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With casinos, all politics is political

Posted in: Municipal government   Gambling   Growth and development
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If, as Barney Frank says, “Government is the name we give to things we choose to do together,” politics must be the name we give to things that advance our own agenda and self-interest while putting a flamethrower to competition that might injure our priorities.

Less than a month since Gov. Deval Patrick signed the casino bill into law, the focus has been on the warts of the growing number of proposals and why they won’t or shouldn’t get built as opposed to where they will eventually go. And, quel suprise, it's all about politics.

The Globe’s Brian McGrory writes that Mayor Thomas Menino may not be as enamored with a casino at Suffolk Downs as he publicly states. It seems Vornado Realty Trust, that New York-based investment company that dug a hole where Filene’s used to be, has been buying up shares of Suffolk Downs in anticipation of getting a casino license and now holds a 20 percent stake in the venture. Which means they’ll rake in some big bucks if Menino can successfully torpedo the competing proposal from the Robert Kraft-Steve Wynn tag team.

But, McGrory points out, politics is about grudges and no one holds them better than Hizzoner. Menino has grumbled about Vornado’s lack of cooperation in Downtown Crossing and his development team has sent word to the company, in McGrory’s words, ”No building at Filene’s, no casino.”

But to cover all the bases, Suffolk Downs is not putting all their eggs in Menino’s basket lest they get scrambled. Members of the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce meet with Chip Tuttle, the COO of Suffolk Downs, on the track’s gambling proposal, the Lynn Item reports.

While Menino has been focusing on the Foxboro proposal as the main competition for a Boston casino (“It’s not Bob Kraft making the decision,” Menino said earlier this month. “It’s a five-member panel commission making the decision.”), Sheldon Adelson is the latest casino
magnate to eye Massachusetts. Sources tell the Herald that Adelson, a Dorchester native, is kicking the tires on land in South Boston and Marlborough, both of which are in the same region as Foxboro and Suffolk Downs under the legislation. Expect all-out assaults on Adelson’s proposal to commence after the holidays.

Meanwhile, Wynn is testing casino campaign talking points by calling Foxborough residents during dinner, and in the middle of the Pats game; town officials asked him to stop not only because it’s ticking people off as the Pats make a playoff run but he also may be inviting town officials to violate state law. Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos curtly declined to join a conference call with executives from Wynn Resports and the Kraft Group, noting that the call would likely violate the state’s Open Meeting Law. Wynn had also invited the town’s five selectmen to join the call. And now casino opponents are jumping on the email invitation to question whether clandestine politics are driving the deal.

Down the road a piece in Raynham, Selectman Chairman Joseph Pacheco says a slot proposal for the dog track likely would be derailed if a casino is approved in nearby Bridgewater or Middleboro. And he says any discussion of the casino in either of those towns should include officials from other towns, including Raynham.

And for anyone who doubts politics – okay, money, then politics – is the driving force behind all things gaming, take a read on the state’s response to a suit filed by a developer seeking to site a casino in New Bedford. The suit by KG Urban Enterprises charges the law’s tribal set-aside is unconstitutional because it is race-based. Not so, says the state. “This distinction is political.” Word.

                                                                                                                                        --JACK SULLIIVAN


BEACON HILL

The Massachusetts Lottery is considering allowing players to use debit cards for purchases.

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas slams Auditor Suzanne Bump. He quotes Robert Powilatis, a deputy auditor under Bump predecessor Joe DeNucci, as saying she is incompetent. “Everything now in the office is political. Her top deputies are fundraisers. The only meaningful reports coming out of the office are audits that were in the DeNucci pipeline,” Powilatis says.

Attorney General Martha Coakley is on a roll, collecting $24 million from Merck, the largest payment for a single case of Medicaid fraud in state history, WBUR reports.

A state homelessness prevention program misses out on federal funding.

The Cape Cod Times considers the squeeze on municipal funding.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Lawrence group trying to recall Mayor William Lantigua is beset by infighting over a deal with the city on a Spanish translation of the recall petition. The group’s president says he wants to verify the city’s Spanish version is translated accurately. “You can’t trust these people,” he tells the Eagle-Tribune.

Lowell reaches an agreement with its 17 municipal unions to join the state’s Group Insurance Commission. The city manager estimates savings of $9.6 million in the first year, half of which will go back to employees, the Lowell Sun reports.

The Patriot Ledger has filed a complaint with the Attorney General charging two Weymouth committees violated the state’s Open Meeting Law in ithe search for a new school superintendent.

Boston barely, if ever, enforces regulations governing valet parking operators, who tie up traffic and neighborhood parking spaces with impunity, the Globe reports.  

Kevin Kennedy, a former aide of US Rep. Richard Neal,  is Springfield’s new chief development officer.  

The matter of the soon-to-be new Boston city clerk, Maureen Feeney, and the city council president, Steve Murphy, who has pushed for her appointment is a classic case of mutual back scratching, writes the Globe’s Andrew Ryan. He also reports that state Rep. Marty Walz wants to clamp down on city clerks pocketing thousands of dollars for performing weddings in municipal buildings.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The House rejects a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut enjoyed by 160 million workers, the Washington Post reports. The move earns the GOP an unusual rebuke from the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page: Republican leadership’s handling of the payroll tax cut makes the paper “wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.”

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano proposes giving voting rights to illegal immigrants and other non-citizens, the AP reports.

Elizabeth Warren makes the US News & World Report’s list of the 10 Most Influential Political Newcomers, a list that includes Hillary Clinton, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and presidential candidate and veteran US Rep. Ron Paul. We repeat, political newcomers.

ELECTION 2012

Next man up in the Anybody But Mitt Sweepstakes. The last contender in that sweepstakes asks Mitt Romney to take it easy on him with the brutal Super PAC ads. The New York Times profiles Newt Gingrich’s Capitol Hill years.

FactCheck.org pretty much destroys Gingrich’s recent attempt to make some sort of point by declaring that starting pay is higher for school janitors in New York than teachers.

Romney really, really doesn’t want to get embarrassed in New Hampshire. And speaking of embarrassing moments...

How a third party candidate could get traction.

Jon Keller says a USA Today/Gallup poll showing 70 percent of voters are already sick of the campaigning is more a reflection of the content than the process.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Governing investigates the disappearance of pedestrian malls.

Good housing news, bad housing news: Massachusetts home sales rose by 13 percent in November, but it was still the third-worst November in two decades, and home sales for the year remain the weakest they’ve been since 1991. Actually, that was mostly bad news. Sorry.

EDUCATION

The MetroWestDaily News argues that students who get into trouble in school should not be kicked out.

City Journal’s Sol Stern argues that nearly a decade of school reform under New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not yielded much in the way of student achievement gains.

Porn star Aurora Snow takes to the Daily Beast to condemn attacks on Kevin Hogan, the English teacher at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School who formerly worked in adult films.

HEALTH CARE

Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital has plans for still another huge new research building.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A flu virus is to blame for the recent spate of seal deaths.

MEDIA

With the New York Times putting some of its properties on the block, Dan Kennedy, in his latest Huffington Post piece, wonders if the Globe is next and thinks local ownership may be the best move.

Egyptians protest beating of women after a horrific video sweeps across the Internet. The video is not for the faint of heart.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Bill Conlin, a sports columnist for a crosstown rival, is being accused of molesting four children in the 1970s.
 
WBUR examines New York Times columnist Gail Collins’s obsession with the 1983 story about Mitt Romney putting his dog in a crate and strapping it to the top of his car for a trip to Canada.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A jury convicted a Sudbury man of conspiring with al Qaeda to unleash terrorist attacks.

A Level 3 sex offender charged with attempting to rape a woman at knife point in New Bedford was held without bail after prosecutors argued he has been arrested more than 80 times since 1979 on a variety of charges..

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