West Springfield Voters Kill Hard Rock Casino
WEST SPRINGFIELD — West Springfield residents made a strong statement against a resort casino there, with 55% of referendum voters saying no, and killing the chances of Hard Rock International developing the project on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition. That trims the number of competitors for the sole Western Mass. casino license to just two; Springfield voters have already approved (by a 58-42 margin) a proposal by MGM Resorts International to built a casino in the city’s South End, while Palmer residents will vote in November on whether to approve Mohegan Sun’s project there. The Mass. Gaming Commission is expected to issue a license for one of these projects early in 2014. In West Springfield, 7,578 residents, or 45.7%, turned out to vote, with the proposition losing by 752 votes. According to campaign finance documents filed with the city, Hard Rock and the pro-casino movement spent $936,920 trying to get the project approved, while opponents working with No Casino West Springfield Inc. spent $1,765 — totals which do not reflect a surge of late spending by both sides in the campaign’s final days.
Four Sites Offered for UMass Facility in Downtown Springfield
SPRINGFIELD — Four sites in downtown Springfield have been offered as potential locations for a satellite facility of UMass Amherst, the Republican reported earlier this month. The offers came in response to a request for proposals issued by the university in August. School officials stipulated that they were interested in leasing approximately 25,000 square feet of space in the downtown area and have the ability to double that space at a later date. The four companies that sumitted bids, and their proposed sites, are:
• 1350 Main St., LLC, which is offering space at One Financial Plaza;
• JGT Mass LLC, which is offering space at 1391 Main St. (Harrison Place);
• Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., which is offering space at 1500 Main St. (Tower Square); and
• Opal Real Estate Group, which is offering space at the Peter Pan Bus Station on Main Street.
Cathedral High School Tornado Claims Settled
SPRINGFIELD — The Diocese of Springfield and Catholic Mutual have announced an amicable resolution of all claims for June 1, 2011 tornado damage to Cathedral High School (CHS); St. Michael’s Academy (SMA), including the preschool and middle-school facilities; and the St. Michael’s Priests Residence building. In addition, other claims relating to damage to property owned by the diocese, including the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Jude Mission properties in Springfield, have been resolved as part of the agreement. When experts for Catholic Mutual and the diocese did not agree on the cost to repair damage from the tornado to the CHS/SMA middle-school building and other properties, the parties agreed to submit their disagreement to a reference procedure outlined in Massachusetts law to resolve such disputes. That process began in September 2012 and concluded in July 2013. Under the terms of this settlement agreement, within 30 days of its execution, Catholic Mutual will make a payment of $40 million. This amount will be in addition to the $19.9 million previously advanced to the diocese by Catholic Mutual and another $2 million paid directly by Catholic Mutual to Service Master for their initial cleanup services at the site. The diocese will add an additional $200,000 from insurance reserves. This settlement brings all disputes regarding property damage to a final conclusion, without the possibility of further legal challenges. Mike Intrieri, president and CEO of Catholic Mutual, said he is “happy that the process led to this complete settlement without the need for further legal proceedings. We wish the Diocese of Springfield well.” The diocese has already announced plans for partial demolition at the Surrey Road site.
Economic Gulf Grows Between Rich, Poor
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The gulf between the richest 1% and the rest of America is the widest it has been since the 1920s, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics, and Oxford University. The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned more than 19% of the country’s household income last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock-market crash — while the top 10% captured a record 48% of total earnings last year. One of the analysts, Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez, said the incomes of the richest Americans surged last year in part because they cashed in stock holdings to avoid higher capital-gains taxes that took effect in January. In 2012, the incomes of the top 1% rose nearly 20% compared with a 1% increase for the remaining 99%. The richest Americans were hit hard by the financial crisis; their incomes fell more than 36% during the Great Recession of 2007-09 as stock prices plummeted, while incomes for the bottom 99% fell just 11.6%. But since the recession officially ended in June 2009, the top 1% have enjoyed the benefits of rising corporate profits and stock prices, with 95% of the income gains reported since 2009 going to the top 1%. The top 1% of American households had pre-tax income above $394,000 last year, while the top 10% had income exceeding $114,000. The income figures include wages, pension payments, dividends, and capital gains from the sale of stocks and other assets. They do not include so-called transfer payments from government programs such as unemployment benefits and Social Security. The income share of the top 1% bottomed out at 7.7% in 1973 and has risen steadily since the early 1980s, according to the analysis. Economists point to several reasons for widening income inequality, including competition with lower-wage labor in China and other developing countries, resulting in outsourcing of jobs, while technology continues to replace workers in performing routine tasks.