HOW CASINO POLITICS DETERMINED THE 2ND SUFFOLK…AND MORE

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  • ^ got lucky, dodged a missile : Dan Ryan
  • The 2nd Suffolk state Representative race won on Tuesday by Charlestown was the big story of the night — I said so, and I’m sticking to it. But in the politics of casino development there’s an even larger story surrounding that one.
  • As it happened, the 2nd Suffolk race was won by exactly the man who looked a winner of it from day one : Dan Ryan. Yet as strong as his campaign flexed, he dodged a missile when, on the night of Febraury 25th, Revere voted 64 to 36 in favor of the Mohegan Sun / Suffolk Downs project. Consider this :
  • 1.Ryan faced a Charlstown rival, Chris Remmes, who made opposurion to all casinos a pivot of his campaign. Remmes raised plenty of campaign ,oney early and had a power base in the Ward 2 Democratic committee, which he chairs.

    2.Charlestown voters overwhelmingly do not want the Steve Wynn casino project planned for the Everett waterfront. At a hugely attended meeting at charlestown High School they made their opposition very plain.

    3.Dan Ryan favors the Revere casino, as did his Chelsea popponent, Roy avellaneda. Ryan’s large following among Building trades and transport workiers also favor a casino — b ut preferably the Revere choice — as does a key Ryan supporter, Mayor Walsh.

    4.had the Revere casino vote been won by the “no casino” crowd, Ryan would now have been squeezed both ways. Oppose the only remaining casino option — Everett — and his building trades supporters might well have gone with Roy Avellaneda. Support the Everett casino, and Ryan risked losing votes to Chris Remmes, even the election itself.

    Opposition to the Everett casino was indeed THAT strong in most Charlestown homes. Walsh, too, who lost Charlestown badly in last year’s Mayor race, would have found himself again at odds with a community that doesn’t change allegiances easily.

    That was the prospect facing Ryan (and Walsh) as, with fingers crossed, they awaited news of how Revere had voted on the Tuesday night before the 2nd Suffolk special election day. as we all know now, it didn’t happen. Revere voted Yes, Chris Remmes’s campaign lost its reason for beimg, and Ryan (and Walsh) could joyously tout the Revere casino plan, taking away Avellaneda’s hoped-for issue, and pleasing all supporters and offending none on his way to the big victory that he got on March 4th.

    But it might easily have come crashing down.

    Nor is the casino game over in the 2nd Suffolk District.

    In September, when Ryan runs for election to a full term, the Gaming Commission will likley have issued its decision. What if it selects the Steve Wynn, Everett proposal, as seems likely given the plan’s waterfront location and superior brand name ? What position will Ryan take, now as Charlestown’s elected voice ? And then there’s the man most responsible for Ryan’s election : Congressman Mike Capuano. Will he step into the Steve Wynn casino battle and help Ryan deflect possible opposition from C town ? I’m guessing that the two men have talked much about this prospect and what to do if it comes to pass. It wouldn’t surprise me if they wee already moving the Gaming Commission to pick the Revere option. If the Commission does take that route, you can bet six Navy Yard Bistro dinners that Ryan and Capuano were forcefully on it.

    Marty Walsh, too. With Ryan’s election, Walsh got lucky, more or less. A Revere decision by the Gaming Commission would double Walsh’s luck.

    — Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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

16TH SUFFOLK DISTRICT : WHAT DOES REVERE WANT ?

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^ probably the 16th Suffolk candidate to beat : Roselee Vincent, chairing the Revere Democratic caucus yesterday

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A Special Election, called when an officer holder leaves in the middle of his or her term, gives the communities involved unique opportunity to draw attention to themselves. For the 16th Suffolk State Representative District, from which office Kathi Reinstein resigned to become a voice for Boston Beer Company, that means Revere, the northernmost city in Suffolk County.

In general elections, Revere goes largely unnoticed; the hugeness of nearby Boston all but blocks it. Even now, with two Boston-based Special Elections taking place on the same March 4th Primary Day, Revere’s election lags behind. Every Boston news medium wants to know who will win the Dorchester state representative seat which now Mayor Walsh gave up. Many media are beginning to look at the donnybrook going on in Charlestown and Chelsea, the 2nd Suffolk district. In contrast, the Revere race goes wallflower.

Even the four candidates running seem hushed. None has even 100 twitter followers; two lack facebook pages. Compare that to the hundreds of twitter followers amassed in the 2nd Suffolk or the 1500 twitter accounts and hourly-active Facebook pages attuned to the Dorchester race.photo (12)

^ Chelsea’s Josh Monahan : well-informed with a city-management resume

Yet surely the question “what d0es Revere want ?” must have an answer. Waiting on one, I’ll mention a Revere issue already in play : the Mohegan sun / Suffolk Downs casino. On Tuesday, Revere people will vote whether to approve the plan or not. (Why this election is not taking place on Primary day, I will never figure. Truly our state is run by clown-eyes.) The Mohegan sun plan, which I find hugely inferior to Steve Wynn’s Everett proposal, seems likely to elicit a divided vote. Narrowly “Yes” looks to be the outcome. Do the four 16th Suffolk candidates support that outcome ? What plans do they propose for using the large mitigation money accruing to Revere if the State Gaming Commission awards Mohegan the Boston zone casino license ?

Of course there are other issues that face Massachusetts cities and towns this year : shall we expand pre-school education, and how to pay for it ? What level of Local aid money will Revere need in order to establish dual-language education in its public schools attended by so many newly resident children of Hispanic or Moroccan origin ? How strongly can — will — Revere push for state aid that Blue Line infrastructure repair calls upon, not to overlook purchases of new trains to replace cars that always break down ? What measures will the State take to alleviate the effects of rising sea levels that already threaten to flood almost every home along North Shore Road and its side streets ?

It will be interesting to hear what Roselee Vincent and Linda S. Rosa — the two Revere candidates — have to say. (I have already interviewed the other Democrat, Chelsea’s Josh Monahan, and he has plenty to say, most of it well informed and envisioned.) And that’s not all. This race has the distinction, unique in Suffolk County, of featuring a Republican candidate, Chelsea’s Todd Taylor, who appears to have significant support. I have yet to hear one word of issues from him, but he seems to belong to the Charlie Baker, reasonable GOP middle and is running in by far the most Republican-voting city in Suffolk County. Taylor faces the Democratic nominee on an April 1st election day. Debate seems assured. Hopefully Revere will benefit by having its concerns thus spotlighted.

A first candidates’ Forum takes place this Thursday evening at 420 Revere beach Boulevard.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

below : GOP candidate Todd Taylor and family

1 Todd Taylor candidacy

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : JOBS PLANS — AND THE CASINO ISSUE

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

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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.

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^ 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/ )

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^ 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.

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^ 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.

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^ 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