Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Portraits in Courage

Two kind of extraordinary things happened yesterday.

First, former candidate for Lt. Governor Bob Massie posted a very strong, very public letter on Blue Mass Group chastising friends, political allies, candidates, unions and churches for their endorsement or lack of an outcry on expanded gambling in Massachusetts.

In 2008, at the Statehouse hearing for Deval Patrick's three casino plan, the other anti-casino folks and I suffocated through hours upon hours of pro-casino testimony on the part of legislators and the AFL-CIO from early morning to the afternoon. And so much ignorance and indifference all in one place was very depressing.

And then came Bob. I'd heard about him several times from a colleague who'd gotten my hopes up with glowing characterizations. But when I laid eyes on him, wearing a clerical collar, my first and very cynical thought was, 'oh here comes a priest - he'll probably say a prayer for the committee or something while they roll their eyes and text their BFF's.' (My experience with religious organizations on this issue has not been positive.) I also figured he was in a weakened state due to his liver cancer and hemophilia.

But instead, within two seconds of reaching the microphone, Bob Massie was knocking Patrick's and the union's argument right out of the park. This was no soft spoken cleric. He was hellfire. The gloves were off. And, up in the nosebleeds among the hired red shirts, it was nothing less than inspiring. We rose to our feet.

Think about it, how long had those of us from the Middleboro fight waited to hear a public figure stand up and do the right thing? The closest we'd ever come was the vote the Regional Task Force took to oppose Middleboro. But this guy - this guy was standing up and raising his voice for us and for everyone else who'd be hurt if Deval's ill-thought out plan was enacted.

In the months since that day I'm delighted to say that Bob has become a friend. And, after a liver transplant this summer, he's finally starting to feel better. But he's still calling out legislators and others who hide from their responsibility to do the right thing. I hope you'll read what he has to say - it might make you feel as good as it made me feel that day in '08.

The other extraordinary thing that happened yesterday was that a candidate for Senator, Alan Khazei came out publicly against expanded gambling. In a big way. He urged the Boston Chamber of Commerce to reverse their position on casinos, then spoke up and out at last night's televised debate.

As part of an movement saddled with a recent history of political and religious ducking and covering, yesterday was almost an embarrassment of riches.

Here is a short video of where the candidates, including Khazei stand on expanded gambling.

Notice how Khazei seems to have done his homework on the issue? And how he seems to care about the people and values our State's unique culture?

Capuano and Pagliuca, on the other hand obviously haven't bothered to do their homework on the issue - with Capuano going so far as to say that senatorial candidates needn't be concerned with the issue - which is a not only lazy but also a cop out.

Senators have been required to study Indian gaming legislation in the past and will potentially be called upon to vote on the Dorgan bill in an effort to undo the Supreme Court's Carcieri decision. And furthermore, senators have been known to take a lot of contributions from gambling interests. (I know you are shocked.)

And Coakley. Ugh. She's the worst. I want to hear the logic behind her strong opposition to the legalization of marijuana while maintaining a limp posture on expanded gambling. She hides behind her attorney general hat and says 'all I am required to do is to tell the legislature how much it would cost to regulate the industry to fight gambling-related crime'...

...instead of saying 'as an attorney general I know how much crime this industry create - so much so that it's going to cost a bundle to regulate - and as a person in a running for a leadership position I take a stance against crime. Crime is bad. No casino!'

I mean, jeez Martha! Stop tying yourself to Therese Murray's apron strings and grow a spine. Neither Massachusetts nor Washington needs another politician without a spine or who clams up on important issues when there's an election looming.

I don't know if Khazei has a chance of winning, but I do know that he's done two things that, since becoming a citizen activist, I've found utterly lacking in our elected officials - he does his homework, and he has the courage stands up for the people of his state. And that's what I want to see in a senator.
“I am strongly opposed to gambling in Massachusetts. I understand that people are hurting and need work, but we can create good, high-paying jobs in green industries and clean energy, supporting small business and emphasizing health care, education, bio-tech, tourism, and other industries where Massachusetts has a competitive advantage,” Khazei said in his closing statement at the U.S. Senate debate. “New gambling machines prey especially on primarily low-income families and people suffering from addiction—the very people who are struggling the most in this terrible economy.”

“I am deeply concerned about the lobbyists and special interests behind this idea and their pursuit of personal gain,” said Khazei. “Bringing casinos to Massachusetts would irrevocably change the nature of our Commonwealth, the very birthplace of American democracy. Once we bring casinos to Massachusetts we will never be able to reverse that monumental decision. I'm the father of two young children, and I don't want them to grow up in a state with casinos. Lobbyists and big corporate PACs are pushing this. Citizens can stop this. We have to fight the special interests. I urge Attorney General Martha Coakley and Congressman Michael Capuano to take a stand against casinos in Massachusetts.”

Notice how he doesn't say something along the lines of what a lot of us are very sick of hearing: 'Ooooo look - a revenue source! Must be good! All revenue is good, right! What else is there to know?? Who cares if people get hurt?! We'll just throw some money at them!! Wwwweeeeee!!

Here is an on-line petition to oppose casinos that Alan Khazei has posted on his web site - you don't have to be an Alan supporter to sign the petition.


Anonymous said...

Casino's are not a safety net.No need for an in depth study either way, go ask politcal leaders in New Jersey,California and Michigan.Casinos don't help, especially when it hurts.

Gladys Kravitz said...

No, there's no actual need for an in depth study - not for me anyway - but thanks to the lobbyists whispering in our legislator's ears, and other legislators with power and an agenda, and then the kind of not-so bright ones who think that somehow we'll be different here or we can mitigate away any problems and that we'll be rolling in dough, and the researchers who don't bother to factor in social costs, and the just regular folks out there who don't give a damn because they never found themselves almost living near a casino - thanks to them, we need to do an in depth study, spell it all out in black and white for them with pictures and arrows etc. and print it on offical paper.


Will it help? I hope so.