Thursday, January 31, 2008

King of the Road

Ok… first Deval Patrick wanted to put the whole $300 M he expects to collect from three commercial casino licences in the State budget. Then, after getting some much deserved flak for that, he reduced the amount to $124 M, crossed his fingers, twisted some arms, dangled a few carrots, and continues to hope for the best.

One of those carrots happens to be a one time ‘special gift’ to cities and towns for local transportation projects. But only if Deval gets his way.
I thought it would be fun just to see how much moola some towns are slated to get (information courtesy of the Patriot Ledger). Middleboro’s abutters are highlighted in Neon.

Abington, $172,895
Braintree, $450,113
Bridgewater, $315,490
Canton, $342,694
Carver, $192,828
Cohasset, $94,447
Duxbury, $240,110
Halifax, $114,779
Hanover, $203,707
Hanson, $140,831
Hingham, $301,079
Holbrook, $107,794
Hull, $128,895
Kingston, $190,713
Marshfield, $335,696
Milton, $278,668
Norwell, $200,674
Pembroke, $237,095
Plymouth, $624,605
Plympton, $71,676
Quincy, $852,084
Randolph, $303,944
Rockland, $185,156
Scituate, $249,299
Sharon, $263,912
Stoughton, $345,608
Weymouth, $508,260
Whitman, $146,808

Did I miss something? Is Quincy getting a casino? Is it getting one next door? I mean, why else would it be entitled to almost 12 times as much money FROM CASINO LICENCES as Plympton?

Now, as you look at these numbers, remember, the Governor isn’t ruling out Middleboro as a potential site for a commercial casino. And the Tribe can agree to go the commercial rather than Federal Route And, in fact, Deval has indicated some sort of special treatment the Tribe could receive in acquiring one of those coveted licenses. And we all know how much the Tribe's investors have their little hearts set on Middleboro (even though they tried to snow us with that whole New Bedford thing...)

That being said, Bridgewater makes out pretty well - in fact, if the money weren’t slated specifically for transportation, we could use it to buy a pretty decent house in town. And then, we could transform it into a counseling or rehab center for the 2% of our 27,000 residents destined for gambling addiction (at least the ones who seek treatment.) But, since the money's earmarked for transportation, how about adding three and a half new traffic signals? This will really help with all that additional traffic we can expect if a casino comes – and manage to slow down a drive through town even more! Wow, pretty soon my little country town can look just like a small city!

Or maybe we could add some additional police presence for the increased crime we can expect. Oh wait. That money's only a one time thing. Sorry.

But I shouldn’t complain. Look at Halifax (with a major route to the site). And then of course, there is Plympton. Oh well, maybe Plympton will be able to pick up a used traffic light somewhere. Or at least a really big sign that says, “THIS ROAD DOES NOT LEAD TO CASINO - GO BACK. SAVE YOURSELVES.” or maybe “SPEED 10 MPH – VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED WITH PITCHFORKS – PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.”

Well, despite the fact that we’ll lose the stars in our sky, we abutters can, at least, all sleep well at night knowing that the Governor (Milton) and especially Treasurer Tim Cahill (Quincy) will make out all right with the “gifts” their towns will receive without having to live in the shadow of a casino.

Personally, I’m going to suggest Bridgewater install a couple of toll booths on the roads that share a border with Middleboro.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tankman's Last Stand

NOTE: At this Wednesday's Regional Task Force meeting, I did something different. I "live-blogged" for the members of the CFO board who couldn't be there. I doubt I'll do something like that again, (too many voices for my fingertips to keep up) but I know that there's been a lot of interest in the continuing saga of Tankman's repeated requests for a seat at their table, so I'll share it with you. Now, I do not profess to be a reporter - I just typed what I heard, and most of it is generalized because like I said, I couldn't keep up. It is also heavily sprinkled with my own personal snarky observations (would you expect anything less?) The actual Task Force was, at all times, articulate and respectful.

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?)

Bridgewater speaks!

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!"

(Smooooooooooooooch!)

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)
11 votes



Tankman takes the defeat gracefully, as always. He thanks the Task Force, and exits stage left.

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.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oh no you dit'nt...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hope Floats

It ain’t easy being a Northern Red-Bellied Cooter.

Besides having a really goofy name, the Cooter has a seriously tough life. For one thing, it can be found in only one place on earth – in just one county, in just one state. Ours.

And, apparently, some of them have been calling the proposed site of a Middleboro casino their home.

Housing developments, agricultural expansion, pollution, roads, and diversion of waterways have pushed the Cooter to the brink of oblivion. Close to 100% of them don’t make it past their first year thanks to fish and frogs and snapping turtles. And their sex life doesn’t help, either, since they don’t reach breeding age for 15 to 20 years, which puts them well behind the MTV generation.

So, if you’re a Northern Red Bellied Cooter, and you make it through your first year of life, bump into your soulmate a decade and a half down the line, and then you're lucky enough to find exactly the right type of soil that also just happens to be located within 100 yards of a pond, you’re pretty much the future of the species.

Which is why the Northern Red Bellied Cooter proved worthy, in 1980 of protection by the Endangered Species Act. Endangered. That’s the big one. It's the Superbowl ring for stuggling animals everywhere.

Thankfully, the Cooters have been getting some assistance during their slow determined trek to survive. Biologists, cranberry growers and even private landowners have been helping to identify and protect the Cooter. Headstarting programs, which involve removing turtle eggs from their nests, raising the hatchlings in captivity, and releasing the babies back into the wild when they are too big for many predators to eat, are a painstaking, but crucial effort to keep the turtle from what looks like a sure date with extinction.

But will it be enough to keep the Cooters safe from those stalwart stewards of the earth we’ve come to know so well – billionaire casino developers? Will their tough little shells protect them from the impact of a mega resort casino? And who gets the mitigation money if casino construction wipes them of the face of the earth?

After the events of the summer, I often wonder if those of us who truly care about the character and health of our region are quickly becoming our own endangered species. But could it be possible that all the efforts that have gone into protecting the little Northern Red Bellied Cooter from extinction will, in the end, result in our own salvation from marauding preditors.

Speaking of whom... casino developers, the Governor, the Middleboro Board of Selectmen and their devoted boosters like to brag that that they’ll succeed in putting a casino on the South Shore. But perhaps the Northern Red Bellied Cooter, by slowly and steadily hanging on to life will help us win the race.




The hare soon left the tortoise far behind and, confident of winning, he decided to take a nap midway through the course. When he awoke, however, he found that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, had already won the race.
- From Aesop's Fable, The Tortoise and the Hare


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Silence of the Lambs

Middleboro selectman Steven Spataro has had enough.

He has had his fill of seeing his town repeatedly blown off by the Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts, and darn it, he’s not gonna take it anymore.

During Middleboro’s most recent Selectmen’s meeting, Spataro was a veritable simpering simmering teakettle of indignation that had reached it’s boiling point.

And so he decided to let off some steam.

According to Steven, you didn’t see Middleboro complaining when they built the Galleria or the Colony Place Plaza in Kingston, did you? Even though (in a stunning admission of the reality of regional economic impacts) he claims that those two places have had a negative effect on Middleboro’s retail businesses.

Middleboro didn’t fight the more prosperous industrial parks in other towns, did she? Even though their trucks traveled and trumbled down her roads.

And she didn’t make a stink when SEMASS built it’s giant incinerator on her border, and stunk a popular local restaurant right out of business.

Nor did she protest the Commuter Rail layover station - which apparently you can hear and smell from two miles away.

So why, Mr. Spataro wonders, does it seem like every town within 20 miles is suddenly pointing a loaded bazooka at Middleboro these days? Heck, it’s only a casino. A five-star deluxe gazillion dollar constantly sprawling sovereign nation of a casino, sure, but still… why pick on Middleboro?

I’ve heard this argument before. In fact the first time I heard it, I believe it was from Adam Bond whining to the press about some initial casino-related inquiries from the Bridgewater Board of Selectmen (in one of their a rare public appearances.)

The next time I heard the argument was at a meeting of the Casino No-Impact Advisory Committee, the precursor to CRAC, when one of it’s members blurted out that she didn’t ”give a damn about Bridgewater”. Bridgewater, she claimed, didn’t ask Middleboro if they could build a prison, did they?

I have to say, I do especially enjoy it when someone brings up the prison.

Folks, none of us (not even Wayne Perkins) were alive when they built that prison. And I can assure you that in modern day Bridgewater, the Penal Industry would not be at the top of the economic development wish list. And though the prison may not be able to compete with the glory and excitement of hundreds of new casino housekeeping jobs, let’s face it, it does already employ a lot of Middleboro residents while offering them a real living wage, a State job, and good benefits - there is even a waiting list of people who would like to work there. And importantly, instead of generating more crime - it keeps a lot of bad people off the streets.

I’ve also, amazingly, heard criticism about the college. Bridgewater gets a college, so why can’t Middleboro get a casino? Bridgewater State College, incidentally, was also built before we were all born, but most people would agree it is a good thing. It provides an excellent education at a reasonable cost, close to home for many South Shore residents, including the ones in Middleboro. But just so you know, it does cause a drain on Bridgewater town services, creates one hell of a traffic jam during Spring commencement, and is under no contractual agreement to provide us with any ‘mitigation’. But then, it also doesn't force us to publicly support and promote it in every endeavor.

And SEMASS. The eyes always roll at the mention of SEMASS. The one that got away. The mother of all trash incinerators that Middleboro could have had but didn’t want. So Rochester got it and stuck it on the edge of town. Well of course they did. Icky projects always go on the edge of town. If Middleboro had built SEMASS they’d have stuck it on the edge of town and would still have had stinky air. Wherever SEMASS was going to go up, someone’s quality of life was going to go down. Good for Middleboro for taking the high road on that one. I therefore suspect that Adam Bond was not involved.

Ah, and then there’s the commuter rail. It’s one of the reasons I moved to town. Me and about 10,000 other people. But it beats fighting the traffic to Boston or finding a place to park once you get there. And now our colonial subdivisions sprawl across a once pastoral countryside, the schools burst at the seams with our children, the library’s closed and the town can’t pay it’s bills.

Industrial park traffic? When I was young and growing up in Middleboro, the school bus would take us by a rambling bovine paradise called Leona Farm. Emerald green manure covered hills as far as the eye could see, and which, in the ensuing years, has since become home to an industrial park of colossal warehouses within spitting distance of the Middleboro Rotary - and right on the main road out of Bridgewater. I’ve had a lot of time to wax nostalgic about Leona Farm these days – especially while I sit in my car behind an eighteen wheeler for twenty minutes inching closer toward the Rotary. Since trucks have a terrible time negotiating fast-moving rotaries, I'd like to know who’s idea it was to build an industrial park the size an international airport next to a one, turning what was once a quick jaunt to the next town into a time consuming ordeal I have to plan my day around.

But the granddaddy of regionally offensive projects can be no other than the Plymouth Nuclear Power Plant. What other development put more Massachusetts residents in harm’s way in the name of a revenue stream than good old Pilgrim Station? But hey, what’s a potential core meltdown compared to a few years worth of construction jobs? And what’s wrong with the Mayflower sharing the same harbor as Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish, anyway? In the absence of any recent nuclear catastrophe, we’ve all grown rather relaxed about Pilgrim Station - that is, until we pass those little blue signs on Rte. 44 which have a way of reminding us that we’re all in this together.

Kenneth Tavares, Plymouth’s eloquent delegate to the 18 Town Regional Task Force recently reminded us that while Pilgrim Station did bring with it some heady days of wine and roses, with the hangover came consequences. Initially Pilgrim lowered everyone’s taxes considerably. Uncontrolled growth followed, and with it uncontrolled spending. Essential and public services were stressed to disastrous levels. Taxes ballooned to keep up and now, along with a towering tax rate – it still has a nuclear power plant. Adding insult to injury, the town didn’t even get to keep those cheaper nuclear generated kilowatts – because the plant was owned by Boston Edison while Plymouth was serviced by Comm Electric. Plymouth had to buy back the energy their resident power plant produced while they paid higher electric rates and lived with emergency loud speakers looming ominously over their neighborhoods. Tavares also went on to add that if he were on the Plymouth Board of Selectmen in the sixties when Pilgrim I was being debated, he suspects the outcome would have been a different one.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it. We’ve always been able to look through the lens of perspective and recognize the folly of the past.

But wouldn’t it be great if we could see those faux pas before we made them? Before they became a de facto part of our world?

When we enter the voting booth to choose our community leaders, aren’t we hoping that we’re casting our votes for lions - and not for lambs? For people who’ll defend us? And our quality of life? Not merely figureheads who’ll quietly sit on the sidelines while an irresponsible neighbor puts that at risk, or who’ll be content with a hand out in it’s aftermath. Wouldn't you rather prevent a potential illness instead of being forced to look for a cure once you have one?

And if someone were trying to locate their traffic-clogging, character-altering, business-stealing, poorly located, self-serving revenue stream next to you - a project which also had the potential to lower your quality of life, stress your emergency services, lead to uncontrolled growth, increase your taxes, overburden your schools, and place members of your community in harm’s way - would you really want your leaders to stick their heads in the sand?

Or would you want them to stand up and demand accountability?

Well someone is. It’s known as the 18-town Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts.


(Not to mention CasinoFacts.org.)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Myth of Inevitability, Part 3


Friday was a bad day for the St. Regis Mohawk and Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican tribes of New York.

Here they’d been, touting that their proposed Catskills casino plans were a ‘done deal’, with the Governor and several senators by their side - when they got a call from Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, informing them that their applications to take the land into trust had been denied.

You see, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA) established criteria for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the director of the Office of Indian Gaming to follow when reviewing applications to take off-reservation land into trust for gaming purposes.

But the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) provides for the Department of the Interior (DOI) to exercise its discretion in determining whether to allow any land into trust.

So in essence, the DOI can trump the BIA in approving whether a tribe can or cannot use off-reservation land on which to build casinos.

And on Friday, the DOI issued some new guidelines for all parties to consider when reviewing applications for taking land into trust for gaming.

Apparently, the DOI is concerned that some of these applications were asking to take land into trust which was sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the original reservation. And since this was not a reasonably commutable distance, it could therefore not be considered a practical source of employment for tribe members. Additionally, there could be "negative impacts on tribal life" if tribe members were to move from their reservation to be closer to casino jobs.

And this was the problem for the two tribes which wanted to build in the Catskills, one of which was over 350 miles away from its reservation lands.

But there’s more than meets the eye to these new guidelines, referred to as Part 151, which I’ve quoted here from a Department of the Interior Press Release dated 1/4/08:

• Part 151 contains two provisions of particular relevance to applications that involve land that is a considerable distance from the reservation. It states that, as the distance between the tribe’s reservation and the land to be acquired increases, the Secretary shall give:

  • 1) greater scrutiny to the tribes justification of anticipated benefits from the acquisition; and
  • 2) greater weight to concerns raised by state and local governments as to the acquisition’s potential impacts on regulatory jurisdiction, real property taxes and special assessments.

• Part 151 does not elaborate further on how or why the Department is to give “greater scrutiny” or “greater weight” to the above factors as the distance increases.


Purpose of Guidance


• The guidance clarifies how to interpret and apply the Part 151 terms ‘greater scrutiny’ and ‘greater weight’ when considering the taking of off-reservation land into trust status for gaming purposes.

  • The guidance directs that a reviewer ask specific questions for those applications with lands that exceed a “commutable distance” from the reservation because of the impact that such a distant acquisition may or may not have on life on the reservation.
  • The guidance emphasizes that as the distance from the reservation increases, greater weight should be given to state and local concerns, including jurisdictional problems and potential conflicts of land use and the removal of the land from the tax
    rolls.


But what does this mean to us?

It means that it is the dawn of a new day down at the Department of the Interior. It means that they are aware of ‘reservation shopping’ and it’s abuses. And most importantly, it appears to mean that they’re prepared to do something about it.

A closer inspection of the new guidelines reveals that there will be “greater scrutiny” of benefits and “greater weight” to state and local governments. In other words, it’s not going to be a free ride for tribes and their casino investors any longer.

It cannot be understated that this is very hopeful news for any community under the cloud of becoming the home to an unwanted casino, not merely the ones many miles off the reservation.

Remember, the Mashpee Wampanoags are not an impoverished western tribe.

Remember, the Glenn Marshall debacle and other news of unrest within the Tribe has harmed the image of their tribal government.

Remember, we have an 18-member Regional Task Force clamoring to have a voice in this decision, and that seven towns have already voted to oppose it.

And remember, in a letter to the BIA, current Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Shawn Hendricks wrote that

"The lands in Mashpee are unsuited to gaming or other economic development ... because of their location on Cape Cod, which has a fragile ecosystem, including sensitive wetlands and limited highway access.”


We can certainly argue as much here on the South Shore.

And remember, the Wampanoags have taken the highly unusual step of asking to take their reservation land in Mashpee and the land in Middleboro into trust at the same time. Red flag?

But most importantly, always remember that it’s only a done deal if you don’t do anything.

(If you'd like to thank Secretary Kempthorne, please send a letter to him at Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington DC 20240)

Gratitude

There’s a player out there in pro-casino land by the name of Fact Finder - who is actually a guy named Brian Giovanoni - who headed up a committee this summer charged with analyzing potential casino impacts - a committee which which would eventually come to be known as the Committee to Dismiss Public Input.

But, at that first meeting, I was impressed with Brian. He seemed to take his original charge very seriously, and at the end of the night went around the table asking all of us all why we were there, and if we had questions. And that’s the first opportunity I had to tell him and everybody else that I was from Bridgewater, and that there was concern about this project in the surrounding communities. Not that it mattered for much in the months to come.

One thing you can say about Brian is that he has a lot of energy. Unfortunately he expends much of it on extensive and colorful calculations, convoluted explanations and definitive proclamations that “prove” a casino is a good and righteous thing for both his town and ours.

Having had quite enough of the Committee to Dismiss Public Input, it’s shallow research, pat answers and conviction that all impacts could be mitigated with enough money, I seldom feel the need to visit Brian’s blog. But today a friend alerted me to a new post in which Brian appears to suggest that we in the surrounding communities should not only not be griping about potential impacts, we should actually be genuflecting to Middleboro for its magnanimous foresight in courting the casino industry to our region.

By signing the agreement with the Wampanoags, according to Brian, Middleboro “single-handedly fixed the traffic problems which has thwarted full economic development in the region.”

Wow. Should I send them a thank you card?

Turns out that Middleboro is already sharing it’s mitigation money with the rest of us in the form of the $172 million dollar Rte. 44 reconstruction project – which will supposedly spur economic growth and tourism in the region.

Then Brian takes it a step further and lists the numerous things on which $172 million could have been spent if Middleboro had kept it all to themselves - and not shared it with us. Like, for instance, a new $20,000 car for everyone in town, or 172 new ladder trucks, or paying everyone’s sewer or water bill for 30 years, or 172 years of curbside trash pickup or three new schools. His astonishing list goes on…

Brian not only chugs the Kool-aid, apparently he’s tapped a big keg of it in his backyard and wants us to come to the party.

Let me sprinkle some snow on this poppy field.

Rte. 44 highway reconstruction will be paid for with taxes. That means WE will ALL pay for it. This doesn’t exactly make it manna from heaven. Additionally, Brian's $172 million doesn’t seem to cover any reconstruction to 495. Additionally, it doesn’t pay for mitigation for the burden of increased traffic down secondary roads leading to the proposed site (like mine). And it doesn’t pay for increased law enforcement or emergency services that surrounding towns will need in order to deal with the increases in DUI’s and accidents we can expect. And, with 50,000+ additional cars on our roads, who’s going to pick up their curbside trash? You, Brian?

As for spurring economic development – doesn't he really mean siphoning off existing business?

I once attended a forum in Carver and watched as Brian went to the microphone, again and again, to assure residents that a casino would, among other things, help their town explore new and exciting economic opportunities - such as scorching the earth on either side of Rte. 44 so they could sprinkle it with Econolodges and Red Roof Inns. And for a moment there, it seemed as if those 160+ people wanted to leap on Brian and tear him limb from limb.

Poor Brian. He means well. He just doesn’t understand that some people actually care about their quality of life. And he's apparently oblivious to his own arrogance.

And as for allowing for the “smooth flow to and from Route 495 from Routes 28, 18 and 44 for all to use” as Brian suggests – I suggest Brian sit in slow-moving traffic behind an exhaust-belching casino tour bus just like I did on a field trip to Ledyard.

And finally, no one was ever going to give anyone $172 million for schools or new cars or trash pick-up. This has all been about servicing a casino - which does a disservice to surrounding communities and leaves us like beggars at the door seeking a hand-out from the state for "mitigation" for a whole slew of problems we didn't have to begin with.

So really Brian, thanks for that.

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