Theatre District Discussion on WICN

Tonight at 10pm on The Business Beat on WICN 90.5 is an interview with Craig Blais of the WBDC and Tim McGourthy, the city’s chief development officer, about the Theater District.

To whet your appetite, here are parts of an interview Jordan Levy did with Craig Blais a few months back; I think they were repeated on-air a few days ago:

Craig Blais/Jordan Levy, part 1

Craig Blais/Jordan Levy, part 2

Craig Blais/Jordan Levy, part 3

Craig Blais/Jordan Levy, part 4

I’ll update this post when the full interview is posted on the internet.

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Des Plaines casino in the Telegram this morning

Tom Caywood has an article in today’s Telegram [$] about the casino Rush Street Gaming has in Des Plaines.  It’s well worth reading.  Of interest to Worcester residents:

The population of Des Plaines is about 58,000. It’s a mostly middle class place. People there had all the same concerns about gambling likely to come up here. Would a casino attract traffic gridlock or crime? Would gambling suck money away from local businesses? Would problem gambling hurt families in the community?

Des Plaines resident James Blue, for one, thinks the answer to all those questions has turned out to be yes since Rivers Casino opened in July 2011.

“There were lots of promises made by the casino, which have only been partially kept. We were promised a flood of new business to the community. That has not turned out to be the case,” Mr. Blue said. “We were concerned, from other casinos, that there was going to have to be a lot of police and paramedic assistance provided there and, sure enough, that has been true.”

I’d also encourage the news media (and others) to look at other investments and companies of Neil Bluhm — outside of Rush Street Gaming.  Bluhm and other Rush Street representatives were on Jordan Levy the other day.  One of the questions Levy asked was whether they were in the business of flipping casinos.

Now, first of all, Rush Street has not been in business that long — they’ve opened four casinos since 2008.  Casinos are most profitable in their first few years, so Rush Street doesn’t have the kind of track record to see whether or not they would hold a casino or slots parlor for decades.

But it’s worth noting that just four years after Neil Bluhm and Greg Carlin (CEO of Rush Street) built Riverwalk Casino and Hotel in Vicksburg, MS, they sold it to another company.

Perhaps in their world, that’s not considered flipping.  Certainly it’s worth bearing in mind when there’s a 75-year slots parlor agreement at stake.

The slots parlor was also a topic for discussion on Rosen’s Roundtable.  Councilor Konnie Lukes said the following about her meeting with the Rush Street executives:

They do not look slick. They do not look threatening. They don’t look evil. They are going to be disarmingly convincing. Being humble and charming doesn’t get you $2 billion in assets. So they know what they’re doing, they have studied the area, they have everything down to a formula.

The first thing they told me was that the hotel was going to be in CitySquare. It’s not going to be in Kelley Square. And a lot of the neighbors down in Kelley Square think they’re getting a first class hotel, and that’s what’s going to rejuvenate the neighborhood. My feeling is that the slots parlor is going to suck the life right out of the neighborhood, and any attempts of the Canal District to revive are going to be useless.

There will be a Joint Meeting of the Standing Committees on Public Safety and Economic Development to discuss the slots parlor host agreement on Monday, April 8, at 6:30pm, at the Hibernian Cultural Center on Temple Street.

In anticipation of that meeting, the City Council agenda for Tuesday has a number of items coming in from Councilors regarding the proposed slots parlor (and other related topics):

  • Request the City Council’s Standing Committees on Economic Development and Public Safety hold a joint committee meeting for public hearings concerning the “host-community agreement” relative to the proposed potential slots parlor, being authorized by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and being pursued by Mass Gaming and Entertainment, LLC, for the purpose of giving Worcester residents an opportunity to give input as to what the public wants to be included within the “host-community agreement” and further, request the City Manager assist by providing appropriate department resources, such as legal, economic, law enforcement and public works , for such hearings and invite any other stakeholders the City Manager deems appropriate. (Rushton, O’Brien, Economou, Toomey, Rivera, Petty)
  • If the City Council Standing Committee on Economic Development holds hearings concerning the siting of proposed potential slot parlors, that the Committee allow testimony in opposition to the siting of a slots parlor in Worcester. (Lukes)
  • Request City Manager request the City Solicitor to provide a legal opinion regarding Mass General Laws Chapter 23K sec 61 as to whether the distribution of monies from the Community Mitigation Fund established pursuant to Mass General Laws are available not only to the host community but also to the surrounding communities. (Lukes)
  • Request City Manager request the Police Chief to provide City Council with a report prior to the April 8, 2013 Joint Meeting of the Standing Committees on Public Safety and Economic Development with his opinion of the potential crime impact that a slots parlor could generate and suggest efforts that we might consider in advance to mitigate those impacts. (Russell, Economou, Rivera, Rushton)
  • Request City Manager request the Director of Public Health to provide City Council with a report prior to the April 8, 2013 Joint Meeting of the Standing Committees on Public Safety and Economic Development with his opinion of the potential impact to public health of the community that a slots parlor could generate and suggest efforts that we might consider in advance to mitigate those impacts. (Russell, Economou, Rivera, Rushton)
  • Request City Manager request the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works and Parks to provide City Council prior to the April 8, 2013 Joint Meeting of the Standing Committees on Public Safety and Economic Development his opinion of the potential traffic flow and infrastructure impacts of a proposed slots parlor in the Kelley Square environs and suggest efforts that we might consider in advance to mitigate those impacts. (Russell, Economou, Rivera, Rushton)
  • Request City Manager report on the occupancy rates, income and number of hotel rooms in Worcester hotels for the past four years. (Lukes)
  • Request City Manager report on the number of hotel rooms in Worcester under or pending construction. (Lukes)

Please let me know on the blog or the Facebook page if you have any questions about the process (or anything else).  I’ve got lots of questions, too, and I hope to be posting more about this in the near future.

April Boards and Commissions Vacancies

The next selection meeting for city boards & commissions will be Wednesday, April 17 at 6:30pm in the Saxe Room of the Main Library.

The list of vacancies can be found on the City website.

There are lots of openings.  Some highlights:

  • There is one opening on the Parks Commission.  If you care about parks and recreation, please consider applying.
  • There are openings on some other influential city boards.  If you live in D3, there’s (still) an opening on the Planning Board.  If you live in D1, D2, D4 or D5, there are openings on the Community Development Advisory Committee.  There are two openings on the Historical Commission.  There is also an opening on the Worcester Arts Council, and openings on the Zoning Board of Appeals for residents of D1, D4, and D5.
  • Two lesser-known boards that will likely heat up in the near future have openings: Cable Television Advisory Committee and Off-Street Parking Board.
  • If advocacy is your thing, there are openings on Human Rights Commission, Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, Elder Affairs Commission, and Commission on Disability.
  • There are also two openings on the Hope Cemetery Commission.

If you’d like to see how the process works, watch Worcester Boards and Commissions 101.

Please consider applying for the boards that look most interesting…and get the word out to those you know.

Rain Garden Workshops

The Worcester Stormwater Coalition is sponsoring a bunch of FREE rain garden workshops in the coming weeks.  Here are the details…

Rain Gardens to the Rescue!
Workshops
Homeowners and business owners are invited to learn what they can do on their own property to reduce flooding and protect our water resources.
Learn tips on how to enhance your landscaping to harvest rainfall, reduce runoff, and save money on your water and sewer bills:
  • redirect roof runoff
  • create a rain garden
  • install a rain barrel
Door Prizes — Win a Rain Barrel!
Free Homeowner’s Guides
Refreshments
Workshop Dates:
Thursday, March 28, 7:00 PM at Broad Meadow Brook
Wednesday, April 3, 6:30 PM at Midland Street School
Thursday, April 11, 7:00 PM at Regatta Point State Park
Tuesday, April 23, 7:00 PM at Knights of Columbus Hall
Thursday, May 2, 7:00 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Holden Street

CWW: Tickets for Tanglewood Marionettes available on Monday at the library

The Worcester Public Library is going to host Tanglewood Marionettes’ production of Arabian Nights on Tuesday, April 16 at 1pm and 3pm.

Tickets for the show are required and available FREE at the Children’s Room Desk, starting Monday (April 1st) until they are gone.

I cannot recommend Tanglewood Marionettes enough. If there is a child in your life between the ages of 4 and 10, and you’re looking for something to do during April vacation week — get over to the main branch and pick up tickets, because they go fast!

The program is sponsored by the Friends of WPL.  Among other things, the Friends provide museum passes to the public.  If you attend the marionette show, or if you use the museum passes, consider joining the Friends so that they can continue to offer these kinds of programs in the future.

(I know what you’re thinking — now that I am on the board of the Friends, I’m contractually obligated to plug them at every opportunity.  And you’re right!)

There are also many other events going on at the Worcester Public Library during April vacation week — I’ll put up a post listing them when we get a bit closer!

#NoSlots

As reported on 508 and other news sources, Rush Gaming/MGE has named the Wyman-Gordon site as the location of its proposed slots parlor.

There are a lot of reasons I oppose the slots parlor, and I’ll write about all of those reasons in the weeks to come.

But the primary reasons are that ripping people off is never a good, sustainable economic development policy, and that if a casino were so desirable, mitigation monies wouldn’t be necessary.  No one needs to “mitigate” a biotech park or light industry.

We’re going to fight this, and we need your help.

Both WoMag and the T&G [$] report that city councilors will be meeting with casino representatives tomorrow at the Mayor’s Office in City Hall.  Some of us will be there.  If you’ve got time, we’d welcome the support.

The first public hearing on the slots proposal will be a Joint Meeting of City Council Public Safety and Economic Development committees.  It will be on Monday, April 8, at 6:30pm, at the Hibernian Cultural Center on Temple Street.  We need people to come out and bring their friends.

There’s a lot of work to be done in the coming weeks.

The City Manager has said that the “MGE team recognizes the value of our community and our goals and objectives for economic development.”

It seems to me that any company that makes its money off of gambling does not care about any community, and it doesn’t seem to me that gambling is part of OUR community’s goals and objectives for economic development — or anything else.

In the coming weeks, Rush Gaming will do everything in its power to convince the people of Worcester that gambling is merely “gaming” and that a slots parlor will revitalize a neighborhood.

Make no mistake: gambling is still gambling.  Slots are still a loser’s game.  And this will rip apart Green Island.

Rush Gaming will offer up all manner of incentives towards schools, parks, non-profits — anything that will make the voters look favorably upon their proposals.

Make no mistake: bribes are still bribes, and our community is worth more than whatever Rush has to offer.

Please let me know if you’d like to help.

Like our Facebook page.

Use the #NoSlots hashtag.

And tell your friends!

Worcester Open Space and Recreation Plan Survey

The online Public Survey for Worcester’s Parks, Open Space and Recreation Plan is now up in English and Spanish.

This survey will help shape the City’s priorities for the next seven years and help make the City eligible for State and Federal funding to implement various improvements.

The deadline to complete this survey is Friday, April 12, 2013 at 5:00 PM.

If you’d like to see what other folks have talked about at the meetings I’ve attended, you can look in the Open Space category of the blog.

I highly encourage folks to fill out the survey to let the city know what’s important to you regarding open space, recreation, and parks.  Please share this with others — we’d like comments from everyone who uses parks or cares about open space, recreation, biking, walking, and related issues in the city!