Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Gladys Goes to the Statehouse
March 18, 2008 8:30 am
Part 1 - The Morning Show
As walked up the hill to the Statehouse, my stomach growled. A troubling reminder that I hadn’t eaten breakfast on what, by all accounts, was going to be a very long day.
There was no time to stop for anything either. We were told the unions would pack the Gardner Auditorium early, and a mass of red shirted humanity was already bulging at the front entrance. Meanwhile, a demonstration was forming on the common. A proliferation of large American flags were involved.
Casinos for America!
So Mark and I headed for the side entrance.
After sliding our possessions through the x-ray machine, and navigating the confusing path to Gardner, we approached the sign-in table.
“Are either of you testifying today?” Asked a young woman.
I gulped. “I am.”
Until a few minutes ago, I was only submitting written testimony as a representative of CasinoFacts.org, member of the Casino Free Mass coalition, which had organized panels of individuals and experts to testify in front of the Committee of Economic Development. Our ‘cities and towns’ panel was a bit sparse, and so, at the last minute I offered to speak as part of it.
For the record, I do not enjoy public speaking. I have spent my life avoiding it at every opportunity, and yet here I was, offering to testify, on camera, at the Massachusetts State House.
I must really believe in this cause.
As I filled out a form, Mark found us the last available seats in the room – in the middle of the back row of “bleachers” – wide, steep, blue carpet covered plywood platforms filled to overflowing with people in red shirts – and us.
As someone who was testifying, I was entitled sit up front in the comfy upholstered seats. But Mark couldn’t - and we could hardly break up the team at this point, could we?
Mark and I first met when I introduced myself after the infamous Glenn Marshall informational session at the Middleboro Nichols School back in May. I thanked him for getting up and speaking that evening – something I was sure I would never have the courage to do.
Mark is affable as always, but clearly annoyed since many of our CFO colleagues, in contact by cell phone, are still at the back of a seemingly endless line.
“We expected this,” I reminded him.
“Still…” he said, gazing around at the sheer lopsidedness of the crowd. He then struck up a conversation with a woman in a red shirt he would later mention on his blog.
“ So how does this work?” he asks, “Do they pay you to be here?”
“Oh yeah they pay us,” she replies.
With trademark likable forwardness, Mark inquired further:
“So what union do you belong to?”
“Oh, I don't belong to any union,” she says, “my sister-in-law does. Hey Clarice, what union are you in?”
Clarice, sitting in the row in front of me shrugs. “I don’t know, let me ask Martha. Hey Martha, what‘s our union.”
We never heard back from Martha, but I’m sure there was a union there somewhere.
I spot several of Middleboro’s pro-casino ‘luminaries’ in the balcony, glowing and giddy at the sight of this vast red sea of compatriots . Last week one of them e-mailed me a threat so severe I had to report it to the police.
Don’t make eye contact, I remind myself. Never make eye contact.
My wireless laptop can’t find a signal. I have lugged it here for nothing. I go a little inwardly berserk for lack of e-mail, blogs, and news on this big day.
After a couple hours, the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies file to their seats and call the hearing to order. And before us are our heros, Dan Bosely and Sue Tucker, and a whole bunch of others people I don’t recognize. Laura from Casino Free Mass had given us a ‘bird sheet’, with pictures of the committee members so we could recognize them. The pictures aren't all that great, so Mark and I pass the time with a guessing game: Match the Legislator.
Bosley assures us that everyone will be heard, no matter how late the hearing goes. If it goes to 10:00 pm – he’ll be there. Once, they were there until 8 the morning.
Oh Lord, please don’t let it go on until the next morning. Please, oh please, don't even make us go to 10:00 pm.
But it doesn’t seem likely. Most of the ‘reserved’ seats are still free. The lastest estimate for Casino Free Mass to go on is maybe 5 or 6 p.m. At the very latest.
Mr. Bosely continues – please keep it short and to the point out of respect for those who will be testifying after you. They will establish a pattern of pro followed by con and so forth. Tell us something new. We don’t want a hundred people coming up and telling us ‘this will create jobs, thank you very much, do you have any questions? ‘ We’re looking for more information than we have right now and are depending upon that.
I hope my testimony, now rolled up into a semi-crumpled three page tube, will measure up.
The Governor appears. I clap even though I’m not a fan. Still, even at the back of the room I manage to get a little star struck. God, how many times have I PhotoShopped that face? And now… here it is – live and in person!
Deval starts with the usual cop-out. “That Casinos will be neither a cure-all for all our economic and fiscal needs, nor the end of civilization as we know it.”
Of course, for many gambling addicts and their families, it’s the end of world. But one can hardly blame Deval for not letting that stand in the way of making points with the union folks.
The Governor talks for a good quarter of an hour. And the whole time, I feel bad. I feel bad for all those people who held a sign for this governor. For those people who really believed in him. Who sent checks, wrote letters, collected signatures and who endorsed and praised and defended him. For all those who saw a renewed reason to hope in this man. They thought they saw reform, transparency and a bright new era. Instead they got ‘gaming’.
As the panel asks the Governor questions, a statement by Rep. Mark Montigny reveals the depths to which the Governor has beaten the bushes for his votes. Apparently, Deval had called Monitgy’s 80 year-old mum one evening and kept her talking at some length in an attempt to convince her to guilt her son into siding with him. She didn't budge, but she thought Deval was quite charming.
I hope Ropes and Gray really know what a friend they have in Deval.
After Deval exits, his posse marches in and takes their place at the table. This panel includes the Governor’s Secretary of Casinos Dan O’Connell, and Dr. Judy Ann “The-wrist-bone-is-connected-to-the-slot-bone” Bigby, his Secretary of Slots and Human Services.
And they shilled their little hearts out for the Governor. From professional assertions that senior citizens could get some much needed socialization by sitting for hours in front of the one-armed bandits, to the bazillions of dollars marching off to Connecticut. I’ve heard it all before…
But wait! O’Connell saves the something new for last. Marketing studies show that Massachusetts is 'deficient in fun', and that the Canadian market – the Canadian’s dammit – don’t’ want to come here because we have no casinos!
MON DIEU! SAVE THE CANADIANS!
Jeez, who knew? Fifteen hundred miles of Massachusetts coastline and still, it’s not enough.
Quick – get those Cunuks a side order of casinos for their clambakes or we could lose all that revenue to… I don't know... New Brunswick?
Part 2 – Daytime Dramas
After several hours, and much testimony, Jacquie has finally made it through the line. We are in communication by cell phone and so she finds us easily. Up the mountain she comes, and everyone squeezes just a little tighter. It’s so good to see her.
Despite the sea of red shirts, the anti-casino presence is there, and it's not just me and the two other dazzling suburbanites up on the top platform. I can’t speak for the packed legislators against the wall, or everyone in the balconies or milling around the floor or in the reserved seats, but Rich and John are there, my many esteemed colleagues from Casino Free Mass are all there. And Mary from Middleboro and CFO is there. Since the beginning of this battle, there has never been a better feeling then when you spot another like-minded fellow activist face in the crowd.
But some of our friends have given up on getting in and instead have brilliantly taken our message to the streets. Frank and Mike and Carl from CFO hold signs outside, get interviewed, photographed and press the flesh. And, except for the cold, I envy them their proximity to fresh air, coffee and most importantly, food.
I’m not good without food. My blood sugar is sinking - though, on the upside, at the moment it seems somewhat strangely balanced by my rising blood pressure. I'm worried. It’s after noontime and even the important folks have yet to make their way to the table. I look at my three pages of testimony that took me a couple days to write and wonder if I’ll ever get to say it.
The head of the AFL-CIO, Bobby Haynes, who apparently is more important than anybody - the ill, the experts, or the elected - is up next. He's got places to go and rooms to pack.
But we already know where he stands on casinos. It’s all good. Any job is good. If it addicts someone, if it hurts someone, if it eventually kills someone – doesn’t that all just really pale in the presence of a good old-fashioned American low-wage job?
He brings down the house.
Next up is a guy named Bob Massie. I know he was going to go up early because he is suffering from severe health problems, and frankly I don’t know how he’s held up this long. I’m anxious to hear from him. It's impossible for my friend Tom from Casino Free Mass to speak of this Bob Massie without a quiet sort of reverence which one can’t help to find intriguing. But I have no idea who he is, except that he’s on our side, and it’s about time someone was.
And he comes out swinging. He likes and respects both the Governor and Bobby Haynes and agrees with them on just about everything – except this. Before he even takes a seat he is shouting that Bobby Hayes just sold them a bill of goods. “if his definition of a good job, is one that takes away from poor people and takes my children and gives them the chance to be black jack dealers for the rest of their lives then we are doing something wrong in Massachusetts.”
While I’m busy wondering if Mr. Massie’s seen my Slots for Tots – Part 1, a woman wearing the largest red shirt in the room stands and shouts, she actually heckles, Bob Massie, a priest, from her front row seat in the reserved section.
I’m thinking my laptop would make an adequate projectile.
But no need, because Bosley goes ballistic. The gavel comes down. Once silence has been achieved, he points out the irony of how the steady stream of pro-casino types received constant applause, yet into the first minute of anti-casino testimony - there’s heckling? No, not on his watch.
As Massie finishes his testimony our little group rises to its feet and cheers. I’d been starting to feel overwhelmed, what with the lack of food, the company, the endless pro-casino testimony, the Canadians… but Massie’s fist pounding, his passion and his utter conviction lift my spirits and remind me why I'm here. I can make it.
Later, I would discover that this Bob Massie is an amazing man. A scholar, businessman, activist, a leader, a pastor, a father, former nominee for Lt. Governor, and a hemophiliac who contracted HIV during blood transfusions, and is now waiting for a liver transplant. But for me, and the gang from CasinoFacts.org - he was an inspiration.
Part 3 – Local Programming
Massie if followed by Senator Pacheco and his infamous Butt-4 manifesto.
Pacheco is followed by the rest of the legislative food chain, including the inevitability boy band of Reps. Canessa, Calter and Quinn. I realize Canessa and Calter support the Governor’s plan, but Rep. Quinn goes a step further by using his support as a platform to reveal something of a South East Mass inferiority complex. He’s simpering and bitter and it’s all a little embarrassing. I need to look away.
Calter’s impassioned speech, though, manages to work up a lady in a red shirt sitting next to me. She claps enthusiastically as he finishes. Pity she’s not in his district. It’s not easy to find people who’ll get that worked up about inevitability.
Finally, after the Reps come the moaning mayors, who all see casinos as a quick fix for their dying local economies.
Part 4 – Game Shows
From then until about 5 or 6 p.m., we listened to a back and forth of experts. Despite Bosley’s recommendation to show them something new, the pro side essentially consists of the same argument:
The money’s all going to Connecticut. Cities and towns are dying and need an economic boost. We need the jobs. People are already gambling and we already have all the social problems. We already have a lottery, what’s the difference. Its’ a resort not a casino. It’s gaming, not gambling.
Our experts like Dr. Natasha Schull, demonstrate how slot machines are designed to be addictive, are unregulated and attempt to entice gamblers to ‘play to extinction’. Another expert compares gambling addiction to heroin addiction in severity. Another explains that the current problem gambling figures of roughly 4% of the population were established by a phone call survey. She explains further that most people with a gambling problem would not admit this in a phone call survey, and therefore that percentage is likely much higher. And here I was thinking it was bad enough at 4%.
One man, I forget who, states that 20 years ago, he too was concerned about gambling addictions – but hey - now everybody’s doing it!
The red shirt wrangler hands out lunch tickets to the hired help. They file in and out in an orderly fashion.
My stomach growls for the zillionth time reminding me I should have grabbed some Ritz Bits and Smart Food or at least a bottle of water from the cabinet before leaving. My head feels light. There is a buzzing sound from somewhere that won’t go away. I need food, water, to hear my name called and to get the hell out of here.
And then I spot him. Brian Giovannoni, Chairman of Middleboro’s CRAC (Casino Resort Advisory Committee) is making his way through the crowd to the balcony, no doubt to hook up with his dedicated fan base. But the lipstick red ski parka is gone. In its place is a dashing blue suit and tie, fresh haircut and an enormous laptop bag slung over his shoulder. Brian looks every bit as important as he thinks he is.
But, back at the front of the room, something diverts my attention. The official Indian gaming law expert shipped up from DC to tell us it’s all inevitable has arrived. Naturally, my own long standing commitment to disproving the myth of inevitability has me perched on the edge of the platform, straining to hear her every word.
The red shirts are a little startled. I'd been pretty quiet up to that point. But everyone listens.
The lawyer wants badly to say a Middleboro casino is inevitable. She’s dying to. But she can’t because it isn’t. And she’s clearly conflicted. They flew her up here, probably business class, set her up in a decent hotel room with a smokin’ view of city, treated her to a nice dinner, maybe even showed her some of the sites. But, she’s not pounding her fist on the table in absolute authority over this. She dodges questions and bristles at length over the term “bingo slots”.
Because she obviously thinks we're all a little stupid, she decides it would be a safe bet to scare us a little. The best defense is a good offense! She talks about the Seminoles building slot empires slowly (been there...) then transitions into the whole "they can build a class II facility whether you want them to or not" mantra (done that...)
Her testimony ends when she is asked, for about the fifth time, if it is inevitable that the tribe will build a casino in Middleboro.
She replies, “It’s inevitable in my mind... that it could.”
I suspect my laughter can be heard on the video.
Part 5 – Music Video
One thing I hear a lot throughout the day is that the Tribe will build a bingo hall on the property in Middleboro if they don’t get their casino. I know this is wrong, and I keep waiting for someone to so, but no one does.
Up in the balcony I notice that Brian is being interviewed by Alice from the Brockton Enterprise. She has taken him away from the din, up into a small alcove. He is beaming like a light bulb. I can remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Brian. It was a warm evening in May, the selectmen were meeting upstairs at the town hall and Brian, in a navy blue workman-type of uniform, with pants too short, and white socks peeking out, bounded with purpose and indignation. He was railing on about the union packing the high school at the last town meeting – something like that. He also appeared none too happy about how the casino business was going down. But mostly, Brian seemed like a promising young man, one who, it would appear, believed in doing the right thing.
Fast forward 10 months. Brain the magnificent. The mystery blogger, the unanswerer of every question. The knower of everything. Chaplain of the church of latter day slots.
Rays of light are pouring through a tiny window in the alcove. They create a glow, a sunny brilliant aura around Brian. He is engulfed in light. He is luminescent. He is … Brian Giovannoni, Superstar.
Music is playing. A choir of tinsel-clad angels suddenly appear on high. Women in white jumpsuits and platform shoes repel from the rafters. They sport enormous white wigs, and wave decks of cards in each hand as they sing, “Brian G… Brian G… who are you, what were you supposed to be?” multi-colored poker chips begin to rain from the sky as flashing lights and smoke and mirrors consume the balcony - while Brain, blissfully unaware and completely full of himself, pontificates to Alice and her potential readers.
“Does anyone have anything to eat?” I ask. “I’m getting a little…”
Jacquie produces a granola bar. It could have been lasagna it tasted so good at that moment.
Part 6 – Reality Show
A little later, while reaching into my purse for my phone, I am stuck by something sharp. I reach in and take out a pin - a little blue NO CASINO pin. It is over 25 years old.
In 1980 the Citizens Against Casino Gambling, a grassroots organization was founded by the residents of Hull and Chohasset, concerned about plans for oceanfront casino in their community. A year later, CACG had become a state wide entity. Through my affiliation with Casino Free Mass, I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of several of the original members, and delighted when one of them offered us a few of these historic pins. I took three.
And so I pass the torch by pinning one to my sweater and handing the others to Mark and Jacquie – only fitting as founders of this next generation of casino-fighters. Now we are all wearing them. I try to explain, but it’s just too loud in here and I don't have the energy to shout, so I promise a blog.
I spot Clyde Barrow skulking around.
I hope they make him go last.
I’m vaguely aware that my mouth is filled with glue. And the feeling has left my legs. How will I be able to get up to testify? Will my mouth even work if I do? When Mark and Jacquie leave to find sustenance I offer Mark twenty dollars if he’ll bring me back a bottle of water. I save the seats.
When they return, not only is there a bottle of water, but Jacquie has brought me half of her seafood salad sandwich. God bless her. I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to eat in the Gardner Auditorium, and so I nibble it secretively behind my hand, terrified that at any moment, Chairman Bosley will yell at me across the room.
Brian is leaving. He strolls past, a satisfied smile on his face, as if he is receiving a resounding round of applause.
I wonder why he isn’t staying to testify. Especially after he’d made that trip to The Men’s Warehouse and all.
To pass the time up on the platform we snap photos. We laugh, and wonder when it will all be over. I wonder if I’ll have any energy left to read my testimony.
After Jacquie finishes applauding a speaker, a nice young woman in a red shirt sitting in front of us turns and asks Jacquie a question. I can’t hear a word they say. That's how loud it is.
Part 7 – Soap Opera
Up at the front of the room, the lady heckler in the big red shirt is testifying. She has assembled some casino workers from Las Vegas and Riverboats to tell their success stories. But up in the nosebleeds, I am outraged that people who aren’t even from the Commonwealth are being allowed to testify before a Massachusetts taxpayer who is actually facing the possibility of living near a casino.
One of the panel is a young man who grew up in a dung hut. He now owns a house and not one, but two cars out in Las Vegas. God bless his heart. Co-Chair Jack Hart is particularly interested in this young man. He is a hero!
I’ve had it. What a crock. The whole damn day has gone like this… Casinos create jobs. But they can hurt people. But they create jobs. No, seriously, they can hurt people. But they create jobs. Haven’t you been listening, they hurt people? But they create jobs….
And gosh darnnit, the folks in the red shirts are hard working people! They want to buy homes! They want a good quality of life. Give us our casinos!!
You know, there was a long stretch of time when I was a card carrying member of the working poor. And the last thing I wanted was another crappy low paying job. I wanted a good job, with a good future in a decent line of work that didn’t create, among other things, a predicable rise in the rate of suicide.
All jobs are not good jobs.
After the panel is done testifying, the red shirts erupt into the loudest applause of the day, after which they file out en masse. The room was cleared within thirty seconds. For the first time in 10 hours, I stretch my legs.
Part 8 – Prime Time
The evening is filled with experts and more experts. But it’s all the more easier to take now that I’ve moved up to the comfy seats. I have a row of seats to myself, my legs stretched out into the aisle, crossing out great sections of my prepared speech with a pen. I don’t want to keep anybody sitting here any longer than I have to. This panel has heard everything I was going to say. I’ve decided to tell something they haven’t heard yet - why the Tribe won’t build a class II facility. I’ve confirmed the details with Rich and Mark, and asked Mark, the undisputed intergovernmental agreement guru, to sit with me on the panel in case the Committee has some in depth questions about it.
But in the meantime, we wait.
Mass. Restaurant Association goes on. And a representative of the Aquinnah and her lawyer, both lovely, stately women who get a nod from the committee for, at least, going through the State channels in the pursuit of a casino, unlike some other tribes we know…
Stll, it makes my stomach turn to think about how the Aquinnah want to stick their casino out in Western Mass as if they were doing the people that live there some sort of favor. They know damn well that the well-to-do on Martha’s Vineyard would never let them put a casino on the island - on their ancestral homeland. Just like Mashpee sure as hell didn't want one in their town. No, it's much better to find someone else's, much less wealthier homeland to build your casino - and make sure you tell them it will create jobs!
Finally, a panel consisting of a the former town planner for the town of Ledyard gets to speak. I’ve heard her speak before. She tells of the drastic escalation in crime, and the loss of local businesses after Foxwoods was built. It is powerful stuff from someone who really lived through this drama. She no longer lives in CT, having moved to Massachusetts to get away from the wonder of it all.
But the Middleboro pro-casinoites have all left. All of the big news outlets left early too - and so they got a mostly one-sided story. Steve DeCosta of the Standard Times and Alice Elwell of the Enterprise lasted most of the night. Now it’s only us and Stephanie Vosk of the Cape Cod Times - who’s taken my place on the perch - and still tapping away on the laptop.
I hang around with my friends from Casino Free Mass for awhile. I have so much respect for all of them. I don’t know why our group has been pushed to the end of the program like this. A couple of guys from the (out of state) Harrah’s casino chain (outrage) have been speaking for a half hour, predictably painting a glowing picture of life in the casino lane.
Many of the people who have yet to speak are part of the “God Squad” panel – religious leaders opposed to casinos in Massachusetts. No one, and I mean no one ever better tell me that this hearing was unfair to the pro-casino camp - what with reps from the casino industry speaking while local religious leaders languish into the night. With values like that, is it any wonder you can’t let kids watch TV after 7:00 anymore?
I meet up with my friend Leo, a union activist and force of nature, out in the hall. We decide to leave if we don’t go on soon. My last train leaves at 10:30, I’m tired, I’m hungry, and worse, it’s just been such an emotional day, and it's been an emotional, tiring year. In the restroom I wipe tears out of my eyes. It’s no use. They continue to seep with a mind of their own. I’m a mess. How did I get here? How the hell am I going to testify?
I attempt to compose myself in the hallway. Back inside Rep. Conroy is grilling the bejesus out of the men from Harrahs. As I return to my seat, Bosley finally asks the boys from Harrahs the obvious question, “Why are you here?”
Sitting with the Harrahs panel is a dapper gent who turns out to be from the Economics Dept. at UConn. There’s been a lot of Kool-aid spilled on the carpet here today, but this guy is actually bleeding it. Apparently, he’s taken all sorts of FBI data, crunched it down and come to the acedemic conclusion that crime around casinos actually goes down. Oh so that’s the guy! Brian will be so sorry he missed him! And what an amusing (sort of) contrast to the town planner from Ledyard who actually lived through the experience and was, herself, a victim of crime from the casino. The committee questions Kool-Aid Man unremittingly about his statistics while I ponder whether his blood type is Purplesaurus Rex or Grape Berry Splash .
Ed Harris, from Monson, who’s also speaking as part of the cities and towns panel asks if I have a penny he could use for demonstration purposes in his testimony. I search for a polite way say no. The real reason is that would have to pour my purse out on the carpet to find something as tiny a penny because, at the moment, my hands are shaking so badly. When blood sugar attacks!
Next comes the carpenters union and a several-hundred-year-old man who works at the race track. One of the carpenters begins to cry. He speaks of despair at the guys who can’t find work. I’m not the only one moved to tears this evening.
I do feel bad for those workers. I feel bad for anyone hitting tough times. My dad was a union construction worker all his life. So I know, there will be tough times.
And I feel bad for anyone struggling. I feel bad for those struggling to makes ends meet. I feel bad for the mayors and selectmen who struggle to find ways to keep their towns afloat during tough times. But does it make sense to grab onto a leaky life preserver which only makes it take a little longer to drown? Or to tread water a little longer for the sturdy lifeboat on the horizon?
Does it make sense for our Commonwealth build a future based on a choice of desperation?
The carpenter union guy wants us to know that carpenters are hardworking people who want a job.
I don’t know many people in South East Mass who don’t work hard. And we work hard for our quality of life. A quality of life we want to last well past the longest construction job.
Part 9 – The Late Night Talk Shows
I see Leo pass a note to someone at the desk. He returns and tells me that if we’re not up next, we’re outta here. I find myself hoping we are not called next - so I can leave this nightmare in the past. I’m not sure my mouth is going to work, anyway. I suck down the last drop of water in the bottle. That’s it. Meanwhile the race track guy rambles endlessly while the clock ticks closer to 9:00. His conclusion? Hip hop music causes more harm than casinos.
When, at the start of this hearing, many long hours ago, Mr. Bosley mentioned that the committee would stay late into the night to hear everyone, I had no idea that I’d be one of them.
Suddenly, we’re on.
My legs navigate me by auto pilot to the table. Ed takes the lead. He gives a great talk. He’s a wonderful speaker and a great guy. He’s come all the way down to Lakeville for some of our regional task force meetings. And we’ve gone to the beautiful town of Monson for their fundraiser. I wish I’d poured my purse out looking for the penny.
There is some confusion about who goes next. It looks like Charlotte from Palmer will take the mike, but she underestimates my requirement for carbohydrates. Gladys, or what’s left of her, takes center stage.
Ten months ago, I was a lady who took a long walk through her hometown every day. Who got involved in her kids sports teams, who managed to keep up with the laundry, who whipped up nutritious meals, designed the occasional web site and was writing a book. Who loved her town. Today, because I love my town, I am an activist. My kids eat microwavable hot pockets and wear socks until they’re threadbare. And I hope Mark isn’t looking for his $20 any time soon. My kids have missed a lot of practices this year, but then, they’ve held signs at the Statehouse and rallied in Middleboro. They’ve had a real life civics lesson you can’t experience from a book or by watching TV.
Tonight I’m sitting in the same chair the Governor of Massachusetts occupied this morning. I realize that half the committee has left. The rest are texting into their cell phones. I wonder what they’re saying.
I m so rdy 2 go hm
whn wl it nd?
That ntsha shl wz ht, huh?
One can only guess.
In my head I repeat the words I’m going to say, which aren’t written down because I’d never planned on saying them, over and over, just like I’ve done for the last six hours since I scrapped my original testimony. Ok, I’m ready. I’m ready for it to be over. With my shaky hands I pull the mike close, open my mouth to speak –
…and the world’s loudest vacuum revs to life in the balcony.
Me and the Boz share a laugh, and he apologizes profusely. But there’s no need. I’d be worried if a vacuum cleaner didn’t start up the second I was about to speak.
The vacuum is banished.
Here goes… “My name is Mary Tufts, and I’m here today representing CasinoFacts.org, an organization based in SE Massachusetts which opposes a casino in Middleboro. (pause) Just like the Governor.”
My joke goes now where. Okey dokey… “It is the opinion of CasinoFacts that the Tribe will not build a class two bingo parlor on the land in Middleboro because, based on the intergovernmental agreement with Middleboro, in order to build any facility on that property would require 200 Million in infrastructure to be built.”
Bosley and the lady sitting next to him are smiling. They look extremely pleased. Probably because I've said something no one else has.
“Futhermore, the Seminoles in Florida were successful at class II gambling only because it was the only game in town. In Massachusetts we have two of the world’s biggest casino’s less than 2 hours away..." I say something else, I’m not sure what. But I realize that everyone has gone back to texting.
They’ve heard it all. Behind me are some great folks with important things to say. I’m done. The panel looks surprised. I suspect mine has been the shortest testimony all day.
Charlotte speaks. She is from Palmer and a member of the Mass Teachers Association . (Don’t get me started) She gives, in my opinon, the greatest speech of the night. She speaks of compassion for crying carpenters. She speaks of disappointment in the MTA. And she speaks beautifully, and from the heart, of her love of Western Mass. But she could be speaking about Middleboro. Or Plainville. Or New Bedford. Or South Boston. It’s the heart, not the revenue stream, which makes the home.
John goes next. He makes us laugh. Casinos suck, according to John, speaking about the local economy.
Yes they do! Can we get that slogan on a button?
Leo, the force of nature is speaking, but I'm sneaking a look behind me at everyone still waiting. Still so many people. After our panel is done, I can’t stay. I feel like a traitor, but I have to leave. The Boz will understand, Rich and the God Squad will understand. Clyde Barrow, lurking somewhere in the aisles, will understand.
Mark challenges me that night for shortest speech. He’s actually read Kool-aid man’s study. But of course, he’s read just about every study. Scratch the surface of those pie in the sky optimistic studies, says Mark, and you’ll find a casino investor behind it.
He says more but my mind is distracted. It’s already left. It’s collected my belongings, said it’s goodbyes, and walked to South Station. It’s eaten a late dinner, waited for the train, boarded and watched the familiar landscape pass by until, at the very end of the darkest hour, it stops.
The conductor calls out, “Bridgewater!”
And I’m home.
Posted by Gladys Kravitz at 11:22 AM