BOSTON MAYOR RACE : JOBS PLANS — AND THE CASINO ISSUE

Image

^ Suffolk Downs Casino : why is this not part of the candidates’ Jobs Plans ?

—- —- —-

The campaign to select Boston’s new Mayor approaches its big first test : Primary day, at which ten of the current 12 candidates will be eliminated. That day arrives on the Tuesday after next.

The campaign still features candidate Forums — especially Monday’s Back Bay Association meet — but almost the entire fight now happens on the street, where voters actually go about. House parties, yard meet and greets, subway T stops in the morning, block parties, fairs, neighborhood events; canvasses in which volunteers actually door-knock — no mere “lit drops” now — to talk to voters; phone banks and more banks; small fund-raisers; television ads; e-mails and smart-phone text messages. It’s an exhausting, physical list.

Meanwhile, two issues previously hidden by the flap over “school transformation” have now come to the fore : jobs plans, and the Casino matter — though the casino is itself two issues : the Suffolk Downs casino to which Boston will be a host community, and Steve Wynn’s Everett casino, for which Boston can only be a “surrounding community.”

The casino issues first :

1.The Suffolk Downs / Caesar’s Entertainment casino —

as probably every Bostonian knows, this proposal will locate on the current Suffolk downs property located half in East Boston and half in Revere. An agreement has been reached, terms of which can be read in this announcement by the Casino’s website http://friendsofsuffolkdowns.com/ . We excerpt the following:

“Creating thousands of jobs for area residents and opportunities for local business took a giant step forward today…Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment have agreed with Mayor Menino and the city on the most comprehensive and furthest-reaching deal of its kind… the agreement with the city will mean millions of dollars poured directly back into the community, $33.4 million in one-time community investments, $45 million in road and transportation improvements and guaranteed local business partnerships, among many other economic and community benefits…will strengthen the local economy.”

Because Boston is a “host” community — one in which the casino is actually located — approval of the project by a vote of Boston’s people is required by the state statute that made casino gambling legal in Massachusetts (and established the ground rules for granting of casino licenses). For a while it was unclear when the vote would take place. The date has now been set. It will be held on the day that the City elects a Mayor : November 5th.

It’s still unclear if that vote will be city-wide or only in East Boston. Opinion is divided. And, as we all know, one Mayor candidate, Bill Walczak, opposes the casino entirely.

In East Boston, opinion is divided, too: on some houses you see the “it’s all about the jobs” lawn signs; on others, you see no signs at all. Will East Boston vote in favor of the Suffolk Downs proposal ? Maybe so. It will bring many jobs to a community that can use them as well as large money for community development. But a “yes” is far from certain.

Image

^ Steve Wynn : billion-dollar casino hotel, but for Everett, not Boston

2 .the City of Everett/Steve Wynn proposal —

You have to hand it to Steve Wynn. Rebuffed — along with his then partner Bob Kraft, New England Patriots owner — by the Town of Foxboro, Wynn went quiet for a while only to re-emerge thirty miles north, in Everett on the Mystic River, with a billion-dollar proposal that Mayor Carlo DeMaria endorsed passionately. In a mid-June ballot, Everett voters approved the Steve Wynn casino by a vote of 5,320 to 833.

For Steve Wynn’s Vegas-style hotel and casino resort, Boston is a “surrounding” community only; meaning that Boston’s approval of the proposal is not needed. Still, as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s rules state, “A Surrounding Community is a municipality in proximity to a host community that the Commission determines experiences or is likely to experience impacts from the development or operation of a gaming establishment. Under the Gaming Act, gaming applicants are required to submit “signed agreements between the surrounding communities and the applicant setting forth the conditions to have a gaming establishment located in proximity to the surrounding communities and documentation of public outreach to those surrounding communities.”

(For more, follow this link : http://massgaming.com/about/host-surrounding-communities/ )

Image

^ Charlestown : squeezed by railroads then, by highways now.

What’s this all mean to the Boston mayor election ? Plenty. The Everett proposal will significantly impact Charlestown, whose residents oppose it angrily. It will increase traffic at “The Neck,” they say; and they have a point. Charlestown is a small community incommoded, for decades, by by traffic along its landward perimeters.

In addition, though the gaming legislation requires casinos to give “mitigation” (i.e, money) to “surrounding” communities, it’s far less than casinos accord a “host” community.

This high-stakes negotiation involves only the current Mayor, Tom Menino. Candidates to succeed him can have little input. However, the Suffolk Downs promoters may feel a need to accommodate with likely successors. And that is where the casino issue touches the campaign.

Unhappily, the touch has not been felt by all. We still do not know how many of the contenders feel about a city-wide vote versus one restricted to East Boston only. Legally, “Boston” — the entire municipality — is THE “host community.” But as a practical matter, East Boston, though only one section of the legally chartered, Boston municipality, hosts the Suffolk Downs casino in a way that the entire rest of the City does not. East Boston lies on the opposite of the Harbor from every other part of Boston. Geographically it is as singled out as any Boston neighborhood, maybe more so.

Image

^ East Boston — an island, but not unto itself any more

Still, is it fair to leave up to only one neighborhood a decision which means $ 53 million (the current “mitigation” agreement worked out by the Menino people) to the entire City as well as many, many jobs ? If ALL of Boston is to have a “jobs plan” — itself now becoming a major mayor campaign issue — how can the casino contribution to future Boston jobs not be the purview of all of Boston ? In fact, as the jobs and money matters show, it is NOT true that only East Boston will be impacted by a Suffolk Downs casino.

Image

^ John Connolly : his Jobs plan seems a bit too business/chamber of commerce-oriented, but at least it’s out there.

John Connolly yesterday sent his Jobs plan to supporters by an e-mail “blast.” It’s very much a business-oriented plan, geared to promoting Boston, to businesses nationally, as a place to relocate or to open new offices and plants. It also includes a radical transformation of how Boston’s public schools work. Yet nowhere in Connolly’s plan does he mention the Suffolk Downs Casino as a jobs provider. Instead, he speaks of an “innovation economy,” much as Bill Walczak speaks of “innovation districts.” (This is a rubric sadly reminding me of the late Jack Kemp’s “urban enterprise zones” that he proposed but which never happened.)

(To read Connolly’s entire Jobs plan, go here http://www.connollyforboston.com/boston-jobs-plan )

As for Marty Walsh, he too speaks of putting “best practices” into Boston Public schools as a link to the jobs that will be availble. (Walsh and Connolly don’t agree on much, but they’re alike in never mentioning the casino project as a jobs provider). Meanwhile, Felix G. Arroyo constantly advocates his “pathways out of poverty” proposal for lifting the City’s poorer and poorest children, via greater curriculum diversity, to aspire and believe in a better life; but he doesn’t focus much on technology schooling, nor do his “pathways” mention the jobs that the Suffolk Downs casino will bring, especiallly to Bostonians who are not cuttiung-edge technology proficient.

Yet those casino jobs — thousands of them — stand just over the campaign’s event horizon. It would be helpful to hear the 11 candidates who support a casino discuss them to ALL of Boston’s voters.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s