Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Off to the Casino Hearing... But...

I'm off in a few minutes to the casino hearing, but before I go, I have to comment on an article I read last night. Representative Panagiotakos from Lowell has threatened a referendum should the casino bill be squashed, to LeftinLowell's complete annoyance.

A prominent supporter of the governor’s casino gambling proposal said today he would seek a fall statewide referendum on it if, as now appears increasingly likely, the House moves to kill the measure this week.

Sen. Steven Panagiotakos of Lowell, a Democrat who serves as chairman of his chamber’s Ways and Means Committee, said the issue is too important to be quashed amid a series of increasingly personal recriminations between Gov. Deval Patrick and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi.

What isn't known yet is if Governor Patrick would entertain such a measure, because if he would, he'd have officially jumped the shark. I couldn't support that kind of Governor, because it represents the Politics of a Bully. Governor Patrick out to condemn such an effort post-haste because, in the end, it's exactly the kind of politics he worked so hard to defeat in June of last year. Imagine the Governor, who worked so hard to protect marriage equality, stooping as low as the homophobic organizations that tried to put equality on the ballot? I can't. He simply must condemn this effort, and now. Let's not forget that the very person who is supporting this measure, Panagiotakos, is also someone who supporting banning marriage equality, by writing inequality into the state's constitution.

When the casino bill is defeated in the legislature, and it will be, it's time to work on our state's common problems. For once, it seems, the Speaker of the House has become a willing participant in solving our state's problems: he's shown a new willingness to compromise on many bills. He's finally agreed to the Life Science initiative. He's, this very day, proposing to create 13,000 new jobs in renewable, green energy in this state. But this casino thing has got to go: it's a distraction. It's ripping the Governor's base apart. We want to work with the Governor; we have common cause. It's time we work on what we have in common - health care, education, renewable energy, etc. - because ultimately they're the important questions of the day.

Finally, I won't be able to blog while I'm at the hearing, but I will be phoning into LeftAhead, the state's Lefty Political Podcast, to make a live report at around 2:30.

Today's Must Read Stories:

-Casinos aren't anywhere near inevitable, no matter what the Governor's been parroting on the matter. What the Wampanoags are asking for is by no means gauranteed, because it's literally never happened before, even for a Class 2 casino (which would be a tiny fraction of what Deval's asking for, because it will lack both real slots and any real investments).

The tribe is also attempting a political and bureaucratic feat that the Bureau of Indian Affairs says has never been tried: parlaying tribal recognition, which it received in February 2007, into two tracts of reservation land 25 miles apart, with one targeted for a casino, the other for its tribal headquarters on Cape Cod.

A spokesman for the Department of the Interior said he did not know of any other case in which the government approved such a request.

Does that sound inevitable to you?

-As public support for casinos is plummiting, new and better job alternatives emerge. I'd imagine it would be lower if people knew about this extremely weird provision in Governor Patrick's law that has yet to be explained.

-The Boston Globe misses the picture, but what else is new? Now is not the time for a whole new idea to create new revenue in this state, because our state is currently distracted by and boggled down with the present conversation: casinos. After that measure is soundly defeated, there's plenty of time for Speaker DiMasi, Senate President Murray and the entire legislature to pass a balanced budget, and perhaps even some kind of new, big idea on creating new revenue.

The Speaker's shown a new-found willingness to work with the Governor, from reforming education to passing the life science initiative. DiMasi's even ahead of the curve on green energy investment. At this point, he's actually earned a little trust in being able to come up with a way to increase our spending in this state for the time being. And, in the end, it shouldn't be the onus of a Speaker to create an alternative to a bad idea, especially when that idea's one big vacuum of a distraction: it's first and foremost his or her job to make sure that bad idea doesn't pass. Good on him for doing so.


Anonymous said...

Ryan, in what scenario do you think it's OK to have a referendum, where you ask all the voters in one election their opinion on a question. You have a couple of polls you say prove people don't want casinos, why not let a vote take place? Polls can be wrong.

Ryan Adams said...

We live in a representative democracy; I don't support any direct appeal to the voters, because they can so often actually subvert the will of democracy, through lies and deception most often. Furthermore, and more importantly, they can reduce and diminish any Democracy's hall mark: the things people shouldn't be allowed to vote on, matters of equality. In a way, this issue - casinos in Massachusetts - speaks directly to that matter, because it's a matter of social and economic justice. But beyond that, it's also stupid policy.

If we take it to the ballot, we'll win again, but it's actually a method of subverting our democracy... and for a legislator (and let's hope NOT the Governor) of whining like a spoiled brat when they don't get their way. Ultimately, our society can't work in a way where we put everything to the ballot if it fails at the legislative level. If we can't put everything there, we shouldn't put anything there.

Mark D. Snyder said...

I plan on figuring out how to get off the "delegates" mailing list so I can stop getting glossy expensive mailers about the casino plan, and about how environmentally friendly John Kerry is. No, his mailing was not even on post consumer/recylced paper. ugh.

I saw the pro casino Union folks rallying on my way to work today. Sad. I usually stand in solidarity with unions. ;(

Anonymous said...

So people shouldn't be able to vote on proposition 2 1/2 overrides? Since already elected officials might decide they want a new police station (it's been voted on and turned down twice in Holden Mass) they should be able to build it, even when democratic votes show the people don't want it?

Ryan Adams said...

I didn't say that, either. I don't think Prop 2 1/2 is a good idea, because it's failing us tremendously. Nor do I think cops should be able to have their buddies buy them a new police station, or town car, unnecessarily so. There's a middle ground. If more money came from the city going to towns, instead of funding cities and towns off the backs of the unfair property taxes, perhaps we could arrange so nonpartisan committees could figure out which projects had the most merit, and which buildings either need to be replaced or refurbished. Overrides have meant that some props that ought to have been turned down passed, and others that were desperately needed to pass failed. Also, it means that lots of politicians have played politics with the propositions, adding things that weren't necessary, but geared toward certain segments of the town to make sure all segments had a reason to vote for it, and not against it. That means an abuse of the democratic system and illustrates just how a plebescite could be the wrong thing to do.

numbers nannie said...

Thanks for your comments, Ryan, and you're right about this being a major distractions from more important issues of substance.
We need to get beyond the phoney glitz and hype of casinos and destination resorts that send money to international investors and create sustainable local jobs like the Green Industries. The dollars we invest in solar and wind will stay in Massachusetts and save our future energy dollars from going overseas. We have too many important things to do and need to get beyond the casino issue and talk about meaningful local jobs and money.

Old Yankee said...

Ryan, As a tight-fisted Old Yankee, beg to differ about Prop 2 1/2. It provided cities and towns with their limits. Municipal officials had choices. In good times, they could have saved a few dollars in anticipation of those future needs: the new school, the new roof, the replacement vehicles, the emergencies.
Instead, they SPENT AND SPENT. They negotiated excessive pay raises and benefits.
Most of us could review our local municipal budgets and slash enough waste to balance them without severe cuts.
It's not Prop 2 1/2. It's poor spending decisions.

Anonymous said...

Ryan: "There's a middle ground, if more money came from the city going to towns" what does that mean? What magic city, Boston? Ultimately ALL the money comes from my (and those who actually pay taxes) pockets. So the closer the decision making is to my immediate concerns the better off I am. Not some autocratic committee. (Which with the state of this state's affairs would be 80% tax and spend liberals).

Anonymous said...

numbers nannie: hope you sent an e-mail to Ted Kennedy, he's said he's opposed to Cape Wind, so you know it will never happen. Don't want to spoil his view.

Ryan Adams said...

Old Yankee: again, I don't disagree that there has to be a mechanism to make sure cities and towns (and the state, for that matter) aren't overspending. Proposition 2 1/2 has been an overwheming failure in that regard, in two aspects: to get a Prop passed, it requires at least some money to be spent on wasteful things, so that every segment of a population is happy with the override (seniors will want something, men, women, parents, etc.), but more importantly, when inflation is SKYROCKETING in some areas, such as health care and energy, proposition 2 1/2 is forcing underspending, which is far worse to our economy than overspending. Turning out stupid kids and unsafe neighborhoods devalues our property and makes us more likely to get into another recession that we can't even get out of. Cities and towns need to be able to pay for their employee's health insurance, yet those costs are going up 10-15% a year... so either we have to admit that Proposition 2 1/2 isn't working and come up with something different, or we need to completely change the way we fund town services.

Anon 5:23 - sorry, I meant to say "state going to towns." Ultimately, I think we need to rearrange how the state and cities and towns primarily collect revenue. Property taxes is a horrible way to do it, because it squeezes people on limited and fixed incomes and it hurts communities that don't have a strong business base. It just isn't working, all across the state, and needs to be fixed. Personally, I think the answer is cutting property taxes by huge, significant, sweeping margins and changing the way the income tax is collected in this state - turning it into a progressive income tax. That way, people who can afford to contribue more will do so, which is how we do things on the national level. It's a far more fair system and would allow us to adequately fund cities and towns, our health care system and crumbling infrastucture. Not funding those things has costs, like losing businesses every year, and we need to change it.

Anonymous said...

Till you can change things let's try to keep an eye on the purse strings. Like the Democrats just giving John Binenda (state rep) from Worc an $8,000 a year raise. In the middle of a budget crisis.

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