Monday, July 16, 2007

I thought HOMELESS people were the problem

An article in today's Republican about the work of the Springfield Business Improvement District blames the perception of crime and lack of cleanliness for our underutilized downtown.

"From his office at 95 State St., Cataldo, a native of Holyoke who now lives with his wife and 3-year-old son in Longmeadow, said he realizes there is much more to be done to change the perception that downtown is crime-ridden and unsafe.

"No one can deny (the perception)," he said. "I don't think (the reality) is anywhere near what the perception is, but for some people the perception becomes the reality."

Until that perception is changed, companies will be reluctant to locate downtown and people will be afraid to shop, eat out or go out on the town, he said." MassLive.

I don't disagree with his assessment, as far as it goes. The perception of crime in downtown Springfield is greater than its reality. It does seem, however, that some Springfield residents revel in that perception, especially if it lends itself to racism. Check out the Springfield forum on MassLive to find the folks who gleefully list crimes committed in Springfield, especially if the perpetrator has a Hispanic last name. Perhaps Mr. Cataldo should start posting on MassLive?

Mr. Cataldo also mentioned cleanliness, and I couldn't agree more. People's thoughtlessness around disposal of litter is a sign of a deep disconnection from the environment around us, and the role that we can play as individuals in making a difference.

I was in a bank parking lot the other day when a woman came out of the bank and got into the passenger side of a freshly-waxed SUV. The vehicle idled for a few minutes and then the passenger side door opened and the woman dropped a handful of opened mail to the ground. This really pissed me off. I was on my way into the bank so I stopped by her car, picked up the mail, and said through the window, "Excuse me, I think you dropped these." She had no choice but to take the mail back.

Heaven forbid that her SUV have even a single piece of trash temporarily. Better to throw it on the ground.

I wonder in the downtown business community would be willing to entertain making downtown Springfield off-limit to cars? Other cities have done this and reaped many benefits even more significant than a decline in litter. More later.

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