Ok people, here's some more stuff from the vault! Springfield's scandal plagued school construction program has wasted millions while burying the city in debt. Here's something I wrote ten years ago praising former City Councilor (and mayoral offspring) Timothy Ryan for putting, at least briefly, the brakes on Springfield's skid towards fiscal disaster.
Originally published in 1998
Every taxpayer owes a debt of gratitude to City Councilor Timothy Ryan for finally putting the breaks on Springfield's runaway school construction program. Despite repeated cost overruns in recent years totaling millions of dollars, Mayor Albano and the School Committee wanted to begin the process of bonding for a renovated Van Sickle Middle School, with only a few months remaining before the deadline for submitting school construction plans to the state.
This was attempted despite the fact that part of the blame for past projects going over budget was due to insufficient time having been spent planning the projects in advance. Apparently having learned nothing from previous mistakes, an attempt was made to railroad the Van Sickle project through in exactly the same rushed manner as in the past.
Thanks to Councilor Ryan, the issue was kept tied up in committee until it became too late for the project to be considered until next year, thereby insuring that the kind of thoughtful debate and reasoned consideration could take place that should always accompany any expenditure of public funds, especially one involving a multi-million dollar investment.
Taxpayers would be wise to slow down, sit back, and take a good hard look at Springfield's school construction program committing to any more major infrastructure investments in public education. For one thing, the whole so-called "crisis" in classroom space was itself artificially created by an ill-advised closing of school buildings in the 1980's. Older, historic buildings like Tapley and Myrtle Street School were suddenly declared unfit for students to occupy for six hours a day, although Tapley and Myrtle Street eventually reopened as perfectly fit for apartment dwellers to occupy for 24 hours a day.
Some critics suspected at the time that the schools were being closed simply to insure that there would be an excuse to build a lot of new school buildings in the future. As City Councilor William Foley wondered aloud in the December 9, 1993 edition of the Springfield Union-News, "The suggestion is being made that the student population is growing so fast that we need a new high school for 3,000 students," he said. "Ten years ago Dr. Howell used exactly the opposite argument to close six schools in the city." Foley soon dropped the subject, never to be raised by him or anyone else again, but the fact remains that the city's school construction program had the smell of a royal rip-off since day one.
Indeed, nearly every project has come in way over budget with the public being condescendingly reassured that the unexpected expenses are not as bad as they seem because the state will reimburse us for 90% of the costs. How arrogant of our local politicians to assume that we are unaware of where the money for those reimbursements come from - our own wallets! Where else does the state get its money but from the taxpayers?
Springfield would be wise to approach further school construction in a spirit of caution and restraint, and thank God someone like Tim Ryan has finally tried to put the breaks on the more reckless construction plans. Much praise is also due Councilor Tim Rooke and School Committee members Nick Fyntrilakis and Beth Conway for calling for the removal of the School Building Commission Chairman Robert McCollum, whose competency has come under grave doubt.
By the way, the cartoon of Ryan slaying the dragon was done by the wonderful local cartoonist Paul Flannery, who also did a great logo (below) for a long running series I did called "Neal Watch" which followed the voting record of Congressman Richard Neal.
In the same issue as "Ryan Saves the Day" I also printed a reply to the efforts in the city to restrict gun ownership in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy. Of course my suggestion was satirical - or was it?
I am in firm agreement with those who say that the City Council should pass an ordinance in the City of Springfield regarding the subject of guns. I am, however, vehemently opposed to those ordinances that have actually been put before the Council for consideration, such as the wimpy and patronizing gun lock ordinance championed by Mayor Albano and other freedom fearing sob-sisters.
Instead, I call upon our City Council to pass a true gun ordinance, modeled after those in effect in certain towns out West, which would require every citizen residing in the City of Springfield to have in their homes at all times at least one firearm in full working order. The ordinance should be enforced by requiring Springfield police to ask every victim of a robbery, rape or assault to produce proof that a firearm was on the premises. If the resident or business person cannot do so, they should face a fine of not less than $500 dollars plus the forfeiture of their right to collect insurance from their losses.
Furthermore, I call upon the School Committee to make it a core requirement of our public school curriculum to require that every child by the age of fourteen be capable of handling a firearm safely and intelligently, including having had the experience of firing a gun with live ammunition in a supervised setting. I also call upon the School Committee to adopt target shooting as a fully accredited and authorized sport at all of our high schools, with extra credit offered to those who participate.
It is my hope that the City Council and School Committee will support these beneficial and sensible suggestions.
Interestingly, in response to this I received a letter from someone who told me that when they were a student at Trade High School (now Putnam) in the 1950's there actually was target shooting as a student sport, and students could be seen riding the school bus with their guns in a case! Of course I guess students still ride the bus with guns, only now you can't see them.
In yet another blast from the past, in 1993 former Department of Education official Eamon T. O'Sullivan sent me some Letters to the Editor he wrote that the Springfield Newspapers refused to publish. I don't remember what I did with them, but stumbling across this cover letter recently I simply had to make it public.
20th April, 1993
To Mr. Tom Devine Esq. -
Perhaps over time, you can make some positive use of the enclosed letters. The Local Bagel/Bugle over the years has seen fit to print most of my letters, but since scribe L. McDermott has taken over from A. Friedman, he is really kissing up to David Starr; so any constructive criticism and objective writing usually does not see the light of day. The harm done over the years by this incompetent paper is incalculable. In a two horse town like this, they do not like inner directed people, particularly those with imagination and problem solving ability.
Don't forget to send your newspaper to Bill Putnam at Caroll Travel Bureau on Main Street in Springfield. He thinks for himself and has been known to have an original thought or two, something unknown to dunderheads like Neal, majority of city councilors, the present and previous mayors, Starr and company including Denver Boot Marchetti. Marchetti does not know the difference between a nail and a hammer. The others all drive the nail that goes the easiest and are guilty of the forked tongue syndrome. They also quote out of context, shift ground on the issues, distort the truth and have a tendency to lie. You wonder why Springfield is a mess?
Quaere Verum - Qui Docet Discit,
This morning in Amherst the First Baptist Church was expressing their Christmas spirit by setting up a manger display.
However Lucky's in downtown Northampton appears somewhat more subdued in their holiday spirit.