Several things are on my mind this week.

Where’s the justice?

The families of those veterans who lost their lives due to COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers Home did not receive the closure they needed with the recent court actions that essentially slapped Bennett Walsh and Dr. David Clinton on the wrist.

The doctor has surrendered his medical license.

By changing their plea to guilty, Walsh has avoided all punishment aside from the following:

•Not to seek or accept a managerial position in a nursing home or long-term care facility.

•Not to violate the law of any jurisdiction.

•Obey all orders of the court.

•Not to initiate contact with the family or any of the named victims.

•Not be present at the home without securing the permission of the superintendent.

•Make his best effort to continue to maintain or seek employment.

He also will have to pay a $90 victim impact fee.

There are other people who have escaped justice, including people at Veterans Affairs and former Gov. Charlie Baker as well.

The simple truth is that Walsh should have never been appointed — Baker approved it — and was way over his head. He had no experience to run a nursing home facility. He had plenty of experience as a Marine in leadership roles, but not in running a hospital.

Yes, the families received settlement money to try to compensate them for their loss, but seeing these two men receive a punishment would have added to the healing process.

Here is a question for you: for years, the Holyoke Soldiers Home was under-funded and in a facility that desperately needed replacement. The lack of interest from Boston was well-known. Do you think if these vets hadn’t died, we would be seeing a new home planned and funded?

Personally, I don’t think so, but a new home is not worth the lives lost.

Let’s be real

The idea that MGM may be — let me stress may be — selling the Springfield casino has created a lot of buzz is an understatement. For some people there is a notion that new owners would be open to making changes and adding amenities.

For others, there has been a robust round of “I told you so,” which may be satisfying to some people but is hardly helpful.

The reality doesn’t justify snarkiness from casino critics. We have a multi-million-dollar structure in the middle of downtown Springfield, providing jobs for thousands and creating tax revenues for both the city and the state.

Like it or not, we are stuck with it and we need to make it work to our advantage.

I’ve been criticized for being a casino booster by some people who are still wringing their hands about the casino’s existence. Although I respected those critics and their opinion, it’s clear to see the casino did not increase crime and ruin traffic. The morality of gambling is another issue open to debate, of course.

I’m willing to bet, please forgive the pun, a new host community agreement will be in order and there will be a variety of other government hoops that must be jumped through. A sale will take time.

If MGM finds a buyer, hopefully it will be a company that is willing to work with the city with a new set of goals. If we have a second chance it will be interesting to see what the mayor and the city council want, knowing the reality of working with a casino.

According to the Gaming Commission, MGM brought in $20.7 million in January and $22.9 million in February, the latest figures I could find. This is from slots and table games. Obviously, those figures should be attractive to the next owner. If they are not, we need to know how a new owner would make a change in revenue.

We have to acknowledge the Springfield location is in competition with the other Massachusetts casino, two in Connecticut and one in Rhode Island. And let’s not forget New York state, as well.

Whatever entity that comes in after MGM must be prepared to market and promote to the state as well as throughout the region. There has to be a level of aggressive marketing that I’ve not seen as yet.

And the city needs to make sure the new provisions are actually enforced within its limited authority.

Congrats to the Paper City

It’s great news that Holyoke schools are now in the transition to return to full local control.

It has been a long time coming.

According to the State House News Service, acting Commissioner Russell Johnston told the School Committee on March 25 the process will include six public meetings over the next five months to discuss the return of local power with the goal of it being retired in August.

This is going to help restore the reputation of the city, which has suffered because of the failure of the schools as determined by the commonwealth.
Holyoke is a great town with a rich history and lots of potential. Let’s look to the future.

G. Michael Dobbs has worked for Reminder Publishing for 23 years of his nearly 50-year-career in the Western Mass. media scene, and previously served as the executive editor. He has spent his time with the publisher covering local politics, interesting people and events. The opinions expressed within the article are that of the author’s and do not represent the opinions and beliefs of the paper.

+ posts