West Springfield rocks casino world
Never underestimate the threat of traffic nightmares to doom an $800 million economic development project. West Springfield voters said no in a Big E way to Hard Rock International’s plan to open a casino on the site of the Eastern States Exposition – rejecting the plan 55 percent to 45 percent.
The town is the first Bay State municipality to reject a casino host community agreement in a public referendum since lawmakers legalized casino gambling in two years ago. About 45 percent of registered voters went to the polls. Hard Rock spent more than $1 million in its failed campaign, but a small group of committed opponents and some very big negatives carried the day.
The location was always a dubious prospect. For 17 days every fall, the Big E, the largest agricultural fair in the Northeast, throws a wrench in the daily lives of folks on the “west side” as the town is known in the region. As one Yelper has pointed out, “you are sitting in traffic for a billion years.” Translation: it can take an hour or more to make the five-mile trek from the Big E to Interstate 91. What becomes a bad memory for tourists is a major annual headache for locals.
Hard Rock could not allay the fears that experience conjures. Despite a $35 million commitment from the developers for road improvements, public transportation add-ons, and new parking, the perception of 365 days of traffic tie-ups fueled Tuesday’s “no” vote.
The host community agreement put West Springfield at a significant disadvantage if the casino revenues did not live up to Hard Rock expectations. The agreement required the town to come back to the table to renegotiate community benefit and other fees Hard Rock paid if the casino experienced “any material changes in the competitive environment” that had an “adverse impact” on the company’s finances.
West Springfield’s departure from the casino scene promises to heat up the Western Massachusetts debate over whether an urban casino in Springfield is more or less preferable to a rural gaming facility in Palmer. MGM Resorts International, backer of the Springfield project, has the added challenge of persuading the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that Pansy Ho, the major investor in MGM Macau and the daughter of a Chinese casino owner with links to organized crime, is not a problem for the Bay State.
Springfield voters approved MGM’s agreement with the city in July. Palmer voters weigh in on the Mohegan Sun agreement in November. As for Hard Rock, company officials may scope out other opportunities in Massachusetts or elsewhere in New England.
Let’s call the whole thing off: Gov. Deval Patrick now says he no longer supports the state’s software design services tax and will seek to replace it with another source of revenue, the State House News reports (via Gloucester Times). Patrick calls the tax “a serious blot on our reputation as an innovation center.”
A clerk magistrate reaches deep into the applicant pool to tap the daughter of an old friend — a member of the anachronistic governor’s council — for an assistant clerk’s position. Court administrator Harry Spence doesn’t like the smell of it. CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan pulled back the covers on the business of lifetime clerk magistrate appointments in this 2011 story.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, a former federal prosecutor, is resisting zoning changes to allow a medical marijuana dispensary in the city that backers say could imperil state approval for the facility.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino pushes back against critics of an ambitious development and land-selling program, telling the Herald, “I took an oath” to serve four years, and “I’ll fulfill those four years.”
Raynham passed a host agreement yesterday for a slot parlor license at the town’s former dog racing track by an overwhelming 87 percent to 13 percent margin. Voters in Plainville approved a slots parlor at the harness racing track, while the company seeking to put a slots parlor in Millbury officially pulls the plug on the effort, the Telegram & Gazette reports.
A legislative committee voted to approve the compact hammered out between the Patrick administration and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe for a Taunton casino, sending the measure to the full Legislature for a vote.
Boston’s Eastie-only casino vote isn’t yet a sure thing.
Colorado’s Senate president is ousted in a recall election that focused on his support of gun control measures, the Denver Post reports. The recall is a blow to Michael Bloomberg, who poured his PAC money into the race.
James Jay Carafano, a defense expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says the Syria debacle could spell the end of Secretary of State John Kerry’s brief tenure.
Income inequality across the nation continues to grow, according to a new study.
The House GOP is back on its hard line, attempting to trade a debt limit vote for a major delay in Obamacare implementation.
The Herald endorses John Connolly and Dan Conley in Boston’s preliminary mayoral election. The paper also throws in a rare anti-endorsement of Marty Walsh, saying the state lawmaker and former union official “has given ample evidence that his loyalties remain with his union supporters, not city taxpayers.”
The 12 mayoral candidates met in Dorchester last night for a forum on issues of concern in the city’s minority community.
The Globe profiles Boston mayoral hopeful Rob Consalvo, who wears the “mini-me” label as a badge of honor.
Adrian Walker says John Barros is gaining traction.
Shirley Leung seems skeptical of Marty Walsh’s vow to be a tough negotiator with municipal unions as mayor, despite being labor’s candidate in the race.
Former governor’s councilor Carole Fiola of Fall River won the special election for the 6th Bristol House seat after a testy battle that included charges from the state GOP her husband’s position at a local economic development agency represented a conflict of interest.
Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua and City Councilor Dan Rivera are running neck and neck in fundraising, with Lantigua receiving money from 29 city employees and also spending $1,050 for a recreational fishing trip in New Hampshire, the Eagle-Tribune reports. Lantigua attends the opening of the renovated Campagnone Common and the Eagle-Tribune profiles inventor James O’Donoghue, one of the other candidates in the mayor’s race.
Bill de Blasio wins the Democratic primary for mayor of New York, but it’s unclear whether he secured enough votes to avoid a runoff, the New York Times reports. New York magazine reports that de Blasio appears to have won at least one-third of the vote among every one of New York’s fractious ethnic groups. Anthony Weiner ends his spectacular run as a failed mayoral candidate by flipping off a reporter.
Princeton economist Alan Blinder argues that regulators are losing the battle to tamp down the financial excesses that cratered the economy five years ago.HEALTH CARE
The path looks clear for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s acquisition of Jordan Hospital in Plymouth.