Left In Lowell

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May 7, 2008

Casinos - *sigh*

by at 2:26 pm.

All I can think of is, he’ll talk about fighting this battle again, but not the local options low meals tax battle, a far more worthier one and something most of his base supports whole heartedly?

Just, please don’t make us go through this again. I hope this quote is pulled out of proportion in this article.

(Hat tip, Political Inaction at BMG.)

March 21, 2008

Casinos Go Down, But Not Out

by at 1:24 pm.

It seems that the Governor and other pro-casino folks are willing to put more political capital on casinos. What a waste. Let’s move on to more substantive, better initiatives (and I’ll be the first to lambaste DiMasi for standing in the way). And no, Class III gambling via the Bureau of Indian Affairs federal route is not inevitable so-we-might-as-well-get-something-from-them, as proponents argued (I listened to some of the casino debate online yesterday). It’s not inevitable because courts have ruled against this same situation in Texas. In fact, the legislature could easily ban the potential loophole that’s in our laws, and get rid of “charitable casino nights” all together. Maybe we should see that law proposed next.

As to race track slots, they pose the same risk that allowing Class III to be legal with state-sanctioned casinos - that tribes will use the federal process to get land recognized and then build casinos that pay nothing to the state. So while Patrick and others were arguing that Class III casinos are inevitable because of the charity loophole (they aren’t), they ignore the fact that truly legalizing Class III for race tracks or state-allowed casinos will have the same effect. Totally nuts.

But is the casino bill dead? It went into committee to be “studied” (by 108 to 46) which means it’s dead for this year. However, with Pangy looking to “go to the voters” with a nonbinding ballot initiative, and Patrick vowing to keep at it, I don’t think this fight is over.

Local pols, except for Pangy, Rep. Colleen Garry of Dracut (gee, surprise there), and Rep. William Greene of Billerica, voted for, basically, killing the bill.

I do take exception with one paragraph in the Globe’s account, however:

The defeat of Patrick’s legislation has significant consequences in the debate over next year’s state budget, which contains a shortfall estimated at $1.3 billion. The governor had proposed relying on $124 million of casino licensing revenues to help balance the budget.

When on Gotarra’s green earth is it a good idea to rely on revenues, that, even if they materialized, wouldn’t be actually in hand for at least a year or two after the bill passed? That was one of the big problems I had with Patrick sticking that Phantom Revenue in the budget in the first place. Besides being a cynical tactic to screw up the budgeting process to push your major proposal through, there’s no way that that money would have been there right away anyway, creating the same dilemma the Globe says we have because the proposal was defeated! In other words, we’d have had these “significant consequences” regardless of the casino bill’s defeat. Idiots.

March 17, 2008

Open Letter to Deval Patrick on Casinos from Patrick Coordinators

by at 5:29 pm.

This is a press release that was forwarded to me. You might as well put me on the list as well, because as a former Patrick coordinator in Lowell, I agree with every word.


Open Letter to Deval Patrick on Casinos from Patrick Coordinators
Dear Governor Patrick:

We are Democrats who share a vision of a more equal, just, and democratic society. As Deval Patrick Volunteer Coordinators we supported your candidacy wholeheartedly and worked hard to help you secure the Democratic nomination and to put you in office.

Since becoming Governor you have undertaken many initiatives that make us proud to have been part of the Deval Patrick campaign. For example, we applaud the Municipal Partnership Act,and the proposal to require telephone companies to pay their fair share of property taxes.

But your proposal for resort casino gambling does not have our support. In fact, we are unequivocally opposed to it.

Early in the gubernatorial campaign you captured the essence of the argument for tax fairness. By reminding people that the discussion about”your money” is really a conversation about “your broken schools, your broken neighborhoods,” etc., you connected the dots. Many people (including those who had previously succumbed to the taxes-are-bad propaganda) listened and learned.

Eschewing the anti-tax rhetoric and providing instead a vision of a decent society, were hallmarks of our campaign; your message was authentic and honest. In addition, it was a major factor in persuading many of us to support and promote your candidacy.

Our campaign moved forward the debate about revenue sources and, perhaps more significantly, the wider debate about the common good. Victory in 2006 could have been the springboard into a meaningful statewide discussion about refashioning taxation so that it reflects and embodies our aspirations as a Commonwealth. For a brief moment,there was a chance to talk about restoring the income tax to its 2001 levels.There was even a chance to lead a conversation about establishing a progressive income tax. With the right leadership (including, but not necessarily limited to, your own) we may be able to revive that conversation.

The debate regarding casino gambling represents an opportunity to advocate for a more equitable tax system. After suffering a clear defeat in 2002, the opponents of the income tax have reemerged, putting their question back on the ballot. So, once again, those of us who share your vision are onthe defensive, fighting a rearguard action to defend the very existence of the income tax. Instead wecould have been taking the initiative and shaping the discourse.

Given our desire to see realistic levels of public funding, why do we oppose resort casino gambling?Because we are Democrats. The platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party commits the party to tax equity and responsible budgeting, special support for small businesses, sustainable development practices to foster economic stability for both urban and rural cities and towns, and the provision of a sustainable revenue source to finance state government that supports a healthy economy.

From what we observe in other states, casino gambling would not promote tax equity, responsible budgeting, sustainable development practices, or a sustainable revenue source,and likely would damage small businesses in Massachusetts. In short, it flies in the face of our party’s principles.

Resort casinos are a mechanism for transferring money from poor and middle class people to wealthy corporations. Any revenue that leaks out to the state via taxation along the way is far short of the amount necessary to ameliorate the social and economic damage that the industry causes.

Resort casino gambling would involve our state government in condoning and encouraging behavior that has led in far too many cases to personal financial ruin, the breakup of families, domestic violence, and child neglect. In addition to these social costs, resort casinos draw money away from local restaurants, stores, and farms, compounding the injury. So presenting resort casino gambling as a source of revenue that would benefit our communities is misleading. The academically documented experiences of other states suggest that resort casinos damage, rather than boost, local economies.

We remain committed to showing leadership in our communities and in our Democratic town, ward, and city committees. Day after day, week after week, month after month, we make the case for tax equity. We are asking you to show leadership as well, by abandoning the resort-casino proposal and focusing instead on a cause that is both more ambitious and more promising–fair and progressive taxation.

Yours sincerely,

Judith Seelig, Pelham
Pat Fiero, Leverett
Tom Hollocher, Sudbury
Jeanne Maloney, Sudbury
Kathleen Norbut, Monson
Carl Offner, Sudbury
Sharon Raymond, Shutesbury
Susan Triolo, Sunderland
Maxine Yarbrough, Sudbury

March 13, 2008

“Bet On the State, Not the Casinos!”

by at 11:03 am.

An awesome and entertaining video by Jimmy Tingle done for Casino Free Mass.


March 3, 2008

DiMasi: Skeptical About Casino Proposal

by at 3:58 pm.

Well, I’m sure I’ll complain about the House Cabal the next time it kills proposals I care about, but it looks like DiMasi is putting the brakes on Governor Patrick’s casino proposal. I’m sure I’m sharing a collective sigh of relief with a lot of activists today.

House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi said today that Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to license three resort casinos in Massachusetts is “clearly losing credibility” after a Globe analysis found that the administration was “excessively optimistic” in its estimate that the proposal would create 30,000 construction jobs.

“When the Governor embraced casino gambling in September, I raised a number of critical questions I felt needed to be answered before we allowed a casino culture into our Commonwealth,” DiMasi, a longtime critic of casino gambling, said in a press release issued by his office. “To date, most of those questions remain unanswered and, as evidenced by a Boston Globe analysis published on Sunday, new questions are coming to light.”

The Globe was on the job running those optimistic numbers in at least a limited fashion, and DiMasi wasn’t convinced on the merits. We still have work to do, but this is very good news for the casino opposition.

Gov. Patrick Lies to the Public, Legislature

by at 12:03 pm.

In all the disagreements with our Governor about casinos, while questioning the Governor’s rigor in studying them, I have never had to question his politics on the matter.

Until now.

Governor Patrick has crossed a line he told us he would never cross. First, cherry-picking facts to support a conclusion. Second, playing to the politics of fear to push his agenda.

Last Friday, I was driving and listening to WBUR. So I heard a news item at the top of the hour that chilled me. Governor Patrick had made some statements about the legislature needing to move forward on his casino proposal. The reasons that he gave? That the casinos were going to come anyway, and the state might as well have control over the process.

Both are downright stretching the real facts, if not complete fabrications. And they play to a politics of fear and threat, something I never thought this Governor would do. I was shocked to hear these quotes attributed to him. I meant to write about it on Friday, but with friends coming for the weekend, and the fact that blog traffic is better at the beginning of the week, I held off until today. But I am no less angry or disappointed than I was when I heard the words coming out of my car radio.

Let’s talk about the first part, that casinos are coming anyways. I suppose you could say that this phrase more resembles “weasel words” and not outright lying, as Class II casinos could be built. But if they haven’t been already, it’s highly unlikely. Why? Because we have not legalized Class III gambling in Massachusetts. Without Class III (slots, in particular), no one would build a resort-style casino. Slots are the king of resort casinos, the big money maker (or money sinker, if you’re a casino-goer). We don’t see Bingo Resort Casinos because that would be a bad business decision. Bingo doesn’t suck in enough money. And secondarily, there is a threat that one tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoags, might use an existing law regarding charity “casino nights” to force their way into the federal process and acquire a Class III casino, even under current law. But the answer isn’t to legalize Class III even further.

Because the second part of that statement, that the state will have control, is even more of a lie. You see, it’s a binary situation - once Class III (slots) are legalized, there’s more than one process available to Native American tribes who want to start a resort casino. One is to go through the state. The other is to go through the federal process, bypassing the state and its restrictions, and taxes, entirely.

Once Class III is legalized, all bets - so to speak - are off. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if all the parties interested in state-licensed casinos who are promising all this good tax revenue to the state jump ship from that process and start going through the federal one instead, once they get the law changed. For one, the Governor’s current proposal is for a 27% tax on profits from the casinos that are licensed by it. Would you, a business person, opt for a 27% tax rate on your profits when you could shed that and go through the federal process? Patrick claims to be able to control that, but there’s no evidence that the federal process can be denied once Class III slots are legal.

Patrick is using pressure regarding the Wampanoag situation to put his casino proposal forward. According to this article, the Mashpee Wampanoags are trying to weasel in a Class III casino using that existing charity law (bold mine).

Tribes are limited to operating gambling that is currently legal in the state. Since casino gambling is not allowed in Massachusetts, it was believed that the Mashpee Wampanoags would be limited to so-called “class II” gambling, which is a step below a full-fledged casino.

But the tribe in its application asserts that it has the right to build a full casino, with “class III” gambling, including slot machines. The argument is that because the state allows “casino nights” for charitable purposes, that opens the door for a casino.

And the federal government agrees.

If it’s allowed within the state, the tribes would be allowed to offer similar games, but they wouldn’t be subject to the length of time, such as a one-night only,” said Gary Garrison, spokesman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Wouldn’t the best way to stop a tribe from doing this be to pass a law making Class III illegal even for charitable purposes? And by extension, if a law specifically allowing only charities to have casino nights opens up the federal process for tribes to gain Class III casinos, doesn’t it stand to reason no amount of restriction in the state laws will limit the federal options for future casinos? It appears that no law that Patrick could propose specifying that all casinos be licensed through the state ever takes the federal casino license process off the table. So, in the second part of his statement, about how the state can control the process…he’s lying to us. Or maybe he’s lying to himself.

I know that being disappointed in your leaders is par for the course in politics. I just thought this time might be a little different. Patrick has decided to hang his hat on bringing casinos to Massachusetts, ignoring large swaths of objective information, and using fear and lies to accomplish it. But it’s this last part that I may not be able to forgive.

February 26, 2008

To the Council: Vote No to Casino Resolution

by at 4:18 pm.

On tonight’s City Council agenda is an item that frustrates me. “#9: Resolution-Supporting legislation licensing resort-style casinos in Commonwealth.”

The actual resolution is here. I shake my head reading it. To quote part:

WHEREAS, the Governor’s resort-style casino plan will generate $600 million-a-year in new public revenues, and $800 million in upfront license fee payments to the state. In addition, tens of millions of dollars per year will be generated in income, sales, meals, hotel and other taxes and economic activity;

Right. So the Governor, listening to casino proponents (ie, casino lobbyists) gives out a bunch of numbers. Is the city council going to actually fall for this? I hope not. There’s a word for people who do: gullible.

There is, of course, nothing in the resolution about the dollars lost having to pay for addiction councilors, added police and court costs, the loss of taxable revenue of the entertainment dollars that will fail to go to other venues, or the closing of many restaurants and entertainment businesses as people decide to go to the casino instead. No mention of the dirty casino lobby, its penchant for screwing the state later on by getting the legislature to lower the tax on casinos, or the deteriorating situation you get with casinos in your vicinity. Nope. Just pie-in-the-sky numbers and a hope and a prayer.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Someone’s going to have to pay for it. I don’t think $600 million is worth it. In fact, it’s not going to be $600 million dollars, is it? It’s going to be significantly less, given all the other factors that are being ignored. Probably even a net loss. But we don’t know for sure, do we? Because we have not gotten any sort of objective study that tells us the real numbers. Just lobbyist dribble.

Vote it down, guys. Or, if you really want to examine this issue going forward, support a resolution for studying this issue for serious, get the real numbers, the real data, so that we can make sure that this route isn’t the screwfest for our state that I’m pretty certain it will be. That would be a real useful resolution if you ask me.

February 22, 2008

Campanini Has Failed to Disclose Personal Interest in Casinos

by at 12:31 pm.

The Sun Editor, Jim Campanini, has once again failed to disclose a conflict of interest with regards to his role as editor of the Lowell Sun. Par for the course, I suppose, but this one’s a doozy.

A week ago, an editorial appeared in the Sun (we wrote a rebuttal) telling the legislature to consider Gov. Patrick’s plan for casinos in Massachusetts (saying, “Frankly, we see no way out of the state’s fiscal dilemma without engaging in a serious debate on legalized gambling.”). While there’s no evidence Campanini wrote the piece (in fact, it’s too well-reasoned and well-written to be his alone), the Sun’s editor gets the final say about what’s in the paper and the editorial page. So why does the public not know that Mr. Campanini appears to have a major stake in a stable of racers that frequent Suffolk Downs? (We found out thanks to a tip from an alert reader.)

This does, in fact, explain why we give a shit about horse racing at all in the pages of the Lowell Sun. Which could also be a conflict of interest, using the paper to drum up interest in a sport that the lead editor wants to promote for monetary gain, don’t you think? I mean, does the Lawrence Eagle-Trib spend as much time on horse race coverage?

Why does this matter for casinos? Well, Suffolk Downs is having some serious trouble staying open. Suffolk’s answer? They want to add the lucrative lure of slots, and they want it something awful. They can’t do that without Class III gambling made legal by the Governor’s proposal.

There’s just some lovely juicy tidbits showing how involved Mr. Campanini is with the G-Biscuit racing stable on the About part of their website. He is listed as a General Partner on the contact page. Then there is the Part 1 and Part 2 of the “About” page. Let me quote some…(bold mind)

The idea for G-Biscuit Stables didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it began with the “what if” daydreams of three friends, Matt Spencer, Nick Caraganis and Jim Campanini.
[…]
Barry said Delaware would be the place to set up shop for two reasons. It featured larger purses because it had slot machines and there were several other tracks within a 100-mile radius that offered racing.
[…]
The money was now flowing in from Frank’s family and friends, and Jim’s brother and his friends, Nick Narducci and Pat DiMasi, who goy in under the deadline. We had $45 grand in the bank.

Quite an investment.

Most partners have become friends. We plan dinners together, go to Saratoga together, and even play golf together when the weather suits us.

Frank Catapano, Joe Gazzola, Nick Caraganis and myself, Jim Campanini, can often be found in a foursome somewhere at either Orzo Trattoria on Route One in Saugus or in the Carousel, in season, at Saratoga.

Other members, living in Rhode Island, Puerto Rico and New York, remain connected in spirit if not in person. They share in this remarkable story for their unconditional support to the directors, trainer and horse agent.

The group’s initial investment of $43,000 has grown substantially under the auspices of John Rigattieri, our patient and expert trainer, and Barry Roos, our level-headed horse agent, partner and friend.

In using the first person occasionally, it’s obvious that this story of the stable was written by Mr. Campanini himself. Does that sound like the actions of a disinterested and objective journalist? No. It is, however, just one more example of how this editor is ruining his paper with conflicts of interest, whether it’s in politics and protecting his buddies, or in protecting his stake in horse racing.

I do not understand why this man is still leading the editorial team at the Lowell Sun. He’s so plainly not good at the job, and is using the paper for his personal gain besides. To the corporate owners of the Sun, if you’re reading this, you are limiting the profitability of your paper by keeping people like him. I can’t count the number of residents I know who have canceled their Sun subscription in the last two years. I myself refuse to pay for the Sun, and believe me, I would be the first to sign up were Campanini no longer its editor. There are great journalists at the Sun and their talents are being wasted. Mr. Campanini should be let go, and better, more able leadership brought in. Preferably from outside of the Merrimack Valley, if you’re asking for advice.

February 15, 2008

Sun Believes Patrick’s Casino Numbers?

by at 3:36 pm.

In today’s editorial, the Sun encourages the legislature to seriously consider Governor Patrick’s casino proposal. It appears the Sun didn’t really look much past Patrick’s own numbers in making this recommendation. I thought newspapers were supposed to be critical thinkers, especially when it comes to policy from politicians? Now, suddenly, they lose their cynicism?

Or does this have something to do with the chief editor’s, er, penchant for gambling at New York racetracks?

I’ll admit, Patrick’s casino numbers look succulent. All those jobs, and look at the state revenues we would get! What the Sun seems determined to ignore is that these numbers appear to be from the casino industry itself and do not bear out in multiple independent studies.

The casino industry is a clever salesmen. They downplay the costs associated with bringing in resort (slot) casinos into a state, and inflate the revenue projections. If we’re looking for a fix for our budget woes in Massachusetts, this is not going to be the answer. There is every evidence from non-casino-funded sources that we would lose jobs and revenue if we allowed casinos. At best, we should be looking to do a completely objective study, fully funded, via a non-interested party, before even considering doing this. This has not been done. The Governor didn’t wait for such a study when making his proposal, and didn’t propose doing one. I don’t know why the Governor believes the casino’s projections, but you know how your mom always told you, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is? Well, this is a good example.

But I would have hoped that the Lowell Sun editorial page, where cynicism about government is often evident, would do the due diligence we need from our media. Instead, they just want to take the Governor, and the casino lobby, at their word. It boggles the mind.

February 10, 2008

Casino Lobbyist Blog Plant?

by at 5:44 pm.

Unbelievable. So someone creates a new user over at BMG, “proudlib,” and within five days, puts up three posts (two on Feb 4) trying to push support for casinos. He neither links to the people he rants about nor quotes them.

What makes me think he may not be a professional paid plant is some of his very poor rhetoric. Surely, there are better arguments for casinos than some of his statements. Like this: “…after reading Rep, Dan Bosley’s almost infantile statement regarding his opposition to resort casinos…” I mean, you can argue whether or not you think Bosley’s arguments are right or not, but infantile? Not only have I always found Rep. Bosley a passionate, engaged pol on this issue, but his arguments are very mature and thought out, and backed up by data he has studied.

On the other hand, in the same thread, someone named “cbrillo” backs up proudlib’s attack on Rep. Bosley. “cbrillo” created their account on Feb 6th, and has commented exactly twice - once on proudlib’s “infantile” anti-Bosley post, and once with a fairly nonsensical pro-casino response elsewhere.

Yeah, that sounds like a grassroots swelling of support for casinos, alright.

In the latest post from Feb 9th, proudlib makes a lot of assertions about how many jobs, etc, the casino proposal would create, but no citation of where those numbers come from and who asserts them. In fact, they are asserted by the casino lobby and trickle down from there, and therefore are highly questionable, as many commenters in the post point out.

Why do I care about this? Because that last post got frontpaged on BMG. Now, I’m all for a fair and balanced discussion on this issue, but at the same time, a poorly-cited dubious post by someone who only recently created a user account and whose language appears, at best, shrill and unhinged at times…well, don’t we bloggers complain all the time about the mainstream media and its lazy habit of citing the he-said, she-said debate without parsing out the context or the facts of the matter? I’m not calling out the BMG editors (well, maybe just a smidge) as they are constantly front-paging all sorts of things and the blog moves fast, but I wanted to notate it to caution all readers of blogs that not all commentators, or even those of us who write on front pages, have earned the sort of credibility to be taken seriously. Please always use your best judgment when reading on the internets.

And I include readers of this blog in that. I am not immune to scrutiny, and won’t object to it either, so long as it’s fair scrutiny.

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