Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Holding a Sign

It’s not easy holding a sign.

People tend to forget that you’re a real live person, not just a message on a stick. They’ll avoid you. From car windows they’ll shake their heads or laugh, they’ll give you a thumbs-down (or worse.) Familiar faces from around town, some whose kids have gone to school with mine since pre-school won’t make eye-contact. Friends I’ve known for decades will walk by and snicker.

Fortunately, many other friends, neighbors and even complete strangers will go out of their way to thank me for being there, and for doing what I’m doing. The smiles, waves and thumbs-up, and the people who will just stop and ask for more information, still outnumber the negative faces. So, I guess I should focus on that. But sometimes, it’s hard.

I never wanted to be an 'activist'. This past Spring, with the hectic school year winding down, I was planning on a lazy summer, beach days with the kids, nights on the screen porch, planting a garden, catching up on my reading. I’d never envisioned, in April, that by August I’d be standing with my sign at the State House in Boston. That I’d be part of a group hand delivering a letter of concern to the Governor.

Because back in April, I was just worried. Mostly about my property values, a little about traffic, and some about the size of a proposed casino in Middleboro. And though I’m not a gambler, I wasn’t anti-gambling.

So I thought I should learn more. And one of the first things I learned is that there have been people who’ve been studying the subject of casinos in Massachusetts for a very long time.

Massachusetts Senator Dan Bosley, for example, has been looking into it for 11 years from an economic standpoint and reached the conclusion that it’s a ‘zero sum game’ and ‘a sucker’s bet’.

The League of Women Voters, who pride themselves on thoroughly researching every important issue, have been looking into casino gambling in Massachusetts since 1982 and are still strongly opposed.

The Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling has been studying the issue and reaching out to those with gambling addictions and their families since 1987.

And the Southeast Regional Planning & Economical Development District which has, since 1968 devoted itself to the “expansion of economic opportunity, protection of natural and historic resources, and development of excellent physical and cultural amenities” in many of the towns, including Middleboro, which would be effected by a casino, has gone out of it’s way to express it’s own serious concerns.

One of the things I've learned to count on, when outside holding my NO CASINO sign, are the people who will stop by to tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about. Invariably, they mention Foxwoods. Wonderful place. Nothing to worry about...

Perhaps you’ve visited Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun and had a nice time there. Maybe a great time. That’s the casino’s job, and they’re good at it. So you start to think… that kind of thing would be great in my neck of the woods. What could be wrong with that?

But do you really know what that area was like before the casinos came? Have you ever stopped in any of the surrounding towns for anything to eat or drink, or buy – with the exception of a tank of gas, or ventured beyond the confines of the resort? You probably don’t have an idea of what the traffic was like before the casinos, or how many residents who could afford to, moved away, or that many of their homes are now being used by imported labor for ‘hot-bunking’. You weren’t there to see the schools fill up or the local businesses in the area fail, and you couldn’t have known that before the casinos were built, there was one gambling addiction center in Connecticut, and that now there are 17 taxpayer funded centers. And have you noticed the odd overabundance of gashes in the trees along the route left by cars driving off the road. And obviously, from your car window it’s impossible to see the skyrocketing suicides, bankruptcy and crime in the 35- 50 miles around the casinos.

I don't know what the water situation was in the area around Foxwoods before it was built, but I do know that every summer, in Bridgewater, we are banned from using automatic sprinklers in the garden. Because the water levels are low. And there are a lot of other towns in the area which impose water bans, sometimes starting as early as mid-Spring. And I know that there have been wells going dry in Middleboro in recent years.

A mega-casino requires 1.5 million gallons of water a day at peak. Where's it going to come from? Certainly not from my sprinkler.

This issue goes far beyond whatever benefits someone might envision a Middleboro casino might offer to them personally, from an imagined job for an indigent nephew, to slot machine nirvana, to someplace to catch a show, a nightclub hotspot, a new business opportunity, or another golf course.

The world’s largest casino isn’t in Las Vegas. It’s only a two hour drive away. And it even has a major competitor down the road, in case you get bored.

Do we really need to turn New England into the Land of the World’s Largest Casinos? Is that where most people want to live? Is that the legacy our generation will leave on this state?

The conservative estimate for a Middleboro casino is 50,000 visitors a day, with an additional 6,000 - 15,000 employees.

Think about it... 55,500 people reside in Plymouth, spread out over the geographically largest town in Massachusetts. Which means that every single day, easily, more than the entire population of the town of Plymouth would descend on a few hundred acres off Rte. 44. (Also known as the Evacuation Route...)

More than the entire populations of Middleboro, Bridgewater and Lakeville combined.

More than that of Carver, Kingston, Halifax, Plympton, Raynham and Berkley combined.

Conservatively.

That’s what would be coming down our streets and highways, creating pollution and waste, and utilizing our precious resources, every single day, night and day, 365 days a year.

Can anyone still insist that there's really 'nothing to worry about' ? That a project of this magnitude won't have an adverse effect on the South Shore? That it won't change it forever? That it wouldn’t have serious repercussions?

All this and our taxes won't even go down!

So... how can we possibly plan for an appropriate amount of 'mitigation' so that those of us who already call this place home won't end up paying the price for someone else's brand new city?

Until someone can give me a real answer, I'll just keep holding my sign.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gladys,

You never fail to "hit the nail on the head". The difference between people who believe what they are saying (like you) and people who are just making up whatever they think will help line their pockets is so painfully obvious.

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