In all my activism, in all my reading, in all my state politicking, I've thought long and hard about who I think should be the Person of the Year, here in Massachusetts. One name stood out -- a tireless foe of the slot machine and casino lobby in Massachusetts. You may not know her name, but the industry and lawmaking slot-machine cheerleaders certainly do: Kathleen Conley Norbut, President of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts.
Let's think of what she's done in less than a year's time:
- Co-Founded the state's leading opposition group to slot machine gambling, USS Massachusetts.
- Stood up against an industry in this state that's spent roughly $2 million in the past two years lobbying.
- Changed the media dynamic from one where the MSM was almost unanimously singing the praises of the slot industry, to one where there's at least some balance in the reporting (and sometimes even great reporting on the subject).
- Organized dozens of important events, from pro-and-con forums to the State Democratic Convention's petition drive, which culminated in the State Party voting to come out against slot machine gambling in Massachusetts. The most important event, though, was this past December's Fanueil Hall forum, where over 100 people came to hear Kathleen, Alan Khazei, Scott Harshbarger, Mike & Kitty Dukakis and others speak out against slot machines. It came as no surprise to me, but surprised many others, when Kathleen was the best and most effective speaker of the night.
- She tirelessly pursued meetings with myriad state officials, culminating in a meeting with Governor Patrick, which ended up lasting over an hour and resulted in him agreeing to two important things: the backing of an independent and comprehensive cost/benefit analysis, as well as an agreement by the Governor to come out against any racino or slot parlor, even if it were in a bill coupled with a resort casino.
This, she's done with little institutional support or money, all the while working full time. Should we win this fight, should slots be blocked yet again, should social and economic justice prevail, we'll all, in large part, have Kathleen Conley Norbut to thank. She has my thanks already, because not only do I think we will win, but her tireless efforts are an inspiration to anyone who knows her and cares about the issues to keep on fighting.