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Changing of the Guard @ 36 Court St., sorta…

Number 10 Downing Street is not the only place where transitions were happening. In downtown Springfield, the Springfield Finance Control Board (FCB) held its first meeting with the new members appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick. The new members are Chris Gabrieli, former gubernatorial candidate, James Morton, Springfield area YMCA director, and Robert Nunes, a former Taunton mayor.

Before the meeting got underway with the meat and potatoes, the now-traditional public speak-out was held. Nine speakers were scheduled with eight appearing. Most discussed issues relating to schools and to programs, such as the Old Hill restoration program, which apparently has been defunct for some time. Such a restoration may help save buildings such as the recently demolished house on Buckingham Street. Two of the speakers were other Springfield elected officials including School Committee person Antoinette Pepe and City Council and Mayoral Candidate Domenic Sarno. Sarno’s appearance was hardly coincidental given his mayoral ambitions. Showing up for a grin and greet with the current powers that be is to be expected. Other speakers spoke about a range of issues. The second to last speaker, a young citizen of Springfield fumbled his train of thought to some degree, but ultimately sought to drive home to point that we cannot be so quick to attack or break down the Control Board’s work thus far because it is or has been unpopular.**

After the speak out, the board selected Chris Gabrieli to serve as the new chair of the Board. They passed a few housekeeping measures including moving some of the city’s free cash, the first of its kind in 18 years according to Mayor Ryan, and approving the sale of the old Chestnut Middle School to private developers.

Most importantly, the Control Board extended itself another two years to see to it that Springfield is able to get over the hump. Sure, its budget is balanced, but there is still far more work to be done. Economic development and work that will bring more free cash in for the rougher times is still a must. Many of the same players from the darker times are still in city government and there is a genuine concern we could still slip back into business as usual pre-FCB. Kateri Walsh, City Council President voiced her opposition to the extension as a member of the board, insisting it was time for a return to democracy. The motion carried 4-1, illustrating the belief in the Mayor’s Office and at Gov. Patrick’s level that more work needs or at the very least should be done.

President Walsh may be forgetting that even at our city level that this is not a democracy, but a democratically elected republic. That means we elect people to make decisions for us. They should be sensitive to our needs and look out for our best interests, even when we do not think they are. True, our republic locally is suspended essentially, but we do elect the officials who created the Control Board (area state Reps and Senators) and we elected the Governor who essentially controls the board. It is still too early to decide whether the FCB has been a success or that more of it is beneficial, but we must wait and see. Only then will we know how splendid the day has been.

*Photo from Mass 2020 Foundation, an organization of Gabrieli’s
** In case you have not guessed, I was that second to last speaker.