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Look on the brighter side of things

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

There are two currencies in politics: the favor and the promise.
Favors are the hard money, the gold standard, as they are what can truly move something forward you do me a favor and I'll do you a favor.
Promises are much softer and more elusive to cash in. There are plenty of them minted during a campaign but they may never come to term.
For example, back during our gubernatorial contest, then-candidate, now-Gov. Deval Patrick attended a forum at Holy Family Church in Springfield conducted by the Pioneer Valley Project (PVP). The format was to ask each candidate or a surrogate three questions, the last one being "Would the winning candidate promise to meet with the PVP after the election to discuss further investment in Springfield and would they support additional state aid to the city?"
This is what I wrote then: "Patrick made the crowd gasp with his answer about meeting with the PVP after the election. He said, 'No.' He answered 'yes' to the state aid question.
"He explained he said 'No,' because 'I can't wait until I'm sworn in.'"
The audience roared with their approval, but to this date has the governor shown back up to a PVP meeting? Not to my knowledge.
So was he just telling the audience something they wanted to hear to obtain their votes? Perhaps. Was he telling the truth? Perhaps.
Being a Gemini, I am of two minds on this assessment. I would like to think that Patrick was sincere, but I also have nagging doubts that this was more campaign fodder. In my job one hears a lot of things coming out of the mouths of elected officials or candidates.
Some people I know are snickering a bit about the fact that Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno was not able to eliminate the trash fee from his budget and has instead begun an effort to start a "pay as you throw" plan (PAYT) for the city.
Let's face it, the trash fee was Sarno's rallying cry and it obviously hit home with enough voters to remove Charlie Ryan, a man who will go down in the history of the city as a true hero.
So the anti-Sarno folks are wondering if, as a candidate, he knew removing some sort of trash fee was just hot air.
I think Sarno, along with State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, was sincere in his opposition of the fee. I think he actually believed that the over $4 million in revenue generated by the fee could be found elsewhere and therefore compensate for the removal of the fee.
The fact is the city needs the money and I'm happy to see that a PAYT plan is being considered. This kind of plan encourages far greater recycling and allows a single person, who would not be generating as much trash as a family, to pay for their fair share.
The mistake Ryan and the Finance Control Board made was not going to a PAYT format and instituting a one-size-fits-all trash fee.
It's a hard thing not to live up to one's promises, but it's a good thing when an elected official seeks a solution to a concern identified by the electorate.

***
I've been trying to lead a "greener" life and have been doing some research about some of the little things that, when added up, could make a big difference.
Sometimes the answers are easy: neither paper nor plastic grocery bags are the answer. Using and re-usable cloth bags are the way to go.
Other times the answers are not so easy. For instance, regular incandescent light bulbs are supposedly bad for the environment, but critics of the compact fluorescent bulbs note their mercury content make them a hassle to throw away. The old bulbs, I understand, are made in this country, while production of the new bulbs is in China.
So you may be "green-correct," but you're hurting American jobs.

***
So I'm looking on the bright side of $4 per gallon gasoline perhaps people will begin considering how to decentralize our food supply and grow more of our food regionally to decrease transportation costs. That could provide more local jobs.
And perhaps the cost of transporting goods from China will increase to the point that American manufacturers will actually want to be make stuff here.
I know these possibilities are of little importance now as you struggle to find the money to fill up the tank, but they are the kind things that we need to address to find a long-term solution to our energy woes.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to Reminderpublications.com or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.


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