East Boston’s elected officials on a casino at Suffolk Downs: A primer

If a casino comes to Boston, it will arrive with the full-throated support of Boston's mayor and East Boston's city counselor, representative, and senator. Our local leaders – including those who grew up here and know Eastie the best – risked everything they'd helped East Boston become and threw their support behind the statewide casino bill and the idea of expanded gambling at Suffolk Downs.

They didn't always support a casino here, though:

Anthony Petruccelli, State Senate

Sen. Anthony Petruccelli was an outspoken casino skeptic when the move to bring gambling to Suffolk Downs began to gain steam. “These neighborhoods are impacted by the international airport, three tunnels and a major highway,” he told the Boston Herald in July 2007. “How much more can we take?”

Well, just three years later, Petruccelli apparently thought these neighborhoods could take quite a bit more. In July 2010, he supported the initial House bill authorizing the construction of casinos throughout the state and would vote “yea” on every piece of gambling legislation from then on. He was one of a handful of Senators shepherding the legislation through the process.

“It took me a couple of years to get to the point where I support and prefer a resort casino at Suffolk Downs,” he told the Revere Journal in 2010. “As we look at it, the benefits outweigh the impacts.”

OK, so what changed?

Petruccelli explains his about-face on a casino at Suffolk Downs this way: the Senator ran into a guy from the neighborhood, someone Petruccelli grew up with, who had lost his job. It was this single interaction and his old friend's pleading with the Senator for work, Petruccelli said, that allowed him to ignore his strong initial concerns about casino impacts and help to pass the expanded gaming legislation – a bill he calls “a jobs bill.”

But “jobs” isn't a strong enough explanation for getting from “how much more can we take?” to full support of a casino in our neighborhood. One doesn't get from there to here without an outside influence or two. One of those influences might be Suffolk Downs owner Richard Fields. The Boston Globe reported in 2011 that Fields made a $6,000 donation to the senator's family foundation, after which Petruccelli “made sure bills before the Legislature have included a provision that would make local approval [for a casino] easier.”

According to the Globe, this donation far exceeded what Fields would have been allowed to give to Petruccelli's campaign under the state's campaign finance law. (for more on suspicious Richard Fields donations to elected officials, skip down to the section on Mayor Menino...except don't. The stuff to follow is really interesting.)

Carlo Basile, House of Representatives

Rep. Carlo Basile spoke even more forcefully against putting a casino at Suffolk Downs. During his campaign for a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, he was widely seen as the underdog, anti-casino candidate. Here's the tune he was singing during the campaign in 2007:

“We have a fight on our hands with officials who want to put another enormous burden on us with a quote-unquote world-class casino in our town. I will stand up to those who want to congest our streets more and thrust more upon us so that the state and city can reap more money and more taxes at our expense. Enough is enough – we have paid our fair share to the Commonwealth with three tunnels, an airport and a horse track within our borders. How much more can we take????

No one asked us if we wanted this – no one consulted the people of this neighborhood – look what happened in South Boston when they tried to jam the football stadium down their throats. We need to stand up and be heard. We need to fight to ensure that our opinions matter, and we have say in what happens in East Boston.

This is our town and we as a community will decide what is best for us!”

Hold onto your hats, because here's Basile, now the vice-chairman of the Committee on Financial Services, singing quite a different tune after the passage of the expanded gaming bill on Nov. 22, 2011: “This bill has been a long time in the making. I am very proud and excited about its passage as I believe it will spur much needed job growth and economic activity throughout the state.”

Explaining his position switcharoo, Basile also cites the jobs a casino would create. But like his counterpart in the Senate, Basile's stance on the casino appeared to shift out of political convenience. Back when Basile first spoke out against a casino, his stance would have sat very well with Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi, his “boss,” who was staunchly anti-casino. When DiMasi left office amid corruption charges, Robert DeLeo, an ardent casino supporter, took his place. Almost immediately, our then-junior representative's tune began to change on the subject of casinos.

But politics aside, what if his real motives are even more self-serving than that? Local political insiders know that Basile has for several years made jokes about one day leaving politics — to take a job at the casino. Not only could Basile earn more – probably significantly more – than his current annual salary of roughly $60,000, he'd receive the king's treatment for having helped pave the way for a casino at Suffolk Downs. That would be fantastic for Basile, of course, but terrible for the rest of us.

This is probably a good time to review one of the more disturbing aspects of the state's gambling legislation: the need for an amendment requiring some lawmakers to wait a period of time before taking a job with a casino. In the Senate, the amendment authorizing a “cooling off period” came only after one senator proposed an amendment requiring senators to wait five years after leaving office to work for a casino – and chaos nearly ensued. Here's the account from MassLive.com:

Soon after it began on Tuesday, the debate halted when one state senator argued for an amendment for a five-year "cooling off period" for former legislators before they work for a casino or applicant for a gambling license. Opponents became testy and Senate President Therese Murray gaveled the debate to a close. She ordered Democrats behind closed doors for a caucus that lasted an hour. When they emerged, senators quickly voted 36-1 for the one-year period for former lawmakers.

Hmm. Why would legislators get so heated about a proposal ensuring they would not personally benefit from an industry they helped usher in? Could it be that a handful of them actually planned to leave the public sector and snatch a comfortable position at one of the casinos? Alas, state lawmakers from both the House and the Senate must wait exactly one year after leaving office to go to work for a casino. After 12 months, though, it's anybody's game.

Salvatore LaMattina, City Council

In front of some community groups, City Councilor Sal LaMattina is cautious and understated about his feelings on a casino. He frequently tells them that he supports a casino at Suffolk Downs if it benefits the people of East Boston. At a recent Eagle Hill Civic Association meeting, he was pressed hard by members of No Eastie Casino about feeling unrepresented in local government because of their concerns about the proposed casino. In response, LaMattina put on his diplomatic, “wait-and-see” hat. According to Boston.com:

LaMattina said he, too, had questions about casino impacts, and he would work to ensure transparency. But many in East Boston are in desperate need of jobs the casino could bring, he said, and he will wait to make up his mind until he has more information.

The data isn't available yet, he said, but it will be put before the community in time for residents to make an informed choice in the voting booth.

“If this isn't right for East Boston, I'm saying no, too,” he said.

But LaMattina's true feelings – not just that he wants a casino in Boston, but specifically one in East Boston – have been on record for a while now. Last November, when asked by a Boston Herald reporter about Steve Wynn's just-released plans for a casino in Everett, LaMattina was bullish in his support for an Eastie casino.

“Do I welcome competition? Yeah, I welcome competition, but I want a casino in Boston, as does [Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino],” he said. “I still think Suffolk Downs is a perfect location, and I would have a lot of concern that a casino is going to Everett.”

And just two weeks ago, at his own fundraiser in East Boston, to 75 mostly pro-casino supporters – including Mayor Menino – he spoke glowingly about the benefits of a casino at Suffolk Downs.

“He emphasized that if the agreement is good he would support it,” said one who was in attendance. “People came away with the impression that he was favorable to the casino, unlike the Eagle Hill meeting.”

There you have it. Three out of three East Boston politicians either switching positions on the most important neighborhood development since airport expansion or (worse, perhaps) saying one thing to residents and another to the political establishment.

Then there's the mayor.

Thomas M. Menino, Mayor of Boston

Love him or hate him, Mayor Thomas M. Menino has been the most transformative, powerful and productive executive leader the City of Boston has ever seen.

And despite hailing from Hyde Park, Menino's Italian-American heritage has made him somewhat of a native son of East Boston, long dominated by multiple generations of residents and politicians with Italian blood. He frequents our restaurants. He's made completing East Boston's waterfront – including re-introducing water transport – a priority, and construction has, in fact, started up again after a long hiatus. Beyond that, though, the Mayor consistently wins elections in East Boston because his image has become that of a leader who works tirelessly for the neighborhood's working class people.

Menino is well aware of the well-documented negative effects of urban casinos, and still he backs one – despite the risk that it would turn back years of work reducing crime, building our economy, and expanding opportunities for all residents. So his support for a “resort-style casino” at Suffolk Downs would be a big head-scratcher, right? Well, maybe not that big.

Initially, the Mayor was quite skeptical of casinos and slot machines because of the negative impacts they typically bring. Then, in 2005, Suffolk Downs executives and owners flooded the Mayor's campaign coffers with $2,200 in donations. A few weeks later, Menino made a surprising endorsement of installing slot machines at the state's racetracks, including Suffolk Downs, to save the dying industry.

And remember Suffolk Downs owner Richard Fields?

The Fields Foundation, controlled by Suffolk owner Richard Fields, donated $10,000 to Menino's charity in 2008 and 2009, according the foundation's nonprofit tax return. Menino has confirmed in the past that a meeting with Fields one year earlier - just after Fields bought the racetrack - was a turning point in his transformation from tepid casino supporter to full-throated ambassador. (Source: The Boston Globe)

See how this works? Combine all those contributions and closed-door meetings with Menino's longtime friendship with Suffolk Downs principal owner Joseph O'Donnell, and one's confusion about the mayor's positions on casinos subsides considerably.

Shenanigans aside, here's the frustrating truth: Mayor Menino could shut casinos out of Boston tomorrow morning, if he wanted to. He has taken stands in the past against Walmart (for its benefits policy, as well as its impact on local businesses) and Chick-fil-A (for its CEO's opinion about gay marriage). He could do the same with the casino. Under the state casino law, mayors have enormous power to block proposals from moving forward, simply by refusing to negotiate with developers. Last year, we saw this in Holyoke, where Mayor Alex Morse reversed his position on building a casino in his city and abruptly ended negotiations with two casino companies.

Mayor Menino, on the other hand, is negotiating. Last year, in accordance with the 2011 gaming law, the Mayor appointed a Host Community Advisory Committee to represent the residents of Boston in negotiations with Caesars, but it too appears interested only in seeing that a casino is built. The five-person committee – which features just one resident of East Boston – lists on its website the driving philosophy behind its existence: “…that a resort casino entertainment destination, when properly regulated, can be an important economic driver in the region.”

But in dealing with the HCAC, community members report frustration that the committee has responded to few of their questions and requests for data. The suppression of information has become somewhat of a theme with all of our local leaders. On a number of occasions – both publicly and in writing -- residents and community groups have requested that an independent cost-benefit analysis be conducted to see what the impacts will be. Astoundingly, in a neighborhood where simple road improvements or construction variances require multiple studies of their impacts, requests for an in-depth report on a casino's impact have fallen on deaf ears.

Most disturbing is that those with knowledge of the process say Boston is close to finalizing its mitigation agreement with Suffolk Downs – if it hasn't already. Our politicians already know the framework of that agreement, while residents have yet to see any of the reports they've requested outlining the impacts a casino would have on our working-class, residential neighborhood. The next batch of information East Boston residents see will be an agreement between the city and Suffolk Downs showcasing the millions in mitigation dollars meant to offset the inevitable increase in crime, addiction, and traffic congestion.

We'll then be expected to vote yes or no on the construction of a casino with all of the good — and none of the bad — to inform our decision.

How Will This End?

This paints an admittedly bleak picture of our elected officials' blind support of a casino in Boston, but it can, of course, end differently than it started. Our mayor and local officials could choose to remove the shiny dollar signs from their eyes and demand that the voters know precisely how a casino will affect their neighborhood, rather than actively campaigning for a casino and blocking the free flow of information.

But at this point in the process, these men are unlikely to change.

As was true during the airport expansion of the 1960s, when mothers with baby carriages protested the destruction of our Olmstead-designed Wood Island Park, the residents of East Boston are on their own in standing up to a multinational casino company. Like those Maverick Mothers, “we're the last line of defense,” as lifelong resident Celeste Myers correctly put it at a recent neighborhood meeting. That's because all our elected officials chose long ago with whom they would stand in this fight.

Steve Holt is a writer in East Boston and volunteer with No Eastie Casino

Neighborhoods: 

Topics: 

Free tagging: 

Comments

I'm not an East Boston

By on

I'm not an East Boston resident so I have no say in this, but as a fan of Suffolk Downs, I'd rather they get the casino than another Greater Boston city. Gambling WITH horse racing involved is way more interesting to me than gambling without it.

That said, my only trip to Mohegan Sun was pretty depressing, and I'd be happier if MA would skip casinos entirely.

up
12

Suffolk Downs

By on

Steve Holt is expressing one opinion. Other fair minded residents don't agree. NIMBY wielded by one community group is just another heavy club swinging wildly. The casino proposal may be far from perfect but it does present some opportunities for jobs and a starting solution to some of our traffic problems. Most of all it preserves a major piece of open land, the track itself. There has been more community input with this proposal than will ever happen if some private big box developer buys the land when the track folds. I personally am offended by the patronizing attitude and remarks that have come from the casino opponents. It is fine to air your opinions in an attempt to change public opinion but don't dismiss the rest of us as out of touch and somewhat morally tainted because we are not in agreement to your opposition to gambling. I don't smoke but I will not label smokers as ignorant addicts. I don't drink alcohol but have no problem with people who do. I support building the casino. I support your right to express your opinion. Please respect my right to a differing opinion.

Patronizing?

So just so that we're all reading from the same script, could you please point us to some content distributed by the organized opposition to the Suffolk Downs / Caesars proposal (in print or online) that displays what you define as a "patronizing attitude." Please share it here. I'd like to read it.

My family has been in East Boston for nearly 100 years. My deep mistrust in local politicians and their all-to-comfy relationships with state agencies and multinational corporations is only one facet of my opposition to the proposed casino.

If any aspect of this project represents a "solution" for for the residents, merchants, and taxpayers of East Boston, Revere, Winthrop, and Chelsea, I'd like to see a problem...

up
14

Difficult

By on

Mike, it would be very difficult to satisfy your standard for what is patronizing. Besides, you know everything about everything anyway...all anyone has to do to find out is just ask you.

THANK YOU Anon. Completely

By on

THANK YOU Anon. Completely agree. As an east boston resident, I have gone from being apathetic to extremely PRO-casino because of how arrogant and pompous the Anti-Casino leaders have been. They are belittling people who disagree with their position, rather than trying to work with the other side to come up with the best solution.

up
24

Frustration Without Representation

By on

I think some of the emotional response of anti-casino folks comes from frustration due to lack of representation. When there is no one on the other side willing to work with you to come up with the best solution it is hard to not think the system is rigged. There are two parts to the upcoming vote, one is whether or not a casino fits in Eastie, the other is how much mitigation money we deserve to offset the damage the casino will do. All of our politicians are only concerned with the second part, but none of them have cared to ask if we actually want a casino.
It would have been awesome if our local pols would have tried to get their finger on the pulse of the whole neighborhood before making their decisions on the casino, but that's not what they did. I don't think money is the main reason they've come to their conclusions, but you can't say that they've tried to listen to their constituents. Opponents of the casino should not belittle those that disagree, but they should highlight the reasons a casino might be a bad idea since no one with power is.

up
11

Urgency, too

Good thoughts, Mateo. Agree wholeheartedly.

I think emotion is spurred on by a sense of urgency as well. That if we don't speak out forcefully now, we'll have a casino at Suffolk Downs tomorrow. We have some reason to fear such a scenario, too. As I've been told, Wood Island park was leveled in the dark of night / early morning to make room for a new runway. (against the strong objections of the neighborhood)

If we don't tell the truth about casinos and our local "leaders" in a way that people actually put down their TV remote or scratch ticket or smart phone long enough to listen, then we fear we'll lose this battle. And again, we're in this one alone, sans million-dollar marketing budgets and political/business connections.

But make no mistake: While it isn't true for everyone who opposes a casino at Suffolk Downs, the more a number of us research casinos in general -- their business model and local impacts -- the more we move away from NIMBY to NIABY (not in ANYONE'S backyard). Casinos are just bad business, and state's have no business investing in them. Why MA, one of the most innovative and economically healthy states in the US, would do so remains a mystery.

I've got a vote on the matter, and so do my neighbors, so I want to make sure everyone is well-informed on the issue before they go to the polls.

Exactly

By on

This is exactly what it is. They see it as anyone who dares to not agree with their perfect view on this issue, are just ignorant bum kissing assholes that are in the tank, on the dole, corrupt, or alcoholic gambling addicts who can't wait to get their complementary watered down drink at the 5 dollar black jack table. We are not a bunch of uneducated morons. We care what happens to our community. We also care about what Suffolk downs wants to do and what they are willing to give back to this community. At least we are willing to listen. I think we have done ok over here without the Steve Holts telling us (quite condescendingly I might add) what's best for us or who we should trust. I am sure we can figure it all out.

up
14

I believe you

By on

I believe that you are making decisions based on what you think is best for the neighborhood. A Suffolk Downs casino would bring some good. It would put Eastie on the map as more than just an airport, we'd get some mitigation money, and there would be more jobs.

However, it has been difficult to get anyone to tell us what bad things would come with it. I'd like to see traffic simulations to see if I'll still be able to go to Target or the north shore on the weekend. I'd like to see numbers about how much crime and addiction usually goes up when a casino enters a neighborhood. I'd like to see how much these jobs will pay and if the best jobs will go to outsiders they bring in.

And honestly, I don't know who to trust. I've only been in the neighborhood for 8 years and when I first voted for Carlo and Anthony they seemed like good guys who would represent us well. Now that they've changed positions can you blame me for wondering who they are listening to?

up
11

Exactly!

By on

I have been a resident for almost 60yrs. I have seen 2 tunnels built and the Airport expansion. I saw people in one of the prettiest areas of East Boston (Wood Island) pulled right out from residents, family included. How much more can we endure. The pollution alone between the Airport and Rt. 1A is making everyone sick. There is a high incidence of Asthma, MS and cancer in East Boston...Just remember people who wanted what when you vote in the next election. This is not good for East Boston, Winthrop, Revere or Chelsea. Everyone of us in these towns who oppose this need to band together and fight it. I didn't mention the two bridges. If we ever had to evacuate in a hurry we are as good as done. Chip Tuttle can go home to his nice peaceful home on the North Shore and live in the lap of luxury with his beloved horse that I read he boasted about, while we suffer from more crime, pollution and families ruined by gambling. Not everyone has the ability not to get hooked..
It is an addiction and our elected morons think this is a good thing...They are already planning their employment after their terms are up. They only have to wait a year! More corruption..

up
17

Wrong

Not a dig at my neighbors, and I actually feared a few of you would see it as such when I wrote it. My mistake, I suppose. Just identifying a few of the activities that distract us from engaging in the issues that will affect our neighborhood for years to come.

And I take offense to accusations of condescension. I will write directly and firmly to those in power, because the responsibility they hold with their constituents is so great. But I make a conscious effort not to write or speak condescendingly to any neighbor who may disagree with me on this issue. That's a non-starter for conversation and self-defeating. And rude.

Again, any emotion or passion that comes across stems from these feelings of non-representation in local offices and an urgency to tell the other side of the story before it's too late. The Maverick Mothers never got the chance to tell their side of the story before the neighborhood's park was taken from them, and I fear the same will be true today.

I've seen many arguments over

By on

I've seen many arguments over the years about people being too distracted by everyday life to learn about political/social issues. I've heard mentions of TV, radio, carting kids to soccer/little league practice, working two jobs etc. I've never heard anybody use "scratch tickets" as an example of our society's everyday civic distractions.

Its use in your argument wasn't by accident and there was certainly a message behind its use. Whether it was conscious or subconscious, only you would know.

And for the record, as a Winthrop resident who lives under the path of one of the runways, regardless of how fervently the "Maverick Mothers" argued their case, their position was still wrong. Yes, its unfortuante that a neighborhood lost its park, but reality of the situation is the Greater Boston region has benefitted from the growth and expansion of Logan, even at the expense of Wood Island Park and its neighbords.

I don't doubt that people don't want to live next to a casino. People also don't want to live next to an airport, sewage plant, hospital, large shopping center, factory, etc. The arguments for and against casinos are not new. They've been debated in this state and every other state in this country for years.

People will go to the polls in East Boston and Revere and they will make their decision based on their own experiences and ultimately, their own gut feelings on the issue. This is the most input anybody in this neighborhood has ever gotten on a major issue or development. And I suspect - at the end of the day - no number of glossy pictures created by Suffolk Downs on one side, or exposed campaign donations on the other will utlimately affect the outcome.

up
10

Wood Island II? No.

By on

Steve:

I am happy to see you keep invoking the ghosts of the Maverick Mothers and the loss of Wood Island Park. I think it is important we remember our history and the fights this community has waged. However, we aren't even talking apples and oranges here - more like apples and cantaloupes.

IMHO, the taking of Wood Island Park (acres and acres of parkland) and homes in Jeffries Point and on Neptune Road to make room for runways was and always will be far more offensive to this community than what is being proposed by Suffolk Downs. To compare the two is a little over the top. But I get it. You want to remind people of those days and make sure Suffolk Downs is painted with the same brush. Kudos on the brilliant strategy.

But taking away public open space that belonged to the neighborhood and which symbolically represented a loss and reduction of valuable recreational opportunities for the residents of this community in favor of a noisy airport is what was offensive. Combine that with the lack of process, mitigation and a lack of information to the community and you are a far cry from the very tedious and detailed process Suffolk Downs is currently engaged in that will ultimately culminate in the community getting a vote on whether we want this or not - thanks to the same elected officials who you criticize and speculate about. I think your concerns and criticisms would be more valid if our elected officials advocated for removing the provision requiring a vote which would have given us no say at all - but I digress. I am happy that this will be a vote taken in our community and not the entire City. Aren't you?

While you have your opinion and while I might tend to agree with others who have posted differing viewpoint to yours, I don't think you can even try to compare this to what happened with Wood Island. Suffolk Downs is a privately owned property, which has hosted wagering on horse racing for more than 70 years - not a public park or open space. Last I checked, they are not proposing to eliminate any open space, parks, or valuable natural resources in our neighborhood as part of their plan. To the contrary, it is my understanding that they are actually adding green space and proposing improvements to long standing traffic problems. I see this as a good place to start at the very least.

Like it or hate it, I find that they have done (and continue to do) more than most in trying to explain how a development of this size and scale will work and how they plan to address the impacts that will go along with it. I don't recall Suffolk Downs or Caesars ever saying there wouldn't be any impacts. Yet I am at a loss for hearing opponents' views on even one thing positive that might go along with this proposal. Is there not one thing you can think of that might be beneficial to the neighborhood?

As for what they are offering the community in return, I guess we are all in the same boat right now waiting to hear what that might include. I can only assume that whatever is included won't be worth it to Casino opponents and that is your choice. But others may see it differently.

Bravo

By on

I could not have said this better myself and you hit the nail right on the head. This patronizing "we know what's best for you" attitude of those opposed to the idea of a Casino at Suffolk Downs is beginning to really irk me. Their tone and lack of civility is pretty rude compared to what I have observed at meetings with representatives of Suffolk Downs including Mr. Tuttle.

Are elected officials not allowed to change their minds or evolve on an issue without being labeled corrupt? Or are they only allowed to change their minds provided it is aligned with your position? Just because they may not agree with you on a particular issue doesn't make them wrong - or even worse - crooks.

Apparently Steve doesn't know Anthony Petruccelli or Sal LaMattina as well as the rest of us who grew up here in East Boston do. Show some respect - and maybe you will get some in return.

Respect

By on

I'm a relative "newcomer" to East Boston and to Boston city politics in general, having lived here for only 5 years. But, in general, politicians should work to earn the respect of all of their constituents, not the other way around.

The allegations and connections raised here are troubling. The timing of these changes in opinion is questionable, especially since there appears to have been no new data presented, just some new, ahem, "funding" for pet projects of key policymakers. Granted, this is how politics works a lot of the time - but I see no problems with the author calling a spade a spade.

I agree with your last point in this respect: Sal and Anthony don't know all of their constituents equally well--they have certainly never knocked on my door--but again, the onus is on them as my elected officials to build that relationship and trust. After all, as a voter, I'm the one who puts them into office, no? Don't they work for me? If not, for whom?

Unfortunately, they don't speak for me on this issue. They certainly have not come through in terms of forcing the City and Suffolk Downs Caesars to produce the information that's needed to help community residents understand both the negative and positive impacts of the casino. The most common refrain I've heard from neighbors who support the casino is that it will bring jobs. And yes, jobs are important, and East Boston's got a higher share of unemployment than the rest of the Commonwealth. So, how many of these new jobs--construction and long-term--will come to and STAY WITH East Bostonians? Will they all pay a living wage, or only a small fraction? This matters to me because it matters for East Boston's long term financial health. Suffolk Downs has not come clean with this information, and the Mayor's HCAC hasn't produced it, either. So, as an East Bostonian, I'm flying blind on knowing whether these jobs will really help my neighbors out. And, maybe, you are too.

But jobs are not the only consideration I'm taking with me to the polls when we vote on this thing. There's all that additional traffic and the public health/environmental hazards that come with it, Caesar's bad record in keeping its financial commitments to cities, and my belief there could be a better use for that land. I recognize that my neighbors, like you, might take a different view. But, if our electeds and Suffolk Downs aren't willing to paint the whole picture, someone's got to. Presenting all the facts isn't patronizing, in my book. It's part of helping the community come to the decision that's best for all of us. Will this casino help me and my family's health or hinder it? Will it enhance or drive out the small businesses and restaurants I frequent in Day Square, Orient Heights, Eagle Hill, Maverick and Winthrop? Will drug and gambling addiction rates in my block go up or down? Will there be more local traffic on my section of Saratoga and Bennington hoping to avoid 1A Friday nights at 6 PM and Sunday afternoons? These are things that will impact me directly, and I would like to talk about them. They seem highly relevant to me, and to my ability to enjoy my home and neighborhood. I wish Sal and Anthony and the Mayor's crew were out there doing that, but they aren't. They're only telling one side of the story.

East Boston has shouldered more than its fair share of the Commonwealth's burden over the years, starting with the taking of Wood Island Park for the airport and continuing on with the tunnels, Global Oil and the ethanol trains, and now this. I don't think this community gets back half of what it has been asked to give, and in this case, I see that trend continuing if Suffolk Downs Caesars comes to town. And, as an East Bostonian who intends to stick around for awhile, i do think that's worth getting mad about.

The only time I see East

By on

The only time I see East Boston Politicians is when I see a re-run of Rino's place on the foodnetwork, that's it, they like the attention! East Boston has recent unsolved gun robberys, the street's are so filthy I have never in all my four decades living here see streets so dirty.The city tickets legally parked cars with residential stickers on them, Local official spends more time on Casino issues and being on tv shows like TV Diner, instead should be more focused on cleaning the gutters and sidewalks on a daily basis.

up
12

John - the show is taped and

By on

John - the show is taped and those are re-runs. It is not a live shot. I thought you would know the difference but I guess not.

casino

By on

Yes. Steve Holt is expressing one opinion that does not have the benefit of millions of dollars of backing, P.R. firms, colorful (fanciful?) architect's renderings, a local power establishment, the local paper in the tank, and union backing. Who does he think he is??

His article has simply highlighted the political and monetary realities (which are one and the same) of the situation and therefore he doesn't respect your opinion...anonymous. Nothing Holt has written is showing disrespect to any other Eastie resident who is in favor of the casino, so I can only assume you must be one of the individuals mentioned in the article to be so offended.

And, as per usual, the issue of the lack of any sort of outside, unbiased cost-benefit analysis (meaning not one by the anti-casino's people either) is ignored completely. We are to assume that the people who will directly benefit from this venture are the ones to give us the facts. Can I sell you a used car? Or maybe the Tobin? Why are the proponents (and their backers) so fervently against hearing the facts about the introduction of casinos in urban areas?

up
17

Can't win either way....

By on

Just face it, you people (opponents) will find something wrong with whatever, whenever, however, why or with whoever Suffolk Downs does anything because you are flat out opposed to the idea of a casino. Classic NIMBYism. Nothing in your eyes will ever be good enough, informative enough, or transparent enough for you because you don't approach this from the perspective of "how do we make this work." Instead, you want to make sure as many people believe it can't work under any circumstances whatsoever and that the best alternative is nothing at all. That is your opinion and one that I find a little hard to agree with. At least I am willing to listen to what they are offering. But how can I listen and try to get informed if you are constantly trying to monopolize or distract from the discussion by criticizing them for using PR firms who provide information or architects and consultants that provide the details and presentations that me and my neighbors need to see in order to understand this better? Would you rather Chip Tuttle draw you a picture with crayons and pass out hand written notes on scrap paper? Of course you would because then you can have something else to complain about at these meetings like the drawings are not detailed enough...actually I think someone from No Eastie Casino complained about that already!

So here is an idea: just vote against it when it comes up for a vote. I am guessing that you will do that regardless of whatever Suffolk Downs proposes or what the mitigation agreement looks like or how many jobs are available to the community. Also, here is another novel thought to all of you who just can't stand the terrible jobs the elected officials do for you in this community: don't vote for them. It's your right.

Other than that, I see this as a process where Suffolk Downs is trying to inform you and others in this community about what they are proposing to do by whatever means reaches the most amount of people - not much different than what the opposition is trying to do with their message (except I think thus far Suffolk Downs has handled it with more class). I am happy to listen to opposing views but please stop doubting everyone's intelligence in this neighborhood or our ability to make an informed decision. I find it pretty arrogant and disrespectful.

up
10

Can't win either way

By on

Just face it, you people (opponents) will find something wrong with whatever, whenever, however, why or with whoever Suffolk Downs does anything because you are flat out opposed to the idea of a casino. Classic NIMBYism. Nothing in your eyes will ever be good enough, informative enough, or transparent enough for you because you don't approach this from the perspective of "how do we make this work."

I'd argue the Casino's and investors are just as culpable here. They have a vision on how to make it work that isn’t much different than their vision elsewhere, and anything that encroaches on their idea of specific profit returns is DOA. Foxboro saw it, and turned them down fast, and it’s not like that town isn’t grateful to the investments Robert Kraft has made to it. They don’t want to do anything different to make it work here either; they want to grease as many wheels as they can and do what they always have done, their way.

Plopping a casino in East Boston is going to be a mess for residents and city services period. Not only that, but history has shown that communities around these Casino-towns also have to deal with increases in traffic, crime, need for municipal services, ect; but rarely are compensated.

There has been very little talk about proper compensation for these externalities, mitigation of problems, ect that will be put on the city, towns and state. And the one cat call seems to be “We’re bringing you jobs, so shut it”, without even defining what kind of jobs (pay) and how many (long term).

If I had a dollar every time some politico or investor has claimed their vision or policy will magically create a bunch of great new jobs, well, I’d be high rolling it in foxwoods, right? More often than not history and data just doesn’t back up those claims.

up
11

I would argue that the reason

By on

I would argue that the reason there has been little talk about compensation is because those agreements are still being hammered out between the proponents and the leaders of the host communities.

Ultimately, residents in East Boston and Revere will go to the polls to vote up or down on those compensation packages. If they deem them acceptable, they will vote yes and the state gambling board will weigh Suffolk's application against any other Eastern Mass. applicants who have also gained voter approval in their host communities.

If the voters reject the compensation package, either Suffolk tries to sweeten the pot for Revere and Eastie, or the proposal dies.

up
12

How can we go to the polls

By on

How can we go to the polls when we have no transparency? They give us nothing but non specific answers....It is all under handed...

We voted for them when they were against the casino

By on

Also, here is another novel thought to all of you who just can't stand the terrible jobs the elected officials do for you in this community: don't vote for them.

This attitude looks similar to what you are calling out in casino opponents. The guys we voted for were against casinos when we voted for them, so what can we do now?

Could you share why you are supportive of the casino?

up
11

Payroll

By on

Unless you're on the payroll of Suffolk Downs or one of the local reps' re-election committee, you should be appalled by the lack of transparency and insider deals involved in this process -- even if you're for a casino. As we read this, proposed mitigation money is being carved up in backroom deals and will be siphoned to pet projects and special interests - if it ever materializes at all - while the locals deal with tons of extra traffic, extra pollution, higher auto insurance, an extra foreclosure on their block because of a problem gambler, handfulls of boarded up small businesses who got pushed out, and one new and very powerful neighbor who can pretty much do whatever they like with very little recourse.

Am I willing to accept all of that so that a few dollars per person of mitigation money will go anywhere but to the people it actually affects? I'll pass.

up
12

Suffolk Downs

Anon - you are "personally offended by the patronizing attitude and remarks...". So what does Steve Holt is expressing one opinion mean? You follow it with "other fair minded residents don't agree". That sounds quite patronizing.
Far from perfect is a great start on your part and I applaud you for admitting it. But, sorry if I offend you, but have you even thought about other ways to bring jobs. Does adding thousands of extra cars to that area a day sound like a solution to the traffic problem? The Casino only says they will give us better highways/roads or the $32 million if it meets certain revenue. This goal is almost certain to not be met. Read a little about. Find out how your representative have been paid off one by one. Find out that truth behind it. I'm glad you support peoples opinion but it seems clear that you did not feel Steve Holt had a right to his opinion. If you read the article, it's fact not opinions, his opinion is that the casino is a bad idea. You should be offended by each of your elected officials being paid off by the Casino and basically spitting in everyone's face.

up
11

Nicely done,Mr. Holt. Well researched,but now what?

By on

I would think the conclusions one should draw from your post is that the Suffolk casino is going to happen. You and your group will put up a noble effort, but in the end it will be to no avail.

Unless of course you have deeper pockets than the casino people.

up
22

my vote

By on

I have been an east boston resident my entire life and I never thought that I would have a say on anything that was proposed to be built in the neighborhood. While the author of the article wants to criticize Senator Petruccelli for writing language into the casino law that allows eastie people to vote on a casino, I want to say thank you to him. I have not yet made up my mind, but I know that I have a vote and it is going to be up to the people of East Boston, not the rest of the city. I don't think it is right for the rest of the city to tell us what we should have in our neighborhood or not. Anthony is right on this one.

up
10

I agree!

Let the record show that I never criticized the part of the law calling for a local vote on any casino proposal. I happen to like that part of the casino legislation. It puts the power back into the hands of the ones will be most affected (positively/negatively) by the development, a luxury not afforded to casino communities in other parts of the nation. Casino operators lobby against such popular votes because they themselves know that most Americans would rather have a nuclear power plant in their community than a casino. (actual statistic: http://tscg.biz/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/USA_Tod...) Casino companies would rather work directly with legislators to craft some kind of mutually agreeable deal and cut the casino's future neighbors out of the process.

I'm glad that's not the case here, that we get a vote. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that everyone in East Boston has the tools they need to vote intelligently, with all the facts. When you listen to just No Eastie Casino or just Suffolk Downs, you only get half of the story.

up
11

If you agree...

By on

Then you should start by thanking Senator Petruccelli for that... or is that just something you won't do because it isn't consistent with your criticism?

up
16

wow

Anon, it seems you are out to get Mr. Holt in anyway possible. I'm sorry did he express his opinion again and it pissed you off. Senator Petruccelli did act out against the casino, he changed his mind because of a payoff. Mr. Holt's article was about all of the payoffs.. etc. You do as much research as he did and I can guarantee you that you would be pissed at someone else.

Goal of Casino Opponents

By on

My goal - as a casino opponent - a title which I have only accepted after the bill was rammed through the statehouse in 2011, is to do my best to afford my neighbors, friends and family an opportunity at an unobstructed view of true cost/benefit impacts of a casino in East Boston. Prior to the 2011 passing of the bill - I was an engaged citizen who sought answers from my elected officials who told me not to worry about it. As a member of Neighbors of Suffolk Downs - I worked alongside others to bring a fair and balanced discussion to the community in the form of a casino forum which represented both sides of the issue. We had hoped that would be the beginning of an open dialog between citizens and those tasked with representing us.

Still - after our earnest efforts to obtain and share information - my goal is to provide folks with as much information as possible no matter where they stand on the issue. My advice to opponents and proponents alike is to get informed - find out how you will be impacted - or how you will realize your opportunities and respond accordingly.

This article provides a pretty straight view of the evolution of the East Boston casino political process with supported statements. I can imagine that there are casino proponents who have worked very hard to keep residents in the dark who will be unhappy with any detail being shared.

Labeling opponents as patronizing or elitist is a tactic that the Suffolk Downs folks - who have been the ones holding all of the strings from their Suburban estates, have tried to pin on us as a distraction tactic as a means to dismiss our efforts. I do not claim or own that designation when Chip Tuttle attempts to heap it upon me and I certainly do not accept it from someone who cowers from behind an anonymous post.

Sincerely,
Celeste Ribeiro Myers
Regular Blue-Collared East Boston Girl and incidentally
Co-chair of No Eastie Casino

up
13

Citation Please

By on

"Labeling opponents as patronizing or elitist is a tactic that the Suffolk Downs folks - who have been the ones holding all of the strings from their Suburban estates, have tried to pin on us as a distraction tactic as a means to dismiss our efforts. I do not claim or own that designation when Chip Tuttle attempts to heap it upon me"

I'd be interested in seeing any evidence that Tuttle or the upper management of Suffolk Downs have labeled or smeared opponents of the project. All the articles and tweets that I have read seem to indicate that they are only talking directly about their proposal and have responded to casino opponents on any sort of personal level.

And FWIW, any proposal or law that has been debated over several years and spanned two House speakers and two Senate presidents, and took the better part of a week for the governor's signature once passed, by definition - cannot have been "rammed" through.

up
12

Double standard

By on

From what I have seen, I am confident that the invective and innuendo coming from the opponents far outweighs the criticism of them by Suffolk Downs or its supporters as appearing in the blogosphere and social media. And yes Celeste, I prefer to remain anonymous as it is my right to do and everyone's right who is pro, con or undecided. Your points are no more or less valid because you choose (or not choose) to attach your identity. But if identity is so important, why don't I see you being at all critical or accusing those who anonymously support your view as "cowering?" Because it only matters if those people who comment anonymously disagree with you - right? Again another example of the hypocrisy.

Local Politicians (Self Interests)

By on

Why are East Boston pols in favor of Casino at Suffolk? 1) Large financial contribution to their campaign funds giving by owners of Suffolk Downs. 2)Crucial- Automatic Good wage Casino jobs to local politician family and their hack friends. 3) 6 figure High paying casino jobs to current East Boston politicians... This leaves the rest of East Boston residents with the short end of the stick.. Yes , indeed this will create jobs for East Boston residents (that's what these pols are saying) in reality if you look at the names on the massport payroll most of them are relatives and friends of politicians. This is a matter of What will the Casino give back to East Boston? well your answer is jobs to family of local politicians and their hack friends..Alternative to Casino for Suffolk Downs property, build a mixed use residential/ commercial development similar to whats being built in assembly square in Somerville, with movie theatre and shops it will create much more jobs than the casino, Casino will increase crime in neighborhood and the mbta blue line will be crowded each day with degenerate gamblers..

up
13

Assembly Square type development is a non starter here...

By on

No developer is going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars building residential units under the final approach path of one of the nearby international airport's busiest runway.

Assuming there is no casino, and the likelihood the horse track would go belly up within 10 years...you're probably looking at a Big Box retail development, or maybe some sort of institutional development.

But I don't see the viabiity of a new neighborhood under jet airplanes above and a gas tank farm to the left.

Frankly, the campaign donations are a good fact to know. But I think they would be far more damning if those politicians had opposed giving host communities a referendum. All the campaignm money in the world cna't help them if the voters vote no.

To jdrinboston, No developer

By on

To jdrinboston, No developer would want to build on Suffolk land, because it is in a flight path, so its perfectly OK to have an elderly grandmother get on a bus from Canada and gamble and sleep over night at a suffolk downs / Casino hotel .and have a jet fly over every 5 minutes. your not making any sense!!! First of all there is no flight path over Suffolk, get your facts straight.. obviously your not an Eastie resident. Planes mostly go over day sq.. where most homeowners in that area of East Boston are not entitled to install soundproof windows provided by massport, outragiously those windows were installed on Orient Height Madonna hill homes where most politicians and former politicians reside, and where jet noise levels are not even that high compared to day sq area.

Have you been to Suffolk Downs?

By on

Jets fly right over the track, usually down the middle as oppose to the "Boston Backstretch" or the home stretch.

I only got out once last season, but catching some races on TV, I heard the airplanes on final approach.

I lived in a condo on

By on

I lived in a condo on Bennington Street in back of Suffolk Downs for three years and I can assure you, there is indeed a flight path over Suffolk Downs. There are two if you count runway 22L, which vectors planes over the marsh.

I can't believe you would accuse me of not having my facts straight when a 2 minute look at a map around Logan would verify what in saying. Wow

And if you can't see the difference between a visitor willingly visiting a casino and sleeping their for one night, verses developers spending millions for people to live under planes permanently, I'm sorry, I can't help you.

up
14

To jdrinboston, No developer

By on

To jdrinboston, No developer would want to build on Suffolk land, because it is in a flight path, so its perfectly OK to have an elderly grandmother get on a bus from Canada and gamble and sleep over night at a suffolk downs / Casino hotel .and have a jet fly over every 5 minutes. your not making any sense!!! First of all there is no flight path over Suffolk, get your facts straight.. obviously your not an Eastie resident. Planes mostly go over day sq.. where most homeowners in that area of East Boston are not entitled to install soundproof windows provided by massport, outragiously those windows were installed on Orient Height Madonna hill homes where most politicians and former politicians reside, and where jet noise levels are not even that high compared to day sq area.

up
12

Although the allegations have

By on

Although the allegations have been leveled by many throughout the organization and pro-casino movement, there have been several instances in which Chip Tuttle himself has attempted to paint some of us - me in particular as over educated, over employed elitists who cannot identify the needs of the community. He couldn't be further from the truth on all of those counts. I'm just an average Jane with the same struggles and concerns as many of my neighbors and when I think of those among me who need improved employment and opportunity so direly - I think of them among my friends and family.

up
17

Hmm?

Anon, there you go again. what is it with you? Are you one of the first paying jobs coming from the Casino? I'm guessing no interview, just go online and write stupid things that make very little sense. Mr. Holt, Celeste, and a few others wrote very nice comments. You're pissed because you don't like them to be able to express their opinion. Or is the Casino paying you too!

Although most of the inuendo

By on

Although most of the inuendo has been delivered via multiple venues and media forms and supporters - it certainly has come from Chip Tuttle and other senior folks in the organization who have tried to paint us as over employed, highly educated elitists who do not care about bringing opportunity to the community. The reality is that couldn't be further from the truth. When I think of the folks need improved employment and opportunity - I think of them among my friends, family and neighbors.

up
12

So you don't actually have

By on

So you don't actually have any evidence or citations? Got it.

The old accusing someone of spreading innuendo, using inneuendo trick.

I find it concerning to say

By on

I find it concerning to say the least, that Mr. Holt has cast aspersions with reckless abandon and accused East Boston's elected officials of impropriety and then not so subtly make mention that Mayor Menino is akin to a native son of East Boston because of his Italian heritage and shares in the same "Italian blood" as Anthony, Carlo and Sal. I think remarks like that come dangerously close to ethnic stereotyping. It not healthy for debate and it's offensive to Italian- Americans in East Boston and beyond.

up
14

With Out Papers

By on

I'm glad somebody brought that up. I was planning on commenting on that. Steve, tell us what does the Mayor's Italian American heritage have to do with any of this? Let me guess you see them all as "Paisans" or "connected" too right? Never mind the complete horseshit about how corrupt our elected officials are, but this is probably the most insulting thing I have ever read concerning this issue coming from the opposition. Do you think they all drive Caddilacs, wear sharkskin silk suits and gold pinky rings too? You have a lot to learn about this neighborhood you claim to love so much. Goodness!

Bada Bing!

By on

I am neither for nor against the Casino. I could care less because I don't gamble and probably would never go there if one was ever built. But in reading this, I guess the people at 'No Eastie Casino' think of our elected officials and our neighborhood like this: we are the Sopranos basically.

Don't take my word for it - its right here in the Author's comments:

And despite hailing from Hyde Park, Menino's Italian-American heritage has made him somewhat of a native son of East Boston, long dominated by multiple generations of residents and politicians with Italian blood. Steve Holt via UniversalHub.com 3-20-13

As another poster asked, I too am curious as to why you are pointing out that the Mayor and our elected officials are Italian and why is it even relevant in this debate? I am fairly certain that the point of your entire column wouldn't be any different had you omitted that information. So why use it?

I think the reasons are pretty clear and it goes something like this: what better way to help conjure up and perpetuate the stereotypical view many people unfortunately have of our heritage and culture (i.e. Mob Wives, Anthony Soprano, Michael Corleone, etc) than playing the "Italian Card" while talking about the ills of gambling and implying corruption?

Am I overreacting here? No, not really. Even if it is factual or you were trying to simply relate history, you would not have tried to make this same point if the Mayor was Jewish and this was Brookline or Newton. The same might be said if the Mayor was black and we were talking about Dorchester, Roxbury or Mattapan. In both of those instances the information is equally irrelevant to the discussion - but for some reason was included here. Hmmmmmm.

Your choice to bring what I consider irrelevant 'facts' into the discussion for obvious purposes is pretty outrageous. I think it is a slap in the face to everyone in this neighborhood whether of Italian descent or not. Just my own two cents.

up
14

Re: Bada Bing!

AdeleB,
Thanks for the tactful questions. While I am not going to be commenting on this article anymore, I did want to quickly respond to what you wrote. I'd encourage you and others not to make too much of my mention of the mayor's Italian heritage, as it is just one of many reasons he is beloved here. But it is one reason, I do believe! It's similar to the way traditionally Irish neighborhoods like Dorchester and Southie have embraced Boston's mayors in the past.

As for Menino, he frequently cites our Italian restaurants as some of his favorites in the city, and he even did the whole drive-around-the-block in Guy Fieri's Caddie for the Diners Drive-Ins and Dives taping at Italian Express. (IE named its rollatini the "Eggplant Menino," as you probably know) People say things like, “I love him not only because he's Italian. I know he's trying.” (Frances Caprio, 87, http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2006/05/bubble-trouble/) So I'd say he owns it, and so do we! Nothing wrong with that.

People appreciate the attention he's given the neighborhood through the years, too, so his cultural heritage isn't the only reason. Which is why my mention of it was just a few words out of 2,000. It's certainly not cultural stereotyping, though.

Some of my best friends are Italian people! ;) Thanks so much for your comment, and for thinking about this important issue.

up
12

The Italian sub is an Italian

By on

The Italian sub is an Italian American sandwich, popular in east boston in the 60's and 70's until people realized if they keep eating Ham mutadella cheese and pepperoni w/ bread there stomachs will grow along with diabetes . Real Italians don't eat all that stuff, with all that bread. Only Chooches ( translation in English (nitwits) eat it.

up
17

Instead of debating about a

By on

Instead of debating about a Casino, the Officials should do something about
Cleaning the neighborhoods of East Boston and Educating the Illegal population in taking pride in Eastie. They keep the streets filthy and too noisy. Having a Casino will only attract more Illegals and make matters worse.

up
13

Casino

By on

Of course all the Politicians are going to follow the Great Mstr Pupppeteer Menino! because without him controlling their strings they wouldn't be where they are. Politicians are like dirty diapers that need to be changed ever so often. It's time for that change for Menino & Lamattina.

up
17