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Sarno: The Grinch before Christmas

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
December 26, 2011
We are in the nice afterglow of Christmas and looking towards the New Year in which we will get a chance to start from scratch in many ways.
Have you made your resolutions? I’ve got quite a list myself. I’m sorry, but I won’t share them in order to limit my public humiliation when I fail to meet all of them — or any of them.
Damn, I’d like to write something that matches the mood of the season, a time of love, self-reflection and hope.
But I can only ignore current events for so long and so …
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno’s announcement to have a public hearing on Dec. 23 about a new special permit that any alcohol-serving establishment must have in order to continue any entertainment it offered, cast the affable mayor as the Grinch in some people’s minds.
The Friday before Christmas, at 5:30 p.m., no less, is a lousy time to ask the public to assemble to speak about almost anything.
As the mayor explained to me any place that serves alcohol could either stop the entertainment at 1 a.m. or apply for the special permit. The reason for the new paperwork is to try to make the downtown entertainment district a safer place, as police frequently answer calls when the bars close at 2 a.m. If the entertainment stops at 1 a.m., people will have more time to disperse, he argued.
By “entertainment,” one includes television sets, karaoke machines, jukeboxes, pool tables, live bands and exotic dancers, among other features.
The question is whether to not altering the closing time or the time at which entertainment ends will really address the issue of crimes being caused by drunken knuckleheads?
Considering that many establishments make their money during their final hours of operation each night, altering the closing time could have a financial impact on some businesses.
Would stricter enforcement of serving drunks, making sure underage kids don’t gain entrance to bars and cruising parking areas to prevent people from drinking in their cars before they go to a bar — it’s called “pre-gaming” — be a better way to keep crimes from happening?
Frankly, I’m not sure how this proposed measure would keep someone from drinking less and, in turn, preventing them from doing something stupid.
One can’t get around a simple fact: if you have a bar district that appeals primarily to younger patrons you will have some issues. The question is whether or not having an “entertainment” district is worth it?
***

Chicopee has low crime rates, good schools, robust economic development, two new high schools, a new library, a rail trail under construction and the long overdue redevelopment of the Uniroyal/Facemate areas.
So what’s there to fight about?
Apparently there is plenty, as 2011 was marked with a lot of political strife that in many cases centered on personal grievances.
Wise up, folks!
While other communities with real quality of life issues, revenue problems and poor public perception, Chicopee’s elected officials slap each other over oftentimes petty concerns.
Granted, how forged signatures ended up on petitions for a ballot question for extending the mayor’s term isn’t petty. That’s a very serious issue.
Slicing the mayor’s staff was petty, though. Using Facebook to extend political gunfights is probably not the best idea, either.
Here’s a resolution for the municipal government in Chicopee: play nice.
***

The idea that cities and towns could use modern communications to allow out-of-town elected officials to “attend” meetings is a great use of the new technology, but a bad idea for local government in my humble opinion.
The Attorney General said individual municipalities can decide for themselves to allow this new provision and that a quorum of any body must be there physically.
I’m no Luddite, but I really think any elected official who is supposed to be at a meeting should be there in the flesh. There is a real difference speaking to someone in person about an important issue and talking to a speakerphone or a laptop.
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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