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Political season starts early

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
Feb. 7, 2011
There are times, as a reporter, I want to interrupt the various governmental meetings and press conferences I cover.
I have had to restrain myself a number of times from raising my hand and asking some committee or council to just move things along because of all the showboating going on. I hate it when the members of a group all feel compelled to voice their opposition or support about something obvious.
I know, it's politics and they are allowed to do so, but at the end of a long day, I pray for a little economy of time and effort.
There have been candidates who start their event late and people who will delay proceedings until my colleagues from television arrive. These are the hazards of the job.
Then there are times when I simply want to express an opinion at some meeting, but then again, that is not allowed. Thank all that is holy I'm in the unique position of expressing an opinion through this column.
When I attended the recent meeting of the Finance Subcommittee of the Springfield City Council, I listened to members of the area's hospitality and tourism industry explain why an increase in Springfield's local motel and hotel tax could cost them business.
I wanted to agree with them.
There is only so much the city can lay at the doorstep of either businesses or the residents and the 2 percent increase which was discussed could be the legendary straw the broke the camel's back.
If the city is serious about business development, the City Council will reject this tax increase.
If people elect to stay some place else with less expensive rates, there will be an impact on hotel employees, restaurants and retail. Do we want more layoffs in the city? Do we want decreases in businesses?
How do you select a hotel? For many people, they compare prices and deals online and if they see a place that's cheaper with the same amenities in West Springfield, for example, they will choose that over Springfield. Today, it's all about price.
We can't afford to lose a single job in Springfield. We can't afford to give visitors a single reason to spend their money elsewhere.
Want to save money as we stand in the shadow of a more than $40 million dollar budget deficit? Sure. Let's look at some best practices. How about going out to bid on most purchases? Something the city didn't do before it signed a 20-year list to rent the former Federal Building on Main Street.
Now here's another suggestion that will make me a favorite in some circles: What is the salary range for non-union personnel? I don't want anyone to lose their jobs, but some of the salaries for some administrative types I know about are, let's say, generous.
In other words, our elected leaders always say they want to make "the tough decisions," and the times demand them.
But this tax increase is an easy one. It will cost the city jobs. Don't do it.
***

More inside journalism: This year is already stacking up to be an interesting political season. We have a first-time candidate in Holyoke, Alex Morse, challenging first-term Mayor Elaine Pluta.
In Springfield, City Council President Jose Tosado has announced his intentions to be the next mayor. Mayor Domenic Sarno has already announced he will seek the first four-year mayoral term in the city's history.
It was interesting to compare the two kick-off events. Morse presented the start of his campaign in sub-freezing cold on the steps of Holyoke City Hall. Tosado did his from the warmth and comfort of a downtown sports bar.
Morse had one elected official who has endorsed him present at his event. Tosado had five of his City Council colleagues there to stand with him.
Morse offered a press kit to reporters that detailed many aspects of his platform. Tosado spoke in broad terms and didn't offer specifics.
As a reporter, I give points to Morse for offering more than just campaign rhetoric. That makes a far better story. I give points to Tosado, though, for not making me stand outside in the cold.
Both men had points deducted on my scorecard for starting late and for having too many speakers precede them.
Yes, I understand, it's politics.
There have been hints there might be a challenger in Chicopee to Mayor Michael Bissonnette and perhaps an additional two candidates in Springfield. These are just whispers in the wind at this point. I'll let you all know as soon as I know.
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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