Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hair of the Dog

After watching a commercial imploring us to vote NO on Question 3 this Tuesday, my 9 year old asked me why I had chosen to vote YES. Didn't I want to save those people's jobs, he wanted to know.

Yes, I told him. I didn't want anyone to lose their job. But, as with everything in life there is always more to the story.

All industries have a life cycle, and dog racing is a dying industry. Not unlike the corset industry once was, or more recently, the VHS industry. In their day, they were big time news. People raced to the corner store to buy corsets and and rent videos. Over many years the huge popularity of these products created jobs and opportunites for large groups of people. But then times changed, technology improved.

The corset industry evolved into the girdle industry, which died out completely during the seventies when we ladies chose to let it all hang out.

Interest in seeing movies, however has never waned, but technology did condense the VHS tape into the DVD. And now, when $100 barely buys a family of four a night at the movies with soda and popcorn, and even cable Pay-per-View prices inexplicably keep going up, Netflix was born. Now, no one has to stand in line at Blockbuster for twenty minutes just to listen to a teenager with a tongue ring and an attitude give you a hard time and charge you extra for bringing Iron Man back a day late.

Sadly, (or not depending on how long you stood in line to pay a late fee) out-of-work video store employees never got the advantage of a phase-out and re-training programs - unlike dog track employees will.

But the dog racing industry thinks it knows how to save itself and evolve with the times - by bringing in slot machines, an addictive and predatory device which brings with it a slew of problems.

And while putting an end to dog racing is a step in the right direction, it doesn't matter whether the industry survives this week's refferendum and the dogs stay put, or Massachusetts voters finally agree to end dog racing - because you can bet your bottom dollar that Dave Flynn (D - Slots) and Raynham Dog Track owner George Carney will turn right around next week and start pushing again for slots, somehow, some way, in Raynham.

And of course, the moment class three gambling is approved to revive or support the tracks, an Indian casino in Middleboro will get a step closer to reality.

George Carney doesn't care. He has stated he is unafraid of competition from a mega casino 20 minutes away. Dave Flynn isn't worried, either. I know this because earlier this year I went to his office and tried to explain the whole casino domino effect thing, but one of his aides, sporting an oxford cloth shirt and a video store attitude, assured me it didn't matter if a casino took five years to build and bankrupt the Raynham dog track - because that was five years worth of revenue the state could get from it.

The upcoming dog track refferendum isn't about jobs or dogs. And it's certainly not about us. It's about bringing slots to Massachusetts. It's about getting our State hooked on gambling revenue - just like Connecticut - to cure it's budget shortfalls.

Some people aren't buying it. According to this Brockton Enterprise story, experienced Raynham big boy selectman Ron McKinnon says,
“You learn to live within a budget,” McKinnon said. “We’ve lost $400,000 off the top (over time) and haven’t had any real problems as a result.”

If the track were to close, the town “would either have to raise money somewhere else or cut” services, McKinnon said.

“This is what we do. This is our business,” he said with a shrug.
And some people don't. Younger, more inexperienced Raynham selectman (and perhaps, not ironically, Dave Flynn aide) Joe Pacheco
said Raynham is in no position to lose any more revenue, no matter how paltry it may seem. With gloomy predictions for cuts in local aid and excise taxes for the town, Pacheco said a 2 percent budget cut from last year would only be “magnified” with the loss of track funds
Pedictably, Dave Flynn (D- Slots) insists,

the loss of those “blue collar jobs” would be “disastrous.”

“We have nothing in southeastern Massachusetts (in which) to place the hundreds of people that work there,”

Well, maybe if Flynn had lobbied harder for fresher, more responsible industry with higher growth potential in his district (which includes my town) instead of becoming the tireless dust-covered Beacon Hill posterboy for a dying industry, we wouldn't be so worried about closing the tracks here in Massachusetts.

Some towns are doing their best. In neighboring West Bridgewater voters recently approved a rezoning for an upscale 'Lifestyle Center' not unlike the Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham, potentially housing retailers such as Whole Foods, Cabala's and Border's. With the rezoning, not only did the the small town manage to dodge a huge 40B bullet, but can now expect $4 million in water and road improvements from the construction, with an additional $1.3 million in tax revenue - a tidy bit more than the $413,000 Raynham will see from the dog track this year (which is down from $437,500 it saw the year before.) Best of all, my friend Judy won't have to drive an hour away for her organic soy milk.

To keep the dying dog racing industry alive, Flynn, Mark Pacecho, and many other local officials put on the blinders to the negative effects of predatory gambling, leading us nowhere in their determination to continue chasing a phony rabbit around in circles.

The only way to protect our homes and families from the lower property values, higher crime, increased traffic, bankruptcies, forecloures, business canibalization, political corruption, environmental stresses and social ills that will be our fate in the case of a slot machine domino effect, is to put a stop to the escalation of the predatory gambling industry in Massachusetts right now.

Our region needs appropriate, not predatory, and not destructive forms of economic development. Send a message. Demand better.


cdplakeville said...

You've hit the nail on the head again. I read that if Carney could get slots even for just a couple of years before a full blown casino in Middleborough came in (which it won't), then he would just be happy with that, fold the track anyway and walk away with the cash.
Trying to hold out this long with a dying industry is wearing him down and he knows that it will flat line soon. If Question 3 passes, it will be sooner than he wants. With casinos doing poorly during these economic times, no casino proposals will be come up for votes. Dog racing is on its last leg.
If dog racing were just a non-gambling industry, it would not be an issue to me. Once the puppies are set free, how soon until the ponies are next?

carverchick said...

When I think about question three and how I will vote, I think about the dogs. Sure, jobs are important and the politics behind opposing question three are all about the slots for most -- but for me, it is about the dogs and the conditions in which they live. I cannot and will not support an industry that abuses, injures and kills animals. I have heard some opponents say that abuse does not happen at the Mass tracks - the dogs run free in blissful joy when not racing. I honestly cannot say how the animals at our tracks are treated...I have never been. But I can say that I have seen and read alot about what does happen to these poor creatures at racetracks around the country and in other countries and it is heartbreaking. I won't support it.

I will vote yes on question three and I will do it for the dogs.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Gladys!
With all of the commercial development in Raynham cutting a measley $400K would seem easy instead of pushing for slots for a big campaign donor.
It's time to send a message about what's important.

Gladys Kravitz said...

I agree with protecting the dogs, also, however, we have many very large signs around this area which say, "Save the Dogs and our Jobs" and the commercials are quite effective for track employees - and I so wanted to address the issue of jobs.

My point is that the industry is dying and the only way it's supporters feel they can save it is through slots - which as we know will cause a domino effect and effect the entire reason.

The track's two biggest supporters have admitted that they will need to install slots to continue to be make money. If dog racing ends thanks to question 3, I believe there will be a push for a casino or casinos.

Saving or replacing a dying industry while introducing a predatory one is the opposite of positive change, responsible economic development and frankly, it sells our region short.

Anonymous said...

Agree with all!! I will vote for the freedom of the dogs.

I visited some yrs. ago a home in South Middleboro, she "gathered" the greyhounds that were marked for being destroyed due to: not winners, to old, (just old for racing not really old), or were left w/injuries that unabled them to race anymore. Then she would put them up for adoption.

I will never forget going through the kennels, how sad, how very sad. At the time, I lived in an apartment w/a no dog clause in lease, so instead I would donate money for food and their Vet. care. This was 30 yrs. ago, (at least), and I still can't forget those dogs. Sad eyes and the worse, a beaten down demeanour. Don't let them fool you into thinking they have excellent care so to be able to race, NO!, The largest amount of greyhounds are disposed of, to many puppies to pick from, (a fresh batch), they don't waste money on expensive Vet. bills! This happens to the majority of the dogs.

How can anybody want to support this type of animal abuse? Then again, how could anybody want a Tribal Casino in their town? (abuse,(in reality,non-excistence), of any morals and of the legal systems).

Again, thank you Gladys for always picking the right subject matter that are of importance to people believing in anti-casino's. There can't be a grey area in this fight, so, even after a phone call from a friend who is employed at the dog track, and even if I hadn't seen the greyhounds in S. Middleboro, I would have to still vote for "the dogs" aka, NO SLOTS, NO CASINO!! I won't change my principle's for an individual issue. However hard it might be, Raynham will get through it without the dog racing, as other towns have had to.

Bellicose Bumpkin said...

Good post Gladys.

One fear of mine is that a Yes vote will prompt the legislature to give slots to the race tracks to save them.

Either way, you've made a strong case for a yes vote.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone been by the track in the past few years??? I have, frequently, and the parking lot is just about empty, no matter what time, no matter what day. I can remember when you had to park outside the parking lot on the st. This industry has been and is dying a slow death, the other dog track in Taunton closed many years ago. Yes, we use to be able to support two dog tracks in this area.

My opinion, Carney already has made much money to be comfortable for the rest of his life,(and good for him), he has other more successful busineses that will continue on,(really,good for him), so, I think he is hanging in there w/the race track for one reason and one reason only! hopefully he will get his slots someday. After so many yrs. in trying it has become a mission, not a business venture anymore, it will be a personal "victory" to obtain this, FINALLY!

I don't begrudge him or anyone making money,(good for them). I do however have an issue w/anyone that wants to make money from mostly people that can't afford to lose their money!! and are tricked to thinking they will always be able to win what they loose back! SLOTS ARE THE SUREST WAY TO LOSE YOUR MONEY AND THE FASTEST!!!! Been there, done that.

I will support anything that might deter the comming of slot machines, first. Even though I do like dogs, the dogs are a second issue for me in this type of fight.

Gladys Kravitz said...

If dog racing stays put, Carney and Flynn will demand slots to once again SAVE THE JOBS. Because the industry is dying. They will say THE TOWNS NEED THE MONEY. THE STATE NEEDS THE MONEY. As voters, we need to let the industry pass away and demand better. No Casino! No Slots!

Over the past year and a half I've met so many local politicians and have listened to their arguments - and some just don't GET that this region can do better than becoming the State's gambling mecca.

We need to demand an end to the train of thought that slots and casinos are 'economic engines'. We need to raise the State's expectations for our region with our votes. Time for our elected officials to step out of the past and into the 21st century.

Why should our region suffer the consequences of predatory gambling to support Miltion or Dover? You notice no one ever suggests we locate casinos there.

Ryan said...

One of the reasons why this 'jobs' argument doesn't fly, beyond the fact that we're talking about a tiny sum of jobs, is that there's an opportunity-cost job loss by even keeping this industry alive (with state subsidies, no less).

Why? This is a lot of land we're talking about. It could be redeveloped into something much bigger and much better for the economy than a patch of dirt occasionally with dogs on top of it. I can't speak much to the Raynham track, but the Wonderland track is across the street from a major T stop and the Revere beach. Hundreds of millions is being invested right across the street - with new parks, businesses, parking and storefronts. The area is just waiting to become one of the major hot spots of the greater Boston area, a true hub of economic activity. The track there, which failed to pay $800,000 in property taxes to the city of Revere over a 2 year period (great neighbors, huh!), is holding the entire area back.

Anonymous said...

Their dirty little secret is that ANY dog injured slightly that might cause care/expense is euthanized. As a businessperson, would it make sense to invest $$ when you are guaranteed absolutely no return?
Their numbers are as untrue as the industry.
Let's get rid of the whole bunch.
Thanks Gladys for supporting a YES vote on Question 3!

Anonymous said...

This is DEAD! No one watches greyhound racing. Senator Pacheco, you're backing the wrong horse! Time for change! Let's do something important for the region with that land. Let's create jobs that make sense and provide a solid future.

Anonymous said...

Why are taxpayers subsidizing this industry when money is tight? More tax breaks more favers? Should we change the ethics laws? This whole thing just stinks.

Anonymous said...





Gladys Kravitz said...

Dear Anon, 8:24 - VOTE YES ON #3 NOT #1!!!!!!!