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.