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^ leadership with conclusive authority : Charlestown’s State Rep Dan Ryan

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Not very often does it fall to a State Representative, as opposed to the Governor or the Mayor, to take a stand — against, perhaps, majority opinion in his own District — that resolves an almost insoluble dispute and thus moves things forward. Yet that is what Charlestown’s Representative, Dan Ryan, did last week. He announced, in a letter, that he favored the Steve Wynn casino — which will now be built in Everett, across the Mystic River from Charlestown, thanks to Ryan’s stand and what ensued : the granting of a go-ahead permit by the Baker administration.

Ryan was elected only last year. But he’s no rookie, that you know the minute you read his letter. He spoke to me by phone yesterday telling me the reasons why he decided as he did. Chiefest of them : “the casino opponents talk about traffic it’ll cause. But there’s been a traffic problem on Rutherford (Avenue) and in Sullivan Square for a long time, and no one did anything about it before. Now that the casino is the issue, they’re doing something about it. Isn’t that what we want ?”

Hard to disagree with that. Ryan cited another reason : “look, the traffic situation in Boston has to be handled regionally. Because the whole region creates the traffic and you can’t fix it one square mile at a time.”

Ryan sent his letter to Matt Beaton, Secretary of Environmental Affairs, referencing also Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. Those who want to read it can find it, in a tif file that I cannot post here, at the website.

I have never read a more authoritative, comprehensive, boldly accurate argument by any political person, much less a simple State representative. Ryan not only addresses Charlestown’s longstanding traffic situation, he also calls out forty years of neglect thereof. He appraises the Wynn casino from several viewpoints : revenue, sales tax, jobs, mitigation, development criteria, social impact, gambling. As he notes with truthful finality, those who oppose the gaming law ought to be consistent and oppose the Lottery.

He is not shy to be sarcastic. As he writes, “if you have another business to place near us that generates $ 200 million revenue a year and provides lots of jobs, please send it to me.”

Is it a coincidence that Secretary Beaton issued the Wynn casino a go-ahead license only a few days after receiving Ryan’s letter ? I think not. His timing was as authoritative as his argument reads conclusively.

Before Ryan took his stand, the Wynn casino was on hold, mired in litigation, and going nowhere fast.

The stand that Ryan took occasioned much guts. Opposition to the Wynn casino has galvanized much of charlestown. That opposition has found encouragement in Mayor Walsh’s all-in legal battle to force Wynn to agree to a large annual mitigation payment. Mayor walsh cannot be happy to see his mission embarrassed and defeated by Ryan’s stand. As for Charlestown voters, they’re likely the reason why Ryan’s letter extends to six pages discussing every aspect of his stand, every consequence, every reason why the go-ahead is a plus for the neighborhood.

Will Ryan’s stand cost him when he comes up for re-election next year ? It could. Many Town residents have attended many meetings bitterly opposing the Wynn plan. Given the comprehensive discussion in his letter, however, I think he can persuade most. But we shall see.

Political leadership has scant value if it merely hands public opinion a microphone. Nor is a political leader a mere messenger. He or she must persuade, must change minds, must cut through all the reasons inertia adduces for why change should not happen, reform not be adopted. Ryan has done a leader’s work, and his neighborhood — and the entire region — will surely benefit enormously from it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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