Another Blow to the Region’s Psyche

Disappointment. That was our first, and most lingering, reaction to the news that Chicopee Mayor Richard Goyette was arrested earlier this month and charged with extorting campaign contributions from two city business people in exchange for favors from City Hall.

These are merely allegations and, as always, there is a presumption of innocence. But at the very least, Goyette has embarrassed his city and further eroded the public’s trust in officials not only in Chicopee, but everywhere.

There was much surprise at the news, and much anger as well. After all, BusinessWest did endorse Goyette for a second term as mayor, believing that he had the leadership skills and common sense needed to move the community forward. We, like many Chicopee residents, feel betrayed and misled.

We have seen time and again the strong, negative impact of corruption in Springfield. Former Mayor Michael J. Albano’s actions have left the city’s residents bitter, skeptical, and far less willing to give appointed and elected officials their trust. Meanwhile, it has left business owners wary about the community and hesitant to make the kinds of investments we know are needed if Springfield is to rebound. We were of the opinion that area elected officials had learned from Springfield’s problems and fully understood the high cost of corruption.

We were wrong. If the allegations against Goyette are true, then he, like so many members of the Albano’s administration, put his own interests above the community’s – and with possibly dire consequences.

We say possibly, because there is a chance – maybe a goodchance – thatChicopee will sufferthe same fate as Springfield. That it willbecome the butt of jokes and the subject ofcountless newspaper and magazine articlessuggesting – strongly – that the community’sbest days are well behind it, with federalagents announcing one indictmentafter another.

Chicopee has enjoyed a strong resurgence in recent years. The second-largest city in the Pioneer Valley has seen an influx of new businesses – from manufacturers in the Westover business parks to national retailers taking up residence on Memorial Drive. Meanwhile, it has also seen a number of public investments in the form of new schools, including two high schools, a new city library, and many infrastructure projects.

The city is primed for continued growth, and it is our hope that the city will survive this recent embarrassment and the crisis of confidence that may ensue. As we’ve said many times, while it is important for this region to have a strong Springfield, we also need a strong Northampton, Westfield, Agawam, West Springfield – and Chicopee.

But someone else is setting up shop in Chicopee – the FBI. Indications are that investigators have been turning over rocks in that community, and they are finding some things. We can only hope that charges against Goyette represent the end, not the beginning, of real trouble for this proud city.

In the meantime, we also hope that what transpired earlier this month with Goyette is not forgotten, and that lessons are learned from this fiasco.

Indeed, the worst thing about Goyette’s arrest, and his silence thereafter, is that it gives people cause to believe that this kind of behavior is commonplace; it gives people license to say, ‘they’re all like that.’

Well, they’re not all like that. The vast majority of the people serving cities and towns in our region are honest, hard-working people who have only their community’s best interests at heart.

Still, this would be a great time (just a few days after the local elections) to remind all those fortunate enough to gain the favor of voters that a vote is an instrument of trust, and that trust is not to be violated or in any way taken for granted.

Maybe, in some small way, Goyette did this region a favor by reminding everyone who serves local communities about the price that is paid when greed, arrogance, or poor judgment overtakes responsibility, and when power corrupts.

If Goyette is guilty, he will certainly pay a high price for his actions. Hopefully, Chicopee and this region won’t suffer the same fate.