Join us for a live chat with Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse at about 2 p.m. Submit your questions about the city throughout the chat in the "Send questions or comments" field below.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 1:50 Mandy Hofmockel
[Comment From Mayor Morse Mayor Morse : ]
Greetings, this is Mayor Morse. Thank you for taking the time to join us today!
Tuesday October 2, 2012 1:57 Mayor Morse
[Comment From oakdalemale oakdalemale : ]
Is there a reason that the city is only going to build a train platform for future Amtrak service instead of renovating the old HH Richardson train station?
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:05 oakdalemale
Yes, good question. Passenger rail will be coming through Western Massachusetts up the "Knowledge Corridor" by Spring of 2014. In order to ensure that Holyoke had a stop on the route when the train begins, we needed to expedite the process and choose the location. We worked closely with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to select the location as the corner of Main St. and Dwight St. We strongly believe that the H.H. Richardson station will be an attractive place for redevelopment once the platform is constructed next year. If we had chosen the Richardson station, construction would have been delayed for years due to historical permitting. Thanks for the question.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:07 Mayor Morse
[Comment From concretepillow concretepillow : ]
Would you be willing to consider using speed bumps in some of the more troublesome spots around the city? They fly up Hampden St. after passing the light near the bank, ignoring the yellow blinking light a few blocks down. This would be a good place to start issuing speeding tickets.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:08 concretepillow
Yes, I consider anything if it's a good idea. However there is a process. Residents should reach out to their ward councilor regarding a particular traffic issue, and they can work directly with me and the DPW/City Engineer to discuss the feasibility and cost of the speed bumps. Once identified, the councilor would have to request from me a financial appropriation to pay for the speed bump. You are always welcome to call me here at the office or visit if you want to discuss this or other issues. Thank you.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:10 Mayor Morse
[Comment From rrudd rrudd : ]
Mayor Morse, I know that you ran your election campaign with total opposition to a gambling casino being located in Holyoke. However, with the recent intense fervor, and possible promise of a huge influx of casino corporate dollars pouring into Springfield (and perhaps Palmer), do you ever consider re-assessing your stance on this issue?
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:11 rrudd
I have not changed my position on casino gambling. I am actually pleased that we have been able to focus on positive economic development projects one by one by promoting an economy around art, innovation, and technology. In February, I worked with the City Council to expand tax incentives for businesses, and we have already been able to help existing companies expand, and have attracted new development. We also just released our urban renewal plan, which focuses on specific actions we want to take in our downtown four neighborhoods - Downtown, Churchill, the Flats, and South Holyoke. I appreciate your question about this and I am always open to hearing differing views on this.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:14 Mayor Morse
[Comment From Tom Tom : ]
Can you talk about what your creative economy director will be working on now that the position is a reality?
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:14 Tom
Yes, good question. The new Creative Economy Director just started last week and he has hit the ground running. We actually have a creative networking event tonight with over 100 people at Paper City Brewery. Most recently, he has been working with the owner of the Holyoke Hotel to discover the owner's redevelopment plans for Friendly's, given that it is a "hospitality" issues. In addition, Jeff will be working on a vacant storefront project in the Downtown, he is helping organize a Depot Square block party where our passenger rail platform is being constructed, and he is working with the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce to provide training to artists. We also just received a $20,000 arts grant to support artists downtown, and Jeff will also be helping raise money to restore the stained glass windows here at City Hall. In summary, Jeff is tasked with promoting anything related to the arts - hospitality, art, fashion, product creation, etc. You are always welcome to meet with him and our team to share your ideas. Thank you.
On the topic of downtown, is the city doing anything to force the church to do something with the old Holyoke Catholic buidings?
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:18 oakdalemale
Readers can still submit questions for the mayor in the "Send questions or comments" field below.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:19 Mandy Hofmockel
The Church no longer owns the Holyoke Catholic buildings. Denis Walsh, the owner of Weld Management has owned the properties for several years. I am working closely with him to redevelop the property. Mr. Walsh has applied for state tax credits to convert the campus into downtown workforce housing. If all goes well, we will begin construction on the buildings next spring or early summer. These are beautiful buildings and I'm happy to say we have plans to rehab them and convert them into downtown living spaces. It's important to me that we bring more people into the downtown - living, working, having fun - in the hopes of supporting a strong downtown retail and commercial environment.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:21 Mayor Morse
[Comment From Gumby Gumby : ]
On a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate the job you are doing as Mayor for Holyoke at this point?
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:21 Gumby
I don't like to toot my own horn, and I strongly believe that is for the voters to decide. With that said, I know I am working incredibly hard on behalf of the City of Holyoke. We have made a lot of progress on a number of important issues, and have tackled problems never before addressed. I'm confident Holyoke is on the right track, and it has been an honor to represent you and others in this office.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:23 Mayor Morse
[Comment From Jose Jose : ]
What's your mission plan on slowing down crime?
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:24 Jose
Public safety has been a top priority of mine, and in January we will release 2012 crime numbers and compare them to previous years. At this point, we are happy to say that violent crime is dramatically down compared to previous years. I am a big proponent of community policing efforts. We opened a substation on the corner of Maple St. and Sargeant St. to establish a bigger presence of the HPD in the Churchill neighborhood, and we have seen the results. Last week, we announced a new "Mobile Community Policing" unit that we will drive to different neighborhoods in the city with higher crime. We just had the unit out last Friday on the corner of Elm and Appleton Streets. Also - the Chief and I just created an Ordinance Enforcement position within the HPD to focus on quality of life issues - noise, trash, litter, lawns, etc, and we also created an Office of Community relations. Furthermore, we have more officers on foot and on a bike - efforts to improve the relationship between the residents and officers. All in all, we recognize that the downtown needs to be a safe place if we hope to attract more people and more residents, and I look forward to seeing the complete crime stats for 2012. I am confident we have made substantial progress to make Holyoke a safer city.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:29 Mayor Morse
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse answers readers' questions on MassLive.com.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:29
[Comment From Ethan Ethan : ]
Who do you think will be better for Holyoke -- Scott Brown or Elizabeth Warren?
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:29 Ethan
I support Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senate. The great thing about being Mayor is that there is no Democrat or Republican way to run a city, improve schools, balance the budget, and reduce crime. I respect good ideas and don't let partisanship interfere with my decisions.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:31 Mayor Morse
[Comment From Lynn Lynn : ]
What is your stance, on the refurbishing of the Victory Theater?
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:32 Lynn
I support the restoration of the Victory Theater - its a 1600 seat theater that would attract more people and development into the Downtown. With that said, it's an expensive project, upwards of $30 million dollars. My administration has been working closely with MiFA to develop a structure that could realistically complete this project, but we still have some hurdles to overcome. I am optimistic about the future of the Theater and will do what I can to assist with the redevelopment efforts. With that said, we do have other great performance spaces downtown - the War Memorial, the Winter Palace, City Hall Ballroom, the Wistariahurst Museum, etc. We have a lot to offer.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:34 Mayor Morse
[Comment From Gumby Gumby : ]
Do you currently have any plans to revitalize the KMart plaza area? It is such an eyesore to the city and I believe it can be used to benefit Holyoke.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:35 Gumby
Our Economic Development office has been working with the owners of the Plaza to address some of the blight in the area, in particular, the old Foodmart (I think that's it) that used to be in the plaza. Our office does what we can to market properties that are privately owned, and this is definitely one of them. Also - we are aggressively marketing the land on Whiting Farms Rd on the way to the Mall behind the plaza (where Lowes almost went a few years ago). It's important we find a prospect there that will help us create jobs and expand our tax base.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:37 Mayor Morse
[Comment From bosock bosock : ]
Mayor Morse, HCC is an integral part of our community and in these tough economic times, enrollment appears to be booming which is great for the city. I was wondering if the city is looking at the traffic issues around Homestead avenue? We have an intersection at the entrance to HCC that I believe needs attention. The traffic does not flow well, and the crosswalk lights do not work. This intersection may be one of the busiest in the city, and deserves attention so residents, students, and staff can come and go in a safe manner. Has this been brought to your attention and do you know of any plans to address these issues? Thank you.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:38 bosock
Thank you - this has been brought to my attention. I know that Ward 3 Councilor David Bartley has been working closely with Bill Fuqua, head of DPW, and Matthew Sokop, our City Engineer, on options for traffic in that area. It is definitely on our radar. We also just established a traffic unit in the Police Department for the first time, which is tasked with traffic issues like these. I recognize the importance of this issue and I urge you to maintain contact with Councilor Bartley to come to an amenable solution for all. HCC has also been addressing this situation with us, as we should all be working together on this.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:40 Mayor Morse
We'll be wrapping up the live chat just before 3 p.m. Submit any last questions for the mayor below.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:40 Mandy Hofmockel
[Comment From Arlene Arlene : ]
I am a native of Holyoke who lives in California, but I am planning on returning to Holyoke. What are the plans for new living spaces with parking? I lived on Appleton St. when I was in Holyoke and we had street parking.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:42 Arlene
We definitely want you to move back to Holyoke - this is the perfect time. First off, you should visit www.buyholyokenow.com. We just launched Buy Holyoke Now, an initiative to promote home ownership in Holyoke - bringing together local realtors, attorneys, businesses and others to showcase all of the great incentives we have for homeowners - cheap utility bills, curbside trash pickup, city dump, good public schools, etc. The best thing about Holyoke is our diverse housing stock and the fact that we have something for everyone - victorian houses, ranches, colonials, loft living, rowhouses, urban, suburban, and rural. I'd love to have the chance to talk with you in person or on the phone if you have any particular questions about specific properties and parking. I live in a loft at Open Square downtown and have my own parking spaces as well.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:44 Mayor Morse
[Comment From Jon Jon : ]
Mayor Morse, do you feel it's important that the city needs more police? You first hand went out with police. If so, are you going to be hiring and when?
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:46 Jon
Jon's question was our last with the mayor for this afternoon. Thank you for joining us and submitting all your questions. Don't forget to give us feedback on this question and answer format in the comment section below.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:48 Mandy Hofmockel
We have a great Police Department here in Holyoke. More important than hiring new officers at the HPD is using the existing officers and resources in creative ways. I only anticipate hiring new officers when others retire or leave the department. We can have as many officers as we want, but it's more about the policies in place (quality over quantity) that make a real impact on crime stats. I think we have a top notch police department. Our narcotics unit, for example, has been doing tremendous work arresting out of towners on drug charges. We need to continue sending the message that Holyoke is not a place to commit crime or buy and sell drugs. The new Police Chief is a great leader and is focused on running a more innovate and efficient department. With the addition of a community policing unit, and our new K-9 unit, I am confident we have seen crime data shift (and we have done these with the existing personnel). In short, I imagine we have some pending retirements approaching within the HPD and that is our opportunity to hire more people. In an era of shrinking resources, it's more important now than ever before that we spend taxpayer money wisely.
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:51 Mayor Morse
Thanks for taking the time to join me today, and thank you for the great questions! As always, you are welcome to contact me here at Holyoke City Hall and I look forward to the opportunity to discuss some of these questions and answers in person. Enjoy the rest of your day, and try to stay dry!
Tuesday October 2, 2012 2:52 Mayor Morse
Thanks, Mayor Morse for joining us this afternoon, and thanks again to our readers. We appreciate all your submissions. Keep up with Holyoke news on MassLive at www.masslive.com/holyoke.