Way back in the Spring of 2007, opposition to the Middleboro casino project learned that approval of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's land into trust application, rather than being a "done deal", was actually greatly dependent upon "Host Community support. "
Yet, rather than being a point of leverage, this reality was steamrolled by certain town officials, local supporters, misinformed legislators and the media, who created an atmosphere of exigency, and wove a fiction that the town must sign an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Tribe, or be left with nothing.
Look at the Connecticut casinos, we were told. Foxwood's host community negotiated no agreement, and was left without mitigation for the world's biggest casino. Mohegan Sun, it was said, was the smart one, negotiating for $500,000 per year with the host community.
And Middleboro, we were lead to believe, would benefit from the best agreement ever known. But only if it hurried - because the Tribe was just itchin' to go elsewhere.
We know now that these were false assumptions. We know now that the Connecticut Tribes had existing reservations. But that the Mashpee Wampanoag were trying to obtain land into trust for a casino under the "initial reservation" exception to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which applies to OFF RESERVATION land to be used for gaming purposes. And that this is an entirely different animal.
And I'm still not sure how Dennis Whittlesey failed to mention this to the town. Or, if he did, how Selectman liason to the negotiations Adam Bond failed to appreciate it's relevence beyond his own blinding desire, for whatever his reasons, to see the casino built.
Additionally the public recieved no educational forums to consider environmental, social or quality of life impacts of a mega-resort casino by experts. Surrounding communities, which would be effected, had no say at all.
For all his bluster and confidence, the only leg Glenn Marshall had to stand on was the one he'd propped up with crooked lobbyists and straw contributors.
On July 28th 2007, 3,000 some-odd Middleboro voters gathered on baseball fields behind the high school on one of the hottest days of the year in a hastily arranged town meeting which disenfranchised many, to decide the fate of the Intergovernmental agreement, a document hammered out by lawyers, with no blueprints and revealed to the public only five days earlier.
The opposition worked hard to place Article 3 on the warrant - that the town didn't want a casino - which passed overwhelmingly. Mention of Article 3 was deemed irrelevant to the Middleboro Selectmen's letter to the DOI.
In late 2007 and early 2008 we wrote our letters to the Depart ment of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affaris formally opposing the land into trust. We citied this horrendously flawed process, impacts to the environment, the existence of reservation shopping, and more. These letters and our additional testimony at the BIA hearings has been recorded, filed and subsequently must be addressed.
At the end of 2008 we learned of indictments against Glenn Marshall regarding the Tribe's recognition. We have been told that there will be additional charges, involving other players.
In 2009 the opposition has initiated a letter writing campaign to the AG asking for an investigation into the process in Middleboro in 2007, to the DOI insisting that land in trust be denied in Middleboro because of the corruption within the Tribe, and to various other ethics commissions.
President Obama recently appointed a new head of the Department of the Interior who has stated that he wants to put an end to the rampant corruption within his agencies.
These are the facts. And yet, there are some who insist that the best way to stop a casino, is to open up renegotiations.
There are many reasons I could list why this is a dangerous route to take, but first and most importantly, if the IGA is re-negotiated, the DOI and BIA will view this as support, that our previous concerns about the process preceeding the first IGA have now have been sufficently answered, and that environmental impacts have been 'mitigated' to the host community's satisfaction.
That's how it works. These agencies beat the bushes and comb the fine print for indications of 'support'. And there will not be another chance to file our opposition to a new contract.
Whether or not to renegotiate the contract has nothing to do with an emotional reaction or the need to work together toward some common goal. It has everything to do with staying on course and keeping our red shoes firmly on the Yellow Brick Road.
Right now we are standing in front of the Great and Powerful Wizard, holding in our hands a very valuable charred broom - something no one ever thought we could pull off. This is not the time to consider giving it back.
In other words, as far as off-reservation Land into Trust scenarios go, we are, at the moment, in a very good position.
Renegotiating the IGA right now would help nothing and potentially hurt the opposition's well-founded case. It would not make the process that took place in 2007 any better, it would not stop impacts to the regional environment and it would not better educate people. And worse, it would present us with a BIG UNKNOWN.
What we should be doing is writing our letters to the editor, to the appropriate agencies, and to our legislators demanding that they vote against slots at the tracks. And putting pressure on our local officials to oppose the casino project, or to tear up the IGA. We should be helping fund and support better candidates for Middleboro selectmen. We should be standing firm in our resolve. Because these are the things that will work.
Which is not to say we cannot work with each other. I've personally worked very closely together with people from different towns all across this commonwealth, and even different States, to help kill Deval Patrick's casino bill, to prevent a casino in Middleboro, and to educate the public about casino impacts.
For close to two years now, legislators, journalists, creative professionals, political specialists, lawyers, professors, social services, environmentalists, engineers, the religious community, local officials, bloggers and every day folks with hearts in the right place have walked beside me on these yellow bricks.
And if we just keep following this road, eventually it'll lead us back home.