Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Goodbye Mr. Chips

"Bring me the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West!"

- The Wizard of Oz
The best thing that ever happened to the Land of Oz was for the Wicked Witch to melt away and leave behind her broomstick for Dorothy and the gang. The Wizard never thought they could pull it off, that they'd get dragged off by flying monkeys and never be seen again, but dammit if they didn't bring that broomstick back. And then when Toto went and pulled the man out from behind the curtain by the ankle - well that's when life just got better for everybody, didn't it?

While there are some, and admittedly there aren't that many, who think that Adam's resignation from the Middleboro Board of Selectmen is cause for a national day of mourning, or that without his vast brainpower all hope is lost for the town of Middleboro, I'd like to argue that, much like a liquified witch, a crispy broom, and revelations untold, Bond's exit is the best thing to happen to Middleboro since 2007.

First, I'd like to say that I appreciate that sentiment which suggests we move on - forget Bond, the damage done, and move into the light. And by all means - move into the light! But while we move to close this divisive chapter in our region's history (yes, Bond divided more than Middleboro - he helped divide Middleboro and her sister towns) it's important to find out what happened, to record it and remember it, so that it never ever happens again. Like Middle School students in the 21st century reading about the Salem witch trials of the 17th century - there's an important lesson here.

Since Monday, when I published my previous post, "Adam Resigns", this blog has received more than double the number of comments as my previously most-commented-on blog post. So, obviously, there's a still lot of interest. But then, Adam's always made for good theatre.

And that was always part of the problem. Adam turned a very real, very serious issue facing the town and the region into an audition for American Idol. Worse - for him it was never about Middleboro - it was always about THE DEAL.

So, for every person who's lost sleep, worried about their home's value, their business, their children, their future, every person who got checked out for chest pains, whose stomach revolted at each article in the paper, whose blood pressure soared, for everyone who sank to the floor in despair or slammed their fist on the table over this issue, for everyone who lost a friend or a neighbor over this issue, for everyone who lost faith in public service - while watching Adam proudly parade his DEAL on public stage - this blog has been for you. Because I'm one of you.

The other night I was watching Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Nightline twist a story that started with his auctioning off Barack Obama's senate seat to the highest bidder, and ended with his incarnation as the new Gahndi - as his interviewer listened politely and bit her lip.

Not much of a lip biter, myself, I had to laugh out loud. Well, don't we have our own mini reincarnated Gandhi in Adam Bond? A reinvention in his own mind? It's not him - it's us. He's just misunderstood. Why can't we see the truth?

Oh I can see it.

But even if you agree that Adam isn't all he currently insists he is - what about that whole - he's smarter than the rest of the board train of thought. Well, no argument here. But look what he's done with it - admittedly he knew about the implications of the land sale before the town did. Buh-bye leverage. He rushed the agreement to the Investor's benefit. Buh-bye democratic process. He took credit for it. He lashed out at his critics in underhanded ways and every now and then he has a very public hissy fit. Hell he tried to stop 40 years worth of desperately needed highway improvements on Rte. 44. Yet suddenly he and the Mrs. are on the radio proclaiming no one cares more about Middleboro than Adam Bond.

When people suggest that this guy is their last best hope for killing a casino, honestly, I think, they really need to get out more.

Like the night I went to Lakeville and listened to Ken Tavares, selectman of Plymouth whose town negotiated a deal for a MOVIE STUDIO. A smart, creative, low-impact form of economic development that the town didn't bet on but worked hard for. He once said the "buck stops at the small town" - meaning that local officials have a duty to protect their town from inappropriate development - and do it despite pressure from within and without- because if they won't, then who's going to?

And he's right. It's bad enough when Marc Pacheco warns a representative from Carver not to hold a casino task force meeting - but when your own selectmen fail to include article 3 (that the town didn't want a casino) in their letter to the Department of the Interior - you may already be living in casinoland.

In tough times you need real leaders. Not sheep and not opportunists. It's easy to "lead" when times are good, but when the town manager who pulled your butt out of the fire for how-many-years-in-a-row is retiring, and you can't figure out how to balance a budget, you don't help him sneak the world's biggest casino in the back door. That's not leadership.

We don't need any more Blagojeviches or Wilkersons stuffing our democracy down the front of their shirts. Do you know why people think casinos are inevitable? Because they don't trust their "leader" not to sell them out for a quick buck, or a quicker promise. Because they don't think they're committed enough to do the research, or to empathize, or to come up with better more creative plan for the future. Because they don't think they have the will to stand up to pressure.

No one needs Team Bond, secret meetings, or revisionist history. Nothing good was ever, ever going to come from it.

I don't think I have to convince most of you about Adam Bond. Just read the 80 comments on my previous post. But, as the person who has been putting Bond under a microscope since 2007 - believe it, this is a good day. This is a great day. It's a pick up your American flag, go outside and stand on your porch or the hood of your car and let out a big WhooHoo type of day.

The king of all drama queens had a meltdown and provided you with an extra seat on the Middleboro Board of Selectmen. Now pick up a broom and sweep away the damage. Then pull back the curtain on the light of a better day.

And write those letters!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Adam Resigns


We Are Spartacus

A friend and I were talking today about how bummed out we both were because of Sal DiMasi's resignation.

Losing a particularly valuable ally like DiMasi - just as the familiar vampires are once again stepping out of their coffins, rubbing the sleep from their eyes and preparing the latest slot bills - is disheartening.

Their minions also rise, sneering in confidence that, thanks to Sal's exit, they'll finally get their chance to sink their pointy yellowed teeth into our State's jugular, suck out it's life's blood, and crawl off once again into the night.

They're also betting that a poor economy will weaken our leadership's resolve, lessen it's intelligence, bend it's morality and blind it to the truth that for gambling to succeed, a lot of people have to lose.

How depressing. You can see how easy it is to lose hope.

But remember - demoralization is just part of the script. Gambling interests want you to lose hope - so you won't fight. Hoping you'll just shrug your shoulders and figure that you, little old no-connections, not-enough-time, don't-need-the-trouble you, won't make a difference. But the reason they make that effort, time and time again is exactly because they know you CAN make a difference. You already have.

A seed of grass, grows.

DiMasi may be gone, but we're not. Now is the time for others to step up. We need leadership, action, and momentum. Once more into the breach, my friends.

(p.s. I didn't make this video, but I think it's genius, and fun, and inspiring, and I suspect we could all use some of that today.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Myth of Inevitability, Part 5

Champagne corks were popping on the West Coast this week. And this one is a true victory for the little guy - and a body blow to the 'done deal'.

For close to four years the Santa Ynez Band (tribe) along with the Federal Government had been arguing that two California community organizations, Preservation of Los Olivos (P.O.L.O.) and Preservation of Santa Ynez (POSY) had no right to appeal decisions by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Internal Board of Indian Appeals.

Last July, a Federal judge said they were wrong. There was an appeal - but this week it was withdrawn, making the ruling final.

According to Steve Pappas, a founder of P.O.L.O. "This has always been about restoring and preserving the voice of each and every one of us. The Constitution is still a very young document, but it provides a clear framework for our rights as citizens and this case is a monumental example."

A spokesperson for P.O.L.O. stated that "P.O.L.O. and POSY now have standing to challenge the federal government's ability to remove land from local regulatory and taxing authority through the fee-to-trust process and puts decisions made by the BIA or IBIA under the scrutiny of a federal court. Never before have these decisions been subject to judicial review. This is a very big victory for all affected communities."

I can't tell you how important the efforts of these and other activist groups are to us and every other community that's been turned into a battlefield thanks to failed Federal Indian policy. They'e fought long battles for small victories, but each little victory adds up, and chips away at a common wrong.

I would encourage anyone to visit their web site. Like us, they are ordinary citizens committed to preserving their rural quality of life, and have demonstrated what can happen when citizens stand strong against what's wrong, and stand up for what's right. They are part of the reason that in America, the concept of inevitability remains a myth.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hell Hath Frozen

For anyone who missed the weekly radio pro-casino psychodrama known as Coffee Shop Talk hosted by Middleboro selectman Adam Bond, his spouse and their friend Billy - you missed the moment when, for the first and only time, Billy and I found ourselves on common ideological ground.

It was the point at which Adam resolutely insisted, in no uncertain terms, that Middleboro needed a casino - in such a way as to imply that the consequences of not having a casino spelled certain doom for the small town. (...Which is really kind of weird when you think about it - since every now and then lately, he'll say something about trying to get out of the intergovernmental agreement, which it's pretty obvious it doesn't want to do.)

Well anyway, that's when Billy sort of guffawed. The town doesn't need a casino, he said. Some people might want one. It could benefit some people, like himself, but heck, the earth wasn't going to open up and swallow the town whole if it didn't get a casino. The town would survive.

And he's right. Middleboro doesn't need a casino. I mean - do other towns in the area have a casino? No. Does any town in Massachusetts have a casino? No.

Then what makes Middleboro so destitute? Why is it's particular situation so dire, it's problems so insurmountable, that it cannot scratch and dig itself out of this reputably fathomless financial hole? Has it no highway access? No vast amounts of land? A shortage of labor? A dedicated and intelligent leadership at it's helm?


So why is it that a 340 year old town cannot creak out another year without a casino?

Well now, that later that same day I opened up the Brockton Enterprise to find this little gem about Raynham Dog Track owner George Carney and how he's musing over a new rezoning and development proposal for the track property.
Noting the town will lose $400,000 in annual revenue when the park shuts down, Carney said rezoning and developing the site to resemble a small village with a train station could mean "bringing $600,000 to $7000,000 to the town in revenue within eight to 10 years."
You're kidding me, right? Isn't this the same George Carney who, only a few short months ago, seemed to imply that the world was going to end in a horrible firey blaze if the State voted to end dog racing? So much for that, huh?

George Carney was never going to change his mind about dog racing. It took the State to do it. We have to look forward. Casinos don't help bad situations - they just make them worse. They increase costs, cause social problems, create regulatory bureaucracies, and never live up to their hype. New Jersey - 43,000 slot machines and it's asking the government for handout... When does it end?

When people stop believing they need casinos - that's when.

You know who needs casinos? Casino investors. That's who.

By taking the position that the town cannot survive without a casino - a philosophy ungrounded in reality - Mr. Bond is once again basing his beliefs and actions on a fiction.

The Tribe was never going to walk - that was pretty obvious. A casino was never inevitable. And the agreement sure didn't turn out to be that golden calf he promised.

Billy's right (but just this time). The town doesn't need a casino. But for some reason, maybe Adam does.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Myth of Inevitability, Part 4

After more than 10 years in court - it's a victory for Wisconsin.

In 1998 the Stockbridge-Munsee Community (tribe) in Shawano County began gaming operations on a country club it owned outside the boundaries of it's reservation.

Or not.

The tribe argued that the 'gaming' was going on within their reservation as it existed in 1856. But the State was able to prove that this reservation ceased to exist in 1910, and that government proclamations in 1937 and1948, and a 1972 Act of Congress had reconfigured the reservation - which, go figure, did not include the tribe-owned golf course where they had set up a slew of slot machines.

And the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed. But hey, they can still play golf there.

No Casino!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gak. Ralph. Vomit. Hurl.

Things must be dire for Adam.

He's left the cacoon and become... Madame Butterfly!

Best line:
"Maybe they (The Tribe) actually listen to their legal counsel and actually know how to deal with a transaction that can't possibly be dealt with from a small town mentality."

Trust me!
I'm a big city lawyer!
And besides... it worked so well the last time!!

Quick. Someone. Get the bucket.

The Light of Day

I blame the casino.

Today I should have watched the Inauguration with as much hope and happiness in my heart as anyone in the acres of humanity fanning out from the Capitol Building. And I would have - if not for the last two years.

The last two years of watching elected officials at all levels find ways to screw the public out of it's money, voice, and quality of life. I cannot summon a blip of enthusiasm. And I resent it. I resent that this issue has crept into my life and stolen this moment from me.

As the camera pans from the new president to the Lincoln Memorial, I get a tear in my eye imagining Martin Luther King watching this day unfold from across the reflection pond.

But the moment passes. I remember closed doors, done deals, mitigation, and politicians everywhere trying to convince the public, without the slightest bit of humor, that casinos are good for us. I am discouraged beyond repair. Cynical at last. Where others feel hope, I find only hypocrisy.

My hope is up the street - at the Supreme Court. My hope is in their ability to end the unbridled, government-sanctioned greed that has taken land off the tax rolls and which will stop at nothing to build the worlds largest casino on a highway near you.

But the Chief Justice just messed up his lines at the swearing in.

I say a prayer for smart people with position, good judgment, a moral compass and political leverage. Redeem my faith, restore my trust. That is my hope.
And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

President Obama in his Inauguration Address

Please Send in those letters!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't Forget... write those letters.

Urge the Massachusetts and U.S. Attorneys General to investigate the goings on in Middleboro 2007 in light of the recent indictment of Glenn Marshall, as I pointed in out in part three of this post.

Then cc those letters to the Department of the Interior and to Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Next, write a letter to the the DOI and BIA urging them not to place the land in Middleboro into trust, based on the scandal regarding Glenn Marshall - the only member of the Tribe the town had dealings with - and because of the way the process was handled. It stinks!

Then - cc those letters to the Attorneys General.

They can't ignore us forever. Besides, it's a good task for a snowy day.

Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108

Office of the Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Secretary of the Department of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Bureau of Indian Affairs
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thought Question of the Day...

Ok. Imagine for a moment that there is a person who has done something wrong. It doesn't matter what it is - it could run the gamut from the ethically unsound to the criminally felonious. In any event, the wrongdoing would surely, if exposed, be a cause of public embarrassment, with potentially far-reaching negative repercussions for the culprit and his or her associates.

Now, say that this person has become increasingly aware that his or her nefarious actions were indeed in danger of being exposed.

What would such a person do?

Personally, I wonder if our hypothetical malefactor might attempt to cooperate to an uncharacteristic degree. Perhaps efforts would be made to improve his or her public persona. I suppose it's possible they could even attempt to generate some sympathy.

I think it's likely that he or she might also attempt to deflect attention from themselves by shining a spotlight on another individual, one who may be involved in a similar wrongdoing but to a greater degree.

And, if our transgressor were really anxious about being exposed, I don't suppose it would be out of the realm of possibility for them to attempt to dilute their own involvement by locating others, some minor players perhaps, on whom to place (or manufacture) blame.

Remember, this is just a thought question. But I'd like to hear what you think.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Casino Gambling Once Again Rears It's Ugly Head

According to stories from today's Boston Globe and Boston Herald, the usual suspects are putting together a new casino bill.

Well, what do you expect? Fowoods has laid off 700 of it's staff while Mohegan Sun does it's darndest not to, while all over the country foreclosures are on the rise, jobs are being lost, credit is drying up and the American taxpayer is bailing out corporate greed and government mismanagement to the tune of several trillion dollars. But it's all good in Casinoland - where they can turn that frown upside down in 2 seconds flat by uttering that simple phrase, "It will be different here!"

Undeterred by the economy and last year's casino shellacking, it appears that some of Massachusetts' legislative visionaries (insert sarcasm emoticon here) are back for more.

Michael Morrisey, (D - Quincy) who demonstrated his utter cluelessness regarding the Mashpee Wampanoag casino issue at a recent debate in New Bedford, has stated that one reason he's drafting the bill now is because "we have to have something filed, at least to give us some bargaining power should the (Wampanoag project) ever get off the ground.”

But please don't be too alarmed, folks. Morrissey also once sponsored a bill to ban male circumcision which, right or wrong, probably won't get very far either.

Another of the bill's supporter is Joan Menard who, ironically, counts domestic violence as one the issues 'paramount' to her in her role as state senator. Ironic because domestic violence is a predictable impact of casino gambling. But hey, what's a few broken bones scattered across the State if we can create some dead-end casino jobs?

Interestingly Menard was also a President - President, God lover her - of the Greater Fall River League of Women Voters from 1974 to 1977. Well, that's OK - she stepped down before they took their decades-long stance on casinos. Maybe Joan could catch up on current events by reading what last year's president had to say about the issue.

And hey look, she's a former teacher! Then surely she must realize the lesson adults teach our children when they promote gambling.

Oh golly, Brian Wallace's name is there too. I remember him from the Statehouse roll call vote last year confidently proclaiming his vast and certain knowledge of everything Wampanoag - while completely mispronouncing their name.

And let's not forget Martin Walsh - you can bet on him. I know I won't forget his impassioned and utterly uninformed defense of casinos at last year's role call any time soon. It's truly amazing to watch how some folks can froth at the mouth about the supposedly superfluous benefits of casinos - seemingly unconscious or uncaring about their social, environmental and economic costs. But then, I suspect Walsh sings the Foxwoods jingle in the shower.

Yup - the brain trust is at it again. Can it only be a matter of time before we start seeing Dave Flynn's (D - Slots) name in the news again?

Because it takes some real high rollers to place their bets on casino gambling in this economy. Or perhaps they're just oblivious to the obvious - that it's the house that always wins.

Take New Jersey's governor who, with the revenue from 43,000 slots at his state's disposal (almost three times the amount Governor Patrick was hoping for) recently went looking for a federal bailout of his own.

So let's blame it all on the turnpike. With pressure mounting to rid our State of that menace - legislators struggle with the problem of where the money's going to come from if it disappears. Heck, who knows? I suppose responsible spending's off the table. Twenty-first century economic development, maybe?

Too cerebral.

So, by all means, lets build another type of turnpike - one that picks one, two or three of the commonwealth's pockets while stuffing the proceeds into others - then anchor it with an expensive and impermeable bureaucratic 'gaming' authority - which can then conveniently step in for the expensive and impermeable bureaucracy we've lived with for decades under the Mass Turnpike Authority - so that we can all watch with awe and indignation as our State manages to out-spend up to any increased revenue.

But hey -we can always open more casinos, right? And then... when that stops cutting it - we can raise taxes. Because that seems to be the plan in States with legalized gambling.

Which just goes to show you - real leaders quietly invest in the future, while poor leaders loudly drop quarters into slot machines.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Where the Heart Is

True story.

About twenty some-odd years ago, while living far from home, I had a friend who was in a bad car accident. Driving down a dark road, in the middle of the night, he rounded a sharp corner - and crashed into a car parked in the middle of the road - abandoned some time earlier by it's owner.

My friend suffered injuries to one of his legs, was in a lot of pain, and confined to bed for months. Every few weeks, for some reason, he'd receive a ticket from the town for the accident. Of course he didn't pay it, but as more time went by, and the town kept sending him increasingly impatient and harshly worded notices about his failure to make good on the ticket, my friend started to worry and wonder if he shouldn't just write a check and be done with it. But I kept insisting he shouldn't. "You didn't do anything wrong," I said. "This isn't just a matter of $30 bucks. If you pay the ticket, it'll look like you're admitting guilt. And none of this was any of your fault." But, over time, the tone of the letters and the pain of recovery wore him down, and finally, he sent the town a check.

Some months later, when my friend was ambulatory, we went to see a lawyer. He listened to us for about a half hour, perused all our documentation, then leaned back in his chair and said, "I'm sorry. I wish I could help you - I'm pretty sure we could have collected somewhere in the range of $50,000 - if only you hadn't paid that ticket."

Recently there has been some discussion about re-negotiating the Intergovernmental agreement that Middleboro signed with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe for a casino. There has been some sentiment, even in the anti-casino camp, that the IGA should be renegotiated, to protect Middleboro's best interest.

This gives me exactly the same feeling in my gut that I had about that ticket, and I'd like to explain why.

First - Adam is involved. He's called us names, rushed the agreement to everyone's detriment but the investors, gloated in the glory, used it for self-promotion, withheld the truth - when he wasn't abandoning it altogether - revised history and demonstrated that he'd happily throw the town under the bus if it would help a casino.

And right now he really wants to renegotiate that agreement, delight the investors, look like a hero, mollify the opposition, and make you think it was all your idea.

And he's not the only reason to be nervous. Marsha Brunelle gaveled any casino opposition, and the entire board refused to check into their potential partner's background, sold the town down the river with section 22 B, neglected their neighbors in the surrounding communities, and couldn't be bothered to collect information on economic, environmental and social impacts or to educate the public through a series of public forums featuring actual experts. Good golly - Mr. Rogers spent more time trying to get on the Regional Task Force than he did examining casino impacts!

At this stage in the casino chronicles the only actions that Adam Bond and the rest of the Selectmen can responsibly take in Middleboro's best interest would be to 1.) Send an official letter to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior recinding their support for the project a 2.) Fill him in on the vote on Article III and 3.) Tell the Tribe that they're no longer interested in sharing a town with a sovereign nation that cannot, in the three decades it's spent chasing federal recognition, get it's act together 4.) Get a real lawyer, one with the town's real best interests in mind - and without 'Indian' and 'Gaming' after his or her title. Have he or she take a look at that contract - with members of the opposition in the room.

For Middleboro's citizens, after everything that has happened in the year and a half since the agreement, to demand anything less flies in the face of reality. And to suggest that they should renogotiate anything for the good of the town - especially with Adam and the Board at the helm - is setting up the town up for another fall.

It's like buying a lemon from a used car dealer - you only go back to the dealership to get your money back - not to give the guy another chance to sell you a lemon.

Second - I've read a lot of Indian Casino case studies. And the thing that stands out clearly to me in every one of them is this - when you oppose a casino or something related to it - you need to be very clear about your opposition.

Because even when you oppose a casino or one or more potential impacts thereof, the first thing the BIA is going to do is to attempt to 'mitigate' it. So, you really have to be very firm in your resolve that nothing will properly 'mitigate' your concerns.

And worse, if you don't oppose a particular impact at all - they're actually going to take that as 'support'.

No kidding. Why do you think the Environmental committee worked very hard with everyone to cover, as best it could, all impacts, and to oppose a casino on those grounds? Because if someone didn't mention, for instance, strong concern about the alewife population in the Nemasket river being poisoned by traffic and parking lot run-off - the BIA and DOI would assume your entire community is not only OK with a few dead herring, but potentially the decimation of the local alwife population.

Renegotiating or revisiting the IGA in light of EVERYTHING we know now -is like drawing a big fat smiley face on that Land into Trust application.

Third -- There is no such thing as a 'done deal'. There are always choices.

Yet another lesson I learned when I was young was that it's a great thing to write a letter, but if you want that letter to get something done - cc someone else on it. Because it's amazing what people will do if they think someone's else is paying attention.

And so, if you really want to do something productive about the agreement, you'll write a letter to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and the BIA telling them why the land in Middleboro shouldn't go into trust because of all the corruption within the Tribe and it's investors and the sleazy way the agreement was pushed through. Goodness knows there's plenty of material for that right here on this blog.

And then - cc that letter to the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Attorney General of the United States.

Then... write another, very similar letter, and send that to the Attorneys General insisting there be an investigation into the shady dealings that surrounded the signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement with Middleboro - and cc the DOI and BIA on that one.

Now, I have some very wise and learned friends who will tell you that the comment period is over etc. and that no one's going to read your letter. But this is what I believe - no one, not our government officials and especially not political appointees live in a vacuum. And if there's anything the folks in government don't want these days is to be linked to any sort of corruption or scandal - especially in this, the digital age, where hints of wrongdoing have a way of following you around forever. Rod Blagojevich, Bill Richardson, and the Subprime Mortgage, Credit, and Auto Makers debacles - these things are all very fresh in everyone's mind.

Everywhere you turn, people are getting caught with their pants down and their hands in the cookie jar. In fact, this past the fall the DOI was in the spotlight of it's own scandal, and so, what with ties to Abramoff and payoffs to Congress, they may want to put some distance between themselves and the radioactive Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

Remember - this isn't a tribe out in the Western U.S. looking to build a three-hundred machine slot parlor out on Rte. Nowhere so that they can afford to buy books for school children. This is a middle class, fully assimilated Tribe, with a history of corruption, a weak application, facing new, tougher regulations, and which wants to build the world's largest casino in the currently casino-free State of Massachusetts. I mean, how many red flags can you count in this melodrama?

And think about this - early last year, PRIOR to publishing new regulations governing land into trust decisions this Spring (and their effective date in August), the DOI denied several tribes land into trust for being too far from their reservations.

That's right. Those denials were based on feedback from the public - including that of other Tribes - and issued without new regulations in place.

So, in the time it takes to watch a selectman's meeting - you could save your town. Or... you could just hope someone else does it.

Here's those addresses.

Secretary of the Department of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Bureau of Indian Affairs
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

Office of the Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108

Fourth -- We were right the first time.

Back in '07 we heard it, time and time again - if Middleboro didn't sign an agreement, the town could get a casino and no money. And a lot of people believed that.

But on July 28th 2007, roughly a third of the assembled voters at the Town Meeting From Hell voted NO to that agreement.

Those folks were right then, and they're more right now. This isn't a hypothetical exercise anymore. This thing stunk from the start and it's smelling worse by the minute.

Sure, I agree - there are many times in town government when compromise and negotiation are necessary. But this isn't one of them.

You don't win Land into Trust decisions by settling. You win by saying NO. You win by standing your ground. And you win by standing that ground all the way to the Supreme Court if that's what it takes.

Because, for the price of a little piece of mind, you could end up losing more than you even knew you had.

Great Moments in Hypocrisy

"...such actions by any elected official is a breach of trust and sheer wreckless disregard of the consequences that such action will have on the Town's interests."

"I feel bad for the Tribe, but I feel worse for my Tribe to whom I owe unqualified and absolute allegience."

-- Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond
from his blog post dated 12-31-08

Adam Bond raises his hand. Yes?

"Um... say a casino or… or… the new Plymouth Movie Studio comes into the picture..."

No kidding. First words out of his mouth. CASINO.

"…is there some way… in other words… what could STOP this project?"

The highway guy, not being from the Land of Oz, looks confused. Apparently, no one has ever done this.

This is Adam’s dilemma zone: After installing these turning lanes, Mass. Highway isn’t going to touch Rte. 44 for at least another 5 years. And that means no double barreled highway or other infrastructure improvements to the road which would make life easier (and cheaper) for casino investors. It could potentially even (gasp!) delay The Project.

But by all means, let’s see if we can’t delay the turning lanes instead. I mean, what’s another 100 accidents more or less if it saves some billionaires a little coin.

-- Connoisseur of the Human Comedy, Gladys Kravitz
in her May 15, 2008 blog post, The Dilemma Zone

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

They Say That When God Closes a Door...

He opens a window.

On July 28, 2007, a lot of people thought the door had closed on their hopes of ridding Middleboro of a casino. It was a beautiful summer day. Hot as hell, the sun shining high in a cloudless sky and people dropping like flies on the baseball fields in back of the high school at the now infamous Town Meeting from Hell. And there sat some of the the instigators of this insanity, Glenn Marshall, Jack Healey and the Middleboro Board of Selectmen, on an elevated stage - not unlike conquering gods, captains of an orange speckled sea of humanity, and seemingly, the masters of Middleboro's future.

Today, a year and a half later as I write this post, it is gray and cold and quiet. Soggy sodden snow covers the ground while freezing rain drops relentlessly from the sky.

And yet, ain't the world a beautiful place?

Because, in a year and a half, we've worked hard, had some very good luck, and been the thankful beneficiary of other people's bad decisions and hard-fought battles. And it's finally paying off.

So, what do we know now, for a fact, that we didn't know then:

1.) It's A New Game in Town:
New IGRA regulations, the long-awaited result of 20 years of past abuses and reservation shopping, became effective this year. They make it much more difficult, if not impossible for Tribes seeking off-reservation land for gaming, by asking awkward questions about modern and historical ties to the land, other tribes, and their own tribal government. And it was well known in Indian gaming circles that they were in the works long before the Middleboro casino deal went down.

2.) Law & Order - Carcieri v. Kempthorne:
Also long in the works was this case. Should Tribes recognized before 1934 (predominantly remote and located in the Western United States) and those recognized after receive be treated exactly the same under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act? That's what the Supreme Court is deliberating now, with a decision expected in February. Massachusetts signed on to the case, which was well-argued by the Carcieri's attorney. If decided in favor of Carceiri, it should protect impoverished tribes while putting an end to the corruption-rife 'gaming' free-for-all that was never intended, and yet still errupted, from previous indulgent interpretation of Federal Code and - of course - the lure of all that glitters... Tribes recognized post-1934 and newly recognized tribes can petition Congress for gaming concessions, but with the Mashpee Wampanoag's deepening history of lies and payoffs, their prospects are looking dim. Stay tuned.

3.) You Don't Know What You've Got 'Till It's Gone:
Casino opponents have long spoken out about the serious potential for negative, unrepairable and unmitigatable regional impacts to water, air, and wildlife. They were joined at the BIA hearing last April by several regional environmental organizations. Now, with the release of the Audubon Society's recent editon of Sanctuary Magazine, devoted completely to the subject of the Middleboro casino project (which it opposes), it's potential impact on our region, and reminders of what Native American culture is really all about, our concerns may finally be heard.

4.) The Color of Money:
Casino advocates have, from day one, promoted the casino project as a virtual bottomless pit of good money, plentiful jobs and high times. Guess what? They're wrong. The intergovernmental agreement Middleboro residents agreed to sign by almost - but not quite - a 2/3 majority at the Town Meeting from Hell in 2007 won't even remotely cover economic impacts to the town. Ironically, the proponent's argument in favor of the casino project and it's final agreement were entirely predicated as being a viable economic solution for the town's budget woes. Um.. OK, so why did people support the IGA , again?

5.) The Road to Recognition is paved with Gold:
So, just what was the Mashpee Wampanoag's first move upon acheiving Federal recognition - that official vidication of their culture and history? Well, having some backers from Michigan buy them land in Middleboro for the world's largest casino, of course! But hmmm... for some reason it took the Mashpee Wampanoag decades to achieve Federal recogntion. An oversight? A miracle? Um... not so much. More like motivated investors. But don't get too choked up if they don't get a casino. Based on other Federally recognized New England tribes, with or without a casino, their 1,500 member tribe will collect a tax free check somewhere in the vacinity of 1.5 M to 5.5 M of tax payer's money annually. Maybe more if they bat their eyes and keep repeating that whole 'we met the Pilgrims' thing.

6.) Bad boys, Bad boys, whatcha gonna do?:
Lying to Congress. Rape convictions. Pay-offs, violations of campaign laws, tax, wire and Social Security frauds? Spousal abuse? Stabbings? More stabbings? Level III sex offenders working at tribal offices? A Tribal Spokesperson who seldom returns a call? Wow, looks like the only place you can find any "good faith" is in the Intergovernmental Agreement.

7.) And if that weren't bad enough...
One of the things I've heard, time and time again, is 'We've already got gambling - so what's a little more!'. Well, ironically, political corruption is one of the many side effects of casinos. And hey, since we already have it anyway - what's a little more? Oh wait...

8.) The Puppet Masters
One of the investors pulling the Tribes strings included one Laurence Deitch. At a June 2007 meeting at the Middleboro High School, Mr. Deitch, who was introduced as a lawyer for the Tribe and it's financial backers, is quoted as saying, "I think this is a fair agreement for both... What we want is a decision," and that the Mashpee Wampanoag, "had to fight for 32 years to gain Federal recognition," and that they were "anxious to move forward with plans that will benefit members of the Tribe." Benefit who exactly? Thanks to the Glenn Marshall indictment, we've learned that Dietch isn't a just lawyer for the investors - he's also a client! Heck, no wonder he was in a hurry to get that deal signed!

At a December 22nd Middleboro selectman's meeting Adam Bond indicated he hadn't known this tidbit about Deitch or that one Stephen Graham, a lobbyist, and yet another figure who participated in the IGA negotiations was an investor, too. Oh really?? I dunno. I recall this past summer that a certain person was quietly attempting to float some interest in that name. Eventually a fellow blogger popped the question.

9.) Can You Hear Me Now?

March 2008 - Massachusetts said 'no thanks' to Deval Patrick's casino plan. Which is more bad news for investors. Face it, Massachusetts isn't Michigan or West Virginia or New Jersey. And with our reputation as an Ivy League State, we should be smart enough to see a gambling-reliant economy for what it is - a bad bet. Our State has never failed to put the kibosh of full-scale gambling, or cave to the tainted promises of casino investors. And last March, despite fierce opposition and dirty tactics, good leadership prevailed.

10.) It's UNANIMOUS!:
January 7, 2007 - Sal DiMasi, Speaker of the House, and fiercely opposed to casinos, was re-elected despite being run through the rumor mill last year.

11.) How to Oppose a Casino in 125 pages or less
Almost a year ago the Governor's office really did their homework and submitted a comprehensive statement on why Middleboro would make a bad place for a casino. Should the Governor ever change his mind and start thinking about compacts... this document would sure give him a lot of 'splain'in to do.

12.) Dyfunctional Family Feud
Some people want to let the Tribe 'get their ducks in a row' before having a conversation with them about the casino agreement. But is that even possible? There has been division and bitter in-fighting within the Tribe for years. And, following the Glenn Marshall indictment, instead of gathering to deliberate the future of their nation, the majority of the Tribal council went into hiding. So, how can you get your ducks in a row if they've flown south for the winter?

13.) The Public Trust?
On August 27, 2007 the Middleboro Board of Selectmen took a unanimous vote deciding that Article III - that Middleboro didn't want a casino - was irrelevant information to deliver to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. The fact that no one has called the board on this is a mystery to me. The Board isn't there to do exactly what it wants. It's there to represent YOU. And so, why do they report the vote on the casino agreement, but not the one on casino sentiment? We all know the answer to that - but the fact that there was no outrage over this - that still bewilders me. To me, this is a clear cut example of the Board's attempt to deny the people they represent a voice, in order to forward the Tribe's agenda.

14.) The Mashpee Wampanoag Board of Selectmen
This is another one I can't believe people aren't clammoring about. In 2007, in the five whole days they were given to review the Intergovernmental Agreement, I'm not sure anyone was able to fully comprehended the future power of Section 22 B. Essentially, what it boils down to, is that if the interests of Middleboro or it's citizens conflict with the Tribes needs, guess who wins. Don't believe me? See the previous paragraph.

15.) The Economy Tanked
And surprise, apparently casino's aren't recession-proof. Layoffs, stalled building projects, dried-up credit and tumbling revenues make it unlikely that Governor Patrick will attempt to perform CPR on his casino plan. We should all be delighted that most of our legislature had better long-term planning skills than casino developers appear to.

16.) Train Wreck
How many times have we heard that casinos are economic engines? In 2007 that sold a lot of people on a Middleboro casino. Well, casino revenue might give the local and State economy a brief boost, but after that, it's all downhill.

17.) Dennis. The Menance.
Boy, who knew, back in those halcyon days of Summer '07 that the go-to guy Middleboro hired to give them sage advice about what to do when an Federally recognized tribe wants to build a casino in your town was an affliliated member of CasinoLawyer Magazine and a speaker at CasinoFest '07. Do you suppose Dennis told the Board about the new regs? Or Carcieri v. Kempthorne? And if he did, then why were we so often treated to that mantra "a casino is coming anyway. The problem might be that Dennis thinks casinos are a done deal, even though he, out of everyone involved at that time, new the gravy train was in deep danger of crashing even before an EIS was completed. So did he fill the Board in? Did he keep the information to himself? Or maybe he did hold forth, but downplayed these developments as inconsequential. Either way, why weren't Middleboro residents told a casino might NOT be coming? And was everyone aware, like Dennis, that local support, in the form of oh say an Intergovernmental Agreement was vital to the Tribe's application? Why weren't they made privvy to this information so that they could make the best decision for their town? Good questions that, I believe, deserve honest answers.

18.) Of Human Bondage:
At first, Adam Bond listened to our concerns. Then called us 'braying donkeys' and 'idiots'. Obviously incapable of understanding how certain important aspects of the project could not possibly be mitigated, he always reduces everything down to "the deal". Quotes from his first web site, which he may have altered by now, made it clear he was using the IGA negotiations to enhance his own resume. Now he points the finger of potential ethics violations at his fellow board members. Wow... the age of Middleboro's innocence really is gone...

19.) Did Someone Mention Ethics violations?:
From Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond's recent revisionist self-serving diatribe comes this potential bombshell regarding his colleagues on the Board:

"failure to move forward in a proper manner is simply to deny that Middleborough and it voters have been victimized also and have rights that need protection. I feel bad for the Tribe, but I feel worse for my Tribe to whom I owe unqualified and absolute allegience."

(Gag. Emphasis mine.)

"On that note, let's consider further that some individuals in government also take it upon themselves to disclose to the people on the other side of the IGA matters relating to the Town's own strategies relating to how to proceed under the IGA. I can think of at least two occassions where that has occurred, and it has telegraphed to the other side that there is division on the BOS that can be exploited to their own advantage. To me, such actions by any elected official is a breach of trust and sheer wreckless disregard of the consequences that such action will have on the Town's interests."

It looks like 'good faith' goes one way - to Mashpee.

20.) Block Party
Your neighbors in surrounding towns are with you. Sure, Gladys the Casino Slayer has been there from the start, but you might not realize what friends you have in Lakeville, Plympton, Halifax, Kingston, Berkley, Rochester, and Carver. And they're out there writing, making calls, holding signs, raising money, researching, arguing and trying to protect the region they love and that we all call home. Hell - Plympton has it's own casino task force! John Bruno from Halifax participates in debates! And there's no agreement to consider re-negotiating for them. A Middleboro casino is a regional issue. In 2007, their reps took one look at Article III and almost unanimously opposed Middleboro joining their ranks, which as you can see from many of the preceeding paragraphs, was a really good move. Please join them at the next task force meeting and show your support for theirs.

21.) I'm melting... melting...
The rats must really be jumping this sinking ship in light of the Marshall indictment and the many other well-documented woes this casino project has seen - because Herb Strather's looking for some new blood! Potentially local ones, to invest in his casino. Well of course, what better way to intimidate an effective local opposition. Calling all rats...

22.) The Myth of Inevitability - 2008
In January the Department of the Interior denied the land into trust applications of the St. Regis Mohawk and Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican tribes of New York. In February the Supreme Court agreed to hear Carcieri v. Kempthorne. In July, a decision in The Coalition Against Casino Gambling in Erie Count vs. Hagen made a Seneca Nation casino in Buffalo illegal. In August the new IGRA regulations took effect. In December the fifth circuit court of appeals ruled that Texas may not be compelled to enter into a compact for class III 'gaming' with the Kickapoo Tribe. The Tribe took it to the Supreme Court - which declined to hear it.

Plus, all the other reasons why a casinos are NOT inevitable in Massachusetts or Middleboro.

23.) Working like a Blog:
They made you laugh. They told you what the papers wouldn't, and what a lot of people didn't want you to know. They kept you coming back for more. They galvanized. They inspired. They angered. They educated. They warned. They exposed. But most importantly they did what no one expected they would - they worked. They are widely read, widely quoted and gosh darnit - make for some very good food for thought. And sometimes yes, they still make you laugh.

So there you have it. Twenty-three important things you didn't know (at least for sure) in July '07. If anyone can think of something I didn't mention, you know where to reach me - or post via comment.

The purpose of this exercise has been to remind you that this isn't then. Because I can't help but keep thinking of that guy, quietly and respectfully asking the Board if they couldn't include Article III in their letter to the DOI (he was probably afraid Marsha would drop the gavel on him or that Bond might flick a cigarette butt at his face) right before they completely dissed his concern tossed Article III in the dumpster.

Folks, you are now armed with a year and a half of facts and are being serenaded by the sound of shoes dropping. So next time you meet with that board that is so confident that it can still push you around on this issue, I want you to remember those 23 open windows, and take a breath of fresh air.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

If You Want a Friend, Get a Dog

I've been trying, without much luck, to blog a response to Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond's own recent blog post - which essentially blasts his fellow selectmen for being bunch of slack-jawed country-fried rubes who do bad things behind closed doors.

Because I can't argue with that.

But the rest of it - the whole breathless rant about taking oaths to look out for the best interests of his own "Tribe" to which he owes his "unqualified and absolute allegience" - honestly folks, I just didn't know where to start.

At first, looking at the date stamp of December 31, 2008, I was more or less willing to credit his post to too much bubbly and Jeno's pizza rolls while waiting for the ball to fall down, and leave it at that.

But then I saw the comments. And I guess seeing words like "courage" and "resolve" attributed to Adam Bond - well that was sort of like being dropped into a world where scarecrows talk and monkeys fly.

But then, Adam always brings an element of surrealism to everything. In fact, he's a real Salvador Dali when it comes to the art of the deal.

But hey, I'll say this much for Adam - he has always been about "The Deal". In fact, he was extremely proud of that very deal he's so eager to revisit now.
This deal is no different than most others. It is about money, self interest, and leverage.
Sadly, in his haste back in '07, Adam failed to understand how much money he should have negotiated for, made the deal with his own self-interest in mind, and threw away any leverage the town had to begin with by telling everyone a casino was a "done deal."

And suddenly he's a humble hero because he's blaming it all on the cabbage patch kids he shares a desk with?

Pah - leeze...

I suppose it has nothing to do with deflecting attention from a crappy deal he made with folks currently under Federal indictment and certain felons-to-be-named-later?

No. Impossible. It must be a selfless act of courage. And only intense resolve could allow someone to stand up to the burly likes of Steve Spataro and Muriel Duphilly.

Because in his manifesto, Adam, himself king of the secret meeting, accuses some of his colleagues on the board of disclosing
to the people on the other side of the IGA matters relating to the Town's own strategies relating to how to proceed under the IGA.
And also of telling tales of division on the board. Well, I suspect that cat's out of the bag, now, huh? But the part I like best is when he proclaims that
such actions by any elected official is a breach of trust and sheer wreckless disregard of the consequences that such action will have on the Town's interests.
So, I'm guessing that this must be a different sort of "breach of trust and sheer wreckless disregard of the consequences that such action will have on Town interests" that compelled Mr. Bond, back in 2007, to demand that his "Tribe" sign an agreement five days after the document was made public, at a giant outdoor meeting that many couldn't attend, before all impacts were known, under the guise of an inevitability that did not exist, with a partner he couldn't be bothered to get to know?

But you won't find those facts in Bond's latest revisionist diatribe. And you won't find courage in his latest stunt.

Courage can't be found by going against your board when it's in your own best interest.

Courage is standing at a microphone in front of 3,000 people and news cameras speaking about values and community while a bunch of neanderthals scream and laugh at you. It's continuing to speak the truth even when people who don't agree with you threaten to sue you. Or put liens on your house. Or attempt to humiliate, harass and discredit you and your family on public web sites and message boards. Or spit on your car in front of your kids. Or say they'll come to your house and 'destroy' you. Or use those people who do to intimidate you.

Real courage is about doing the right thing, and doing it even when people aren't listening or don't care. Courage is standing up, not giving up, and not giving in, even when that would be so easy to do. Courage is giving up the things you enjoy, or need, or want, to make life a better place for people who will never thank you. Or vote for you.

If you want a friend, buy a dog.

And if you really want the best deal for Middleboro, you won't let self-serving hypocrites, two-timing lawyers or refugees from the turnip truck anywhere near it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stimulate This

This can't be right.
Governors across America are hoping Congress and President-elect Barack Obama put together a federal stimulus package that will help their states. Gov. David Paterson and a number of other governors will be on a conference call this afternoon to talk about their needs. New York has a $15.3 billion budget gap, and Paterson has proposed budget cuts in education and health care. Also on the call will be Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.
Massachusetts and Ohio maybe, but New York, Wisconsin and New Jersey? No, they can't possibly be facing budget gaps.

Because they have casinos. Lots of them.

Wisconsin, in fact, as about a bazillion casinos, mostly small, with a Statewide total of 14,000 'gaming machines'. No need for any economic stimulation there.

New York is also awash in casinos - including Indian casinos - with 15,000 'gaming machines' and a legal gambling age (except for the Seneca casinos) of 18. How can they be hurting?

And New Jersey? You have to be kidding me! They sold a whole city to the dark side just to collect 'gaming' revenue from it - and now they're saying they can't balance a budget?? With 43,000 slot machines?? Not to mention the fact that they just lifted a smoking ban to bring in more gamblers!

So what are these governors trying to imply with this conference call - that 'gaming' and casinos and slot machines aren't bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan?

It can't be! Why just last year, at the State House casino hearings - that's all I heard for hours on end - what big fat lucrative economic saviours these 'gaming machines' are.

So, maybe someone could explain to me how New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin now find themselves in a hole they can't plug up with a wad of those magic gambling greenbacks which supposedly fall like manna from heaven whenever you plug in a slot machine, legalize gambling and use the revenue to shore up a State budget.

Anyone? Anyone?