The Republican pushes casinos above communities.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I like to be a good neighbor—not overly involved day to day, but if you need a cup of sugar or a hand with the ladder, just ask. I won’t let my dog or my chickens wander in your yard or scratch up your gardens and I won’t let my house guests pee in your bushes. In a nutshell, I’ll respect your boundaries. And I expect the same in return.

Of course, some things are near to impossible to contain within boundaries. A neighbor who blasts music into the back yard, for example, may not intend to disturb his neighbors, but unless they’re in the mood for loud music, disturb them he will.

I recognize that the Springfield Republican has an enthusiasm for casino gambling, but once again, the newspaper has demonstrated its general lack of concern for the many residents of the Valley who fear that a casino, wherever the state gaming commission may locate one, will have a negative impact not only on its host community, but on neighboring communities as well.

The fact that many residents in Agawam, for example, are worried about what a proposed casino in West Springfield will do to their town isn’t entirely lost on the newspaper, but when it came right down to it last week, the Republican had no problem telling West Springfield to simply ignore its neighbors’ concerns. In a Sept. 5 editorial, the paper urged town voters to let the state sort out mitigation issues with neighboring towns and, on Sept. 10, give Hard Rock the green light for its planned casino in West Springfield: “There clearly is strong opposition in neighboring Agawam, but only the West Springfield voters have a say on Tuesday. We expect that all of those issues will be addressed to the satisfaction of the regional stakeholders. In the meantime, West Springfield voters should give Hard Rock a shot at the prize.” (Results of the vote weren’t available at press time.)

The paper also continued to push all three proposed casinos in the Valley—MGM in Springfield, Mohegan Sun in Palmer and Hard Rock in West Springfield—as the region’s only hope for economic salvation: “It makes sense, then, that Western Massachusetts hedge its bets by giving all three potential casino operators a chance to be vetted.”

That the Valley needs a casino is laughable. From Holyoke and Agawam to Turners Falls and Greenfield, many communities are finding smart, sustainable ways to revive their local economies. Sadly, greater Springfield, thanks in large part to a lame newspaper and poor political leadership, is badly broken. But grabbing for a solution that will only drain the regional economy further isn’t the answer—for the host communities or their neighbors. Any newspaper that says we should give casino operators “a shot at the prize” and ignore the concerns of local communities is serving the wrong master.•






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