Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wampanoags, Wampum and Wishing

While we were off to the Lowell Folk Festival (more later), Middleborough's many were begging for casino rights. Town meeting went two-to-one to bring this new level of gambling to their town and Massachusetts.

If you haven't been following this, click over to Ryan's Take for an excellent recent series on this process. In particular catch Oh, What a Surprise... and Casino Stink... I share his skepticism that this will be a longer-term positive for either that locale or the whole state. As Ryan notes, this is binary and not a vote on a single casino, rather on having tribal casinos in Massachusetts.

This is step two of five. First was negotiations by town officials and the Wampanoag nation. Now came the vote. Next up is seeking Gov. Deval Patrick's approval, followed by legislative votes here, and then assessment by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior (Bureau of Indian Affairs).

The Boston Globe reports today:
Middleborough, a town of about 22,000, is in dire financial straits. The town collects only $3.5 million in commercial and industrial annual taxes and is currently facing a $700,000 budget deficit. A Proposition 2 1/2 tax override for additional school funding was defeated in June.
That certainly is motivation. However, if this gets approved and Middleborough decides later that they would have been wise to pay for their own expenses with their own taxes, tough.

Follow-up contradiction: I did not see the Herald this morning. Massachusetts Liberal did, and reports that a second, non-binding town-meeting vote was that they did not favor casino gambling in Middleborough. Huh? As the Herald reported:
In a possible reflection of such concerns, Middleboro voters sent a distinctly ambivalent message yesterday: Despite their approval of the Wampanoag proposal, they voted down a nonbinding measure which asked whether the town approved of bringing casino gambling to Middleboro. It was overwhelmingly defeated by a hand vote.
“When they got to vote their conscience, they did that,” said activist Young. “I want people to know about the voices that were never heard. They were the concerns of (neighboring towns) Lakeville and Plympton. They get all the problems without any of the mitigation.”

Related Podcast: Ryan and I jumped up and down on casinos at this week's Left Ahead! podcast. Click the peas to download the 7.5MB file or load your MP3 software and listen.

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