Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Myth of Inevitability, Part 2

In the 'Cradle of Liberty', the citizens of Philadelphia found themselves facing the prospect of living next door to a couple of mega casinos.

Public dialog was suppressed. Deals were made behind closed doors. Remind you of something?

But then, ten concerned Philadelphians got together and formed an anti-casino grassroots organization with the objective of creating greater government transparency and public input into proposed casinos.

But despite their efforts, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board agreed to license the SugarHouse and Foxwoods casinos.

Casino-Free Philadelphia was not defeated. Their battle cry became “No casinos in our neighborhoods and no casinos in anyone else’s neighborhoods.”

What started as ten volunteers became hundreds.

When the state Gaming board refused to make public site and traffic plans, the group washed the Board’s windows for the media – to make the point of transparency. After two months of focused action, hundreds of pages of casino plans were released.

In less than 20 days, Casino-Free Philadelphia gathered 27,000 signatures to create the first citizen-initiated referendum in thirty years, and which asked voters if casinos should be kept 1,500 feet from homes, schools, and places of worship. In other words, a pretty difficult hurdle in a large city consisting of many distinct, closely knit, residential neighborhoods.

Not to be outdone by an uppity pack of Philadelphians, SugarHouse lawyers went to court and got the signatures thrown out. So much for Liberty.

And yet, Philadelphia City Council accepted that all those signatures did, in fact, represent the true public opinion - and voted unanimously to place the referendum on the ballot.

Still refusing to believe that money can’t buy you love, casino interests paid private investigators to drum up dirt in an effort to discredit the volunteers who had gathered the signatures.

And they teamed up with their old pals on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and sued the City to kick the referendum off the ballot. At issue was that a 1,500 foot buffer would effectively prevent any casino from being built in Philadelphia (duh...) And so, the State Supreme Court, confirming that casinos have more rights than it's citizens, sucker punched the people of Philiadelphia by handing down a decision to strip the referrendum off the ballot.

So the citizens held their own election. A citizen's election. This past May, just as we in Middleboro were taking our first steps along the road they knew so well, the citizens of Philadelphia voted YES. YES meaning NO CASINO. In fact they voted 95% YES to 5% NO.

And so the battle moved to the State and Federal level. Meanwhile, ethics violations have been filed against the Chairman of the Gaming Control Board.

Which just goes to show you, when the door opens for casino interests, the voice of the people goes out the window. Yet another reason to keep fighting, and for not getting into bed with these people in the first place.

Thanks to the efforts of it's citizens, Philadelphia, in the meantime, remains casino-free.

Casino-Free Philadelphia credits their success to three factors in their favor: Volunteerism, Passion and Creativity.

I see these same three things every day in the words and actions of the members of CasinoFacts.

It's only a 'done deal' if you don't do anything.

Join.   Volunteer.   Make a difference.

No Casino.

I thought you might like to see a few of these inspirational Philadelphian go-getters in action:


Anonymous said...

When was the last time the windows of the Middleboro Town Hall were cleaned?
Good analogy!
A clean sweep is needed!

Anonymous said...

The POLICE station needs a major cleaning as well !!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, they should be the last ones crying about money. Check out some of the car's they drive. The worst thing a union can do is lie to the public. Plus, they endorsed a casino that will bring more crime. Protect and serve who? No thanks, I'll call the State Police.