Thursday, March 20, 2008

Roll Call Votes on Casino Bill

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 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.

Monday, March 17, 2008

DOA - Why Governor Patrick’s Casino Bill Failed

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 Governor Patrick from Patrick Coordinators

For Immediate Release
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.

Yours sincerely,

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

Somerville Weighs-in

A number of present and former leaders in the city of Somerville weighed-in with their points and questions for Governor Patrick and his plan to bring casino gambling to Massachusetts. The tone of the article was respectful and rightly focused on their concerns with his proposal to legalize class III gambling in Massachusetts.

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:
SomervilleJournal, 3/12/08

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.

Sincerely yours,

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)

Adam White

Professor Anne Tate

Austin Siadak

Barry Rafkind

Celia Taylor (former school committee member)

Daniel Negless

The Rev. David Milam

Erin Baldassari

Fred Berman

Hannah Flamm

Jane Bestor

John Schneider

The Rev. Leslie Katherine Sterling

Kelsi Stine

Leah Staub-DeLong

Nancy McArdle

Margaret O'Connor

Piyali Kundu

Rachel Bergenfield

Roberta Bauer (former school committee member)

Sean Fitzgerald

Dr. William Bennett

Mark Chesley

Thursday, March 13, 2008