Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Seat at the Table

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.


cdplakeville said...

Very articulately said and I agree 100%. I believe as long as we have people monitoring the meetings of the Middleboro Five that is as cloce as we need to get. They don't need to get closer to us either. Oil and water do not mix. Middleboro's mission is to promote the casino. The task force's mission is not to promote the casino, it is to solve the problem of the impacts it could bring.

Anonymous said...

So Gladys, I thank you for always being brave enough to "push the envelope"

jacquie said...

The Regional Task Force needs to clearly define it's goal. The longer they take to define their objectives, the more they will appear weak. A strong unity of surrounding towns with a goal of "NO CASINO" is the impact they need to present to the governor and Middleboro. As Dan Kennedy so eloquently stated, "No casino=No mitigation" = No Middleboro on the task force. This task force needs to stop floundering around and take a firm stand. Why would Middleboro need a seat at the table if the task force is NO CASINO?

CFO Directors said...

Middleboro deserves a seat at the table only when the Wampanoag casino is off the table. The town is contractually obligate to work on behalf of the casino - whether or not it is in the interests of the town or the region.

Because of that, they should not have a seat at the table.

Anonymous said...

A Task force defined, is a group of five or more acting as a unit to accomplish a goal.The obvious goal is NO CASINO. Jacquie is right in saying they need to define objectives. They need to present a charter statement that will separate them from the five Middleboro puppets with no turning back.Middleboro officials are being controlled by the agreement with the investors. It would be foolish to listen to them spewing lies.The task force should stand against the casino and Middleboro until there is no casino to stand against.

carverchick said...

Pro casino advocates will tell you that Middleboro deserves a seat on the the Task Force since Middleboro has done it's "research" on casino impacts and we could learn something from them. Really? Did Middleboro ask for the studies done by Carver and Plymouth four years ago? Wouldn't the fact that these towns already did impact studies and came to the conclusion that a casino is not the answer, make them the experts? Too bad for Middleboro..they excluded and dismissed it's neighbors throughout this whole process and now feel they have a right to sit on this task force. No way...they didn't care about our communities before, I don't think they do now. Complain all they want - the task force is concerned about the region, not about Middleboro, Middleboro has susposedly taken care of itself with the agreement so why should the task for listen to, or even care what Middleboro has to say...All I have to say to Middleboro reap what you sow.

Anonymous said...

In response to article published in the Boston Globe on 11/6 in reference to the Casino Task Force written by Ms Wallgren:

Dear Ms Wallgren,
Regarding your article in today’s GLOBE SOUTH: My initial response was anger because of the attitude and comments of the Middleborough officials, especially Mr. Wayne Perkins. His comment of the Casino Task Force having a “narrow point of view” and “keeping us out of the mix” was hypocritical, arrogant, and egotistical. He and his fellow selectmen kept the people of Middleborough out of the loop for many months as they secretly negotiated with the Wampanoags for this casino. The people of Middleborough were not even allowed to see the agreement until a few days before the special town meeting that was to give us the opportunity to vote on the issue. What upsets me even more is Mr. Perkins told me to my face in front of the Middleborough High School just before the April Town Meeting that he knew nothing of an agreement or even negotiations with the tribe about a casino. I showed him an article by Sean Murphy regarding an agreement and Mr. Perkins again said, “I know nothing about this.”
How can someone who kept his own people out of the loop now demand to be put into the loop? Does he think that we have no memory of what was done just a few months ago? Does he think that he should be part of a task force that wants to do what’s best for their towns while he himself did not consider what his own people might think is best for them? To me that is a definition of a hypocrite. His “do as I say, not as I do” attitude is not making points with the towns around us.

Tanya Trzeciak

carverchick said...

Anonymous, you have said it all. I too, was open-mouthed when reading this article. It is amazing how suddenly Middleboro wants to "help" surrounding communities. No...I think Middleboro is trying to make good on their end of the agreement with the Tribe....assisting in any way possible...err, "reasonably assist" in addressing any negativity regarding the casino. I sincerely hope the Task Force declines Middleboro's request to have a seat...they will be a cog in the wheel. Yes, go and listen, but please don't insult the surrounding communities representatives on this task force by saying you want to help...

"...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.”...

This statement from Gladys' blog says it all about Middleboro's "concern" for other communities. (Sorry Gladys, I felt the need to repost this speaks volumes!). Yes, narrow point of view...but not by the Regional Task Force.

Many thanks to all the representatives on the regional task force. Thank you for listening to your citizens concerns and working diligently to address them. I personally appreciate what you are trying to accomplish!!

Anonymous said...

A wise man once said that people get the government they deserve. To condemn elected officials for their consistent pattern of behavior defines the electorate that put them in office.
That Middleboro's special town meeting was so sparsely attended speaks volumes.