I’m trying to imagine the conversation:
“You do it.”
"No, you do it."
“I don’t wanna do it – you do it.”
“I don’t wanna do it..."
"Hey! Let’s get Tankman!”
"Yeah! He'll do it. He'll do anything!"
However it actually went down, the result was that Pat ‘Tankman’ Rogers, the least offensive member of the Middleboro Board of Selectmen, came to be standing in front of the 18 town Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts, hat in hand, pleading his town’s case for a seat at their table.
And with Task Force delegate Sandra MacFarlane of Kingston professionally gagged, hog-tied, and stuffed in a locked closet somewhere in the Lakeville Library, and her fellow selectman perplexingly evangelizing Middleboro’s glory from his uninvited pulpit at the front of the room, (cheered on at the sidelines by reps Canessa and Calter) it looked momentarily as if good old Tankman might very well be warming a chair at the table by the end of the evening.
Fortunately, smarter heads prevailed.
I’ve heard a lot of reasons why Middleboro does or doesn’t deserve to be a part of the Regional Task Force - which is expected to vote this week on whether to allow Middleboro a seat at the table.
As the only individual from another town to regularly attend meetings of Middleboro’s own Casino Impact Study Group over the course of the summer, I feel I have a unique perspective and valuable insight to offer on this issue.
At that first meeting in Middleboro, I identified myself, the fact that I lived in Bridgewater, and that my purpose for attending their meeting was to better understand what the impacts of a Middleboro casino would be on my own town.
After sitting politely in the audience through 2 - or sometimes 3 hour meetings, I would raise my hand, wait for recognition from the committee chairman, and ask my questions. The committee would politely listen - and then essentially assure me that I had nothing to worry about - that everything would be fine.
But actually, I found lots to worry about just by watching Middleboro ‘study’ the casino on it’s own.
Like, for instance, how they based their formal opinion as to how a casino would effect local crime rates on only one published study – a study which used only small and large cities and riverboat gambling communities as comparison towns.
And as far as addressing the fact that a casino could increase Middleboro’s intake of water by 1.5 million gallons a day, the proposed solution was to lay more pipes to pump in more water – without addressing the fact that other towns depend on the same limited original source aquifer for drinking, industry and agriculture.
And with a 95% employment level and local businesses already hard pressed to hire qualified help, where would the additional 10-12,000 person casino labor force come from? And live? And it’s children go to school? Well, according to Middleboro, a casino could easily tap that last unemployed 5% already living here. Which tells me that they don’t quite understand that at 95%, pretty much everybody who wants a job, has one.
Meanwhile, the school committee was busy suggesting creative ways it could “collaborate” with the casino such as by the “Establishment of a ‘good neighbors’ program which would allow for reasonable access to tribal/casino staff and facilities for the benefit of district students and staff including but not limited to operations tours, guest speakers, discounts and a sharing of expertise and equipment”, and offering their hope that the casino would participate as a site for student career/intern program.
Yikes. This is k-12, right?
And what of the residents whose property values decreased, or the businesses which were going to lose customers to the casino? Well, rest assured - at least Middleboro will be safe. That's because none other than the Honorable Glenn Marshall promised he’d personally deliver a check to local homeowners and restaurants to ease their suffering.
As for the social impacts of local casino, Middleboro scratched it's head and agreed that they just couldn’t figure out how address that – and so decided to rest the entire issue on the Commonwealth’s shoulders. And therefore, something as intuitively essential as a discussion about the effect increased gambling addiction might have on the town and region – simply never took place at all.
And though Middleboro had access to such resources as the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District and the Old Colony Planning Council, the Middleboro casino juggernaut rolled forth without guidance, crushing, gaveling and bullying anyone who disagreed with it. In fact, one of the casino agreement’s biggest cheerleaders was a certain sitting Middleboro selectman who currently boasts on his web site to have handled “the political marketing of the casino concept”.
But, in my opinion, the moment Middleboro officially jumped the shark occurred after I related my own personal apprehension about an increase in traffic. You see, I live on a direct route between Bridgewater and the proposed casino site, and which currently supports traffic to the college, prison, KOA, Rte. 44 and the commuter rail. The prospect of a percentage of 40-60,000 daily casino visitors looking for a back road in, and driving at all hours down the same street where my kids wait for the bus had me quite concerned. But a member of Middleboro’s Casino Impact Study Group assured me that my road wasn't busy. The reason he knows? Well, he drives on that same road twice a day - to and from work. I was incredulous. I live on that street - and, since I work from home, I’m pretty much aware of the traffic situation around the clock. I said as much to the study group, but no, there was no problem. Everything would be fine.
The defining moment however, for me, as an outsider looking in, was that evening when a member of that same Casino Impact Study Group brought up, for the first and last time, the fact that the town of Bridgewater might have some valid concerns - to which another member stated, with a roll of her eyes and a wave of her hand, that she didn’t "give a damn about Bridgewater.”
Apparently my repeated questions and continued presence as a member of one of the surrounding communities had made little impression on the group. And it was obvious then, as it is now, that with their shallow research, pat answers and disregard for the surrounding communities, Middleboro has nothing to offer the Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts.
I’ve heard it suggested that the Task Force allow Middleboro to sit at it’s table due to the intrinsic wisdom of keeping one’s friends close and one’s enemies closer. But I assure you that Middleboro wants that seat for exactly the same reason. And what better place to sit and pass around that pitcher of Kool-Aid, and to whisper in our ears that there is nothing to worry about - and that everything will be just fine.
Bridgewater, a town of 27,000 people, all of whom reside within five miles of the proposed casino, has been unrepresented at the last two meetings of the Task Force. I know this because I've attended both of those meetings.
So, when I’m asked whether I think Middleboro deserves to be at that table, I look at Bridgewater’s empty chair and wonder why Middleboro should, once again, have a voice when I do not.
I am, however, filled with thanks, not to mention hope, as I look upon those many chairs filled by delegates from other towns. And while I realize that their towns and mine may have different concerns, at least I know they share my perspective.
No. I suggest that at subsequent meetings of the Regional Task Force, Middleboro’s place be the same as mine at their meetings - to sit politely in the audience until the question and answer session, raise their hand to be recognized, and then and only then, be allowed to speak.