Live blog text is in yellow. Personal snarky observations in neon.
This evening, the 18 Town Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts has added Middleboro selectman Pat Tankman Rogers, at his request, to their agenda, and offered him, literally, a seat at their table in order that he might plead his case for a figurative one.
And looking around that table, at those men and women brought together by this issue, I say a silent word of thanks.
I’ve never made it a secret that Tankman is my favorite Middleboro selectman. I like him. I think he’s a good guy. That being said, the bar isn’t exactly high.
The thing is, the only responsible thing Tank ever really did regarding the casino project, was to ask Adam Bond and the rest of the board to delay the date of the Town Meeting by ONE WEEK, Hence earing the name Tankman. He never said, “Hey, this is going WAY to fast. I protest! I do support the project but I can’t in all good conscience sit here and allow this town to sell it’s own sovereignty in return for a project that hasn’t been fully vetted, investigated and researched. I realize the Tribe wants us to move quickly, but something of this magnitude deserves a more prudent approach. I represent the the citizens of Middleboro, not the Tribe. " Or something like that.
And Tank never stopped to offer anti-casino forces a real voice. I never saw him ask Marsha to give the gavel a rest. And, while he and everyone else on that board was aware that a certain blogger from Bridgewater was watching and talking notes, Tankman NEVER sought to include the surrounding communities.
We really needed more cowbell, Tankman.
Three other selectmen also openly supported the project and another became an evangelist for it. But the most Tank ever did, aside from voting to delay the vote for a week, was to, after the fact, recognize that the surrounding communities were growing in strength, and make an attempt to dilute their effect on the casino project.
Live-blog: Tankman wants everyone to know that Middleboro is there to help. He says his board voted unanimously to allow them access to their info-packed CRAC meetings. Lakeville points out that those meetings are public. Then asks if Tank is sure the vote was unanimous.
(Let's not forget - Lakeville can watch Middleboro selectmans's meetings on cable.)
Acushnet, not present, e-mailed in a question for Tankman: What about giving the Task Force a voting seat on your CRAC board? Tank is taken aback, giving Plympton a moment to ask the rhetorical question - why would I want to go to Middleboro and listen to all your problems!? Tank counters that in Middleboro "we talk about regional issues..."
I suppress a laugh.
Whitman thanks Tank for the olive branch, and acknowledges that while his town is not an abutter, he is very concerned about additional traffic.
(If you've ever sat in traffic on rte. 18, you will understand.)
He states that the State will be responsible for those roads, not Middleboro, so the State is where we should be spending our time.
Raynham advocates for offering Tankman a seat - but ends with a dig about how Middleboro's cooperation should have been offered months ago. Tank schmoozes to save his life. He talks about the spirit of cooperation in the room tonight.
And then... (are you sitting down?)
I'm not sure how to feel about this. When I came here tonight I and saw Bridgewater's chair filled for the first time, my first instinct (after the initial shock) was to feel relieved. But then, did I have reason to be? Bridgewater had sent Christopher Flynn. Mr. Flynn is the grandson of David Flynn (D - Slots). Speaking of whom, Raynham's delegate Mark Pacheco's has recently become his aide. Could I expect familial bonds to trump local loyalties? I've seen Mr. Flynn in action at town meetings and once we even had a chat at a local restaurant, and he seems like a nice guy. He's a very good speaker and I think he does a lot for Bridgewater. He's even e-mailed me a couple of times after I'd sent the Board casino updates. But I'm doubtful that he has a real grasp on the casino issue. I mean - where has Bridgewater been all this time?
And so, I gird my loins in anticipation.
Bridgewater wants to know how that $250,000 check Middleboro got from the Wampanoag Tribe is going to be spent.
(Oh great... he's looking for money... but I like his tone)
Tankman is unsure. But he has a timeline!
(Tankman isn't a real selectman, he just plays one on TV)
Raynham makes a motion to allow Middleboro on the Task Force. Meanwhile Bridgewater keeps grilling Tankman about the quarter mil. He wants to know if Bridgewater can have some. And if not, why waste his time.
(That's right, Tankman - we need the money! Give us the money so we can open the library!)
Then Tankman says, sure! (huh?) In fact, it can go to the whole region. Suddenly he's the candyman.
No one's buying it, so he changes the subject by bringing up his DEP connection. Speaking of which... Lakeville is a little concerned about that. Is there a potential conflict there? No, of course not. In fact he'll be going there tomorrow to speak.
Halifax has had enough. The Task Force and Middleboro and CRAC are separate entities. Our towns don't have the same concerns. He brings up the governors plan and observes that after unions and other towns and everyone and his uncle skims their share of the casino revenue off, we as citizens will end up with about 4 cents each. He says the Task Force has jelled, and if Tankman's there, they'd lose that dynamic. Middleboro assumes the project is going forward. In other words - we'd be working for Middleboro, not with Middleboro.
After which West Bridgewater respectfully interjects to tell Tankman that his casino project is "NOT A DONE DEAL!"
He also wants Tankman to know if someone on the Middleboro Board of Selectman thinks that the Task Force is fizzling. Fizzling?
(I wonder where he heard that?)
While I am busy laughing, I miss which town it is that brings up the point that - they all like Tank and everything, he's a stand-up guy and all that, but what if he gets voted out of office - then who would be sitting in Middleboro's chair?
(Holy atom bomb, Batman! We all know what that could mean!)
Tankman responds that anyone could get voted out of office, and then he wheels out the same old, it's-natural-to-get-carried-away-with-our-emotions schtick - but West Bridgewater is somewhat horrified by the implication that Tank doesn't think the Task Force is taking it's charge seriously.
(In fact, Tankman, having witnessed this task force and your board, I can say with all honesty that they take it a whole lot more seriously than your guys took the agreement.)
He's also curious as to what happens if the Tribe goes the commercial route. Would you support that? And aren't you concerned that if they go the Federal route, that things will be out of your control? Tankman says it's already out of their control. But, perplexed at this attitude, West Bridgewater continues, wouldn't you folks have more say in the project, say whether it's a 12 versus a 30 story building if it were under State control. Tankman responds that it doesn't matter - that it's a Tribal decision. From behind me I hear "but it's our town..."
(And the Task Force gets to see the effects of severe Kool-aid exposure up close.)
Bridgewater pipes up again (Wow! Twice in nine months!) He personally would have been more willing to support Middleboro if Middleboro hadn't been so willing to listen only to the Tribe. He admits that this is his first meeting, but he's can already see where it's going.
(I like where he's going!)
Rochester reiterates that it's not a done deal (Smooch!) and that Tankman's job is to support a casino. The Task Force as a whole is not opposed to casino gambling in the state - it hasn't taken a vote yet. And they haven't yet decided if Middleboro is an appropriate place for a casino. He says, we're just not there yet.
Raynham wants to hear what Tankman has to say. Give him a voting seat - we could always out-vote him.
But, asks Lakeville, what happens if it's a tie vote?? Middleboro could end up being the tie breaker.
(That's just wrong.)
Plympton says he's never been opposed to Middleboro joining the group - until tonight. He says, Middleboro's gonna do what's right for Middleboro, Plympton's gonna do what's right for Plympton. But while Middleboro is gonna (and has) taken care of just itself, in some ways, Plympton is gonna take care of Halifax, Kingston. (And besides, he adds with a laugh, if you're sitting here, then how can we talk about our neighbor Middleboro).
(Good point, Plympton!)
Kingston interjects to say that the Task Force has spent too much time as it is talking about Tankman, (ain't that the truth) and not talking about traffic and other impacts that they really need to deal with.
Tankman blathers. Lakeville says there's been enough talk. I'ts getting late. Let's get a move on. We have other business.
(Yeah, this thing is moving about as fast as a Northern Red Bellied Cooter.)
Kingston says that she would vote NOT to allow Middleboro on the Task Force, were it not for her fellow selectmen who don't feel the same way. They agree with Raynham that Middleboro may have information they might be able to use.
(In other words - don't beat me up when you hear my vote.)
That does it for Halifax.
(Whose town, incidently, will live under the shadow of a Middleboro casino whether it's 12 stories or 30 or 72)
Get a grip. We can get any information we need by going to town. Middleboro can get on our agenda, and we can get on theirs.
(We don't need no stinkin' CRAC!)
And then he reads WITH EMPHASIS section 22 part B of Middleboro's agreement with the Tribe.
"The Town will support the Project and agrees to actively work with and assist the Tribe and its contractors and agents to obtain any and all approvals, legislation, liquor licensing or other enactments required for the Project from governmental entities and officials of the United States, the Commonwealth and the Town."
(Did anyone else feel the earth move?)
And then Bridgewater, in stunning oratory, proclaims that Middleboro WAS NOT in support of reaching out to the region - because they partnered with the Federal government and not the State! He's on fire! People want to clap! He mentions the 27,000 people of BRIDGEWATER! !!!!!!!!
(Bridgewater's in da house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Raynham cries fowl.
Lakeville calls the question.
(You know, there was a time when I could barely wait for a new episode of Lost. Now all I want to do is come to Lakeville and hang with the Task Force.)
The vote goes around table.
(You can hear a pin drop...)
2 votes Yes. (Raynham and Kingston)
That vote meant a lot to me. It’s been a long road, from that first night I went to Middleboro, only to witness what was wrong with the world, to this night, when I came to Lakeville so that I could witness, what I hoped, was right about it.
And so, as January comes to a close, we can finally begin a thoughtful discussion of issues that should have been thoughtfully discussed over the summer.
I stop live-blogging for a moment so that I can sit back, smile and attempt to mentally project a big THANK YOU to the members of the Task Force. Back in May I was the lone out-of-towner in the room. In January, I share that room with the citizens of 18 other towns, including (finally) my own. And tonight, in this room, I heard something that I'd never heard an elected official utter, or even question, during nine long months in Middleboro - that a casino wasn't a done deal.
That's why this vote has been so important to me. I've worked hard to get the word out about what I saw go down in Middleboro. And all that time, I've been kept on the outside - standing in the Free Speech Zone, holding my sign and hoping someone notices. But tonight, it feels as if I'd won my own seat at the table.