Springfield may have some fiscal lessons for other old cities

Springfield Armory Museum, in the former Main Arsenal of the Springfield Armory.

Springfield Armory Museum, in the former Main Arsenal of the Springfield Armory.

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

‘A piece in Governing.com by Alan Greenblatt may hold some lessons for other financially struggling New England cities, such as Providence. This is about Springfield, Mass., now best known for having a big new casino (which will not help the city in the long run). It’s also well known for the Basketball Hall of Fame (the sport was invented there), as the longtime site of gun making, for both the military and private sector, and as the boyhood home of Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss).

After 18 years of deficits and a deteriorating tax base, a state control board took over Springfield’s government in 2004. The board restructured municipal departments, and, Mr. Greenblatt reports, “laid off employees and ran a rigorous performance program, using data to keep track of what was going on. Mayor Domenic Sarno, first elected in 2007, has helped put into place real-time accounting systems when changes are called for.’’

Thus the city’s finances have been stabilized and its credit ratings have risen.

Meanwhile, law enforcement has been improved, as have the schools, with high-school graduation rates up 56 percent over the past few five years (but how much of this involves “social promotions’’ ?) and, probably more important, the dropout rate has been halved.

And CRRC, a rail-car manufacturing plant, has opened, with about 150 workers, all of them well paid in varying degrees and, unlike the plus-300 and mostly low paid workers at the MGM Springfield Casino, making a useful product instead of a service that spawns crime and other social problems.

Springfield still has plenty of problems, especially poverty, but things are much, much better these days. It has some lessons for other old cities.

To read the Governing.com piece, please hit this link.