TWO BITS OF NEWS : THE REVERE CASINO VOTE AND THE GOP STATE COMMITTEE

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^ Revere says “Yes”

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At first blush there seems not much linkage between last night’s casino approval vote in Revere and the Republican state committee’s vote making opposition to marriage equality an official stand in the party platform. But look again. in Revere, religion interests led the opposition to approval of the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs casino plan. At the GOP state committee, it was religion interests that forced the vote to discriminate against gay people.

What is it about religion — those who profess it — that makes it and them try to tell other people how to live their lives ? Tell you what : you profess a religion, fine; go live it; and leave my life alone.

There was a time — about a century and a half of time — when religion led the fight for civil rights, personal liberty, and the dignity of all people of whatever lifestyle. From about 1795, when the anti-slavery movement was first advanced by religion, in England (it had for some time been advanced by secular leaders) until the 1970s, when the Civil Rights movement crested in America, pastors, ministers, priests, rabbis, and manhy of their congregations took the cause of rights for all — of whatever religion, or of none –as their chiefest calling. Today we like to think of that era in the history of reliigion in action as the norm. The opposite is true. Mostly in the history of the West, and oftener in that of the Middle east, religion has caused the torture of millions and the deaths of millions, often cruelly. On balance religion has been a personal and communal disaster for those societies afflicted by it.

Such a time seems returning now, and not only in America. The will to demand of people that they be governed by other people’s religion has all but captured — and killed — the GOP in America; it has place in Europe (though there the bigotries of today seem mostly godless, fascist, mere racism), and, as we see all too much, completely dominates societies in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, India. As for places like North Korea — fortunately they are rare — what we seem to see is not religion politics but politics as a religion. It ain’t pretty.

I am no prophet of doom. I do not see America returning to the days of religious oppression. Most of us still call the secular, skeptical Constitution home, divided government the norm, separation of religion from state a must. Indeed, most religion groups in today’s America feel the same. They understand that for a religion to try to impose its commands on states’ laws simply makes religion a political enemy. Still, in some states, as we see, the practitioners of religion politics have managed to get their stonings enacted into law. (the current eruption in Arizona is only one of dozens of such initiatives.) My guess is that none will stand. All are unconstitutional and will almost surely be found to be such; and so will die a legal death.

No such legal death can undo the action taken by the Republican State Committee last night. By a vote — ¬†opined by a Republican not present but well informed of the vote — of 52 to 16, the GOP platform now includes language opposing our state’s marriage equality. Of course a party platform is not a law; no one need obey it or give it a damn. Still, the vote puts one of Massachusetts’s two chief political parties at odds with civil rights and human freedom; and as Massachusetts has always been first among polities to seek and secure civil rights and human freedom, the state committee’s vote is an affront to 250 years of our history. We were also the first state to recognize that gay people have just as much right to marry as do any of us.

I am no psychologist. I have no idea what mindset propels citizens of Massachusetts to reject the last 10 generations of our history; to downgrade our gay citizens; to impose on a political party such a burden. Political parties are supposed to win elections. The state committee’s vote loses them.

Of course the party’s leading candidates, Charlie Baker for Governor and Richard Tisei in the 6th Congress District, immediately rejected the vote. Both men stand four-square for gay rights, marriage equality, women’s health rights — even for economic fairness — and are well known to be unshakably committed to these positions. Their campaigns will suffer no harm from a vote whose only goal is to harm. Still, it looks odd for the leading GOP candidates to be running on themes rejected by the party’s formal organization (as the state committee is).

Gabe Gomez, too, who in the past few months has become the most outspoken Massachusetts voice of Republican progressivism, tweeted a passionate denunciation of the state committee vote. I joined his call. I am glad that I did, sad that the need arose.

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^ next to Dan Winslow, Gabe Gomez is now Massachusetts’s man of progressive conscience

Meanwhile, in Revere, 63 % of voters, in a large voter turnout of almost 50 percent, rejected the moralizing “no casino” side, saying “yes, bring it on” to the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk downs casino plan. Mayor Dan Rizzo can now go mano a mano with Mayor deMaria of Everett. That one I look forward to.

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^ Mayor Dan Rizzo is a winnah tonight

I personally think the Revere plan somewhat unattractive and largely compromised by geography and brand; I doubt it will win the Gaming Commission’s license. Steve Wynn’s far more glamorous, better located, Everett plan will likely win it. But it is a step ahead to see Revere put its cards on the table (ha) on the side of entertainment, drama, people dressing up and having a good time, even — yes — people spending money at a roulette wheel. As we have every right to do.

Let the last word here be St Rep Kathi Reinstein’s : “Raising a big, fat Sam Adams pint to Revere tonight,” she tweeted. “63/37 victory ! I’m so proud of my city and its people…”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

2ND SUFFOLK SPECIAL ELECTION : SOME NOISE AT LAST, AND DRAMA

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^ hush hush meets its opponent — until Avellaneda met her, this well informed Chelsea voter hadn’t known there was an election

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PREFACE : On January 6th, Gene O’Flaherty, said to be Mayor Marty Walsh’s best legislator friend, at last accepted the offer to become Boston’s Corporations Counsel. He resigned this seat in the legislature, giving up a powerful committee chairmanship and thus setting up the Charlestown versus Chelsea fight here chronicled. — MF

A week ago, Roy Avellaneda, five-term Chelsea City Councillor and one of the three men seeking to take the State Representative seat that had been Gene O’Flaherty’s, told me, after a discouraging day of voter shrugs, that he would wake up the voters of his city. That he would overcome the Charlestown side of things and win the seat. I was skeptical and told him so. “Come tomorrow night to Crest Avenue and you’ll see,” he said.

Of course I was there. So were about 35 “Roy” supporters. We heard Avellaneda’s election day warrior, Michael Albano, sound the warning : “Either we win this seat his time or there’ll never be another Chelsea State Rep. Never,” Albano yowled. “They’re already planning to cut up Chelsea three ways,’ Albano roared, his sandstone voice piqued. The room trembled with vigor and joy. “Roy ! Roy ! Roy !”

I have seen this sort of thing before. Campaign people always cheer and roar, or they wouldn’t be in a campaign, they’d be at home watching TV reruns. So I remained skeptical. I’d seen what was going on across the Mystic River, in Charlestown, which outvotes the Chelsea portion of “the 2nd” by about six to five. I’d seen the campaign of Dan Ryan, 16 years an aide to powerful Congressman Mike Capuano. Ryan, who with his perfectly parted black hair and chiseled face looks like Tyrone Power, seemed to have every political Townie on his team. Ryan had run for office once before — District One City Council, in a Special Election, no less — nad had won 94 percent of the Ward 2 vote, barely losing the race to Sal LaMattina from much larger East Boston. If Ryan wins 94 percent of the Charlestown vote this time, the seat is his.

Avellaneda can count just as well as Ryan. He wasn’t angry that I seemed skeptical of his wake up calls. He just smiled that chin to eye smile that makes him look like a high school prom king. “We delivered Chelsea for Elizabeth Warren,” he reminded me. “We’ll do it again.”

He has spent the past week doing exactly that. Though it’s not clear to me that he will arouse enough Chelsea for Avellaneda votes to win — Ryan has plenty of Chelsea votes himself — he has definitely upped the noise. The race had been as quiet as a well behaved high school study hall. Now it was brimming with huzzahs, as Avellaneda challenged his two C Town rivals — for there are, indeed, two Townie candidates running — to declare themselves on issues vital to his Latino vote base : did Ryan and Chris Remmes support the DREAM Act ? Did they favor driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants ? In-state tuition for undocumenteds ? The Massachusetts Trust Act ?

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^ an issues candidacy ? Chris Remmes welcomes it. (at Durty Harry with supporters three nights ago)

For Chris Remmes, a new-Boston issues guy, this was manna from heaven, a chance for him to prove his progressive platform; and he did so on all the points that Avellaneda listed. Dan Ryan then stated his support, too, for every one of Roy’s points and with common sense arguments.

One might be tempted to tag this play a loss for Avellaneda; but it was a gain, because merely by forcing Remmes and Ryan to respond to him, he accrued much voter attention. Albano had told me, at that first campaign rally, that he wanted to see 2,000 votes cast in Chelsea; and Roy had, by his gambit, given them reason to vote on March 4th.

And then Roy turned up the heat again. At his father’s shop — Tito’s Bakery, a Chelsea institution — he held a Latino Chelsea rally; Felix D. Arroyo — who is running for Suffolk County Register of Probate — was there, and Gabriel Gomez, who ran against Ed Markey last year for US Senate, tweeted his support. Next day, Dan Ryan announced that Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins endorsed him, as did three labor unions; but Ryan’s announcement, given so quickly, helped Avellaneda’s cause too by showing, to a still mostly disconnected people, that there was an election coming and that competition in it was intensifying.

Until that first Avellaneda ally the race had been far too quiet for it to be an accident. Nobody in Charlestown wants to lose this race — the Town hasn’t had a State Representative of its own since 1974 — and if that meant campaigning hush-hush, hush hush it would be. The fewer Chelsea votes the better, especially with two Town candidates running hard. And now — I am speaking of last Friday — the hush hush was going away. By now, it’s almost gone. Avellaneda has mounted yet another issues challenge — cleaning up the Mystic River waterway for use as commuter transport and shipping, and he has forced the casino issue as well, advocating for the Mohegan Sun Revere casino plan even as Chris Remmes opposes all casinos.

The casino issue is a dangerous one for Dan Ryan. Many of his solidest Town supporters intensely oppose the Steve Wynn, Everett casino that is almost certain to win gaming Commission approval. Mayor DeMaria of Everett has given Charlestown no choice. “If you don’t go for this plan, that land will be a stadium, with more people and more traffic and no mitigation,” DeMaria told 400 Townies at a recent casino plan meeting. For Ryan to support the Mohegan Sun casino plays into Avellaneda’s hands; for him to say nothing makes him seem to duck.

Yet the Dan Ryan I have come to know doesn’t duck any issue at all. He will probably first see what happens in tomorrow’s Revere casino vote and then make his statement. and then return to the phone banking, meet and greets, and senior citizens election day networking of the message that, after all the issues have been fought to a conclusion, is probably worth a 2500 vote Ward 2 turnout and thus cannot fail him : “after 40 years, this time it is Charlestown’s turn.”

Voting day is March 4th, eight days away.

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^ forty years waiting — and if C Town has anything to say about it, now is the time. Candidate Dan Ryan with C town’s last state Rep, Jim Collins

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

IN CHARLESTOWN : EVERETT MAYOR CARLO DE MARIA WINS AT WYNN CASINO MEETING

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Three hundred people, at least, attended last night’s Wynn Casino public meeting at Charlestown High School. The meeting lasted more than two hours, as representatives of the Wynn project spoke, then City of Boston officials and consultants, then local elected officials and residents.

Much was explained, about traffic flow and overflow, new uses of Sullivan Square — which is slated for extensive reconfiguring, dredging of the Mystic River, disposal of contaminated dredgings, public transportation, and noise impacts. Consultants illustrated their concerns about traffic queuing; Boston Transportation Commissioner Jim Gillooly weighed in on Sullivan Square’s competing outcomes ; District Councillor Sal LaMattina expressed that it was “very insulting that you (Wynn) don’t have an answer to the traffic problem.” A Wynn representative answered LaMattina : “It’s a 100 million expense that makes the project unfeasible. Others cause much of the traffic.”

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^ “very insulting that you haven’t solved the traffic problem” — District Councillor Sal LaMattina

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^ “would you prefer a stadium ? More people, no mitigation ?” — Mayor Carlo deMaria of Everett, the Wynn casino’s host city

And so it went. then came Everett Mayor Carlo deMaria, who, for me, commanded the night’s key moment. “You know,” said deMaria — reminding the audience that he had Charlestown relatives too and that “many of your families live in Everett” — “there’s noises and smells coming from both sides of the (Mystic) River. This project is the best for all of us. Mitigation and jobs.” Then deMaria delivered the bomb : “Others have approached me about use of that land ; scrap yards, a stadium — the New England Revolution wants to build a stadium there. Many more people. No mitigation.”

Sometimes it takes a slap down that painful to get a message across to people who fear the future. “Hey,” deMaria was telling them, “I’m the Mayor over there, 92 % of my people voted for this, I am gonna do it, and if you say no, I will build a stadium that you will like even less.”

The audience got the message. Some residents spoke in favor of the Wynn plan. As one resident said, “Wynn is the best casino operator we have.” Another pointed out that casino traffic was mainly nighttime, not rush hour. Of other objections to the Wynn casino, little was heard. It was Carlo deMaria’s night. And Steve Wynn’s.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere