Thursday, October 29, 2009

Once More Into the Breach, My Friends

(Note: This was a live blogging experience and reads from the bottom up. Time is noted on the left.)

7:00 pm. Sorry I stopped the live blog so abruptly. My connected blew out and that was that. The rest of day included some really moving stories from former addicts. I don't know why former addicts usually go at the end of these things. They're the one's who'll be funding the State if it approves gambling.

Then there was some really weird testimony from poker players - one of whom actually disputed the experience of one of the previous former gambling addicts. There also was more talk of jobs, and one guy from the track who kept calling gambling addicts "degenerate gamblers".

Awkward...


It went on 'till about 4:30 I think. One of the last speakers was CFO founder Jacquie Tolosko, who'd moved heaven and earth to be there and who made us all proud by speaking about how casinos rip communities apart. Then she read the letter she shared with USS-Mass.org on the web site. Beautiful.

I think the big point to be made here is that Jacquie and Jessie and Frank and Judy and Carl and me - we're still in this fight 2 and a half years later. And it's not about us anymore. There's not going to be a casino in Middleboro, but what we've learned about expanded gambling since then is what keeps us in the fight. It absolutely made my day to see them there.

Kelly from the League of Women Voters came up and did her usual magic, and Rep Thomas Conroy ended the day by offering his assistance to the committee on a cost benefit analysis of the issue, citing the analysis he did on his own of Deval's 3 casino plan. Gotta love that Conroy.

All in all, the day was better than expected, with many of my colleagues speaking up and squashing flying casino crapola wherever it landed.

I don't know where our testimony will end up. I hope not in the circular file. I hope more people will visit the web site www.uss-mass.org (which I entered into official testimony!) and learn for themselves what most people don't know about the complex issue of expanded gambling. It isn't just a site filled with statistics - there are real people there. Lots of them. You can learn the truth about slot machines, find out what a gambling arms race is all about, and how predatory gambling effects everyone from children to seniors.

After it was over some of us went out and celebrated not having to catch a train at 11:00 pm, reflected on the crazy day, the latest from Statehouse news, strangers who became friends and friends who became strangers. And what a long strange trip it's been.

No one ruminated much on whether we'd won or lost the day. Or what our chances were of winning the vote next year. Or even what the next step would be. The important thing was that a bunch of us came together today and did the impossible - we tried to save the world - in three minutes or less.

THANK YOU TO ALL WHO CAME OUT TO TESTIFY TODAY IN OPPOSITION TO EXPANDED GAMBLING, OR TO SUPPORT THOSE WHO DID!! GREAT JOB!! GREAT TEAM EFFORT!!

2:45 Evelyn Reilly of Mass. Family Institute makes the point that why isn't this a consumer protection issue? Slot machines have been demonstrated to cause addiction - it should be studied.

Patricia Endicott is up, she says her father is addicted to gambling. Has for over 50 years. He's bright and has good interpersonal skills. Yet he ruined his life and the life of his family. She wants the committee to know that addiction effects the family of the addict and ruins lives.

2:40 Clyde came back. Talks about his recent survey that says everyone wants a casino in their backyard. It is telling that half the committee gets up and leaves. Since anything I say about Clyde today will obviously be taken, by him, as character assassination - I will let him assassinate himself.

Time expired Clyde. Now go away. He is cheered by the blue shirt guy who yawned audibly at our side earlier.

2:35 Clyde Barrows is called but he's out some where, obviously dodging the slings and arrows of anti-casino activists. He is called and strolls in but has been replaced with 2 guys in Palmer + Casinos = Jobs T-shirts. One says he's a scientist. He is all, obviously, about jobs. Committee member Frost is finally asleep.

One of these guys worked in a Riverboat casino in Ohio and revitalized the town. Addicts? No - they knew everyone by name and would help them out.

2:34 a guy with a long frizzy blond beard appears speaking up for gambling addicts.

2:30 Rep Bowles. Very pro casino. Good cure for insomnia. Rep Frost is looking bleary.

2:27 Horseman's society is up. Yes the horse industry is doing poorly, but so did Delaware. Now look at Delaware.

2:20 Kathleen Norbut is up!! She has a graphic. It's GREAT! I'll post it if I can later. It's a blow up of that mailing that the unions did one year, except Kathleen has placed little red arrows on it, correcting the fairytales with facts. She relates her union-family background, her husband is a capenter, she comes from a smaller than average town, she has no money she only has a Massachusetts public education. 30,000 jobs - WRONG! Good paying jobs WRONG. Median range $20,000. We are volunteers. Please stop this fiscally poor policy. I do not believe as a tax payer that I should subsidize the gambling industry. She rattles off costs and asks for questions. She gives the report that Jen Lendler couldn't, in her 20 years in the industry, couldn't place. Final statement:

Please our communities can't take another hit.

2:15 A job recruiter for Mohegan Sun spreads some sunshine. Some committee members are skeptical. (Some??)

2:05 Charles Baker and Jennifer Lendler (pointy horns and bifurcated tail) Lendler (20+ years in the industry) are there with the guy who owns Suffolk Downs are there - at least being honest, sort of, as to who they represent. Lendler's not familiar with the 9 - 10 ratio we keep talking about (so it must not be real). Committee seems a bit concerned about traffic. But they recognize this and are working with the authorities. They could be up in running in 5 to 6 months.

2:00 I had a whole really intersting segment about Mohegan Sun in Plamer but my connection crapped out and I lost it. Sen. Tucker made a funny and they supported a local ballot referendum. (If necessary...)

BTW Clyde Barrow is here! Jihad! Or is it Fatwah? I can never remember.

1:20 Another USS-Mass.org panel. The press all leaves to talk to Ced. Tom Larkin talks about the social costs and how casino profits won't be as high as they think after these costs. He uses a lot of statistics. The !@#$% next to me in a blue shirt makes a big point of audible yawning. Ironically Tom mentions 'ignorance' unrelated from this in his testimony at the same time.

Fred Berman, who I have finally met, talks about the casino industry being just like the tobacco industry. The blue shirt yawns again and Les gives him a look. Fred talks dispels discretionary spending myths.

Jessie Powell of Middleboro is up!! She gets in a dig to the Middleboro selectman. It's not inevitable. The June Spilka hearing as a Lovefest. The casino handbook. Go Jessie! Don't think you'll be different. She talks about the gambling arms race - it always expands. Munch munch munch. It's no longer entertainment. We need jobs we can be proud of. Insists on them doing a cost ben analysis! Yeah Jessie! She did GREAT!

Les is up now. Differentiates predatory gambling from other types of gambling. We've heard about 10% of the patrons accounting for 90% of the revenue all day, he has yet to dispute it. He agrees the lottery is predatory which elicits a whistle from a blue shirt behind me. He compares the gambling industry to wall street - they call it Casino Capitalism, not Biotech Capitalism. Les talks so fast - I can't keep up. Rep Frost on the committee, who has asked, a lot of pro-type questions. starts choking, possibly on his own words.

Frost said the State does tax people with addictions - like cigarettes. Tom says it's different, the State doesn't promote it. Frost isn't buying it. It's the same.

1:03 Cedric Cromwell is up. Groan. I am trying not to roll my eyes, but it's been a long 2 years. Ok... wait for it...... His Tribe "met the PILGRIMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Of course they did! They always meet the Pilgrims when they are trying to score points for a casino. Except the Mashpee Wampanoag didn't meet the Pilgrims!

Ced continues to play the sympathy card. He has plans for a casino in Middleboro. ( I wish someone would ask him why he opposes Cape Wind.) He still thinks land is going into trust. He actually uses the word 'relationship' and Middleboro in one sentence. He says Obama is working on a fix. Huh?? In fact, he's meeting with Obama next week.

Now he is being grilled by a rep who has absolutely no understanding of the situation. It is like the blind leading the blind. The rep asks Ced if he'd let the State have more revenue and concessions in terms of a tribal court. Ced admits that it's premature, but hey, they're open.

I find it difficult to keep sitting here listening to this after 2 and a half years. I may have to get up and leave soon.

According to Ced, Dorgan's bill is getting a "lot of traction."

Ced answers a question - No - Tribal Members won't be taxed if they work at a casino.

1:00 Charlotte Burns from Palmer union member, gets up and says it's a big swindle. All she hears is jobs. She works with special needs children and she hears it from them too. Where were the unions when the jobs were going over seas. She give's 'em hell. She's pretty terrific. I was on her panel last year too. Speaks right from the heart.

12:55 Building Trades guy... you'll never where he stands. He says that construction workers can't get work - which is opposite from what I've been hearing. Not that I'm an expert. And I'm not from Western Mass. where he's from.

12:53 A soft spoken little old lady who says she is a retired teacher and union member says no to casinos.

12:50 A Mashpee Wampoanoag guy I don't recognize says the word 'gaming' alot and wants the committee to give consideration to giving the Tribe special benefits. What's new?

12:45 A guy who represents communities around Milford got up and said he supports casinos - just not a lot of them. He also likes mitigation. Next!

Denise Provost from Sommerville tells a story about a family destroyed by Seminole casinos - then she shows pictures of them - gak. Like a low-rent Big Lots with pawning and check cashing.

12:20 When I came back from outside, AFL-CIO titan Bobby Haynes was saying "30,000 to 40,000" jobs! When questioned if he would still support slot parlors which didn't provide a lot of jobs he choked it down a little and said yes. Dammit he just wants casinos. Life will end without casinos.

Joan Menard thinks we can throw money at addicts. Yeah for addicts!

Paul Guzzi of the Boston Chamber, as expected, comes out for casinos. A lot of what he says doesn't make sense so I tune out, but... he gets a lot of questions from the committee so that makes me feel better.

Next up is Kathleen Reinstein from Revere. This girl's got horse manure under her fingernails. She worked at a track and it put her through college. Yee Ha! She practically picks up pom poms and does a cheer. She also simultaneously kind of denogrates her constituency by saying they are not exactly rocket scientists. Nor, do they look like George Clooney. (Her words, folks, not me.) Reinstein's motto: Casinos for dumb ugly people!

Kathleen Reinstein should be riding a mechanical bull with horsetail pom poms.

Sue Tucker gets up and leaves and a blue shirt next to me says, "ha ha, can't take it huh??" and laughs.

I death stare him into silence.

Carl Scortino - Rep from Sommerville is up speaking from the heart about personal stories of gambling addiction and families destroyed by gambling addiction. He can be seen on the video that I'll get on the site if I ever get out of here.

12:03 I took a break. Sort of. I testified on a panel with (are you sitting down?) Bob Massie, Natasha Schull, and Hans Brieter. I had something written, but right before we went on, Bob suggested that I just tell a personal story.

So I did. I told them how, as a web designer, I'm used to aggregating, categorizing and presenting information. And that there is more information out there than the committee of the public realizes. In fact, I'd gone to the printer to have just a few of the pages of the web site reproduced, so I could include 19 copies of them as part of my testimony. Later that day, the printer had called to tell me that this would cost almost $500. So obviously I did not include them. Instead, I submitted the entire USS- Mass.org web site as part of my written testimony. And they'd better go check it out. Because I'll know. Because I'm the web designer.

Then I told them a story about how, at a Mass Democratic committee meeting this spring I was handing out informational pahmplets, and one woman didn't want to take one. "I like playing slots. We need the money." But I told her that modern slot machines are designed differently, and they cause a serious addiction. She thought about that for a second then said, "I don't care." "You don't care about addicting people?" I asked. "No. We need the money." And then, I said to the committee, if that's what the party's come down to, why am I a democrat. But a month later, my faith in the party was renewed by the resolution taken in Springfield by the Mass. Democratic Party to oppose predatory slot machines.

And then, after Bob spoke eloquently - I used wanted to get the hell out of there. I needed air. It wasn't the circus it was last year, but it was hot and crowded and filled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies and more fairytales than in the whole children's section of Barnes and Noble.

I'm depressed. I have no paper and pencil handy for Hans Brieter and Natsha Schull to autograph. Dr. Brieter and others say, "good job" to me, but I didn't do a good job. How do you put 2 and a half years of reality into 3 minutes?? I can't even afford to print out a portion of it to be read later.

Frank and I gave an interview. It might be in the Enterprise.

10:40 Sen. Marc Pacheco. I'm taking a rest. Oh wait he mentions Middleboro. Wants a local host community vote. Nope, no good, still boring. He is getting cut off before he can do the Butt-For dance. But he insists on talking up simulcasts. Committee tries to stop him, it's no good, it's the Pacheco wind machine. He side steps.

A guy on committee (will find a name) asks if Pacheco means a local ballot vote or a town meeting vote.

Another committee member (I wish I had a cheat sheet) asks Marc if the State up the licenses up for auciton and the race tracks didn't get even one of them, would he still be for gambling?

10:37 Sen. O'Leary - Cape and Islands - opposing! He says he's at odds with the Tribes (who are here today) though he has a lot of respect for them. He speaks about how what people hope for in the beginning - never pans out - and ends up worse. They own YOU as much as you own THEM. We will be foreced to renogotiate and compromise.

10:32 Brian Walace. (Double Groan). Basically, it's Sal DiMassie's fault. Now we have a real man in the speaker's office. Someone who'll give us a fair shot.

10:30 Sue Tucker up after much blue applause for Flynn. She says it's the worst possible time for this.

Hey look - it's Cedric Crowmwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe famous for the ex-Middleboro casino.

Tucker mentions taxes higher in states with casinos/slots. We need cost benefit numbers.

I hope no one expects me to be clever or spell properly today. Everyone only has 3 minute and they'are all talking really fast... which isn't a bad thing.

93,000 million dollars net, she says.That doesn't include regulatory bureaucracy. Addiction. $80,000 hit to lottery.

She brings up the new type of addiction caused by slot machines and objects (0jbects!) to the state partnering with gambling interests to addict citizens.

New point, the lottery won't put a lein on your house. (won't break your fingers either.) She brings up gambling arms race that always happens. See the uss-mass.org web site. I can't type fast enough for links. As she leaves we clap - blue shirts boo.

10:25 Back in Gardner. The first guy up is all about entertainment. The second guy (GROAN) is none other than my very own rep and neighbor, David Flynn. He is all about inevitability. It's about time dagnabbit. He's been waiting since the freaking cretaceous period waiting for this legislation passed and now that we finally have three more dinosaurs in office it's a done deal. He mentions B'water a lot.

9:30 USS-Mass.org Press Conference at the Grand Staircase. Lots of points raised. Speakers were Sue Tucker, Bob Massie, Les Bernal, Steve Sears and a rep from Cape Cod whose name I didn't hear because Frank D. showed up!! Hooray! I've got video but give me time to get it uploaded. Ryan will have it too.

9:15 It's blue shirts, not red today.

One of them comes down to tell President of USS-Mass.org Kathleen Norbut, that there are no costs associated with slots.

I am glad he did not approach me.

Live blogging from Boston today.

Stay tuned...

12 comments:

Middleboro Remembers said...

AAAAhhhh! Manna From Heaven!

High unemployment. Declining personal incomes. Low wage, dead end jobs at casinos.

And the money will come pouring in!

Magically!

Gotta love it!

Anonymous said...

Snake eyes? More like a double zero.

larrysinternetsoapbox said...

Great job Mary!

Now get some rest!

FrankD said...

Thanks so much for the "live" blog and all you do.

Gladys Kravitz said...

Back atcha, Frank!

Jacquie said...

Mary,

Today ROCKED

...and so do you!

You're amazing and I'm glad that I got to share the day with you and Judy. It was great to finally meet Kathleen Norbut as well.

Thanks to all of you for keeping the passion for the fight alive!

Jacquie said...

I don't want to leave Jessie out. She has been such a solid force in this fight.

It was great to see her too!

Sorry I missed you Frank, but I'll catch you next time.

Carl said...

Sorry I missed it all. I came by briefly during lunch, but couldn't get in. Thanks to all of you for your time and effort.
And Gladys, thanks for always keeping us up to date.

Anonymous said...

Gladys, again, Thank YOU, for giving the short but detailed accounts of both sides and w/your wit and tongue in cheek comments.

I have been honored to know and call my friends, Mary, Jacquie, Frank, Carl, and Jessie, who have stuck together after victory in "our" own casino fight, then even with battle fatigue, to sill want to go on to the state level and continue in an ever bigger fight.
Yes, I am honored!

About United to Stop Slots,

I never saw an organization with people that are so energized, unstoppable, dedicated, and tirelessly committed to continue to do research so as to educate, to get the, (honest), facts out to our legislators and the public.
New friends that will always have my deep gratitude for what they stand for and are doing!

Bless all of you that have enriched my out look of life, learned that NOTHING is inevitable, (no matter WHO says it is), and yes! we can fight and even stronger with a team effort.

Judy

Anonymous said...

Stopping the slot sluts, I'll drink to that!

TruthtoPower said...

Thank you! You are so much fun to know and work with...I laughed out loud with the Rep. Revere manure crack having just mucked a stall. Our horse is all about trail rides and nature walks as are we.

Gladys Kravitz said...

Truth to Power...

Believe me, the pleasure (and honor) was all mine!

In 2008 the misery quotient was higher, the experience worse, but made thankfully bearable by my friends Jacquie and Bumpkin.

This year the misery quotient was lessened - thanks in no small part to Spilka's three minute rule - but the real blessing was being surrounded on all sides by the smartest, most amazing citizens and professionals this cause has to offer - including Jacquie again!

The miracle is that we did manage to laugh and have some fun.

p.s. my favorite was (maybe the same woman?) the elected official from Revere who painted her constituents as being like Quasimodo! Aim High!

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