Well, the new Hampden County District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni was sworn in this morning, and we all wish him good luck in the performance of his difficult duties. At least we can say that he will probably do a better job than the man he defeated for the office, Steve Buoniconti, a notorious hack with close connections to some of the sleaziest people in the Valley. However, we can't welcome the new D.A. without a few parting words of commentary about the one headed out the door.
That would be William Bennett (above) who has occupied the office since 1990, despite a campaign promise that he would serve no more than two terms. Bennett deserves credit for professionalizing the office, which was run like a personal fiefdom by his scandal plagued predecessor Matty Ryan. Frankly, it wasn't hard for Bennett to look good following that act.
But while Bennett did a competent job prosecuting the murderers, bank robbers and other crimes committed primarily by the region's underclass, Bennett's great flaw was his inability to take any action against the high-level political crooks who operated with impunity during his tenure, until the FBI finally came in to clean things up.
Bennett's defenders say that it wasn't his jurisdiction to pursue public corruption cases, that such prosecutions are the responsibility of the Feds. While that may be technically correct, that is a lame cop-out. The D.A. is supposed to be the primary crime fighter in the Valley, sworn to pursue wrong-doing wherever it may be found. Bennett might at least have sent the FBI a few memos such as "Excuse me, but the Albano Gang seems completely out of control" or "Those Asselins look like they're up to some pretty outrageous stuff" or just plain "Hey Feds, shit stinks around here!" Instead there came from Bennett's office nothing but a deafening silence.
Now he's off to make some serious money with Springfield's machine embedded power-player law firm Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy, which also happens to be the very same law firm that Matty Ryan golden parachuted into after his fall. Springfield - a town of the damnedest coincidences!
But at least let history record, that while Bennett can be credited with reforming some of the worst abuses of the Matty Ryan era, in one major respect the more things changed the more they stayed the same - that when it came to the sins of those in high places, under Bennett justice truly was blind.
Meanwhile in other news, UMass was declared the 43rd druggiest school in American by The Daily Beast. What?!! Back in the 70's we would never have settled for anything less than a Top Ten ranking!
The holidays are finally over, and here are a few final pics. This is Northampton's official holiday tree in Pulaski Park.
Here is the wreath over the mantle of the lobby of the Hotel Northampton.
At the Cumberland Farms on King Street in Northampton is this sign for a caffeine sale featuring someone holding a cup in front of their face with a smile drawn on it.
Of course the children of Northampton could not resist the dare of so ripe a target.
In Northampton the other night.
Northampton New Year by Cher Lovestrong