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Lieberman leaves many questions unanswered at panel discussion

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
Ah, so close and yet so far away.
Last week I had the honor of being part of a panel discussion at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, Conn. — a truly impressive interactive science museum. The museum has a new exhibit called “Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters” and the discussion was on the theme “Are We Ready for Nature Unleashed?”
I was asked because the museum personnel wanted a survivor of the tornado in the group and had been steered to the stories I’ve written by a friend of mine. I joined a panel that included the state’s deputy commissioner of emergency services and public protection, a vice president of Connecticut Light and Power, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official and the chief operating officer for the Connecticut and Rhode Island American Red Cross.
The star of the show, though, was Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
I thought it would be interesting to ask Lieberman two things: does he really support the idea of cutting Social Security in order to strengthen a defense strategy against terrorists as reported and does he agree with what Mitt Romney proposed about eliminating FEMA and allowing states to respond to disasters without federal help.
I didn’t get the opportunity to pose either question and Lieberman framed his remarks around being prepared for national security threats rather than natural events.
He did ask the audience if they would contact their members of Congress to get entitlements under control.
He offered no message about tax reform or questioning whether or not the war in Afghanistan is worth the lives and money it is costing.
The discussion was a worthy one with all of us contributing to it, but the journalist in me was yearning to be allowed to talk.
***

As part of my mini-vacation, I found myself in Portland, Maine, last week. I had been to Portland once before and came away with the impression of the harbor and the funky shops near it of the city being like Northampton on the ocean.
This time I was visiting the International Museum of Cryptozoology (http://cryptozoologymuseum.com) on Congress Street, away from the harbor area. I thought of Northampton again, only the NoHo of the early 70s.
By the late 1960s and early 70s, downtown Northampton had seen better days and the vacant buildings offered cheap rents that made possible a new group of businesses from young entrepreneurs.
Congress Street is a similar scenario. As one business owner explained to me, the housing bust of 2008 stopped a gentrification movement and now young people can afford to start businesses with the affordable rents.
This is why I think Holyoke has a bright future. The buildings that some people see as a bleak reminder of its manufacturing past are valuable commodities for its future.
Maybe, I’ll quit this grind and open a combination coffee house-bookstore-video store-comic book store in a cool old building in the Paper City.
***

I love how state legislators are patting themselves on the back about finally crafting a bill that would allow the development of casino gambling. How long did that take?
Once the governor puts his signet ring and sealing wax to the document, it will be interesting to see just which gaming companies are still in love with the Bay State and whether a casino out here still flies.
I hope it does, if only because I wouldn’t want to see other parts of the state get one when we didn’t.
Is this the way the Legislature handles a jobs development issue? What do they use as a clock, a glacier?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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