|By G. Michael Dobbs|
First an update on last week's column: When I spoke to State Sen. Stephen Buoniconti last week concerning his bill to require all high school coaches in public schools to have CPR certification, I also had the opportunity to speak to him about the Senate's casino bill.
The question I posed concerned the "independent commission" that House Speaker Robert De Leo said would be the body to determine the location of the casinos. Buoniconti was adamant in his response. An independent commission would be a "catastrophe" for Western Massachusetts, he said.
The senator believes such a body would simply look at numbers and decide the largest population block is where the casinos should be. He doesn't believe there would be much consideration for factors such as the potential for economic development.
I think our goose will be cooked if the Legislature goes the independent commission route.
I also recently had a fascinating discussion about a Springfield casino with Gerry FitzGerald while we manned our tables at a local authors' event hosted by the Springfield Library.
He is the president of FitzGerald & Mastroianni Advertising Inc. in Springfield.
FitzGerald wrote a column for Business West advocating the use of Union Station as a casino site. His idea would not eliminate the use of the station as a transportation center. He asked for me to consider how attractive the idea to a casino developer might be to have the lobby to his business a few steps away from the platform of the Amtrak operation.
He believes that location would allow a casino owner to market to New York City residents, telling them a casino was available on a public transport system. Albany area residents and Vermonters could also take advantage of the rail and casino combination.
Now plenty of people would probably be opposed to Fitzgerald's idea as Springfield twice defeated efforts back in the 1990s to put a casino downtown. At this time, though, residents might think twice.
Of course, there are still valid arguments whether or not a downtown Springfield casino would create economic growth for surrounding businesses.
These two wrinkles to the casino discussion show that in many ways we have much less local control than some people might like. In the era of having no county government, though, the political wrestling match is between individual municipalities and the state.
Over the years, I have found there are several kinds of reporters and editors. Largely, they break down into two groups: this first are folks who have become so jaded they really don't take very seriously the events that they witness, while the other are the secret true believers.
The latter group may strike a pose of cynicism, but secretly deeply care about what they see.
I'm still a member of the true believers. It's easier to do this job as a cynic, but no matter what I've seen and heard, I still want to believe that fundamental positive change can happen on a variety of levels from people practicing civility to local governments acting in a progressive and transparent manner.
That's why Michael Ruppert is so fascinating to me. In this issue you'll see an interview I conducted with the veteran investigative reporter about the movie in which his work is featured, "Collapse."
Ruppert's findings on the fragility of our financial system, coupled with the greed of corporations and our dependence on a diminishing supply of oil are eye-openers to say the least, especially when seen in light of the events in the Gulf.
Yet, although one might suspect that a guy who has had to leave the country in the past to dodge the death threats his stories have inspired might be a tad jaded.
What amazed me is he's not. Although he is reporting on things that literally may include the ecological death of the Gulf and all of those implications, he is still fighting the good fight and preaching the sensible doctrine of sustainability.
Other folks in his position would be either hiding in a cave or avoiding the subject.
If you're willing to think outside of the corporate box, log onto Ruppert's blog at http://mikeruppert.blogspot.com and then head over to www.collapsenet.com.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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