Sunday, December 21, 2008
Humans have the power of reflection and projection among other intellectual attributes that separate us from the rest of the animal world. We also have the ability to analyze information in the context of history and probable outcomes. Twentieth century American culture placed a tremendous emphasis on education, invention and experimentation. Yet, the rise of conservatism, which seems to have reached a pinnacle in the United States as evidenced by the last Presidential election, is a political ideology that is ironically contrary to the very culture that produced the greatest changes and accomplishments of the previous century. Rigid policies based on conservatism and the status-quo, that seek to regain a real or imagined lifestyle of a time that is past, not only oppose the incontrovertible drive for human progress but they are beliefs that are deeply rooted in fallacy. America’s greatness has sprung from enormous vision, sacrifice and courage of the immigrants that came before us to explore and expand our culture, science, religious perspectives, and our notions of humanity.
Attempts to control and predict outcomes are a route well traveled by many people and societies. For example, the expansion and contraction of a capitalistic economy is a regular occurrence that is studied and predicted by economists. Religious expansion and retraction is also evidenced and studied throughout modern history in many societies including our own. These events also seem inextricably connected to war. War as an economic event (e.g. Halliburton) is self-evident. Possession of territory, resources and control of governments has always been an underlying if not overt goal in the ascension and marketing of war. Fear is the critical component needed to bring the masses of any society to support war. Religious fervor has been a historically powerful and convenient tool to achieve these means. Nazi Germany reveals most of the lessons that one needs to know to identify the process.
History lessons alone however, cannot counter the current media-based methodologies utilized to paralyze a nation into a state of collective fear, depression and limited consciousness. Media has been an ingredient in the political process since printing was effectively engaged to solicit response from citizenry. Contemporary media accessibility and limited diversity in ownership have combined to create an enormously powerful tool of social influence and control. It is my belief that the greatest challenges to American Democracy at this time, rest in demanding unbiased reporting and information dissemination from media outlets and in re-establishing the fundamental separation of Church and State as guaranteed in the United States Constitution.
Life evolves in a forward direction and despite the enormous collective fear in our society; it is futile to live nostalgically looking backward in time. Challenging, changing and creating are traditional American values. Dictionary sources reveal that the term conservative means traditional, opposing change and liberal means progress oriented and broad-minded. Neither one is in essence a pejorative term, nor a moral mandate.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Today's revelations in the Herald mirror the stories of corruption with associates of Mohegan Sun in Wisconsin (Dennis Troha et al).
"The former head of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was charged today with making illegal campaign contributions to members of Congress, embezzling funds from his tribe, filing false tax returns and fraudulently receiving Social Security disability benefits all in connection to efforts to win official U.S. recognition of tribal status."
Our anti-casino friend Dan Kennedy writes on his blog, "All this at a moment when the casino industry is falling apart — making it unlikely, Matt Viser reports in the Boston Globe, that Gov. Deval Patrick will revive his three-casino proposal any time soon.
Given the charges against Marshall, it looks like everything is up in the air — not just the proposed Middleborough casino, but whether the Mashpee are even a legal tribe with the right to build such a monstrosity."
Are the Mashpee even a legal tribe? Hmmm.
The next Legislative session begins in January 2009. We will have an outstanding opportunity to see which legislators continue to support the egregious plans to bring casinos to the Commonwealth and which have learned that the glitter ain't gold. I am hoping that the Administration has had it's "come to (deity of choice) moment" and rejects
the slippery slope of casinos.
We have some hard work to do in the months and years ahead to restore our nation's standing in the world. We have some hard work to do in the months and years ahead to support ourselves, our families, community and our region. As my neighbor Stella Gallant used to say when we were kids (I'm one of six), "life is hard and the only way through is through".
Friday, October 31, 2008
Governor Patrick came to the wee little town of Hampden MA to endorse Brian Ashe. The Governor was gracious and elegant in his presentation and presence.
I'll be back after elections and recovery from the craze.
Friday, August 15, 2008
"I think this report is a starting point. ... It showed that the administration's numbers are off," Selectman Kathleen C. Norbut said this week. "They did the work the administration should have done prior to submitting the legislation."
Friday, August 8, 2008
I came into the world in Massachusetts in the 60's, there was idealism, hope and a belief that all Americans and communities in the Commonwealth were connected. Folks are much more jaded now than during that era, yet I continue to hope that citizens will engage and consider the many complex facets of proposing mega-casinos in Massachusetts.
"Casinos change everything"
- Spectrum Gaming representative
Town of Monson
Impacts on Education – 2008
The town of Monson offers PreK-12 public education with separate elementary, middle school and high school buildings/campus. The central offices are housed in a former school building. Monson high school students have the option to apply to attend Pathfinder Regional Technical Vocational High School in Palmer, Massachusetts. The Town of Monson is a member town of the regional vocational high school district, and is assessed an annual cost based on the number of students attending. Public transportation is provided for all students at no additional cost, PreK-grade 6. Student/families are assessed a rider fee of (FY 07) $1.00 per day ($180.00) to use school buses grades 7-12. Monson is a rural residential community encompassing 45 sq. miles with many students living in excess of 5 miles from the centrally located school campuses. Students/families are assessed athletic fees, parking fees (high school) and fees to participate in field trips as well as other school based activities. The school district no longer receives reimbursement for transportation or extraordinary special education (out of district, specialized van) transportation costs from the Commonwealth. There is no public transportation available in the Town of Monson.
Enrollment Indicators - Education Profile - Mass DOE website
Per pupil expenditures rank significantly below the state average: 2007
District $ 9, 075.00
The town supports education funding slightly over Net School Spending (the minimum figure set by the state) and provides additional funding through capital planning and repairs not included in the school budget.
A trend of grave concern to the school district budget is the increase of students opting for out of district placement through school choice and private or home school education which decreases available funds for the Monson School District.
Payments to out of school districts:
2006 = 5.3% of budget
2007 = 6.72% of budget
Potential surge in student enrollment trigger fiscal concerns primarily in the following areas:
Special Education: Including mandated placement out of district, specialized transportation, CNA-medically trained personnel, assistive technology and specialized out of district testing and evaluations.
ELL – specialized language teachers and materials not currently in the budget or staffing and not expected without an influx of new populations.
Transportation – the rural residential community of Monson with 113 miles of roads incurs significant costs to transport students. Additional buses and fuel to service additional routes and students without state assistance is untenable. Over 78 % of the roads are in poor condition (Pioneer Valley Planning Commission study) with additional traffic leading to further deterioration.
School Building Capacity- The Town of Monson invested with the Commonwealth in building an elementary school in 1992, renovating the Jr.-Sr. High School into a Middle School (2002) and the construction of a new High School (2001). The elementary school and middle school populations are near capacity, the high school is over 85% capacity. An influx of students would require reconfiguration of the schools and trigger the possible need for new construction.
Taxation and Revenues - The rural residential community of Monson tax base is residential. Property values for median single households, FY 2007 = $222,099 are significantly below the state average $406,673.
Income per Capita (1999), Monson : State = $22,519 : $25, 952.
Equalized Valuation (2006), Monson : State = $80,464 : $153,979.
The average residential tax bill ($2,825, FY 08) is a fraction of per pupil expenditure. The tax burden for student surge would be on the residential property owner in the Town of Monson.
Fiscal Year 2008 Average Single Family Tax Bill**
Number of Single Family Parcels
Assessed Value of Single Family
Average Single Family Tax Bill
State Average Single Family Tax Bill
Fiscal Year 2005
Fiscal Year 2006
The ability to raise and appropriate additional local revenues is restricted by Proposition 2 ½ and the realistic limitation of the community’s socio-economic status. The Commonwealth does not fully fund mandated Special Education, Special and Regular Education Transportation, mandated ELL instruction and materials. It is unknown if/what the Commonwealth would provide for school building assistance in the future should the Town of Monson require additional schools following recent construction of the middle and high school buildings.
Additional breakdown of local and state per pupil expenditures: The average residential tax bill ($2,825, FY 08) is a fraction of per pupil expenditure ($9,075, FY 07 - most recent available).The revenues needed to meet student surge would be assumed by a combination of state aid and the residential property owner in the Town of Monson. The tax base is rural residential with a low commercial tax base, and additional state aid (Chapter 70) would be needed.Special Education is funded locally until expenditures in excess of $31K per student are expended. At that point, the district is eligible for 75% reimbursement of extraordinary costs through the "Special Education Circuit Breaker" from the state. Projections for FY 09 Local receipts for education (raised from Monson taxpayers) = 5,089,159.State Aid (Ch 70) = 7,708,640 (about 64% of education funding in Monson is from state aid).Total foundation budget = 12,797,798.No County appropriations.FY 09, Local Tax Levy (maximum allowable under proposition 2 1/2) = $9,067,915.Assuming continued 36:64 ratio of local appropriation to state aid funding of education, each non-special education student that enters the Monson school district would inflate the budget by over $9,075 (FY 07 - it is higher for FY 08, but figures have not yet been released by DOE) with 36% needing to be raised locally and 64% from the state.
Incremental student increases require additional transportation funding which is no longer supported by state funds. The actual costs would be determined by the number of additional routes required.It is critical to note that education budgets are fluid and static numbers will only capture a portion of the challenges faced to support growing school districts. English language learners (ELL) may trigger mandated specialized instruction and materials as noted above that are currently not available in the district.
The current spike in mandated special education funding is nearly equivalent to the town’s entire increase in the 2 1/2 percent levy. The outcome of those increased educational costs has meant that the increases in fixed costs; energy, health insurance and pensions had to be absorbed in other areas of the town budget resulting in layoffs. Each spike in school funding negatively impacts other municipal operations because the town is mandated by Net School Spending but ironically, the municipality is not mandated to provide minimum public safety, highway or other services to the residents.
Kathleen Conley Norbut, M.Ed., LMHC
Local Casino Study Committee, Chairman
June 17, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
The report has been released with an eleven page executive summary and a three hundred one page full report .
The town of Monson is highlighted in the report. I had the pleasure of meeting the VP of Spectrum who visited our community and attended a meeting of the western MA Casino Task Force. The firm's representative was an intelligent man who listened attentively to concerns expressed by Selectmen and Town Councillors in our region. It was a pleasure to meet him and I am pleased that our community was considered in the report. The number one concern of Monson residents in a community survey about casinos was the "character of the town". We like our rural town and have grave concerns about the potential siting of a casino in an abutting community. The fiscal impacts of student surge are highlighted in the report.
The situation in Monson
Monson is a rural, residential town (8,359) in western Massachusetts – in many ways a typical small town in the state. Its school district had a school enrollment of 1,525 for the 2007-08 school year. It spent $14.4 million to educate its students, or $9,075 per pupil. Of that amount, 36 percent came from Monson taxpayers and 64 percent came from state aid.
Town leaders said they fear that a major casino resort built near Monson would cause the student population to swell from casino-employee families seeking to live close to their employer. Each non-special education student that enters Monson Public Schools would inflate the district‘s budget by $9,075. The amount could be higher if the surge included students who required special education or English language learners (ELL); there currently are no ELLs in Monson Public Schools. (We note that many of the families that are attracted to a region because it offers casino employment come from non-English speaking cultures. This often requires a concomitant investment in unanticipated programs such as teaching English as a second language.)
Further, the Monson elementary and middle school populations are ―near capacity and the high school is at more than 85 percent capacity. School transportation, which is funded locally, is another costly concern, according to Kathleen Conley Norbut, a Monson Selectman and Chairman of the town‘s Local Casino Study Committee. ―Additional buses and fuel to service additional routes and students without state assistance is untenable, she said. The school district already assesses students in grades 7-12 $1 per day, or $180 per year, to ride the school bus. (Update: Price increase for 2008-2009 - whoops, let me find our bill $210 for the year-KCN). With an average single-family property tax bill in the town of $2,825 for fiscal year 2008, town leaders say they would be forced to raise property taxes – perhaps dramatically – to adequately fund a surge in school enrollment. Most of that burden would fall on the residents, as residential property taxes account for 93 percent of the town‘s annual tax receipts. Norbut noted that in other nearby towns, such as Brimfield, Holland and Wales, residents account for closer to 100 percent of the local-tax burden. We recognize that even small changes in school enrollment in small communities can have a significant impact on school budgets. The Commonwealth must be prepared to offer financial assistance to such communities from mitigation programs, irrespective of the size of such impacts.
Friday, August 1, 2008
"Borgata Babes" settle discrimination suit
Philly.com Fri, 01 Aug 2008 1:28 AM PDT
Two former cocktail waitresses have settled their discrimination suit against the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City's most opulent attraction.
For large gambler, it's the Borgata that stinks
The Philadelphia Inquirer Fri, 01 Aug 2008 0:44 AM PDT
Michael Wax thinks he was the butt of a fat joke, and he doesn't think it's funny at all. Wax, 54, of Brooklyn, who weighs 440 pounds, already was annoyed that employees at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City had asked him to leave a poker table Tuesday because of his pungent body odor.
Weight program suit against casino settled
Moldova.org Thu, 31 Jul 2008 5:07 PM PDT
A lawsuit brought against an Atlantic City, N.J., casino by former cocktail servers who objected to a mandatory weight program has been settled out of court. The $70 million lawsuit against Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was settled before it could go to trial, but the details of the settlement were not released, the Press of Atlantic City reported Thursday.However, the settlement allows Borgata to ...
Thursday July 31, 2008 - 15:58 EST
Rolling Good Times Thu, 31 Jul 2008 1:03 PM PDT
The beauty about playing the slots online is you don't have to worry about your "odor" offending other players. Just ask Michael Wax. After a 17-hour poker session at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, the smell of the 440-pound man began to grate on his fellow players.
Sheesh! How regressive can Americans and an industry get? Put on your thinking caps Massachusetts.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Las Vegas reported much larger-than-expected declines in gaming revenues in May, Moody's reported. The deteriorating market comprises about 80 percent of MGM's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
Legislators need to pay attention to the industry decline and the buildout in the northeast that impacts revenues and therefore tax projections. Massive layoffs of low and moderate income workers impacts families and the community supports that they need to survive including unemployment - if they are fortunate enough to qualify and taxpayer subsidized programs.
BTW, I am looking for information on the propensity of casinos to subcontract employment of low income workers. Thereby not having the lower paid positions on the "rolls" and being able to make statments that average earnings are in the mid $40,000. Please post if you have some fact based info. to share.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Well, folks it's really on in the casino industry and the thing that's on is financial losses.
Here's a peek at more woes from Las Vegas...http://www.newsweek.com/id/135638
By Steve Friess Newsweek Web Exclusive
May 5, 2008 Updated: 4:29 p.m. ET May 5, 2008
"This recession is really hurting everyone."
It's even hurting the city of Las Vegas, the economy of which was once thought to be impervious to the economic swings suffered by the rest of the country. Not anymore.
According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), Las Vegas has seen gambling revenues fall only once since 1970: in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks they dropped 1 percent in 2002 from 2001. So far this year they've fallen 4 percent, the number of conventions held has dropped 10.4 percent, and average daily room rates were off 3.8 percent in the first two in recent weeks the company eliminated 440 middle management jobs to save $75 million annually. "We made a structural change in our company to become more efficient and provide the same level of service, but we did have to advance that effort because we were also seeing a softening in the marketplace," says MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman.
What's leaving Las Vegas more susceptible to this economic crisis than to previous ones? Diversification. Roughly 60 percent of the Las Vegas Strip's revenues now come from nongaming activities. By contrast, in 1991 and 1992, when the last comparable slowdown occurred, nongaming activities provided just 42 percent of overall revenue.
"This is different from prior downturns," says Bill Lerner, a Deutsche Bank
gaming-sector analyst. "Now that there are a lot more nongaming amenities, the
visitation mix is leaning toward nongamblers, and the consumer coming to Vegas
is different now than it was."
So, family-style gambling halls/resorts tank. It's always been about making money off gamblers and it always will be. The disney stuff was fluff.
Several annual conventions have seen fewer attendees show up and have seen those who do come stay for shorter periods. For example, last week's National Association of Broadcasters confab attracted 105,000 registrants, down from 111,000 in 2007, according to NAB executive vice president Chris Brown. Those figures could have been worse, Brown says, but advance registrations were so far down that several hotel-casinos voluntarily offered to cut room rates by $10 or more to encourage attendance. Says Brown, "That's never happened before."
Nearly 7 percent fewer cars crossed the Nevada-California border along
Interstate 15 through February, reflecting in part that record-high gasoline prices are curtailing drive-in visitors from the largest neighboring state.
Note to Governor Patrick - Destination resort casinos are tanking.
Making matters worse, three airlines with substantial service to Las Vegas—Aloha, ATA and Champion—are going out of business.
March's figures will likely put the year-to-date numbers in negative territory. The stock price of MGM Mirage, owner of Bellagio, Mirage and eight other Strip resorts, has halved, from $100.50 in October to about $49 on Friday. In recent weeks the company eliminated 440 middle management jobs to save $75 million annually.
Even the mortgage mess and the subsequent credit crunch have taken a toll on Vegas. Several major construction projects on the Strip are delayed due to financing problems, including a second tower for Donald Trump's new condo-hotel. Also delayed is a plan to build a $6 billion version of New York City's famed Plaza Hotel. And while construction continues on the half-built $3 billion Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino next to the Bellagio, the project may be in jeopardy after developer Bruce Eichner's company defaulted on a $760 million loan from Deutsche Bank.
Note to Unions - diversify your mind. Get excited about the Green Construction plans of the Administration, it's the future...casinos are the past!
Not a good investment.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
MGM-Mirage CEO Speaks Out on Gaming Tax Hike Proposal
"The head of the biggest gaming company on the Strip says he's in a fight to the finish with the teachers union. MGM-Mirage chairman and CEO Terry Lanni came out swinging Tuesday against the teachers proposal to boost the gaming tax, in order to pump more money into education.
Lanni sat down Las Vegas One's Jeff Gillan. What has Terry Lanni and the rest of the gaming establishment seething is the teachers union proposal to boost the tax from 6.75, to 9.75-percent. That amounts to a 44-percent tax hike.
Lanni isn't pleading poverty. But he does say the hike would cost MGM-Mirage around $90 million a year. Lanni calls it a "tax grab" and says that's money that could go to hire more workers.
"We don't make billions of dollars as a company. In 2006, we had a $648 million after-tax profit. In '07, it was much higher because we had a significant profit from the 50-percent sale of CityCenter. If you go back to comparative figures, it was about $700 million, if you exclude the profit in '07 from that," he said.
"If you raise that tax $90 million, you're going to have a lot less income. It's a significant factor on the overall income of our company. And $90 million at $38,000 per person, the average salary equates to about 2,000 plus positions in value," said Lanni.
The teachers union says the extra money would boost teacher salaries and be used to improve student performance. Lanni says the initiative comes with little accountability, but the teachers union says that's not true. It says the measure requires school districts to account for every dollar.
Asked if there's any room for compromise with the teachers union, Lanni said his focus right now is defeating the proposed initiative.
That initiative is facing two hurdles -- teachers have to gather more than 58,000 signatures by May 20 to get it on the ballot, and they have to prevail at the Nevada Supreme Court, which is hearing an appeal by gaming on July 1. "
What a mess!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Casino Bill defeated 108-46
Special appreciation to my state representative Mary S. Rogeness (R-Longmeadow) who never wavered or pandered to the casino interests. Mary will be retiring this year and I am looking for a Democrat with moxie who will stand against the insipid influences of class III casinos.
Special appreciation to state representative Todd Smola (R-Palmer) who stood in the center of the pyre and despite enormous pressure from constituents in his home town of Palmer voted against a lousy bill and a nightmare for the community he cares so deeply about. The opportunities for economic development in Palmer are there for the making.
Special appreciation to the Speaker of the House...Salvatore DiMasi.
Chairman Dan Bosley, Rep. Scibak, Rep. Story, Rep. Kocot all of western MA and members of the Emerging Technologies Committee....you are intelligent and thoughtful people. Thank you.
Reps. Gobi, Alicea, Rivera, Wagner, Petrolati, and the close to one hundred other state reps. , thank you.
It is time for the Adminstration to refocus their considerable talent and energies toward the brillant plans and proposals they have for education, energy and greener manufacturing. I look forward to supporting the Administration in these endeavors.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
The Legislature will hold public hearings on the casino bill submitted by Governor Patrick October 11, 2007 and others related to gambling this week. The DOA reality of the casino bill was obscured by months of media coverage of the endorsements of some unions, mayors and business associations. The suspense and drama of the casino proposal was fueled by the emerging dynamics between the Speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi (D-Boston) and Governor Patrick. Regional groups of municipal leaders formed coalitions to map their concerns about the bill and statewide anti-casino groups cobbled together what has now become a strong movement to stop class III casinos in Massachusetts.
The bill was DOA because the Administration submitted a shoddy piece of legislation that lacked transparency, accountability and most importantly from the playbook, Politics 101, lacked inclusion of stakeholders. The people who live and work in the regions that would be impacted are the real stakeholders, not Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump, Mohegan investors, or even union officials or mayors from distant cities. It was a big mistake on the part of the Administration to not do what they had done successfully as candidates, which was to connect with people, especially their base. Had they done so, they would have learned that time and energy placed in the direction of bringing class III casinos to Massachusetts would be wasted.
The bill was DOA because the numbers don’t work. The collapse of the Administration and AFL-CIO president Bob Haynes’ claims of 30,000 construction jobs was a stake in the coffin of the decomposing casino bill. The Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation’s report squarely refuted the Administration’s revenue projections and the venerable Boston Business Journal slammed the economic argument for casinos highlighting the negative impacts on local businesses. Local and regional task forces in the southeastern and western/central parts of the state near Middleborough and Palmer/Warren met to study the casino bill and found numerous problems with the language, proposed mitigation, structure and oversight of the Gaming Control Authority and the revenues.
The bill was DOA because Speaker DiMasi, Rep. Dan Bosley (D-North Adams) and the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee majority know the numbers don’t work. They are a rather serious bunch whose job is to study economic proposals and they are more seasoned with the Legislative process than the Administration.
The majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth are not casino gamblers. However, numerous polls have shown support for casinos provided they are not located near one’s community. With the national build-out of casinos reaching saturation, the insatiable casino industry has spent millions of dollars to get Massachusetts into the stable of states to offer 24/7 exploitive slot-based gambling. Despite the lobbying money and attempts to influence power by the casino corporate complex, an interesting phenomenon occurred. Citizens of Massachusetts are well educated and have a strong sense of civic engagement. We also recognize the unique history and character of the Commonwealth. We participated in forums, debates, blogs, research and discovery on the casino issue. We found like the Legislators who have actually read and vetted the casino bill, that it is a bad idea.
It was DOA because it is wrong for Massachusetts. People have done their homework to see past the promises of temporary economic boost to the net negative impacts to families, society, environment, infrastructure and the costs of mitigation. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts offers innovation, history, education and natural beauty in a dynamic and interesting mix. Mutual prosperity has and will be found in growing and preserving those unique and precious traits.
Kathleen Conley Norbut, Selectman
Chair, Local Casino Study Committee
Member, Western MA Casino Task Force
Open Letter to Deval Patrick on Casinos from Patrick Coordinators
Monday, March 17, 2008
Press Contact: Judith Seelig, 413-259-1268
Dear Governor Patrick:
We are Democrats who share a vision of a more equal, just, and democratic society. As Deval Patrick Volunteer Coordinators we supported your candidacy wholeheartedly and worked hard to help you secure the Democratic nomination and to put you in office.
Since becoming Governor you have undertaken many initiatives that make us proud to have been part of the Deval Patrick campaign. For example, we applaud the Municipal Partnership Act,and the proposal to require telephone companies to pay their fair share of property taxes.
But your proposal for resort casino gambling does not have our support. In fact, we are unequivocally opposed to it.
Early in the gubernatorial campaign you captured the essence of the argument for tax fairness. By reminding people that the discussion about“your money” is really a conversation about “your broken schools, your broken neighborhoods,” etc., you connected the dots. Many people (including those who had previously succumbed to the taxes-are-bad propaganda) listened and learned.
Eschewing the anti-tax rhetoric and providing instead a vision of a decent society, were hallmarks of our campaign; your message was authentic and honest. In addition, it was a major factor in persuading many of us to support and promote your candidacy.
Our campaign moved forward the debate about revenue sources and, perhaps more significantly, the wider debate about the common good. Victory in 2006 could have been the springboard into a meaningful statewide discussion about refashioning taxation so that it reflects and embodies our aspirations as a Commonwealth. For a brief moment,there was a chance to talk about restoring the income tax to its 2001 levels.There was even a chance to lead a conversation about establishing a progressive income tax. With the right leadership (including, but not necessarily limited to, your own) we may be able to revive that conversation.
The debate regarding casino gambling represents an opportunity to advocate for a more equitable tax system. After suffering a clear defeat in 2002, the opponents of the income tax have reemerged, putting their question back on the ballot. So, once again, those of us who share your vision are onthe defensive, fighting a rearguard action to defend the very existence of the income tax. Instead wecould have been taking the initiative and shaping the discourse.
Given our desire to see realistic levels of public funding, why do we oppose resort casino gambling?Because we are Democrats. The platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party commits the party to tax equity and responsible budgeting, special support for small businesses, sustainable development practices to foster economic stability for both urban and rural cities and towns, and the provision of a sustainable revenue source to finance state government that supports a healthy economy.
From what we observe in other states, casino gambling would not promote tax equity, responsible budgeting, sustainable development practices, or a sustainable revenue source,and likely would damage small businesses in Massachusetts. In short, it flies in the face of our party’s principles.
Resort casinos are a mechanism for transferring money from poor and middle class people to wealthy corporations. Any revenue that leaks out to the state via taxation along the way is far short of the amount necessary to ameliorate the social and economic damage that the industry causes.
Resort casino gambling would involve our state government in condoning and encouraging behavior that has led in far too many cases to personal financial ruin, the breakup of families, domestic violence, and child neglect. In addition to these social costs, resort casinos draw money away from local restaurants, stores, and farms, compounding the injury. So presenting resort casino gambling as a source of revenue that would benefit our communities is misleading. The academically documented experiences of other states suggest that resort casinos damage, rather than boost, local economies.
We remain committed to showing leadership in our communities and in our Democratic town, ward, and city committees. Day after day, week after week, month after month, we make the case for tax equity. We are asking you to show leadership as well, by abandoning the resort-casino proposal and focusing instead on a cause that is both more ambitious and more promising–fair and progressive taxation.
Judith Seelig, Pelham
Pat Fiero, Leverett
Tom Hollocher, Sudbury
Jeanne Maloney, Sudbury
Kathleen Norbut, Monson
Carl Offner, Sudbury
Sharon Raymond, Shutesbury
Susan Triolo, Sunderland
Maxine Yarbrough, Sudbury
-- 30 --
Saturday, March 15, 2008
It was refreshing to read an intelligent and concise description of the concerns of these experienced leaders. Most welcome are the points about impacts on children, education, character of our communities and the Commonwealth and a commitment to find better solutions to fiscal challenges.
If the link doesn't work here's the letter below:
Open Letter to Deval Patrick on Casinos in Massachusetts
Somerville - Dear Governor Patrick:
Many of us worked hard for your election and we are glad that you are trying to make Massachusetts a better place. We want you to succeed.
We’re writing to you today because we strongly believe that casinos will harm our state. They risk damaging families, distracting students, undermining efforts to attract new businesses, and marring the quality of life which draws and retains citizens to our beloved Commonwealth.
Your analysis of introducing casinos to Massachusetts overstates the benefits and understates the costs. We believe that the rush to gambling reveals many disturbing questions. For instance there is strong evidence that:
1. Casinos may steal from local businesses. Casinos have been proposed as a way to corral the estimated $800 million a year that Massachusetts residents may be spending in the Connecticut casinos. The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce study projected this week that residents of our state will provide between $1.5 and $1.75 billion in new gambling dollars to these new casinos. This means that almost a billion dollars of discretionary spending will move from other parts of our local economy into gambling.
Question: How many of our local businesses will suffer losses? How many of these will close? How many workers will lose their jobs?
2. Casinos may trigger a “casino arms race.” The same study estimates that $550million in gambling revenues will be spent by visitors coming from outside Massachusetts.
Question: Will the people of Connecticut, Maine, New York, and Rhode Island really give up their own casinos to place bets at ours?
Question: And by building more casinos, won’t we be launching a “casino arms race” in which every state feels it has to protect itself by building new casinos and creating more gamblers?
3. Casinos fuel addictions. Every gambling addict, in addition to their own gambling losses, can cost $13,000 a year (or more) to others – in bad checks,embezzlements, damaged families, lost work time, and so on.
Question: Has the number and cost of compulsive and addicted gamblers in been calculated? Can we justify wrecking so many peoples’ lives as a way to boost revenue in the short term?
4. Casinos increase crime. Studies of casinos in other parts of the country – Atlantic City, for example – also indicate that crime increases around casinos.
Question: Has Massachusetts calculated how much more prostitution, loan sharking, assaults, break-ins, etc.will result from the contemplated expansion of gaming?
5. Casinos often fail as an economic development strategy. It can be a “fool’s gold” that filches land, capital and other resources away from productive economic development.
6. Casinos contradict the governor’s environmental goals.
Questions: Has the administration calculated the number of new motor vehicle trips these “destination” casinos will engender? How much open space is dug up and paved? What are the other environmental impacts? What will the “carbon footprint” of these new casinos be?
7. Casinos may also damage Massachusetts’ reputation as a center of high quality education and high-tech economic development. Casinos undermine the lessons we are seeking to teach our children by offering fraudulent enticements to our teenagers and students. Hard-working parents, teachers, and professors have labored to convey the message to children that getting a good education and working hard is essential to success. Business leaders and public officials are trying to attract executives on the grounds that we support intelligent investment in new ideas to build the twenty-first century economy. Casinos violate those principles.
Question: How can we teach our children to avoid other high risk practices like drinking and drugs, when we build casinos as our new pleasure palaces, and supposed economic engines?
We understand your desire to bring revenues and jobs to the Commonwealth, especially in these discouraging economic times. Yet, sharing your spirit of hope, we feel confident that alternatives exist. Once we have rejected the false promise of casinos, then together we can find a better future for Massachusetts.
State Representative Denise Provost
The Rev. Dr. Robert Kinloch Massie (former Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor)
The Honorable Dorothy Kelly Gay (former mayor of Somerville)
The Honorable Eugene Brune (former mayor of Somerville)
John Connolly (Somerville board of alderman)
Thomas Taylor (Somerville alderman)
Adam Sweeting (Somerville school committee member)
Professor Anne Tate
Celia Taylor (former school committee member)
The Rev. David Milam
The Rev. Leslie Katherine Sterling
Roberta Bauer (former school committee member)
Dr. William Bennett
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Monday, February 4, 2008
On The Record In Opposition To Casinos
Here at the MRA we are constantly evaluating our legislative positions according to what would have the biggest impact on your business. That is why you are going to hear quite a bit from us on the topic of casinos this year. Our opposition is not based on a theoretical principle. It’s a tangible threat; resort-style casinos would hurt sales, regardless of location.Stopping this popular proposal is no small challenge seeing that the casino developers and/or racetrack owners have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists last year alone. They will spend even more this year, but the legitimacy and respect that is garnered by an organization like ours cannot be bought. This is why Peter Christie was the only gaming opponent who was asked to testify at a 7-hour invitation-only hearing on casinos at the State House last month. This is evidence that our perspective has more legitimacy than the less effective emotional, moral, or social opposition. The issue will be forced to the forefront during the spring budget deliberations. The Legislature will have to reconcile a $1 billion budget deficit for next year. Governor Patrick may propose that the Commonwealth use revenue from casino licenses as a way to fill the budget gap. We are in the process of sending letters to every legislator urging them against any fiscal “quick fix” that could jeopardize reliable revenue that is collected from the sales tax on meals. This strategy could also be viewed as a way of compelling the House and Senate to take up the controversial proposal sooner rather than later. Armed with the collective strength of our membership, we are optimistic about our chances for overcoming this obstacle (as we have done so many times in the past). It will require endurance, continuous reinforcement of our position, and the involvement of our membership. But we would not do it if we didn’t think it was the most critical issue for your business.
In a related article in the Republican newspaper, Rudi R. Scherff owner of the venerable Student Prince Restaurant in Springfield was quoted in opposition to the proposal.
But Rudi R. Scherff, owner of the Student Prince and Fort Restaurant, a mainstay in downtown Springfield, said the economic benefits cited by Sarno and others are dead wrong. "Over time, they would develop their own high-end restaurants and open more hotels and golf courses," Scherff said. "In time, Springfield would be a ghost town."
Friday, February 1, 2008
Mohegan representatives in their recent presentation (that cited no references in the handout) to the Palmer Citizen Committee reported projected development of "more than 1,500 construction jobs and approximately 3,000 new full-time jobs".
Wait a minute....
1,500 X 3 sites = 4,500 construction jobs....NOT 30,000.
3,000 full-time jobs X 3 sites = 9,000 jobs....NOT 20,000.
Here's the math.
Assuming conservativetax revenue at 300,000,000 which is the figure guaranteed in the bill and 800,000,000 in ten year license fees.
300,000,000 operational revenue (27% tax)
-124,000,000 lottery shortfall (which will increase with casino opening)
- 80,000,000 Gaming Commission/year
-300,000,000 The real costs for regional mitigation (4X what is allotted)
AGO, State Police, bankruptcies, district courts, DA's, etc. are additional expenses not accounted in the casino bill. Education impacts for migrant/new worker families in three regions (unknown, not considered or researched in the casino /proposals).
The loss after the first year will be (~204,000,000) not including additional mandatory educational funds. The funds to cover the losses will either come from the license fees (gone in three years) or be sucked from local budgets and existing programs. How will the losses be covered in years 5 and beyond?
Will the offset of income taxes from low/moderate income wages impact the fiscal picture? Not hardly.
When will the MSM report the real costs that the average Massachusetts citizen will bear if casinos are legal in MA????
Sunday, January 20, 2008
On January 8, a number of us from the Sudbury Democratic Town Committee attended the forum on casino gambling at the Weston Middle School hosted by the Weston Democratic Town Committee and the 3d Middlesex Area Democrats http://www.wickedlocal.com/weston/homepage/x1925662940 There was a panel of four people:
*) two representatives of the Deval Patrick administration (one lawyer and one legislative director) -- they were of course in favor of the casino gambling proposal.
*) A person representing the League of Women Voters. She represented the position, which is against casino gambling. (She did not speak particularly forcefully, which was unfortunate, in my opinion.)
*) Tom Larkin, one of the co-chairs of the 3d MAD. Tom is a clinical psychologist specializing in problems of addiction. He spoke against the casino gambling proposal.
The two representatives of the administration spoke first. They actually said
very little, as as I remember it. They seemed to be leaning over backward to
focus the issue on jobs and on the fact that there would be lots of good non-gambling entertainment involved -- principally, golf and restaurants.
The LWV person spoke next, and Tom spoke last. Tom made a number of
points which I found significant. Specifically, he mentioned that gambling
money was "sterile" money in economic terms. I had been aware of this, and came
back to it in what I said (below). He also pointed out something that I had
not really been aware of -- that the only way casinos really make money is by
exploiting people who have gambling problems. The person who occasionally goes
and drops a few dollars at a casino is not profitable for them. They really depend
for their income on mental illness. I hope Tom writes up what he said and publicizes it -- it would be a real public service.
After the panel had spoken, the floor was opened for general comments and
"questions". It was pretty clear that if a vote had been taken at that meeting,
casinos would have lost overwhelmingly -- it would not have been close. One of the speakers who spoke before me, after giving all the reasons why she was opposed to casino gambling, said that she was "cynical" about casinos. I mention this only because I referred to it in what I said subsequently (I wrote this down from my notes afterward):
I'm Carl Offner, a member of the Sudbury Democratic Town Committee.
Our Town Committee passed a resolution against casino gambling a couple of months ago. I won't read the whole thing here, but our chair Beverly Guild has copies of it, and there are also copies on the table outside, so you can get one if you don't have it already.
Let's first clear the air a little bit:
The administration spokespeople here have talked about casinos as a way of creating construction jobs. Well there are a lot better ways to do that. There are school buildings crumbling all over this state. Just fixing that problem would provide an enormous number of good jobs. And we need to stop talking about these casinos as if the issue was entertainment. We've heard the administration spokespeople talk about golf and restaurants and such. Well, developers aren't drooling over this, and tripping over each other lining up because they want to build golf courses and restaurants. There are enormous profits in gambling---that's what's at stake, and l
let's not pretend otherwise. Now Tom Larkin mentioned that gambling profits were "sterile" money from an economic point of view, and he's absolutely right. Another example is military spending. Economists have long known that probably the least efficient way to stimulate the economy is to pour money into the military. If you make a bomb, it can't be used for anything that will benefit anyone. Under the best circumstances it just sits there, and from a purely economic point of view, you've thrown money down the drain. And at worst, of course, there are really terrible consequences. Gambling is similar. No goods exchange hands. Nothing of value is produced. The economy doesn't benefit in any real way. And most of the money leaves the state in any case. Look at Connecticut, which everyone talks about: Do you know how much money Connecticut takes in from their casinos? Less than we get here from the Lottery. That money isn't being used to benefit Connecticut.
So where is this proposal coming from? We had this guy who ran for Governor. I
worked really hard for him. When he ran, he wasn't talking about casinos. He
was talking about building up the things that really contribute to the economy and to the quality of life of people here---things like investing in renewable energy, biotechnology, and putting some significant money into education. All those things create real wealth---both intellectual and economic---and real jobs.
So he got elected, and to start funding some of these things he tried to close an ancient tax loophole that had been given to the telephone companies a hundred
years ago. Maybe it made some sense at the time. It certainly hasn't made any
sense for most of the last century. And he couldn't do it. I think he gave up awfully easily. But the point is that politicians have been spooked by the Republican assault on taxes. And so no one talks about where taxes come from, and where they are going. The fact that our Federal taxes, which should be used to build up this country, are being squandered and sent to Baghdad and Halliburton. The fact that large corporations and people of great wealth now pay taxes at much lower rates than they used to---none of this can be discussed. I want state legislators and a governor that make an issue of this. I'd like to see our governor go to Washington and make a Federal case out of it. I think we need to talk about these things on a national level.
But instead what we get is a proposal for casino gambling.
And I have to disagree slightly with one of the people who spoke before me. I don't think it's cynical to be opposed to casinos. I think it's cynical to *support* casinos. Because the whole casino proposal is predicated on the assumption that we can't have a discussion about where money comes from and where it goes. The whole proposal reflects the notion that we can't build a society that reflects our values, that brings us together and realizes our hopes. It's a tremendously cynical proposal. We deserve a lot better.
[[At this point I spoke directly to the administration
I don't actually have a question for you. But I do have an answer.
The answer is no.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I have posted my prepared remarks that I had to edit due to the time constraints.
Casino Analysis Regional Impact Considerations:
The Numbers Don’t Work
Thank you: LDTC, PVPC, Edward S. Harrison, Chair Western MA Casino Task Force and all of the other local officials and town employees contributing to our research and dialog on the regional impacts of the proposed legislation to expand gambling in Massachusetts and specifically our region.
Conflict of Interest Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in these proposals except as a Taxpayer and Selectman. I am member of two casino study committees but not here as the spokesperson for either group.
Positive components of the casino bill include: a requirement that if open space is taken that an equal open space must be purchased and placed into conservation. The proposed casinos would be No Smoking facilities (sorry, no cigars!); and arguably most positive beside the profits to the investors and their employees, would be the creation of temporary prevailing wage construction jobs.
Local Casino Study Committee
The Local Casino Study Committee in Monson includes: Chief of Police, Fire Chief, Town Administrator, Highway Surveyor, Water and Sewer Superintendent, Building Inspector, Citizen Representative, Superintendent of Schools and I as a Selectman. Our task is to tabulate municipal and community concerns. Traffic, school enrollment, pollution, housing, development costs/controls, costs to the municipality, legal costs, impact on by-laws and impact on roads/infrastructure have been identified as major concerns. The LCSC is developing a survey for residents and will compile a report for Town Meeting, the Western MA Casino Task Force and Legislators.
The Western Massachusetts Casino Task Force
Western Massachusetts Casino Task Force includes Selectmen and Town Councilors from Palmer, Warren, Belchertown, Ware, Monson, Brimfield, Sturbridge, Wilbraham, Hampden, Ludlow and Holland. The casino task force began meeting in September prior to the Governor’s release of the casino bill. The Monson Board of Selectmen organized the regional task force to study the impacts pro and con of a casino in our region and to analyze the legislation as a pro-active action to ensure local and regional input in the process. The mission of the Western Regional Casino Task Force is:
“To identify all of the potential impacts that a destination resort casino located in Western MA would have on the entire region.
To pursue every avenue to assure that all potential impacts are thoroughly investigated and the proper studies undertaken to guarantee that all of the potentially impacted communities are awarded equitable mitigation/compensation in the event that the Commonwealth licenses Class III Gaming.”
The task force has met five times to date including the initial meeting to discuss the formation of a regional coalition. Discussion has focused on the structure, content, economic and fiscal components of the casino bill. There was a unanimous decision not to debate the pros/cons of casino gambling from a moral or opinion-based perspective.
The minutes of the Western Region Casino Task Force meeting of December 19, 2007 summarized the bill as, “overall the legislation reflects a lack of local representation, lack of transparency and a lack of independent studies.”
The Administration produced a casino bill largely in isolation that lacked independent analysis or any regional input. The process and product are flawed. No fact-finding, local discussions, town meetings or regional planning organizations were included in the process. The product is a poorly crafted piece of legislation and I suggest that it should not be supported by any taxpayer, municipal leader or legislator regardless of their position on gambling due to enormity of flaws in the document and proposal.
The following major concerns were noted (form WMCAT minutes)
a) The application process for a casino gaming license provided very little local review and input.
b) There is a need for increased regional representation on the proposed gaming commission.
c) A clearer and consistent definition of region and impact area needs to be formulated and consistently
applied throughout the legislation. Current language is inconsistent with references such as region,
contiguous, surrounding, adjoining, etc. used throughout in similar instances.
d) No clear, substantive and objective criteria exists for the evaluation of applicants proposals. Study
requirements, minimum acceptance level of the provision for local review must be provided.
e) Overall the legislation reflects a lack of local representation, lack of transparency and a lack of
f) The relationship to the MEPA review process was also discussed, including: how the impact evaluation will be assessed; consistency with the MEPA format; and similarity of standards and thresholds. It was also questioned what the implications would be if a local permitting authority denied a local permit (preventing or impacting casino construction) but a state gaming license had already been issued to the developer.
1. The Administration projects 400million in annual revenues from casinos taxed
2. The Administration projects the creation of 20,000 permanent jobs.
Interestingly the media has reported full-time casino salaries during the
summer ’07 at 35k, 40-45K, during the fall ’07 and January 11, 2008,
Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, Suzanne Bump told Selectmen
and Mayors last weekend at the MMA conference that casino jobs would pay 50K
There has been no independent analysis to support these rapidly increasing
salaries in the proposed Massachusetts casino industry, and it is troubling
that the figures appear to be based on averages (including executive pay)
rather than median incomes based on job classifications. The 20,000 jobs
are sometimes referred to as “new” jobs and other times not qualified
as “new” jobs. Is this economic development or economic shift?
3. The Administration has projected 30,000 temporary construction jobs.
According the Mass Taxpayer Foundation's report, the revenue will be $300 million or less. Mitigation of the lottery shortfall is estimated between: $120 – $150 million. Michael Widmer, President of MTF vigorously challenged the Administration’s projections at the Mass Municipal Association meeting last weekend. He stated that including casino revenues in the FY ’09 budget was, “fiscally irresponsible”.
The Numbers Don’t Work
Regional Mitigation and Public Health Mitigation at 5% of the gross revenues of $1.5 billion is estimated at $75 million per year. $75 million shared between three regions,
~ 12.5 million for each category for western region.
Additional costs included in the bill but not in the Administrations calculations:
Establishment of the Gaming Control Authority (~75-85 million per year), Attorney General and State Police expanded departments, District Attorney costs, local law enforcement (unknown, not calculated).
Additional costs not included in the bill and not included in the Administrations calculations: Legal costs to the COMMONWEALTH and region, education costs (influx- not accounted anywhere), low income housing demands and social services to support low income families, Bankruptcies, Loss of revenues to local economy and small businesses, Criminal History Systems Board (CHSB/CORI), Prisons and Jails (not accounted anywhere).
The town of Monson current projected deficit is over 1.5 million for FY 09. The figure to maintain adequate services is currently 2.5 million. These figures are prior to additional burdens on public services. Every community in the region is operating a sub-optimal funding and many with structural deficits. $12.5 million does not fill the holes for current fiscal needs prior to additional burden. The additional burdens including public safety, education and housing could meet or exceed the full revenues leaving no excess funds to hold the Lottery harmless or cover the expenses incurred by the Gaming Control Authority. The Numbers Don’t Work.
Who will pay for the shortfalls?
The towns in the Warren/Palmer region do not have full-time health departments and no social services departments. The infrastructure for social services consists of two community hospitals with one in-patient psychiatric wing and two outpatient counseling centers that are understaffed for current demand.
Palmer District Court has historically been one of the lowest funded District Courts in the Commonwealth and serves all of the communities in eastern Hampden County. Palmer District Court has no SAFEPLAN advocate to work with individuals affected by Domestic Abuse. I have worked for twenty years in Hampden County in the field of health education, addiction and mental health services. I co-wrote the successful FY 07 block grant application PRO-BONO for the Town of Palmer to get funding for a domestic violence task force. Two women were tragically murdered by domestic partners in Palmer last year. I am a member of the Hampden County DA’s Domestic Violence Task Force. I know the issues and deficits confronting our communities in the field of social services and education. Casinos will bring increases in social problems, bankruptcies, and pollution.
So the question for all taxpayers, residents, municipal and legislative leaders is:
Who will pay for the shortfalls?
There are two possible scenarios if casinos become legal in Massachusetts.
1. The region will receive insufficient mitigation and the burdens on the municipalities and taxpayers will increase, with a small amount of money going to Boston to fulfill their agenda, or 2. the region will receive appropriate mitigation and all casino revenues will be expended. Scenario 2 is not the likely outcome.
Who will pay for the shortfalls?
Longmeadow taxpayers, my elderly parents on a fixed income in Winchester and every resident of the Commonwealth will pay for the shortfalls.
If the Administration and Legislature respond to the factual mitigation needs of the region, the shortfall in the Lottery (120 million), the cost to run the Gaming Control Authority (80 million) and the health/social costs there would be not ANY net revenue for the Commonwealth. No revenues for roads and bridges, property tax relief or funding of education. An enormous bureaucracy with seriously flawed lack of checks and balances and little controls for oversight will be created. The Numbers Don’t Work.
Longmeadow will continue to send its tax dollars to Boston and receive nothing in return.
The Gaming Control Authority
The regional casino task force has articulated concerns about the structure of the Gaming Control Authority which demand special attention.
The Gaming Authority proposed by the Administration is designed to give enormous executive control without checks and balances with the Legislature and is devoid of regional representation. The Board of Directors would have 5 of 7 appointees by the Governor. The Advisory Committee would have the majority of members appointed by the Governor with redundant positions from labor, public safety and social services with an omission of local/regional appointees. If something like this bill were proposed by our former Governor there would be squealing in the streets about the executive power-grab.
Administrations change (rapidly one might say, in Massachusetts!) and the personalities and politics of future Administrations will change. Do you feel comfortable knowing a bureaucracy has been proposed to manage a cash business that lacks sufficient legislative checks-balances or oversight? I do not.
I think it is time for a real discussion in Massachusetts about taxation and economic growth and we as Democrats should drive the debate. It is time to use imagination and ingenuity to re-vitalize our towns and cities. We need to address the true problems in our region which are not a simple lack of jobs; they are rural and urban poverty coupled with stagnant wages, skills gap and gender based wage inequality. We have fantastic colleges, natural resources, and historic gems in our region. We need leadership from all levels of government to make changes in how we do business through tax reform and local aid to the towns were we live. The Administration has proposed some positive plans and we should engage and support those that are well conceived and sustainable.
We also need to call the media to task to perform its duty to conduct independent research and accurately inform citizens and taxpayers of the fiscal realities of the casino proposal. It is a bad bill and should die and early death in the House. Regardless of whether you are a gambler or not, you will pay for casinos in Massachusetts.