By G. Michael Dobbs
Casino. Casino. Casino. Casino.
It’s amazing how one word, one issue has affected so many people in 2013 and will color the economic climate of 2014 and the next two or three years of construction of the MGM resorts International. This past year marked the obsession with casino gaming in the Valley reaching a brutal climax. In West Springfield, casino proponents openly expressed their bitterness toward the voters who didn’t approve the host agreement with Hard Rock. There are still people in Holyoke smarting from what they see as a lost opportunity, considering how coveted the Wyckoff Country Club setting became among developers.
And poor Palmer – if there has been one community where a casino agreement was considered to be a sure thing, it was Palmer. Talk about a tease – they thought they were getting married and instead they didn’t even get a handshake.
The town had been courted for years prior to the legislation being passed by Mohegan Sun, a company that made sure it told the town just what it thought of it after the election.
In a few years, we will have to worry if the MGM casino will actually perform in the manner we’ve been told – but that is a future concern.
With the entire casino furor aside, let’s consider some other issues that should start to be looming largely in 2014.
Locally, we will have an interesting game of political checkers as several key legislators either retire from office or seek new positions. Some races will be a free-for-all.
What the hell is happening to the Union Station project in Springfield? Construction fences are up, but the baggage building was supposed to be on the way down in November. Is anything happening?
How is Springfield going to work with the property owners who still haven’t recovered from the gas explosion? Yes, I know a study is going to take place, but does everything have to move at the speed of glaciers? There are now leveled lots and buildings that are in the process of being repaired and one major one that hasn’t been touched.
In Chicopee, will the further development of the downtown continued to be stalled by a lack of action at the Cabotville complex, the one at which there was supposed to be condos? I know the city has done its share, but the developer is another matter.
In Holyoke, the continual redevelopment of downtown is dependent upon the reuse of the city’s older buildings. Will the Legislature address revising building codes to allow entrepreneurs to come up with new mixed uses? This is something every older factory community in our areas needs.
Also in Holyoke, will the City Council and the mayor look at a comprehensive assessment of older buildings, their condition and whether or not they are endangered such as the Farr mansion?
In Westfield, will a new administration at Westfield State University be able to get the sour taste of excess out of the mouths of the public?
The biggest elephant in the room patiently cracking nuts and biding its time is, of course, Interstate 91 and the condition of the aqueduct. Yes, I’m glad the Patrick Administration is finally moving forward on this before someone has died from something crumbing underneath his or her car, but this is a major job that should have been addressed years ago.
The governor has basically blamed the Big Dig from sucking infrastructure money away other parts of the state, but I blame the Boston-centric Legislature whose maps of the Commonwealth end at Worcester. For being such a small state, the condition of being parochial is massive in the Commonwealth.
An unexpected honor
I want to thank my colleagues at The Valley Advocate for awarding me a halo in its annual “Halos and Horns” story. They wrote, “Sometimes we find ourselves thinking of Reminder managing editor Mike Dobbs as the most underappreciated member of the Valley’s Fourth Estate – then we remember that all the smart people we know appreciate the hell out of Dobbs. This year, we especially appreciate his thorough, honest reporting on the casino issue, a stark contrast to the starry-eyed coverage found in so much of the local media.”
Wow. Thanks again.
Now to keep myself humble, I need to make two corrections. In the story about Robert Prince, an emergency preparedness expert, I didn’t note his proper website address. It’s www.storm-ready.org. In the story about the Winter Farmers’ Market, I want to make clear the market is open ever second and fourth Saturday until April at the old Monkey House in Forest Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at email@example.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.