Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pah-Leeeze...

There are still the vocal few. Former selectman Adam Bond has been critical of the board in recent months for refusing to try to renegotiate with the tribe. He resigned in January as a result of this conflict and has continued to vocalize his dissatisfaction on his blog. "The whole ability for them to make lemonade out of this lemon is gone," he said of the board recently. "The deal is sputtering."
-- From Casino deal loses its luster
In The Cape Cod Times
By Stephanie Vosk
June 29, 2009 6:00 AM

Stephanie, please. Stop encouraging him.

Adam Bond resigned in January because he could no longer manipulate the Board do whatever he wanted them to do, whenever he wanted them to do it.

He resigned because he saw the writing on the wall and wanted to distance himself from it.

He resigned because he was losing control and proceeded to have an ego meltdown.

He resigned because he wanted to play the victim.

His resignation wasn't noble. It was a hissy fit.

Bond only wanted Middleboro to renegotiate with the Tribe because it finally dawned on him what an embarrassing hack job of an IGA he'd so proudly negotiated and signed in the first place. When he perceived an opening to repair his public image, he jumped on it.

If he'd really wanted to help Middleboro and repair the IGA, he would have stayed on the Board where he could have actually done something about it - despite his personality issues with the other members.

As far as remaining critical of the Board - it's only because he can't get the usual suspects to do it for him - by endlessly harassing and attempting to intimidate them over the Internet, the air waves or by other means - like back in the good old days.

And, as for making lemonade out of a lemon - the time for that was back in the Summer of 2007 when he could have ceased dividing the town, angering the region and canoodling behind the scenes with Glenn Mashall, casino investors, and anyone else he thought could help his career.

"Vocal few?" Bond is just vocal. Period. And everything he does is for himself.

So please... please stop giving the ultimate opportunist a platform to reinvent himself so he can do it all again.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Still Standing

According to The Persistence of Pseudo-Facts in the U.S. Casino Debate: The Case of Massachusetts, perennial casino cheerleader Clyde Barrows makes his case as to why his opinion is worth more than anyone else's.
(Emphasis mine)
While the findings of academic policy researchers are not infallible, they are generally something more than mere opinion, but in the policymaking arena, academic policy research often appears to the decision maker as simply one more opinion to be processed and weighed in the course of decision making. The public policy arena is always crowded with noisy ideas and chatter, including the views of constituents and clients, heart-rending anecdotes and testimonials, personal letters, testimony to committees and task forces, ant the minute-by-minute interpretations of "the chattering class," i.e., talk radio, headline television, newspaper editorials, and the Internet blogosphere.
In fact, his opinion is not only worth more than yours or mine - ours is actually just chatter. Noise. Something one might feel the need to scrap off their shoes.

No longer are we activists, scholars, leaders, researchers, residents, and those with first hand exposure to gambling addiction, we are, in fact, "the chattering class".

Well Clyde, while you were trying to convince anyone who'd listen that the casino industry is good for America, while removing your credentials from your web site so we couldn't see who was paying your bills, and co-authoring this odious attempt at discrediting anyone who isn't bought and paid for by the casino industry can't slap "public policy analyst" after their name, I - yes I - a mere blip in the chattering internet blogsphere and maker of silly videos, was explaining why Indian casinos were NOT inevitable in Middleboro or Massachusetts.

Something that an army of lawyers, selectmen, legislators, Governors, experts, scholars, editorials, journalists, Tribal chairmen and more blowhards and flying monkeys than you can shake a stick at were saying WAS A DONE DEAL.

AND THEY WERE WRONG.

So Clyde, stick that in your sack of PsuedoFacts and smoke it.

I am a blogger. Hear me roar.



And... Congratulations, Happy Birthday and Good Job!
to everyone else who's still standing here with me after two years!

So far, so good.

NO CASINO!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rut-Ro!

Remember how that hand popped up out of the grave at the end of the movie Carrie?

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe have reaffirmed their noble quest for economic independence!
(Steven A. Bingham) said the tribe needs to completely break from its deal with the investors, who, he said, have reason to be working against the casino effort because of their financial ties to potential competition in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

He said he is not aware of any investors who have been courting the tribe, but is not worried about difficulties in finding new backers, particularly because of the tribe’s claims to property in town.

He argued that even though the tribal council agreed not to sue to reclaim private- and town-owned land in Mashpee, in a binding intergovernmental agreement with the town, the deal could be considered to have been struck under circumstances involving fraud and Congress has not yet ratified it. So the tribal council could use the land claims as leverage in negotiations with the state over gaming rights, he said.
- From the Mashpee Enterprise, June 19, 2009

Well, there you go.

Because no one knows 'circumstances involving fraud and Congress' like the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

Be afraid Mashpee. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Big News Tuesday

It must have been all that money going to Connecticut...

Twin Rivers finally files for bankruptcy.

The filing reflects a consensual structured bankruptcy agreement hammered out in round-the-clock negotiations in recent days between the state, the lenders group led by Merrill Lynch Capital and the consortium that owns the sprawling Lincoln gambling hall that is home to 4,751 video-slots and a greyhound racetrack.

It says: "As successful as [Twin River's] operations have been, their revenues cannot support the substantial demands imposed by the state tax rate and the debtors' debt services obligations'' on $589 million in loans.


The interesting thing about this is, if you or I go to a casino and get in over our heads in debt - it's entertainment! But no, there will be no collection agencies or finger breakers for Twin Rivers. It's a tragedy. Quick - someone get them a bailout!

Twin Rivers may have been the State of Rhode Island's third largest source of income, but for me it will always be the place where one Middleboro man lost his money, then hope, committed suicide and left his pregnant wife to raise their son alone.

But stories like those get lost, don't they?

So, what does Rhode Island learn from this? That gambling revenue didn't pave the roads with gold? That they shouldn't put so many of their eggs in one basket? That casino interests won't hesitate to manipulate State leadership in order to gain concessions in their favor?

I don't know but I'm certain that the Massachusetts pro-slots lobby will use this bankruptcy to claim there is now LESS competition for Massachusetts dollars. Whoo Hoo! Stay tuned.



Splendor in the Bluegrass...


Following in the footsteps of New Hampshire, Kentucky votes down slots at the tracks.

The Senate budget committee rejected a controversial bill Monday night that would have allowed slot machines at racetracks as a way to shore up Kentucky's beleaguered racing industry.

The 10-5 vote against sending the bill to the full Senate appears to kill the bill for the special session.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, the bill's sponsor, said the issue could surface in a conference committee, "but I don't think it's likely." And Senate President David Williams ruled that possibility out.

Folks, I'm not sure, but if horse racing in Kentucky isn't making it these days, I think this industry is going the way of Betamax and whale bone corsets. It happens.

Let's just be honest, OK. Slots are ultimately meant to replace, not shore up the animal racing industry.



Reading Between the Lines...

Today, as required by Section 2710 of the IGRA, the National Indian Gaming Commission published it's list of 301 tribes with "Approved Class II and III Tribal Gaming Ordinances".

It's a long list so let's just skip to the good part, shall we?

135. Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut
136. Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians of Michigan
Nope. No Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. No Massachusetts tribes. No class II. No class III. Nada. As in Nadathing about gambling.

But don't just take my word for it...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tough as Granite


Late last night, despite intense lobbying from the gambling industry, New Hampshire voted down a slot bill.

WHAT'S IN A (NICK)NAME? During the gambling debate, it seemed like New Hampshire was looking for a new nickname. No, not Taxahampshire.

Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, said he didn't want the state to become New Jersey North, or Las Vegas East.

D'Allesandro answered that he'd like to think of us as Delaware North. "(That) state has farms and industry, plus successful slot machines operations at three race tracks," he said.

Kurk was among the most outspoken gambling foes.

"Raising taxes in a recession is problematic. But the consequences of this bill, this video-slot-machine bill, are worse," he said.

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-Exeter, defended the gaming plan. She spoke about someone with a serious gambling addiction. "He gambled in New Hampshire," she said, "by credit card, over the phone, over the Internet."
Hey, Maggie... just because some of your friends are jumping in the lake, does that make it a good idea for YOU to jump in the lake?

I mean, let's see... an individual with a gambling problem gambles on the Internet and phone - and you want to give them another venue - and then tax the bejesus out of it?

Way to wield that leadership position, Maggie.

So let's hear if for New Hampshire - for having the strength and common sense, despite the pressures of a recession, a parade of lobbyists, the inevitability machine, and the Sen. Hassans and D'Allesandro's of the world to give the predatory gambling industry another much needed, long-overdue, kick in the arse with a cold boot.

And by the way... "Delaware North?"

Now that's a slogan to strive for. I mean, definitely better than "The Granite State". Seriously.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Road Trip


Yesterday, for the second time in just over a week, I found myself motoring down the Mass. Pike in pursuit of new adventures in activism.

Amongst the verdant hills and languid lakes of Western Massachusetts, I joined about 75 or so other drivers gathering at the Palmer High School in preparation for a traffic simulation demonstration.

You see, despite constant assurances that all of Massachusetts's gambling dollars are fleeing to Connecticut casinos – Connecticut's own Mohegan Sun wants very badly to jump the border and build a commercial casino in Palmer, Mass. And in an effort to enforce a sense of inevitability among the residents, the corporation has even established a storefront office in downtown Palmer.

So, I feel bad for my friends in Western Mass. I know how it feels when casino investors, the media, legislators, and others are shoving inevitability down your throat. And I wanted to help them prove a point about traffic.

Especially since I'd had my own recent revelation about casino traffic.

Over two years ago, traffic had been one of my first concerns when I'd heard about a potential Middleboro casino. I live on a road in Bridgewater that would have lead directly to the casino site. And yet, I was informed that a “fly over” would protect me from additional traffic, and besides, most traffic would take the main roads.

Well, I wasn't buying it. Folks are always trying to find a faster, better, scenic or less policed way to get somewhere. And as winter turned to spring this year, I watched from the porch as the Winnebagos, campers, RV's and trailers returned to Summer Street – heading to the KOA in Middleboro – exactly the same site where the casino would have stood.

Now, those vehicles could have come down the major roadways, but they didn't. They came down my street to get to the KOA. They probably came down Thompson Street on the other side, too. Not the majority of them, certainly, but a lot. So many that it's pretty obvious that there's a KOA or some other campground at the end of the road.

So, what if the KOA had come down and a casino gone up? Well, those campers and RV's would have been replaced with casino traffic vehicles – and tour buses. Lots of them. Many more than would fit in the KOA campground. 24/7. 365.

And so I drove to Palmer, gathering with other members of the curious for what turned out to be a well organized demonstration.

Volunteers taped “Casino Traffic” signs onto the sides of our cars. But my friend Judy had gone a step further and driven all the way from Lakeville to Palmer with a bunch of those great “NO CASINO” bumper stickers all over her car windows.

I placed a large CasinoFreeMass sign in my front window and was interviewed while desperately trying to suck the trail mix from my teeth. Meanwhile, cars continued to pull up and form lines in the parking lot. More cars than I had expected, actually, though probably not as many as would be expected if a casino were to be built.

While waiting for the demonstration to begin, organizers and volunteer drivers milled around the parking lot chatting. The Palmerites sounded like we once had. Angry. Outraged. Worried.

We got rolling at 11:00 am. Cars had been assigned into two groups - A and B – and now the two groups headed off down the same route in opposite directions.

And waiting for us along the route were protesters. But unlike the ones you might have found in Middleboro two years ago, these people smiled, waved (some a bit aggressively) and let their signs do the talking. There were no thumbs down, no middle fingers, no teenagers screeching the f-bomb into my children's faces.

Still, after you've lived through that once... I rolled up the windows, turned on the air conditioner and cranked the radio.

One thing I noticed on the route was that the site of the proposed Palmer casino is pretty close to it's downtown. And, it was up on a hill. If built it would loom like a watchtower, a cathedral of greed, disguised as the patron Saint of Palmer, peering into all the lives within this small town. It would be inescapable.

The site was an easy walk from the center, and in fact there were many pedestrians strolling up and down the sidewalks. And so it was easy to imagine locals cashing their checks and blowing them up at the casino within hours - while filling up on free drinks of course, and managing not to return that money to the local economy.

But for the most part, the protesters signs suggested JOBS were the agenda. In fact, I got the impression that a lot of this crowd were union. (Ain't that always the way.)

Casino = Good Jobs, said one sign.

I wish I'd brought a copy of the Forbes 2008 list of worst paying jobs, which included many found at a casino – including the one everyone always assumes is a money maker – 'gaming dealer' – to pass around to them.

Casinos Mean More Policeman said another sign.

“You'll need them,” wishing I'd also thought to bring copies of Grinols casino crime statistics.

The worst part of the simulation, for me, was driving through the center, where we had to stop frequently while frantically waving protesters flanked our cars, inches from our windows. That, and the site of the Mohegan Sun storefront. They had designed it to look like a restaurant. Or maybe a coffee house. Cafe Inevitability. Free refills on low expectations. Fresh pie in the sky served daily. Intimidation a specialty!

There were the obligatory children, prodded by parents to hold pro-casino signs while waving to the crowd as if there were something positive and even wholesome about an industry which offered free booze to separate men and women from their money, along with ATM's in the lobby should they run out, and which has, throughout history, brought financial ruin and misery to countless families.

"Honk if you love casinos!" The protesters were shouting.

There were plenty of honks. But there were plenty of thumbs up and Thank You!s from pedestrians and drivers for us as well.

A pair of bikini-clad girls holding signs advertising a car wash waved on part of the route without protesters. I waved back. Each time me and my Casino Free Mass sign drove by them, they waved harder. On my last trek past, they actually did the wave - just like at Fenway!

As an anti-casino activist, my hopes soared for the next generation - though as a mom I wish they would put more clothes on.

It turned out to be a beautiful day. Sunny skies, white puffy clouds. And Palmer is a pretty town. It reminds me of our small towns here on the South Shore. Strip malls with little restaurants and nail salons. Ancient buildings from another century. Small, neat little houses with yards and container gardens.

Kenny Chesney is crooning on the car radio.

And it's two bare feet on the dashboard
Young love and an old Ford
Cheap shades and a tattoo
And a Yoo-Hoo bottle on the floorboard

I'd love to take my shoes off right now, put my tired feet up on the dashboard. I'm beat from the ride here, and bored with this traffic simulation. I want to go home. My stomach growled to remind me it was past my lunch time.

And then it dawned on me – I was bored and cranky because I'd been sitting in a traffic jam for the last 10 minutes.

And there was no end in front of me – and looking behind me – a long line of cars.

We'd proved it. Casino traffic would clog the streets of Palmer. The simulation was a success. Commendations to it's organizers!

On my last, slow trek through town, a shirtless teenaged boy surrounded by friends leaned down, pounded his hairless chest, and hurled the f-bomb as best he could into my sealed mini-van.

"Menace the public if you love casinos!"

The battle for the next generation continues.

Judy and I met up after the simulation, took the signs off our cars and discussed the best way to get back home – but first, we decided – let's take one last drive through town.

The pro-casino forces and their signs were still there, but the simulation was over, the “Casino Traffic” had dispersed and disappeared, and Judy and I breezed quickly through the route and downtown Palmer in a way we hadn't been able to only minutes before.

This observation went unwitnessed by the media, of course. Always on deadline, they seldom seem to stick around to the end. I had my doubts that the story would even be mentioned on the news that night, the next day or in the Sunday paper – though I'm confident that the next casino investor or legislator who pipes up about the wonder of it all will be all over the news for days.

Glenn Marshall or Adam Bond would open their mouths and news trucks showed up. But seventy people drive through a town despite a throng of protestors waving signs - proving casino traffic would cause delays - and it's not considered newsworthy. Truth is boring, I suppose. Statistics and studies are dull.

But we'll know. We were there. And I'm really glad that a casino, with all it's inebriated traffic and smog belching tour buses won't be coming to Middleboro after all.

It was a long day and I slept particularly well that night.

This morning there is nothing about the traffic simulation in the Sunday paper. And nothing on the television news. But, hey - we can all rest assured - there was a big story about a really cute water skiing squirrel.

Monday, June 8, 2009

We Put the Spring in Springfield

We came. We saw. We kicked it's ass!
- from Ghostbusters

As some of you may have already heard, the Massachusetts Democratic Party adopted a resolution to oppose “the legalization of slot machines and any similar efforts to promote addictive and predatory gambling as a means of raising public revenues” at it's convention this Saturday in Springfield.

This momentous development didn't occur overnight, and in fact actually began several months ago.

Across the State, brilliant debates were raging on various democratic forums, bloggers blogged and the issue was never allowed to die. Democrats were becoming educated. We went where they went. Handing them information, talking to them on-line and in groups and one on one, discussing, debating, collecting signatures, raising awareness, changing minds, being there. When the governor held public forums across the State to find out what was on our minds – we told him.

We didn't know what to expect going into the convention. Anyone who's ever come out to protest or rally against casinos or slots knows how "fun" it can be to find oneself debating this complicated issue with someone who won't listen, or thinks they know everything, or believes gambling revenue is the modern day equivalent of manna from heaven. And sometimes they're not very nice.

And yes, we encountered that in Springfield and elsewhere. But for the most part, the Democratic delegates were polite - and most importantly, willing to listen. Even better – many delegates were also willing to pick up the gauntlet for the cause and collect signatures themselves. More signatures than were necessary were collected to pass the resolution. Our table at the convention always had a crowd – and we didn't even have free pins or t-shirts. People who noticed our shirts with the CasinoFreeMass logo often approached us to express their support.

And you probably won't believe this - but I shook the Governor's hand. He was very pleasant - and went on to give a terrific speech - in which he did not mention casinos. I do hope the governor will reverse his position on casinos. We can keep our fingers crossed.

There were low points. Members of our coalition were blocked from speaking at an AFL-CIO meeting where casino interests were given the floor to make typically flashy presentations with lots of misleading information (hey - sort of like human slot machines.) As usual, delegates were presented with all the benefits, but none of the costs. Casino wonderland.

But, since we are so often flooded with stories in the media which suggest there is no support for our cause – it was incredibly invigorating to be among all those folks from across the State who feel as we do - and most of these people have never been threatened with a casino in their backyard. It was a good day to be a Democrat.

The brightest part about this resolution is that now we can have an actual debate about predatory gambling – what it is and why we, as a party should not promote it as a source of revenue. And that debate is what we need. Because, just as many of us discovered two years ago, the more you learn about this issue – the more you find yourself opposing it.

This was an amazing team effort. So many people helped in ways both big and small.

Most notably, Bob Massie, Tom Larkin, Michael Falcone, Sue Tucker, Leo Maley, Ryan Adams, Kathleen Norbut, and our own Jessie Powell, put a lot of time and energy, creativeness - and some serious tenatiousness - into it. There are other folks I'm sure I am forgetting.

I'd also like to personally thank my fellow refugees from the Middleboro casino debacle, Judy, Frank, Jessie, Jacquie, Kim and Carl, who sacrificed their mornings, afternoons and evenings to come out and help when I asked them. Most importantly, they brought their two-years worth of knowledge and experience with them to share with others. I know a few of them probably didn't believe me when I told them how important our efforts would be down the road, but they did it anyway. Thanks for keeping the faith, guys.

On Saturday, as the resolution was being debated on the convention floor, Frank and I were on the Mass Pike, headed back home, when my phone rang. I had a text message - “We did it!” - it read.

We sure did.

Friday, June 5, 2009

And now... a word about Bridgewater

Bridgewater's been all over the news lately - and not in a good way.

Not only has the public forum section of selectman's meetings gone the way of the 8 track tape - but now you have to take a number just to ask a question - and there's no guarantee that anyone's going to get back to you. A majority of our five member board of selectmen are now also town employees. And perhaps not unexpectedly, our selectmen are getting punched out in local drinking establishments.

Our past is equally colorful. It's been marked by an excess of prop. 2 1/2 overrides. A shuttered library, and a recently matriculated selectman who chose to celebrate his election victory by phoning up his frenemies and calling them bad names.

And for some reason... Bridgewater was one of the ONLY towns in the entire region which did not allow a public forum to discuss casino impacts. In fact, despite being one of the most populated abutters and even sharing a road which would lead directly to the now-defunct dead-parrot Middleboro casino, Bridgewater's representatives were regular no-show's at the Regional Task Force meetings.

And, it was during the casino summer of 2007 when one of our selectman grasped the swinging gavel out of Middleboro's Marsha Brunelle heavy hand and scurried back to Bridgewater, using the same dusty excuse she'd dug out of some archive to squelch our long tradition of public forum (while the regular chairman was conveniently away on family businesss.)

And going back, there's even more.

In fact, if it weren't for the Adam Bond years, I'd think it possible we'd have found a town even wackier than Middleboro.

As wacky as it is, as it turned out, I did end up sort of liking good old selectman Gallagher, the guy with the crazy election day temper - who went on to survive a recall attempt before retiring recently. I tried to think about something good to say about him but essentially, it's that he turned out to be mostly harmless. And sadly, in Bridgewater, that, more often than not, seems to be as good as we can get.

To me, the ability to cause actual substantial harm, not just to their town, but to mine as well, was what compelled me to monitor the Middleboro Board so closely during the casino chronicles.

But what toubles me lately is something I read in a May 22nd article entitled “Bridgewater selectman's meeting policy draws criticism”
“(Selectman Stanley Kravitz) called around to many of the towns in the area and none of them allow an open public forum like Bridgewater had until the policy change. Kravitz said it’s more fair to everyone to give selectmen a head’s up on the topic to be discussed, so they can respond in an informed way”
Which leaves me wondering which towns 'in the area' that Mr. Kravtiz called. Or if perhaps they were actually 'in the area' of Cuba, China or North Korea.

Two years ago when a Cape Cod tribe wanted to build the world's largest casino down the road from my home in Bridgewater, I went to first ever selectman's meeting – in Middleboro – and where I encountered my first-ever public forum.

I was fascinated by it - learning as much from those who supported a casino as those who opposed it - and by the process itself. Of being able to stand up and speak and be heard by the folks who ran the town. It was sometimes colorful and sometimes heated, but it was always interesting.

And it didn't last long. Marsha killed it and the Board stuffed cotton in their ears for the next two years as far as criticism of a casino was concerned.


But that seems to have changed. Somewhere along the way, people were allowed to ask questions again. And when they did, it had the expected result - you got to learn more about these masters of the small town universe . You realized how defensive they could be, and discovered their often unorthodox views about the public they served, and witnessed their bizarre behavior.


I mean, Toto may have had to drag the 'wizard' out from behind the curtain by his ankle - but once he did - life got better for everybody didn't it?

The public, it seems, can handle the truth. It just can't stomach a bunch of squirrely fruitcakes with something to hide.

So let's hear it for Middleboro - which somewhere along the way, and perhaps unwittingly, brought back the public forum. And for those who asked the uncomfortable questions. And for those selectman who (eventually) answered most of those questions - despite Marsha's willing gavel at the ready - and who did it on TV for all their universe to see.

Because, as a result, Middleboro may slowly be evolving back into a democracy.

What I've learned is that when local leaders abdicate their responsibility to the democratic process, perhaps motivated by their own opinions or ambitions, or a need for attention, is it really a surprise that the result is alternately chaos and outrage? We saw that experiment unfold in Middleboro during the casino war - a petri dish where fights broke out on sidewalks, spitballs sailed the skies, and opinionated signage went missing. Neighborhoods were divided, friendships were strained. Fear and anger lingered everywhere. And in the end, it only served the purpose of casino investors.

Oddly enough, though I've never actually spoken in Middleboro or Bridgewater (where I was gaveled), I have spoken at selectman's meetings and public forums in Plympton, Halifax, Carver, Lakeville and Raynham and my colleagues have done the same in Berkley, Rochester and Kingston. These towns not only welcomed input from the public – they even opened their forum, and their minds, to an out of towner.

The same can be said for the representative selectmen from the 17 Town Regional Task Force on Casino Impacts.

Then there was that evening when, after sitting through 13 hours of testimony - and with vacuums roaring to life in the visitors gallery - that even the Massachusetts House committee for Economic Development listened to what I had to say.

And I did not have to wait a week, register my questions beforehand or take a number to do any of this.

Which makes me wonder, why is it, when the selectman in all these area towns, as well as assorted elected officials from across the State aren't afraid, or too busy, or unprepared to listen to what a citizen of Bridgewater has to say, that Bridgewater is?

ShareThis