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