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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Swan Rebuts Underwood

In response to last week’s letter to the editor from libertarian and state representative candidate Robert Underwood (“Swan Expounds Selectively,” June 26, 2014): Bob, Bob, Bob, here we go again! My record for working on local problems in a collaborative manner with law enforcement, the faith community, community organizations and residents speaks for itself. I’ve been doing it for nearly three decades. I do far more than “expound on cases.” I put my money, my time, my resources and my talent where my mouth is. There are countless young adults I’ve mentored, families I’ve assisted and organizations I’ve worked with to make my community a better place. I have a thick skin, so criticism from you and so many others just rolls off, but I must say, you are persistent. I will put my record of community accomplishment up against yours any day of the week.

 

Story Slights Star Drooker

As a working, teaching musician and arts administrator, I think there was much in the article “Can Music Pay” by James Heflin (June 12, 2014) I could agree with; I applaud your addressing these issues. However, I take exception to the characterization of Star Drooker, and of Fire and Water’s donation/ payment policy and its effect on the area’s music scene. Contacting Star for his side of the story might have been helpful. Fire and Water’s mandatory, actively promoted donation truck policy (not an innocuous, optional tip jar sitting on a table, the norm in many rooms) was essentially a sliding scale cover charge. One was expected to give what one could to support the music. Star personally, several times a night for eight years, implored the patrons to support the music. He provided meals free of charge for typically one to four bands seven nights a week and had a couple of staff working in addition to himself and Trish. They were open from early morning till around 2 a.m. and welcomed all ages.

As a performance space/ café, Fire and Water was explicitly designed to support the arts and encourage community, and walked its talk. It was not a bar, and I can only imagine that the profit margin, keeping the place open on reasonably priced vegetarian meals and T-shirt sales, was slim. Paying the thousands of dollars per month it would have taken to pay that many musicians out of pocket would have been unaffordable. No area establishment I know of has duplicated Fire and Water’s model from the point of view of mandatory donations, performances every night, all ages access, late night hours and access for community organizing. Any comparison with local bars, cafés, restaurants, arts centers, colleges or theaters is apples and oranges.

I’m a strong advocate of paying musicians well, and have turned down gigs at some tip-only venues, which seem otherwise capable of paying musicians, so I get the principle being considered here fully. Hopefully, the article encourages the broader conversation, which addresses the nuances of different venues, their ability to pay and what they offer musicians and audience. Thank you for publishing it.

 

Mt. Tom Solar?

I’m writing to express my delight that the Mt. Tom coal plant in Holyoke is shutting down in October (“After Coal: The Fracking Paradox,” June 12, 2014), but I am concerned about the future of the site. Whenever I drive down I-91 and see smoke pouring out of the Mt. Tom plant, all I can think about is where that smoke ends up: in the air we breathe. As a singer and an athlete who consciously thinks about air and breathing every day, that thought terrifies me. Closing the plant was absolutely vital to ensure that we and our children will be able to exist without absorbing soot, chemicals and toxins with every breath.  However, closing the plant is only our first step. We need to remain engaged by encouraging the plans for a thorough cleanup and re-purposing of the site for solar energy. First we said “No” to pollution; now we have to say “Yes” to innovation. Transitioning to a solar site would not only provide clean energy, it would also create more jobs and grow our local economy.

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