-segment bumper spoke us the "socialist" country in which we now live. I quickly changed over to Stephanie Miller's program.
And, of course, if you believe right wing talk show hosts, our current economic problems can be named as "the Obama recession."
So I don't understand: we had eight years of a Republican president and during most of his administration that same party controlled Congress. Since the 1980s, Republicans have dominated the presidency with the exception of the eight years of Bill Clinton, who was Republican Lite in many of his policies.
The deregulation that led in part at least to our economic perfect storm came about from largely Republican policies. The undermining of the labor movement and the move of American jobs to overseas workers in the name of increased short-term profits also came under Republican administrations.
Remember: when Ronald Reagan took office, the United States was the largest producer of exported finished goods in the world. Now we are the largest importer and the largest debtor nation.
Welcome to the Third World.
So how have these policies been a success? Why are the talking heads so anxious to rewrite history and determined for a president faced with dealing with a deep recession and ending two wars to fail?
Well, there is a status quo in this nation and it is clear the corporate media as well as the entertainment pundits want to preserve that status quo. And too many folks who have been harmed by that status quo, who have seen their jobs disappear and their homes in peril, still cling to the illusions that are spun by this increasingly irresponsible media.
Don't you think Americans should put ideology aside and pull together to make this country better?
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 280 N. Main St., E. Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.
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