Last Thursday I attended the press conference at the former Chestnut Junior High School, which was all about how the school is going to be restored as housing. The press conference itself didn't have much in the way of new information, but it gave everyone a chance to celebrate the project at the site where it will occur. Therefore for the first time in years the front doors of the old school stood open for public entry.
Upon entering I saw that a good sized crowd had already arrived.
I wandered around a bit before the press conference began, and checked out the old main office. I wonder how many tardy passes were passed out over that counter over the decades?
The press conference itself was held in one of the classrooms, which had been fitted out with an American and Puerto Rican flag and a bunch of metal folding chairs that had PARK DEPT stenciled on the back. Mayor Charles V. Ryan spoke, and using one of his favorite metaphors, described the rehab of Chestnut as "a home run" for the city.
Also in attendance was State Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, who had recently been in an awkward relationship with Ryan due to her role in causing the resignation of Ryan's top aide Michelle Webber. Surprising Ryan and everyone else, Rivera gave Ryan a big hug and a kiss!
Rivera, as usual, gave a funny and enthusiastic speech. As much as she sometimes annoys me politically, I can never stay mad at her. Critics said that she wouldn't be able to survive politically after the death of mother, the powerful activist Barbara Rivera. In fact she has done well establishing her own identity and holding together her powerbase. She apparently has more of her mother's talent than people realized. In any case I'm glad to see no permanent rift developed between Ryan and Rivera over the Webber incident. That willingness to put aside differences in order to work for the greater good has not always been possible in Springfield, so maybe the political scene is evolving toward a more civil culture at last.
The gathering was a who's who of economic development types, such as Dave Panagore and Juan Gerena.
Also present was the always photogenic City Councilor Dom Sarno.
At one point someone whispered in my ear, "Half the people in this room can't stand the other half!" To which I replied, "That's Springfield!" But to see everyone put aside their rivalries and grudges and ambitions to unite in celebration of a clear success was a real delight. I've learned to always be cautious about expressing optimism about Springfield, but I really feel that some sort of corner has been turned in the city. The long downward spiral is over, and there is the unmistakeable feel of renewal breaking through like a daisy coming up between a crack in the asphalt.
The Amherst College Outing Club sends this proof that they are thriving despite the arctic conditions currently gripping New England.
Remember a few posts back I was talking about all the Tom Devines in the world? Well here is a video by a Tom Devine in Australia, a nation you may recall that was originally founded by criminals from the jails of England and Ireland. I'm sure some of my relatives, then as now, fell into the criminal class, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that the Tom Devine in this video is a blood relative. In his video, Tom Devine imagines himself as "The Tominator" and chases his friends all around trying to shoot them. In other words, a Tom Devine who's just another nut with a gun.