Yesterday - on Mother's Day of all days - an article with the title "Casino could trump BioPark" landed in my in box, provoking a sudden and unexpected deluge of un-motherly profanity.
State Sen. Joan Menard said government officials are awaiting the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s commitment to a casino in Fall River before considering amending the allowed use of the 300-acre South Coast BioPark.But wait, it gets worse.
“I don’t want to turn them away if we can provide 2,000 jobs for people,” Menard, a Fall River Democrat, said of the casino resort prospects. “We have to make sure this is serious.”
Apparently, last year, the State awarded UMass Dartmouth $17 Million dollars to build a "BioPark" - a sort of industrial park specifically for "biotech manufacturing, medical device manufacturing, life science and IT industries". The park would stretch out over 300 acres along Rte. 24, and potentially employ 8,000 people in "biotechnology manufacturing".
But then came the Mashpee, attempting to scare their casino-devotees in Middleboro into dropping expensive infrastructure requirements from their infamous inter-governmental agreement by threatening to take their non-existent business elsewhere - like Fall River (among other places) - and suddenly BioPark is on the backburner.
Menard and Mayor Will Flanagan — as well as Bialecki’s office — confirmed that the progress on building design of the $15 million UMass facility has been delayed. They said the past month of talks with Mashpee Wampanoag representatives over siting a casino resort was the key factor.Ok let me see... what day is this again? Oh, that's right, today is May 10, 2010. Which means that it's exactly three years since a Duxbury attorney with experience in Indian Law came to Middleboro to tell everybody that it was in the towns best interest to seal the done-deal on an inevitable casino, which would easily be up and running in 18 months, a date which passed precisely 18 months ago.
But this nuance appears to be lost on Joan, who seems happily willing to drop a State sanctioned biopark-in-the-hand for a federally prohibited, still currently illegal, and officially un-sited casino in the bush.
Now, I get that Joan is under a lot of pressure. With an 18% unemployment rate, she's on edge, and anxious to bring jobs - any jobs - to her district as fast as possible. A good mom wants what's best for her family, after all.
But to hold up a project and jobs with as much future potential as this biopark on the say-so of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe - whose former chairman was sent to prison, who claim to have met the pilgrims, are attempting to weasel out of obligations to Middleboro, and remain in an assertive state of denial over the Carcieri decision - is really, really stupid.
But maybe Joan isn't so dim after all. Maybe... just maybe... she's just using the Tribe as a form of faux leverage.
Because, despite the enthusiastic endorsement of the Fall River Chamber of Commerce,
The city’s Redevelopment Authority, which owns the property and has committed $3 million in start-up costs, has yet to transfer the necessary property to UMass Dartmouthand that's not exactly creating those much needed jobs lickety-split, is it?
“We see this as a key spoke in the wheel for economic progress. We’re frustrated that we’re not seeing the forward progress that should be done,” chamber President/CEO Robert Mellion said in a follow-up interview.But maybe the Redevelopment Authority has a good reason for not transferring the property to UMass. According to Menard,
“We don’t have any drawings … We want to see the renderings of their perceptions of what they’re going to do, so we can discuss it with the university.”...unlike the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, which, according to Fall River's Mayor, Will Flanagan,
is way ahead of any potential developer regarding a destination casino in MassachusettsAnd if "way ahead of any potential developer" means that UMass has been unable to produce anything better than a two-year-old crayon sketch on a cocktail napkin, then this is unequivocally true.
But personally, I think it's UMass that has some 'splainin to do. Because, thanks to Professor-lobbyist-shill-license-plate-counter-and-human-Kool-Aid-dispenser Clyde Barrow, we've all become awkwardly aware of the University's "unofficial" official stand on casinos.
Could the University be holding off on the land now because if BioPark goes in, a casino can't?
The language agreement with the state explicitly prohibits a casino or landfill in the executive park(As if combining "landfill" and "casino" in the same unsavory category weren't a clear indication of what most of us already know about the gambling industry - someone in State government actually felt the need to put it in writing.)
So c'mon UMass. An institution of higher learning should be smart enough to know the Tribal threat isn't real. But the Southcoast really does need those manufacturing jobs, and biotech is the future - a future with the potential for real growth and community prosperity - without the crime, addiction, and other costs.
And placing all of your chips on a casino - especially a tribal one - well that's just plain dumb.