Thursday, August 30, 2007
I was sure I’d gotten there early enough, but still… not a seat in the house. I hoped it wouldn’t be a long night.
Then, I noticed some ladies trying to get my attention. Someone had vacated a seat in the middle of their row, and they were offering it to me
It was only May, but the air in the auditorium was as stifling and uncomfortable as any evening in August. Still, the whole room buzzed with excitement. Outside, cars were parked along both sides of the long driveway. Police seemed everywhere directing traffic, people and reporters. News vans from all the stations, with their towering satellite uplinks, filled the lot. Protestors held signs as we walked to the building. People were being interviewed by guys I’d only seen on TV. At the door to the Nichols School, someone was handing out little colored feathers.
I looked around the auditorium for some familiar faces from the first selectman's meeting about the casino, but couldn’t find any. The ladies beside me were wearing feathers. I would later discover that they, and pretty much everyone else filling up the first 20 rows, were from Oak Point. Being from Bridgewater, I didn’t yet know what Oak Point was, or that it stirred up strong emotions among the folks in Middleboro. I also didn't realize that they'd all been fed a free dinner and shipped by bus to the meeting. It was only May, and I still had a lot to learn about local politics.
Someone got up from the chair next to me and gave it to an elderly gentleman. The Oak Point lady sitting next to me leaned in and whispered that he was a 'real' Wampanoag. He and I smiled politely at each other. A photographer from the Globe walked over, took some pictures of him, and asked his name.
The usual suspects were up on stage – the Middleboro selectmen (I still didn’t know all their names), their tribal law attorney, Jon Whitten, a few others I didn’t recognize – and a beefy guy in his fifties with his long white hair tied into a ponytail. He was confident, smiling, shaking hands. No need for an introduction. Obviously this was the Chief of the Mashpee Wampanoags.
The man we were all here to see. And hear.
And, I’m not sure what I’d been expecting, but it wasn’t him.
He gave a little talk about his people, about how he wanted to be a good neighbor to the people of Middleboro. That’s nice. But what about Bridgewater? We’re closer than most of Middleboro. He spoke of being ‘a steward of the land’, which didn’t sit right with me either. Traffic? Pollution? Swamp draining? Forty story mega towers? Multi-acre asphalt parking lots? This was stewardship?
People, including some I recognized, got up to the microphone and asked questions. But, if you didn’t want the casino, Mr. Marshall’s responses were dismissive. Or worse - you were a racist. If you had concerns, he made promises. He’d personally write you a check if your business suffered because of his. He’d cover you if your property values sagged. He’d build green, hire union, take care of everybody, everything. And if Middleboro didn't want them, they wouldn't come. And you could believe him, because he was a man of his word.
Someone asked about New Bedford. Wasn’t the Tribe also looking at New Bedford? Sure they were! They haven’t ruled anything out. They might use the land in Middleboro for housing or a heritage museum.
That’s when the Wampanoag man sitting next to me laughed. And under his breath, where I could still clearly hear it, he said, “They're not going to New Bedford.”
No, they weren’t, were they. Glenn Marshall was lying.
As the night and the questions, lies and promises wore on, Mr. Marshall started to get tired. Maybe he ate too much at Dave's diner earlier that evening. He stood up and indicated the auditorium with a wave of his hand “… this dog and pony show…”
Ut-oh! He knew he’d just screwed up. He tried to backtrack. But it didn’t matter. Few people in the auditorium realized they’d just been dissed by the new king of Middleboro.
But I never forgot it. I never forgot his staggering confidence, his thinly concealed disdain or his shallow promises. How he acted as if he'd just signed the purchase and sale agreement on the entire town of Middleboro.
A few months later, in a room at the Halifax town hall, a local resident who happened to work in Middleboro, and who’d met Marshall for himself, stood up and spoke glowingly of him... his impressive war record, how he was so down to earth. Believable. We’d be impressed, he insisted, if we ever met the guy ourselves.
A lot of other people, just like this man from Halifax, truly believed in Glenn Marshall. And they didn’t meet the rest of the Tribe that night on the stage at the Nichols school – they met Marshall.
The final agreement mentions the term ‘good faith’ numerous times. Exactly what ‘good faith’ would that be? The same ‘good faith’ that members of congress were asked to accept when Marshall blatantly lied to them? There are six signatures at the bottom of the agreement signed at the July 28th Town Meeting. Five Middleboro selectman – and just one Wampanoag. The one so many people beleived in.
This alone should negate the agreement.
I’m not sure why so many people got sucked in by Marshall. Was it admiration or intimidation? Or both? What made Adam Bond run from the room like the Cowardly Lion when the Great and Powerful Glenn Marshall turned down his first agreement - claiming it threatened his Tribe's hard-fought sovereignty? What made the next agreement force Bond and every subsequent selectmen ‘till the end of time speak only flowers and sunshine should talk ever turn to a casino - essentially forfeiting the town’s own 338 year sovereignty – and mostly likely, somewhere down the road, compelling the town to tell it’s own lies.
Marshall is fond of the analogy of the King and the Goat. He claims, with a significant deficit of humility, that he’s never been the goat, always the King. And all summer long it’s been just one big dog and pony show, staring Glenn Marshall, as the new king of Middleboro...
...And, with Jack Abramoff in his wallet, and Congress, the BIA, the Governor, State Legislature and the town of Middleboro in his hip pocket, I’m sure he still believes he's the future king of the world.
This isn't my usual regular visitor. He or she has been searching about me on-line, and visiting all of my other web sites. They've crawled over every square inch of this blog a few times over. And they visit at all hours, too. Just recently, they spent the wee hours, from midnight until 5 in the morning, putting me under their personal microscope. That’s quite a lot of dedication don’t you think?
I mean - I’m a mom. I live in a small town. I drive a mini-van. I shuttle my kids to sports, count calories, and design web sites. Oh yeah, and I also fight a casino in my spare time - a casino it's proponents perpetually insist is a 'done-deal' - so why they should feel so threatened by me, I can’t understand.
My new friend’s IP address is 188.8.131.52 which I was able to trace to a digital telephone company called Coretel America out of Annapolis Maryland. It’s coverage area is listed as being limited to Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York City. They have no offices in Massachusetts or even New England as far as I can tell.
So, who is this shadowy figure who finds my mundane life so riveting? And what could someone in Annapolis possibly want with me?
Perhaps it’s the mysterious “Voice of Reason” who assures me that people are looking at everything I write, and taking it quite seriously.
Perhaps the snooping is being done by those very same ‘proper authorities’ of which the Voice once wrote.
And is it possible that my stalker is among that ‘prominent family with significant political ties, on a national level’ of a certain selectman?
Or maybe Denniscula is still sore about that one blog.
Who knows? It could just be the night security guard at Coretel who, possibly bored with the job and lacking his or her own casino fight, has signed on to mine.
As for me, I just can't get over all this attention - and now - mysterious hang-up calls from the vicinity of Mashpee.
It’s just way too much intrigue for this old gal. So I thought I’d share it with you.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Yesterday my family and I joined other families in front of the Massachusetts State House to protest a casino. The League of Women Voters met us there and added their own voices. After protesting all morning, we walked to the Governor's office and formally presented him with a letter of our concerns. The Governor wasn’t there, so we handed our letter to his aide. The event made it to every print, web and radio news outlet.
And while we were marching and holding up signs at the State House, a regional task force of 17 towns around Middleboro was meeting just down the street with Governor Patrick’s advisor, Dan O’Connell.
After what was an exhausting day for myself and many people who were trying to reach out to him, Governor Patrick got back from his vacation later that evening and casually mentioned, to someone who would later leak it WBZ, that he would come out in favor of casino gambling in our state.
It was devastating.
I suppose I could understand why Governor Patrick didn’t feel inclined to meet with my sweaty little group – we were just a loose collection of citizens. But that the representatives of 17 South Shore towns banded together, made the trek to the Hub, and still couldn’t get the Governor’s attention, well… I found that disturbing.
I’ve been told, more than once along this journey, that votes count. That the only thing politicians care about is getting re-elected. I’ve personally observed public opinion sway the vote of a Board of Selectmen in three separate town forums.
So… what does it take? Certainly those 17 towns translate into a lot of votes. Did anyone even read their Statement of Concerns? Or did it just get tossed in the trash - not unlike the concerns of Middleboro residents.
The one thing missing from the debate on casino gambling in the Bay State seems to be public dialog. It seems like everyone wants to move in and try to make a quick buck - but this is our home, where we work and raise our children, where we chase our dreams and live out our lives. We deserve a say. And we deserve to be heard.
Governor Deval Patrick ran on a campaign slogan of “Together we can” but as far as I can tell, on the South Shore, even when we do come together, we can’t catch a break.
Governor Patrick has been asked, several times, to visit the town of Middleboro. He’s been invited to meet with CasinoFacts.org – PAC, and also to meet with the 17 town Regional Task Force in Boston. But he's consistently been a no-show. Frankly, if it weren’t for the occasional photo-op on the evening news, I wouldn’t know who our governor was.
So, what exactly is it we can do together - Ignore people?
And is Governor Patrick my governor? I mean, I am appreciative for the good work he’s done, and is attempting to do, for the Commonwealth but, to me, it feels increasingly like my cherished part of the world is, as far as Mr. Patrick is concerned, the forgotten universe. And if he doesn’t understand us, how can make an informed decision regarding a casino here - in our home.
I know a lot of people voted for Mr. Patrick because he inspired them, and renewed their hope for a better Massachusetts. Now, less than a year later it seems he's become the sterotypical politician, ready to rob Peter to pay Paul for his campaign promises. And turning a deaf ear when it suits him. Because a true politician listens to advisors, but a real leader listens to people.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
My friend was literally afraid for her personal safety. And she wasn’t even in Middleboro.
How can we conscience, how can we tolerate, that on our own South Shore, a person with the courage to speak up for her beliefs, and with the desire to protect the quality of life for herself and her family is, because of certain elements, afraid to step out of her mini-van in her own town - not to mention mine?
Despite what you may have heard in the press, on pro-casino web sites, or a from a certain Middleboro selectman, my friend’s reaction is a direct product of the fear and intimidation tactics demonstrated since the beginning by Middleboro Board of Selectmen and the pro-casino lobby. Instead of debating you on the issues, they’ll invent personal attacks to divert your attention, and that of the public and the press.
Recently our web site began an on-line forum to allow us to communicate with each other and answer questions that people new to the issue might have. In the past, I’d had an extremely positive experience with on-line forums after suffering a personal loss. The camaraderie, humor and open sharing of information and experiences became a powerful influence during a difficult chapter in my life. Though it was almost a decade ago that I joined my first on-line forum, I’m still in contact with a valued friend that I made long ago in that same forum. And so, I was truly looking forward to having this new forum available for our group, with whom I’d been working so hard all summer.
Except that, as usual, this forum was immediately hijacked by pro-casino forces. They flamed, taunted, incited and baited us. They added little new, and continually insisted, with bizarre perseverance, that we had only one reason for not wanting a casino – that we simply didn’t want it. When in fact, there are myriad reasons we don’t want a casino which are presented on the web site casinofacts.org.
Making it worse, those of us who have posted on the forum have had some of our words taken out of context, then cut and pasted into any shape or form the other side feels would be the most damaging. Subjects intended as humor, and taken as such by others, were twisted by a few into creepy new fictions to suit their current defamation campaign. A place where we should have felt safe and able to speak freely was used against us. We also allowed pro-casino members to post on this forum, even when they were disrespectful, in order not to appear unbalanced – and since we knew they would pounce on any opportunity to do so.
The pro-casino side is perfectly capable of creating their own forum, and we invited them to do so, but it best suited their purposes to commandeer ours. From the beginning, they’ve tried to paint the anti-casino movement as something we’re not, and used fear and intimidation as tools to prevent us from speaking out.
At a recent selectman's meeting Selectman Bond called for a censure of CasinoFacts and apparently took issue, with something I once wrote about 'getting the surrounding communities p-------'. I don’t really remember it, but since I rarely use profanity in public communication, it seems like that particular quote may have been extracted from what I believe to be part of a private correspondence to another member in separate, invitation-only forum.
But since we’re on the subject of the surrounding communities, they should be p-------. They should be extremely p-------. I'm from the surrounding communities and I've been p------- since April. And we should all be especially p------- that Mr. Bond and his fellow board members took three months to cavalierly enter into an agreement that wouldn’t only effect the future of his own town, but that of the entire South Shore of Massachusetts. This isn’t like building an office park or a shopping mall - this project would carry with it extreme economic, environmental and social consequences. Any of our towns would have been required to study such a project in tortuous detail, provide thousands of pages of carefully laid out plans and approvals, and jump through several million hoops. But it’s not as if Mr. Bond needs me to get the surrounding towns p-------, he does a fine job of that on his own.
More? No, I won’t devote a full blog or web site to them. I’ll only offer you three of my personal favorites and let you judge. I know the identities of the persons who posted these quotes on the now-extinct forum but, since it’s not my intention to bully, but to bring some perspective, I’ll leave them off. And just so you don’t think I’m picking on an errant one-or-two-time poster, these quotes are from full members who posted numerous times virtually every day while the forum was up. In fact, the number of their posts exceeded ours!
From a Middleboro resident:
“The Orange Shirts aren't saying we are supporting this because
of the tribe, though that certainly is another reason to feel favorably toward it. But it's hardly a reason.. no, we're in this for the money. Pure selfish self-interest - how nice that it helps them too, but that isn't more than a parenthetical aside.”
From a Raynham resident in one of the very few local industries which may actually benefit from a Middleboro casino:
“I was never here to make sense, I want a Resort 1500 room
Hotel, it will help me. Before you say it YES! its all about the Money.”
“Supposed to look something like this,
You can still see the Night stars twinkling in the windows,No
lie you will probably be able to see them in Carver!”
I could go on, but you get the idea. I guess it's probably a good idea for them that they never had their own forum.
Do I, personally, have strong opinions about some members of the pro-casino side? You betcha. And let’s not leave out the Middleboro Board of Selectmen. Do I voice my opinions? This is still America, right?
The more I kept going to Middleboro, the more I realized how much fear and intimidation were becoming an important part of the effort to ram a casino into being. I once wrote a blog, called the Laugh Factory, in response to this.
There are many good people on the pro-casino side. In fact, one of them is my life long friend. We all know that not everyone on a team is a goon. Just the ones that make the rest of them look bad.
But sadly, instead of focusing on the issues, the major pro-casino web site and Mr. Bond now accuse our group of child endangerment. Because of his position as a selectman, the hard work of my group, CasinoFacts, is thrust aside by the press to address his concerns.
In fact, the majority of our members are parents. I am a parent. For many of us, this whole issue has been about our children and the future and quality of life of the children of our towns and state. I am personally disturbed that Mr. Bond would pervert words out of context regarding children to further his own agenda or imply his own perceived injury.
The pro-casino web site has printed pictures of our children, the children of the anti-casino movement, without permission, for their own purposes. No one in the anti-casino movement, including myself and the webmaster of CasinoFacts.org has, for even a moment, ever considered, ever, posting a picture of a child on either side of the debate on any of it’s web outlets as part of this issue.
And in case Mr. Bond feels he and his family are the sole casualties of the casino debate, I recieved the following little love note in my inbox one morning.
In response to your outrageous and inappropriately threatening posting to Adam Bond, I would like to assure you Madam/Sir that you will not be anonymous for long - so I'd be mighty careful as to what you say. Clearly, you and others have not done adequate research on Mr. & Mrs. Bond. Mrs. Bond, who you are so fond of criticizing, comes from a prominent family with significant political ties, on a national level. The proper authorities ARE taking your threats of violence against this man and his family quite seriously. Whether or not Mr. Bond will seekOddly enough, this vitriol was spewed at me after I attempted to defend Mrs. Bond. Not because I care for her behavior or sentiments towards anti-casino folks, or for using her position to gain a platform, but because, like me, she is a mom to small children, living in a small town, and expressing her opinion - and not a public figure, member of a committee, or elected official.
financial retribution from you is up to him. I will say, however, that the well-established Massachusetts family behind the "Bonds" would be glad to see each and every one of you loose your homes in a series of well justified libel suits. If I were you I'd think long and hard before posting anymore libellous, threatening or defamatory statements about Adam Bond and his family. Statements such as these are not covered by "free speech" and the law is not on your side.
The Voice of Reason
I'm not the only one to receive these threatening messages from the pro-casino side. It's becoming common practice.
I currently moderate the comments on this blog. I publish the great majority of them, including the negative ones, if I feel they express a valid concern. But there have been a few I haven’t published due to their agressive nature. There is one of these however, I personally treasure. The author, anonymous of course, simply left for me the following words to unwrap like a special and unexpected gift one morning: “rude bitch”.
So, if you want to talk about name-calling, venture no further. I would like to point out that, on our forum, while it existed, nothing remotely ever came close to approaching the exquisite profanity and wrath of those two profound words: ‘rude bitch’. I’m thinking of having it printed on a t-shirt.
There is a very large, very wealthy law firm which is represented by an attorney named Dennis Whittlesey, whom I parodied in my blog Transylvania 947, which has, since it’s publication, been checking my blog at least three times a day.
As if I hadn't been downing enough Maalox since April.
Am I intimidated? Sure. Am I getting afraid of going to Middleboro? I’m sad to say this because I really love that town, but – yes. I’m frequently reminded of another anti-casino mom, who came out of a Middleboro supermarket recently with her kids, where they discovered a man spitting on their car.
Make no mistake, my guys aren't the goons on the ice in this hockey game.
I don’t go to visit pro-casino sites. Why bother? I tried once or twice, but it was mostly personal attacks. I’ll usually hear about those things from others. I don’t respond to them. It takes too much time away from my efforts against this proposed casino and the misinformation surrounding it.
But now the attacks in the press are disturbing. Not just to me but to my associates in this campaign, who are good, informed and responsible people
We're a grassroots organization, not a professional lobbying group. We’re learning as we go along, and learning that it doesn’t always pay to be nice. Though as far as I’m concerned if lawyers and politicians are going to cry like babies and go on the attack when people say unpleasant things about them, then they’re definitely in the wrong profession.
Aside from that gem of a comment ‘rude bitch’, I’ll never forget something someone once commented to in response to one of my blogs:
Gladys, a number of Middleboro residents have stepped forward to ask me to express their appreciation to you for keeping 'certain others' off the streets of Middleboro, some lurking in corners waiting to snap pretend photos (with an empty camera), others .... well just 'lurking.' You have 'lurk-proofed' the street of Middleboro, for which they are forever grateful! Please keep up the good work of cleaning up our streets! And otherwise occupying the riff-raff!So I guess I’ll keep blogging. I’ll keep fighting. I’m just a mom, just a person who loves her town and values her part of the world, and is trying her best to defend it. And like the saying goes, if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry.
And sometimes, I wonder if a hundred or more years from now, a student of history will ever find themselves leafing through the official minutes of the town of Middleboro, only to discover to their utter bewilderment that a certain early 21st century selectman by the name of Pat “Tank Man’ Rogers once mentioned enjoying a ‘wonderful’ video with dog heads.
But hey, that’s why I’m here.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Four years ago the residents of the tiny town of Plymouth, California, a place which brings to mind The Little House on the Prairie, were going about their business, enjoying their rural way of life, and the occasional rodeo, when they found themselves suddenly set upon by casino interests.
They were told it would be best just to cooperate with the Tribe. That it was a ‘done-deal’. That they were powerless.
Local officials quickly capitulated.
In Plymouth the townspeople organized a grassroots opposition and fought back. The county eventually became involved, sued the city of Plymouth - and won. The Tribe took their appeal to the California District Court, where they were unsuccessful.
And, in case you are feeling overwhelmed in your own casino battle, consider this: The population of the town of Plymouth is 1,000. The entire county encompasses an additional 35,000.
The sixteen cities and towns around Middleboro, represented by the recently-formed Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts, are a quarter of a million strong.
It’s only a done deal when you let it be.
Join CasinoFacts. http://www.casinofacts.org/
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The physically impressive Mr. Studley is a member of FinComm - Middleboro’s Financial committee, and the only group to come out against a casino in Middleboro (well…You know, aside from CasinoFacts, Citizens for Limited Taxation, League of Women Voters, the Mass Council on Compulsive Gambling, the Middleboro-Lakeville Clergy Association, Southeastern Regional Planning & Economical Development District, Mass Council of Churches, Taunton River Watershed Association, Massachusetts Family Institute, and four abutting towns… also otherwise known as the vocal minority.)
FinComm meetings, in the event that you were unaware, are desperately dry, agonizingly tedious, eye-straining, time altering, flat-lining, albeit completely necessary affairs for the proper running of a town. Attending one of them as a spectator has been described as ‘taking one for the team’.
And so, I feel it can be safely said that Mr. Studley does not get up early on Saturday mornings and go to the town hall to sit around a table with the other volunteer bean counters to analyze spreadsheets for a heel-kicking good time. I’m sure he has many better things he could be doing, including causing the ladies of my generation to momentarily misplace their inhibitions.
Apparently at issue with his detractors is the fact that Mr. Studley prolonged the Town Meeting with his insistence on continued debate, and therefore, due to the heat, placed the public’s health and well-being at risk.
Funny… where was the outcry for the public’s health and well-being from the pro-casino lobby when this meeting was being planned? We all know what it’s like in July. It’s hot. So why the rush? That certainly wasn’t Mr. Studley’s doing. That motivation came from the Board of Selectmen, spearheaded by Adam Bond under pressure from Tribal chairman Glenn Marshall. If you want faces for your wanted posters, there’s no need to look further than that roundtable.
And speaking of that meeting, much praise has been passed around in it’s aftermath, but it seems to me as if the main source of this pride arises from the fact that no one actually died as a result of it. Phew! Of course, not many of those who were in danger of dying - those who would have happily gone to their voting places in April of ’08 to cast their vote without the shadow of the grim reaper in their rearview mirror - showed up. Nor did many single parents. Nor parents of young children who couldn’t find childcare - persons with an understandably vested interest in the future of Middleboro.
And so, what if more than 3,000 people had shown up? What if half or more of the 14,000 registered voters had made the trek that day? What if the temperatures had been higher. What if thunder and lighting were tossed into the mix. No one had a crystal ball during the planning stages, to know what that day would bring.
So, why vilify Steve Studley? Perhaps because those pointing fingers at him can’t bear to actually place the blame on the ones who deserve it - the ones in charge - because then they might have to recognize that health and lives were, in fact, risked for the sole purpose of ramming into being a poorly drafted agreement before it could be thoroughly scrutinized by the public and opposition given time to mount.
Folks, Steve Studley is not trying to take away your good time or steal your pot of gold. I’m not even convinced he’s anti-casino. I mean, I’ve never seen him at any of the meetings (though I feel I can speak for many ladies in our group by saying that I’d really, really like to.) He’s just trying to get the town to live within it’s means, which he has a better-than-most understanding of, so voters wouldn’t have to assume their only choice was a singular one.
And so, for keeping an eye on the bankbook, for the courage to oppose an agreement despite intense pressure from all sides, for showing us that you can care about money and still care about your town, for keeping voters out in the sun to dry them out from all the spiked Kool-Aid they’ve been given, and for single handedly fending off the largest assembled squadron of dive bombing flying monkeys on the planet, Gladys retroactively proclaims Steve Studley, her Person of Month, for July.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I feel I should explain.
For those new to the casino debate, the vampire in the photo is an attorney by the name of Dennis Whittlsey.
It’s nothing personal. I mean, he’s probably a heck of a guy when he’s not helping to put a casino in your backyard. And as far as professional, he’s been named as one of the "Best Lawyers in America" for his work in Indian law and Indian gaming law, so if you ever need one of those... there you go.
Mr. Whittlsey, an Oklahoma native, was invited to join the cast of the Casino Follies by Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond, when the ability to handle a project of this size by their current attorney, Jon Whitten was called into question.
My introduction to Dennis occurred at a well attended Selectmen’s Meeting at the high school auditorium. And though I was beginning to have serious doubts about Adam at this point, I was looking forward to hearing from the gentleman he’d flown up from DC to ‘help us negotiate the best deal’.
Dennis took center stage amongst much genuflection on the part of the Board of Selectmen - and pretty much everyone else. We were in awe... of his credentials, of his potential. He introduced himself and told us a bit about who he was and what he did. Despite a lifetime of lawyer jokes, he appeared genuine and likeable and, initially, I hung on his every word like a schoolgirl with a crush on the new boy in town. But the infatuation melted quickly as he spoke more and more about himself, the subject of law, and pretty much everything ever said, written or contemplated in the name of Indian casino gambling establishments - all of it in tedious, monotonous, almost inaudible detail until it was clear – no one was really listening anymore.
It was his voice. That soft, subtlety raspy Southern voice one needed to exert physical effort to listen to. With all my might, despite the late hour, and a perfectly operational microphone, I blinked my eyes, and commanded my mind to stand at attention as his sentences drifted off the stage into infinitesimal gasps of air, their intent and meaning lost forever.
It was endless. What could probably have been answered in under two minutes, lingered for five… ten… sucking the momentum and energy from the room. Those in the audience who didn’t simply get up and leave, were privately begging for him to sit down. To let them live again.
At one point, as Dennis stood up to take yet another question that hadn’t been directed to him, I heard someone up in the nosebleed seats behind me holler, “Oh dear God, no!”
My sentiments exactly.
But he just kept talking. Townspeople lined up twenty-deep at each of three microphones started feeling the ache in their backs and calves and feet, and wondered if he didn't see them standing there with their questions, or if those questions would even be heard that night. In the end, due to the late hour, they were not.
Not long after my first experience with Mr. Whittlesey, I attended the second episode of the Casino Impact Study Group for which they produced a certain Professor Clyde Barrow, (see my previous blog - Mr. August) to give us a little presentation.
Before he started the slide show, Mr. Barrow let us know that, while there are many issues in the debate over casinos, tonight he was just going to talk about the money.
I wondered then, and not for the last time, why the town of Middleboro only brought the Tribe, lawyers and professors who were only going to talk about money to speak to us. Even Mr. Barrow himself conceded that there where many issues to concern ourselves with. Why weren’t we concerning ourselves with them. I was certainly concerned with them, for what it was worth - which apparently was very little.
Suddenly… to my horror, it was during Mr. Barrow's presentation that Mr. Whittlesey entered the auditorium accompanied by Jack Healy and took a seat down front. Maybe, he’s just here to listen, I hoped. I prayed.
No such luck. Mr. Whittlesey was invited up on stage again and again, with continued genuflection, to answer questions - which he once again handled deftly with his trademark narcoleptic responses. That’s when I knew that I’d be missing Wife Swap again this week. Like so many others, this night would prove to be a long one. One point in the evening, however, offered a brief bit of fireworks as Mr. Whittlesey unexpectedly and angrily began to cross-examine an anxious and bewildered Professor Barrow while the chairman of the Impact Study Group repeatedly asked him to stop. What was all that about?
What was all anything of it about?
Mr. Whittlesey comes up North, charged with getting a juicy contract, beats up a professor who says a casino’s a big fat healthy cash cow waiting to be milked, and eventually comes up with an agreement which includes a percentage of the slot revenues. Then, the moment that contract is trashed, he backs off like dog with face full of porcupine and comes back with what? His tail between his legs and the original contract, minus any ‘hostile tone’, which forces the town to side with the Tribe in any future conflicts, and what else? Four more million – which will supposedly come from a share of the room rates. But… he neglects to factor in the high percentage of rooms at these casinos that get ‘comped’. Meaning, given away for free. So really, it turns out it’s more like 2 million at best.
What kind of crocodile-skinned mouthpiece was this guy, anyway? Wasn’t Middleboro paying him a jillion dollars an hour for his advice? I suspect there is much, much more to this story.
The last time I saw Dennis was while Adam gave his own slideshow presentation of the second agreement. I looked at him there on the stage, blending in with the giant white movie screen behind his head, and was a bit surprised at how pale he'd become. His hair, his face, the collar of his shirt – all the same shade of bloodless white. Only his eyes, eyebrows and the dark cavern of his mouth offered any respite from snow blindness. What was he thinking, I wondered. Was he happy about the agreement? Did he think the town got the best deal it could? Was he thinking of home? And could it be possible that Adam had rushed this whole project for the simple reason that he, like so many others, never wanted to listen to Dennis’s voice again?
Dennis was once quoted as saying, "All of the elements are in place here for a highly successful project. The impact on this community will be extraordinary - perhaps greater than that of any other such project in the country, because of its size." So, if this project is supposed to be the most hideously gargantuan edifice to greed in America, why did Middleboro end up less than West Warwick did with the Narragansett Indian Tribe? And why did they get a share of the gross revenues when Middleboro just got a crappy room tax addendum?
Early on, Mr. Whittlesey urged the town selectmen to ‘proceed carefully as they review federal requirements’, yet this tragedy all went down in three months. Why? Was anyone listening to him?
So... how come Dennis gets to leave after a few weeks, never to return, and I get to keep the world's biggest casino a few minutes from my front door, along with endless social, economic, traffic, and environmental problems, not to mention unanswered questions?
The movie wasn’t over, but I could already guess the ending. The one in which my town, and all the other towns around Middleboro, get sucked dry and left like corpses by the agreement playing out up there on the high school stage.
After an hour or so, Mr. Whittlesey came down and took a seat in the audience in front of me. I struggled in my purse, to no avail, to find a mirror I could hold near Dennis to see if he cast a reflection. To me, his role has been one of the biggest mysteries in this whole horror show. Why did he go for Barrow’s jugular that evening? Why did it appear that Glenn Marshall was the Dr. Van Helsing who silenced Dennis with a stake to the heart? And how much of a role did Adam play?
The quality of life of 250,000 of my neighbors took a nose dive the day Middleboro's selectmen signed their 'historic' agreement. And I need answers!
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Clyde Barrow, author of the report, points out that, after much consideration by the Center’s New England Gaming Research Project, Massachusetts could rake in it's highest share of gambling booty by placing these three casinos in strategic locations.
Instead of Palmer, a Western Mass casino would be more successfully placed near the intersection of I-291 and the Massachusetts Turnpike to lure gamblers from Upstate New York, Western Connecticut, and Vermont.
A Suffolk Downs casino near Boston would capture and refresh the Maine and New Hampshire market, already weary from trucking down to Connecticut.
And… you heard it here first, a casino in New Bedford would offer more benefits and make more money than one in Middleboro.
Not to mention that the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District, or SRPEED has it’s own concerns about what a casino would do to our region. Many don't realize that Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun were necessarily located on reservations, but the State of Massachusetts finds itself in the enviable position of taking a more considered approach. Which we should.
Gladys, as you know, would prefer Massachusetts remain casino-free, but I also know that when someone whispers of gold, a gold rush will probably follow. In fact, it was while listening to Mr. Barrow give a presentation on the true depth of casino pockets, that I began to realize what an incredibly small amount of money $7 M would be for the Tribe to offer the town for it's troubles. How little even $25 M would be.
Mr. Barrow and I seem to approach the issues of a casino or casinos in Massachusetts from opposite sides of the divide; he from how much there is to gain, and I, from how much there is to lose.
Therefore, for taking the time to research this issue (much more time, in fact, than anyone on the Middleboro Board of Selectmen), and still managing to meet me in the middle, (and not in Middleboro) I hereby name Clyde Barrow, my official Person of the Month.
Monday, August 6, 2007
I read, with some interest, your editorial in this week’s Gazette. The one in which you seem to be attempting to justify the school committee’s decision to come out in support of a local casino.
The same one in which you state “there is a faction of anti-casino people who have concluded that if one supports the casino, then they will have taught that gambling is acceptable and/or that gambling is a valid means to success.”
The very one in which you insist that if “one supports the sale of alcohol, it does not follow that one would necessarily support drunkenness.”
Mike, if you’re actually trying to make an analogy between patronizing a liquor store and Middleboro’s affirmation of an agreement to become dependent on the future revenue of a Multi-Million dollar addict factory a mile from the Peirce Playground, you need to go back and repeat the third grade.
You continue, in your editorial, to point to the recent casino battle as offering a series of valuable learning experiences for our children, such as, “they have learned that towns have budgets and that some towns do not have enough money to provide all the services people want or need” and that “People post signs ‘for’ an ‘against’” and that “sometimes people do not respect those with differing opinions.” You make a long list, nothing on which I would disagree with.
Except that it’s incomplete. Somehow Mike, you’ve neglected to mention the other lessons the decision to host a casino in Middleboro has taught our young people.
They’ve learned that you should fight appropriate revenue streams, while giving the green light to inappropriate ones.
(…Southpointe and Xerox vs. Slot Machines)
They’ve learned that rushing into a serious agreement without an appropriate amount of forethought, research or discussion is OK.
(Let’s hope all our kids give more time to choosing their future spouses than the town did to signing on with it’s newest business partner.)
That fear and intimidation can really work when you need it.
(Clearly, threats from Glenn Marshall, clandestine sign stealers, verbal harassment at town meeting, and propaganda in the form of free orange t-shirts suggest that intellect has officially taken a backseat to bullying in the old ‘boro.)
That financial dependency is preferable to fiscal responsibility.
(May your daughters all find rich husbands!)
But perhaps these lessons don’t go far enough. You yourself suggest that we mustn't isolate our children from potential dangers. So why not take it a step further and drive the kids down to Foxwoods and leave them locked in the car for a few hours while you feed the slots. Buy them a pack of cigarettes and get them started early on the lessons of addiction. And why not tell them they’re on their own for college since you blew the college fund down at Mohegan this weekend - and watch the expression on their faces. Take them on a field trip over to the Nemasket Cemetery, where I can direct you to the grave markers of a few recent gambling-related suicides which occurred even without a casino down the street. Heaven forbid we should isolate our kids from those potential dangers.
But let’s not forget the most important lesson our children will take away from this sad chapter in Middleboro’s long history, that most noble of messages your committee took no small part in sending with your endorsement of the agreement - that everything and everyone has a price.
Good job, Mike.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Continuing in that spirit, I'd like to start a conversation about Phase II.
Tell me what you think are the next steps by commenting or sending an e-mail to:
Some nice ladies from the League of Women Voters had flyers they wanted to hand out, but were told by the police to stand in The Zone. This was unfortunate since the voters were all told to stick to the sidewalk on the other side of the entrance. I didn't think, at the time, that this was a calculated maneuver on the part of the police, I just thought it was one of those things that doesn’t get very well thought out. I tried to get the ladies to stand up on the sidewalk anyway - maybe close to the same spot as whoever was handing out t-shirts, but no, they insisted that they would not do anything untoward.
I would later discover that inside the meeting, my sister had tried to hand out some literature, and was escorted to the gym, past throngs of residents in orange t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Vote Yes for Middleboro's Future" and told she would be arrested if she did it again.
Just one more thing that went unreported by the media. Do you have a story to share about the meeting?