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

BOSTON MAYOR FINAL — THE EAST BOSTON CASINO REFERENDUM

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^ casino = construction jobs — East Boston’s State senator Anthony Petrucelli endorsing Marty Walsh (backdrop : the City Hall that Walsh wants to sell, on the Plaza he proposes to develop)

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However many East Boston voters you thought would turn out on Mayor Election Day, double it. For “Eastie” November 5th isn’t simply going to be about choosing a new mayor, important though that is for the only Boston neighborhood that has to pay a toll to get into “town.” Much bigger a deal is the Suffolk downs casino project, approval — or not — of which only East Boston will vote upon. The casino is a huge game changer for Eastie. It will likely employ over 4,000 people, many of them surely from the neighborhood. There’ll be much traffic, lots of excitement, entertainment, tourism, the works.

“NIMBY” people hate the idea. So do the busybodies who think that gambling is evil and want to prevent the rest of us from doing it. They’ll be voting in big numbers on referendum day. But so too will the project’s supporters. Already the campaign signs — “It”S ABOUT THE JOBS” and “VOTE “YES” FOR SUFFOLK DOWNS” — have arisen on many many East Boston houses and lawns.

The mayoral campaigns have taken notice and profited by it. Yesterday State Senator Anthony Pettrucelli endorsed Marty Walsh, who as the candidate of labor, including construction workers above all, is all for the casino project. It will give jobs to Walsh’s stand-out volunteers, door-knockers, and contributors — and to Senator Petrucelli’s constituents. This is a political marriage almost ideal for both men. As Walsh lost East Boston on Primary day by a significant percent, the endorsement by Petrucelli, plus a huge vote turnout, can only boost Walsh’s campaign significantly.

Yet John Connolly is not without his Eastie strength. He supports the Suffolk Downs casino project as much as does Walsh : it gives the City $ 55 million (at latest count) in “mitigation” money. Connolly was endorsed by East Boston State Representative Carlo Basile before the Primary; and Connolly carried the Ward. Often a neighborhood’s State Representative is “closer to the ground’ than its State Senator, who has an area six times as large to cover. It is hard to imagine Basile not commanding a strong and much larger poll on November 5th and, other factors being equal, winning for his candidate over Petrucelli’s.

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^ East Boston’s State Rep Carlo Basile : endorsed John Connolly in July

D 1 sal LaMattina and Mayor

^ Sal LaMattina, East Boston’s City Councillor is ….said to be close to…..

One major political voice of East Boston remains to be heard : East Boston’s City Councillor, Sal LaMattina. (He also represents Charlestown and the North End, but those neighborhoods aren’t voting in the casino referendum.) LaMattina is said to be close to Mayor Menino. The rumors about Menino’s feelings with respect to this election have already gone public. I can personally attest two indications that Menino is giving assistance to John Connolly : (1) for the vacant District Five Council seat, city worker Tim McCarthy is receiving assistance and support from state Rep. Ed Coppinger, Connolly’s top campaign chief and (2) Vinnie Marino of Roslindale, a real estate developer said to be very close to Mayor Menino, is hosting a fund-raiser for John Connolly next week.

So what of Sal LaMattina in that equation ? Surely his supporters will be wanting jobs at the Suffolk Downs casino as surely as Basile’s and Petrucelli’s. Will he be helping Connolly win East Boston’s big November vote ? After all, Menino’s support for Connolly is sai to come, in part, because he wants “his” people “protected” in the jobs they now hold. Or maybe moved comfortably to the casino ? It does happen. I wanted to ask LaMattina his opinion on these matters; but he has not, as of this writing, returned my phone call.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPATE : I should probably include in this East Boston gumbo Patty Campatelli, who last year won election as Suffolk Register of Probate — defeating Sal LaMattina, in fact, by 800 votes. Campatelli had been unknown politically prior to running for that office; yet she won. She lives in “Eastie.” i wonder whom she is going to support in this showdown. So far, not a clue.

SECOND UPDATE : Boston, October 9th, 10.20 AM : we are informed that Sal LaMattina will endorse John Connolly at a press conference today, along with two other major endorsers.  We will be reporting from that conference. — MF

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