By G. Michael Dobbs
People in my profession are always looking back at this time of year and assessing the most important stories of the past 12 months. I do that too, but I'm going to take this space to look at what I believe will be the most important news of 2013.
Massachusetts going through another Senate race will undoubtedly be one of the biggest stories of the year. At stake will be the balance of the Senate, as another Democrat or Republican would tip things a bit.
The question will be who will voters select and will Scott Brown run again? I think that it's clear Brown has a political future in the Bay State. As I've written before he could be our next governor. The question for this Senate race may revolve around money and who can raise the most – much less Brown's willingness to go through another race this quickly.
I wouldn't blame him if he decided to sit this one out, as the race against Elizabeth Warren was both intense and expensive.
The casino issue will be another huge story for the region in 2013. There are still casino developers looking at potential sites in Western Massachusetts. If they are serious they will have to pony up $400,000 to the state's Gaming Commission before Jan. 15, 2013.
The question for these individuals will be if they believe the site they like is worth the nearly half-million dollar gamble.
News junkies will be paying attention to Palmer in the next two weeks to see if Mohegan Sun is going to make its real commitment to that town by paying its $400,000. If Mohegan Sun pulls out and if no one pays the fee, that will mean only two companies – MGM Resorts and Penn National Gaming – would be vying for the one casino license available for the four western counties.
All eyes would be on Springfield and Mayor Domenic Sarno on how the host agreements are negotiated and whether or not both proposals are on the ballot.
The approaches both companies have taken in their announcements and marketing efforts have been as different as night and day. MGM has emphasized a development that would essentially be a privately funded urban renewal project. The company has made a point of distributing thousands of dollars to various organizations. Their TV ads speak about jobs and making a difference in Springfield.
Penn's announcement event called up the spirit of Las Vegas and the TV spots that ran after the event spoke of the big payouts they have at their casinos. The commercials said nothing about a commitment to the city or region or about jobs or other issues.
It will be interesting to see if Penn changes its course on its marketing. Honestly, who cares about loose slots when what matters is how a casino is going to fit within the social and economic fabric of a community? If Penn pursues this course there will be plenty of undecided voters who may just reject a casino when the referendum takes place.
I think there is a hell of a book in this story about what happens when a state approves expanded gaming.
In East Longmeadow, the big story will be how the town government will change with two new members of the Board of Selectmen. With the resignations of Jack Villamaino and Jim Driscoll, will residents see a difference?
There was plenty of criticism – and some of it justified – that there was a "good old boy" attitude in East Longmeadow that was reflected by decisions made by some members of the board. I hope there will be a new era in the town.
Another story will be the mayoral election in Holyoke and if Mayor Alex Morse's on-again, off-again stance on casinos has permanently hobbled his political career.
Although Morse has apologized for his flip-flop, there are now a group of people in Holyoke who have their doubts about him. He has about six months in which he must undertake original initiatives to take the stink off of his gaffe.
Morse is a smart man and I believe he has a vision for the city to reinvent it for the 21st Century. Now he has to prove to the electorate that he can make some of those visions a reality.
2013 promises to be a very interesting year.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.