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We must make Springfield easier to traverse

June 25, 2012
By G. Michael Dobbs
news@thereminder.com
The other day I walked over to Riverfront Park from City Jake's, my preferred downtown lunch spot. It's not a long walk, but I realized it's a bit confusing and at times daunting if you're not familiar with downtown Springfield.
Imagine you were staying at the Sheraton or the Marriot. You're in town on business and you want to go the Basketball Hall of Fame or the Quadrangle. Walking should be no big deal, but it is.
We have no directions marked noting a walking route to either destination and getting to the Hall of Fame means walking under Interstate 91 and then passing over Hall of Fame Boulevard — a very busy thoroughfare.
Is there a low cost solution to this issue? Can we make Springfield an easier place to traverse for visitors? Yup.
A couple of years ago, there was a meeting about downtown development that I covered and one person noted that some city had simply painted different colored lines on the sidewalk marking routes to several attractions. It was a low cost solution that was easy to maintain.
There was much affirmative noise made to the suggestion, but, as usual, nothing was done.
One color could be assigned to the Hall of Fame, while another for the museums. Perhaps a third could lead people to the entertainment district.
Three lines of color that would connect these areas with the four downtown hotels — that seems realistic.
How much would this cost? Could we get a business to donate the paint? Could all of the building owners abutting a sidewalk simply clean their portion prior to the painting? How about volunteers to paint the lines? I'll man a roller.
This is a project that needs no consultant or studies — perhaps a first in local economic development.
What do you think?
***

A heartfelt congratulation goes out to one of Springfield's own, June Foray. June, 94, has dedicated her life to a career as an actress and voice performer, and received her first Emmy recently for one of her performances in a cartoon.
June was born in Springfield and raised on Orange Street. Her family relocated to California when she was a teenager and she started a career in radio.
As a voice actor she has worked for Disney — most recently in the feature film "Mulan" — but is best known for her work in the Warner Bros. cartoons, where she played, among others, Granny, Tweety's owner.
Her biggest starring role came with "Rocky and Bullwinkle," in which she played Rocket J. Squirrel and the evil spy Natasha.
I've had the pleasure of interviewing June twice and she is a wonderful person. She is one of the few people still living who worked in the golden age of theatrical cartoons and it's wonderful to see that she is still working.
***

In case you're not aware of it, Holyoke is a city with a growing arts community. I think it may be the next Northampton and Mayor Alex Morse definitely wants to encourage this change.
Last week, the City Council approved his proposal to create the position of Creative Economy Director, a person who would be charged to helping this segment of the Paper City to grow.
There is a lot of arts happening in Holyoke, and in Springfield for that matter, two cities most people don't think of when they think of the arts. Certainly, what happened in Northampton in the late 1960s and early 1970s helped lay the foundation for a revival in that community.
As I said before, if I had the money, I'd buy an old building in Holyoke. And I would help the Bing Arts Center in Springfield complete its plans.
***

The news that former Springfield School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram has been hired as the Deputy Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education for the Commonwealth is something that truly shakes my faith.
Considering the job he did in Springfield, why would the state reward him with an important gig such as this one?
"Alan Ingram is a strong leader and experienced educator, and he has worked effectively with principals, teachers, parents, and union leaders to implement efforts that have accelerated achievement," Commissioner Mitchell Chester said in the press release.
Really? Really? Commissioner, did you actually speak to anyone out here? Did you do an Internet search? Did you find any parent who had more than a fleeting conversation with the guy in the four years he was here?
How was Ingram vetted?
Yes, Ingram taught while he was in the Air Force, but he never faced a classroom of kids. There is a big diffference between trying to motivate a bunch of seventh graders and a group of adult airmen.
Perhaps this job will be important enough for Ingram to move his wife here and actually buy a home.
You've got to love politics in the Bay State.
***

I'm not a Luddite, but Quark is out to get me. Apparently Quark, the layout program we use, decided last week to change a number of words that had been spelled correctly, but were not in its dictionary.
These changes were successfully snuck by the flesh and blood types — a triumph for the machines, our future overlords.
I'm sure some people had a big laugh at my expense, but this is my story and I'm sticking to it.
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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