Today, the Springfield Republican reports that the City of Springfield has been forced to lay off 11 City employees and will also stop collecting trash at all multi-family apartment complexes and commercial properties. There are no details on the 11 workers losing their jobs - who they are, where they work, or what the impact will be on city services. We can easily imagine, however, the immediate impact on these workers - loss of income and health insurance for themselves and their families, along with terrible anxiety about the future. I think we can all agree that there is no scenario in which MORE unemployment is good for Springfield.
As for trash collection, large apartment complexes and businesses will now have to foot the bill themselves for hauling away the rubbish. These costs will, of course, be passed along to the tenants in the apartment buildings and to the customers of the businesses. This is also not good for Springfield's residents or the City's economy.
Why is this happening? Because over the past four years, Springfield has lost over $23 million - or 40% - of its local aid. The beleaguered Springfield City Council is just making the best decisions it can given the lousy hand of cards it's been dealt.
Two days ago I wrote about the Worcester City Council's struggle to find additional monies so as to avoid having 91 elementary school classes with over 25 students. Both the Worcester and Springfield City Councils have passed resolutions calling on the state legislature and the Governor to pass legislation that raises substantial new revenue so that they can stop having to make these terrible choices. That's a step in the right direction.
But it looks like it's not going to happen quickly enough to help the 11 workers who are about to lose their jobs, or the tenants whose rent is going up to pay for trash collection, or the Worcester children who are going to have to compete with 27 or 28 other students for their teacher's attention.
We need to invest in cities like Springfield and Worcester if they are to be great places to live with vibrant economies. We need to invest in all of our communities if Massachusetts is to remain economically competitive. These relentless budget cuts only hurt us all.