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Mayoral scene is straight out of reality TV

By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor So if Agawam needed some extra municipal dough, I think someone should have peddled this mayoral race to a reality show producer. It's got everything an audience could want sex, violence, wily vets and idealistic newcomers. The incumbent mayor loses in part due to her public affair with a separated guy and a fight with his wife in an upscale restaurant. The present mayor has told the daily paper she had turned her life over to the Lord, but that didn't prevent her from reportedly tossing a drink at her boyfriend's wife at a second encounter. Hey, everyone makes mistakes. The mayor she had beat two years ago is lurking in the wings waiting for return to public office. He was not the winner of the primary, though. Instead, he got beat by a complete newcomer. The daily paper digs up a two-year-old incident in which the neophyte guy was arrested after he got in a fight at a local strip bar. Just what this election needed: more dirt! This has most of those E! and VH1 shows beat cold, doesn't it? *** I'm sure there are some people who think my covering the issue of the city's involvement in the re-use of the former Federal Building in Springfield might seem a tad obsessed. I've written several stories on it and I'm sure there are more stories to be told. My interest in it happens to be two-fold: from my reporter's side, it's a solid story about an economic development effort and from my taxpayer side, it's a fairly distressing tale of whether or not the residents are going to get stuck with a bad deal. The mayor says the deal is good for the city, while members of the City Council and the School Committee are critical of it. At this point, I really believe that any major expense in any city should be put out to bid, regardless of the sage opinion for the former Finance Control Board. The process of making a decision on how money should be spent has to be transparent. So far, I'm not as assured as I would like to be about the decision that was made without a Request for Proposal. I have to wonder that if the city had the financial resources to buy two former Catholic schools, why didn't it buy the Federal Building as well since the asking price was just $2.5 million? Couldn't the city then have moved every municipal office currently in rented space into the building? Perhaps made the first floor a downtown senior center? *** So let me get this straight: If the city makes a safety improvement on my street in Springfield, that's a positive element that could be of benefit to my home's value, but in Longmeadow a line painted down a public road to indicate lanes will bring down the housing values? Really? Is there any proof or precedent of this? *** Such is the life of a journalist, that I couldn't attend the going away party of Natasha Clark, my assistant managing editor. I had an assignment at 4:30 p.m. in Springfield, 5:30 p.m. in Holyoke and 7 p.m. back in Springfield on the night of her party, which ran from 6 to 9 p.m. If I had been able to go, I would have asked to say something like this about Natasha: There are several things about Natasha that make her a great colleague in a newsroom. First and foremost is the fact that Natasha has the primary personality trait for a good reporter: She wants to know the inside story. She has great news sense. I've worked with people who are fine writers but they have no real interest in their subjects. Natasha not only cares about the writing process, she cares about getting the story first and best. Natasha cares enough about her communities that she has joined the East Longmeadow Rotary and participated in fund-raising events for various charities. She understands the demands of community journalism. Natasha is also all about honing her skills. She came to this company as an intern simply wanting the chance to widen her skills and education. I made her a freelancer and then a full-time staff member. At each level she assumed the extra duties and excelled. There are a lot of people who talk about life as a journey of self-improvement and then there are people who actually make that journey. Natasha is one of them. The trip she made with Sarah Corigliano to cover a Marine unit and her adventure in Thailand showed her willingness to doing something that underscored this company's commitment to covering these communities in ways that the daily couldn't and wouldn't. I will miss her laugh and her interest in movies. I am heartened that Debbie Gardner, another valued colleague here, has consented to take her place. I'm happy to know that we will still have the benefit of Natasha's talents, as she will be writing some freelance stories for us. This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to news@thereminder.com or to 280 N. Main St.,East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.