Walsh’s waffling on casinos

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is a straight-shooter on most issues, but on casino gambling he’s tied up in knots.

He voted for casinos as a state legislator, but now he’s the mayor of Boston and there are two city neighborhoods — East Boston and Charlestown — where anti-casino sentiment is running high. Walsh doesn’t want to alienate those neighborhoods (or his union brothers and sisters who support casinos, for that matter), so he keeps waffling.

Walsh’s ideal solution would be to let voters in East Boston and Charlestown decide whether Boston should embrace gambling. That way the neighborhoods would be heard and he wouldn’t have to take a public position on the politically divisive issue of casinos. But the Massachusetts Gaming Commission hasn’t been cooperative; it hasn’t given him an easy way out.

Walsh initially wanted Boston to be considered a host community for proposed casinos in Revere and Everett, a designation that would have allowed East Boston and Charlestown to vote on the casino proposals. But the Gaming Commission shot that idea down by a 4-0 vote. Then the mayor asked the commission to put the entire casino licensing process on hold until November, when voters are scheduled to take up an initiative petition repealing the state gaming law. The commission also rejected that approach on a 4-0 vote, leaving Walsh with less and less wiggle room on upcoming casino licensing deadlines.

On Thursday, Walsh reluctantly finalized a surrounding community mitigation agreement with Mohegan Sun, which is seeking to build a casino in Revere on the Suffolk Downs property. Mohegan Sun, pitching itself as the good-neighbor casino, was eager to sign a deal and by most accounts ponied up a lot of money for Boston. Yet Walsh didn’t announce the deal jointly with the casino operator; instead, he held his own press conference where he said he couldn’t be described as a supporter of the Mohegan Sun project.

Walsh also announced on Thursday that he had failed to reach a surrounding community deal with Wynn Resorts, which wants to build a casino in Everett. But rather than go to arbitration with the hard-nosed Wynn, Walsh said he would leave it up to the Gaming Commission to decide what sort of mitigation payments the city deserves. In other words, punt the issue to the regulators; if they don’t return with a good deal, he can blame them — again — instead of himself.

What Walsh and many others involved in the casino licensing process have failed to realize is that the Gaming Commission’s job is to get casinos up and running in Massachusetts.The commissioners aren’t there to decide whether casinos are a good idea or not. State lawmakers, including Walsh, made that decision back in 2011. Now Walsh has to decide whether he’s still on board with that earlier decision.

BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

Former Probation commissioner John O’Brien lobbied then-House Ways and Means chair Robert DeLeo for more power, including a raise and lifetime tenure, in September 2007. Nothing came of that meeting, but seven months later DeLeo was handing out Probation jobs on Beacon Hill, CommonWealth reports. Rep. David Linsky testifies about his relationship with House Speaker DeLeo.

The state reports progress in fixing its health website, the Sun reports.

A Globe editorial decries the growing disparity in pay for state judges, district attorneys, and other top officials, who get hefty raises in the state budget, and frontline public defenders and assistant DAs, who struggle with low salaries that got only a token boost. The Download made this same point earlier this month when the raises were first reported.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lowell grieves as an apartment building fire claims seven lives, the state’s deadliest fire in two decades. The Sun’s coverage is here.

The Walsh administration is criticizing a deal struck last year by the city under Mayor Tom Menino that hands the Boston Red Sox permanent rights to two city streets for $7.3 million, calling it a bad deal for the city that the new administration would not have approved.

Boston’s animal shelter isn’t even fit for dogs, city officials say as the facility’s acting director is suspended.

About 180 families have been living in motels in Danvers for the past eight months, but state officials said the number could be much higher but for several new programs to prevent homelessness, the Salem News reports.

A veteran Lawrence police officer returns to work after a lengthy suspension, a false arrest, and claims of racial discrimination within the department, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The American Spectator does a preemptive strike on a potential presidential run by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, cautioning fellow conservatives she is an “ineffectual phony with crossover appeal.”

ELECTIONS

Republican congressional candidate Richard Tisei joins a group opposing plans by Partners HealthCare to convert Union Hospital in Lynn into a mental health facility, the Item reports.

Charlie Baker walks back comments on the Hobby Lobby case regarding health care coverage for contraception after getting blistered by his Democratic opponents.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

With the oldest Baby Boomers turning 68 this year, the average age at which individuals set up charitable remainder trusts, experts expect a surge of the tax-shelter vehicles over the next 20 years that will have a major impact on nonprofits as beneficiaries die off.

A new harbor plan proposed for Gloucester offers more flexibility in the type of businesses and uses along the waterfront, the Gloucester Times reports.

EDUCATION

The American Federation of Teachers is taking on Common Core national test standards, Politico reports.

HEALTH CARE

Where’s Steward in the fight over the consent agreement between Partners HealthCare and Attorney General Martha Coakley?

A survey by the Commonwealth Fund finds people like Obamacare.

A Boston-based team reports an advance in cancer research involving the tracking of changes in cancer cells.

TRANSPORTATION

Look out Hub cabbies: Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan has had enough of you and is turning to Uber.

A new app that can alert drivers when a Boston metered parking space is about to free up has some prospective users excited — and city officials grumbling.

Based on this map, Massachusetts is on the outer edge of areas along the East Coast where people might get a glimpse of the blast-off from Virginia early Saturday afternoon of a rocket delivering supplies to the International Space Station.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A report by the National Wildlife Federation cited Massachusetts and Rhode Island as the top states in leading the way in wind power.

The state Department of Environmental Protection says Kingston’s controversial Independence wind turbine failed noise level tests run several times in late winter and town officials will try to determine how to bring the turbine into compliance.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

School officials are concerned the gun safety bill passed by the House and heading to the Senate could add costs to districts because of vaguely worded sections requiring them to address the mental health needs of students and faculty.

The former Westport highway supervisor was found guilty of larceny by trading one of the town’s riding mowers to a supplier who he then asked to pass it along to a friend who was a town mechanic.

MEDIA

A new Pew study says media outlets are attempting to fill the void created by state house reporting cutbacks across the United States, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The Dallas Morning News abandons its premium content experiment, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

George Clooney rejects the Daily Mail’s “apology,” Time reports.