Millbury Slots Timeline

Someone had asked me what the timeline might look like for the proposed Millbury slots parlor. 

Here’s how I understand it, but I welcome corrections and amplifications:

1) Final Draft of Host Community Agreement – late July 2013
The Town and Rush Street Gaming need to execute (have a final draft of) the host community agreement by August 2013. (No, the date is not exact, and it’s unclear whether it would be the town manager or the board of selectmen.)

Reading the agenda for tomorrow (Tuesday) night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, it appears as if they are ready to sign a host agreement with Rush Street Gaming.  In that case, the date here would be July 23.

2) Town-wide Referendum on Host Community Agreement – late September 2013
After the host community agreement is executed, there needs to be a town-wide referendum no less than 60 days and no more than 90 days after the date the agreement is released. However, because things are happening so late for Millbury, I would anticipate it would be 60 days. The Gaming Commission website says this needs to happen by October, but since the Secretary of the Commonwealth needs ten days to certify the election, I’d say this needs to happen by late September at the latest.

3) Surrounding Community Agreements Negotiated – October 2013
For any community (like Worcester) that declares itself a surrounding community that could be impacted, Rush Street needs to negotiate with them by October 2013. However, they do not need to come to a signed agreement — if they cannot agree, the Gaming Commission will decide on what they think will be fair.

4) Rush Street submits RFA-2 application to Gaming Commission – October 4, 2013
According to the Gaming Commission, “This Phase 2 application form was designed by MGC as a vehicle for each applicant to demonstrate that it has thought broadly and creatively about creating an innovative and unique gaming establishment in Massachusetts that will create a synergy with, and provide a significant and lasting benefit to, the residents of the host community, the surrounding communities, the region, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and will deliver an overall experience that draws both residents and tourists to the gaming establishment and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

5) Gaming Commission selects a slots site – December 2013 – February 2014
And remember, the Gaming Commission can change the host agreement that the voters voted for!

For those of you in Millbury who are opposed, I wish you luck.

We’ve got a lot of information on No Slots Worcester, but as you can probably tell, this is a process that is stacked against anyone — pro or con — who would like to have a public discussion that provides voters with real information and consists of a dialog with real answers.

Rather, it’s a process where a town’s board of selectmen has an agenda item for their July 23 meeting to vote for a host community agreement, and then will have a public forum to discuss the proposal on August 12.

In other words, there’s more opportunity for public input before a vote in the case of a dangerous dog or a no parking zone than for a slots parlor that could royally screw up traffic (even more than it is already) and add crime and addiction to a town and its surrounding communities.

When the Worcester slots discussion was going on, there were a lot of folks who felt that voters should have the opportunity to vote on a host agreement. 

I could, perhaps, have agreed with that sentiment — if I hadn’t attended meetings in which plenty of voters were misinformed and misled by their elected officials, and told that their opinions didn’t matter.

Wouldn’t it be something if the elected officials who have such respect for the electorate would also take voters’ input before host agreements are signed?  Or, you know, let them see the host agreement they’re going to vote on before they vote on it?

No Slots

Now that the slots parlor negotiations have reached a natural end, I’m glad to see that City Council meetings have gone back to their normal rhythm of five-minute-long Billy Beault monologues, Jo Hart talking about pedestrian issues, and City Councilors trapped in their seats for fear of a loss of quorum.

Likewise, I hope this blog can go back to its own regular business.

First order of business is to repurpose all those signs and buttons:


Because I’m all about recycling.

This summer, I hope to get back to those topics I’m passionate about — among which are the library (and the Theater District Master Plan), other redevelopment and public works projects, green burial, and curbside compost.

City Council Meeting tomorrow

The City Council will be meeting tomorrow night.

As has been the case for the past few meetings, there are quite a few slots-related items on the agenda.

We frequently remind people — and it always bears repeating — as a member of the public, you have the right to speak for up to two minutes about any item(s) appearing on the agenda.

You can approach the podium when “Items of Public Interest” are announced by the meeting chair (usually near the beginning of the meeting).  While you do not need to let anyone know that you will speak beforehand, you can let the Mayor’s or City Clerk’s Office know before the meeting if you prefer.  It helps to know the number(s) of the item(s) you will be speaking about as well.

Please come to the meeting, even if you won’t be speaking.  It will likely be more riveting than “City Council Meeting: The Play“, and the tickets to this show are free!

Profiles in Democracy

We heard the word “democracy” bandied about a bit more than usual at last night’s City Council meeting [WoMag liveblog, Telegram article ($)].

To recap, this is what democracy looks like:

  • A City Hall where the outside doors are locked after an open meeting has begun so that no additional members of the public can come.
  • Five police officers inside, and seven police cars outside.
  • A City Council that repeatedly reminds us that they cannot tell the City Manager what to do.

Most of our elected officials chastized the crowd for not coming out in great droves for their own personal pet projects and issues.

If we recall, at the meeting at the Hibernian Cultural Center, the City Councilors chairing the meeting:

  • Repeatedly misled the public (I hesitate to say “lied”, because that would imply they knew what they were talking about)
  • Interrupted members of the public who came up to speak
  • Told people they didn’t want to hear their opinions

If the City Council is wondering why people don’t show up at meetings, perhaps it’s because when people do show up, it’s accompanied by beratings from elected officials, invitations that local law enforcement intervene at the first hint of passion, and repeated reminders that our elected officials are powerless to do anything to dissuade the City Dictator from doing whatever he likes.

You cannot tell people to show up at the ballot box for a referendum in one moment, and then tell them that when they vote for the City Council, they’re voting for a body that has no power to direct the actions of an appointed official.

Unlike many members of the Council, I believe that my representatives can and do make a difference.  Why else would I spend many of my Tuesday nights at City Council meetings?  Why do they?

I am so proud to be involved in this movement, to be working alongside not only my good friends but also people with whom I disagree on many points.  I am so proud that people are showing up at these meetings and voicing their opinions.

And — whatever side of this issue you’re on — I hope you become more informed and involved.

You need to come out tonight to City Hall, Levi Lincoln Chamber, at 7pm.  Neil Bluhm will finally present some plans, and we’re interested to see what he says.

Here are other ways to get involved 

An Open Letter to Clive McFarlane

Dear Clive,

I couldn’t tell which part of today’s column made less sense: the argument that activists are somehow to blame for not spending all our time lobbying the legislature about problem gambling and the Willis Center, or that the solution to problem gambling is a slots parlor.

The reason some of us didn’t fight for the Willis Center is that we — and at least one of our elected officials — were not invited nor allowed to the meeting.

As you may recall, there was a closed-door meeting about the Willis Center at City Hall.  Keith Scott tried to get in and was turned away.  Konnie Lukes was not informed.

How is that the fault of activists?

We are the ones who lobby for a more open government.

We are the ones who show up at the meetings no one else wants to attend.

If our elected officials could get no answers and no clear resolution to the Willis Center fiasco, what exactly were we mere engaged citizens supposed to do?

Slots are a bad idea for Worcester for many reasons, not just moral ones.

And a process that puts the cart before the horse — that asks people to evaluate a plan with no details, to vote on mitigation before knowing anything about the developers, the buildings, the traffic studies, the public health and public safety reports — is in no one’s interest.

Not the supporters, not the opponents, and certainly not those who are undecided.

Mr. Farlane, it seems you care about a great many things that are wrong in Worcester.  Occasionally you even write about them.  But instead of lambasting those people who cared enough to come out and be heard against the proposed slots parlor, instead of assuming that these same folks haven’t fought a dozen other “good fights” and lost … how about getting your eloquent hindside out there and join us in some of these crusades?  Then you’ll discover which citizens are single-issue activists and how very many more are actually championing multiple issues citywide.

We are out here, fighting, because we are more invested in this community than $240 million of “blood money” can ever be.


Nicole Apostola
Central Branch YMCA Youth of the Year, 1992

For the blunder of it all

I’ve attended quite a few public meetings in my day.

I’ve attended meetings where there were more police officers than people who might potentially disrupt a meeting.

I’ve attended meetings where I thought the crowd might truly get violent.

I’ve attended meetings where City Councilors weren’t listening, or where city officials were busy texting.

But — before last night — I had never attended a meeting where dozens of people were told, to their faces, that their testimony was irrelevant and unwanted, and were regularly interrupted by the chairs to “stay on topic.”

We — and there were dozens of us — were told that we were here for the host community agreement only.  We should only talk about mitigation monies.

After I spoke, Councilor Rushton reminded the attendees that we should stay focused on the goal of the meeting: to discuss mitigation.  It would not be the last time he reminded us to focus.

But we were focused.

We were focused on the well-being of our city.

We refused to be part of a process that is geared to benefit an out-of-state company, and which takes away our right to speak our mind.

We refused to be part of a process that asks us how much we should be compensated for something that will rip apart our community.

We refused to be part of a process that asks us to comment on a proposal for which no one knows the details, not even where the hotel will be.

We were told that if we did not draft a host community agreement, that the Mass Gaming Commission would create one for us.

This is just not true.

Tonight, after Colin Novick asked many pointed questions of our city officials, we finally got clarification on what is required.

According to City Solicitor David Moore, “there’s no requirement that a host community ever sign an agreement with an applicant.”

So — Councilor Rushton then suggested that “as a Council, we should take a vote as to whether [the city manager] should go forward on negotiations.”

He also said that “nobody’s right to express their opinion is going to be hampered by it going before the people.”

Councilor Rushton obviously had no problem hampering people’s opinions last night, when he — probably out of ignorance — told people that they should focus on mitigation only.

He stated that “people who are against gaming are going to want you to veto the people’s power now.”

But the opponents of gaMBLing –let’s call it what it is, this isn’t tiddlywinks — were not the ones banging a gavel when people spoke, or interrupting their testimony.  That was Councilor Rushton’s co-chair, Bill Eddy.

We live in a representative form of government.  When the Council has a TIF before them, they never argue that the people need to vote on it.  When they are willing to take away people’s right to assemble or speak freely, or pass breed-specific legislation, they never consider the testimony of dozens of people who speak out against it.

So let’s not pretend that certain members of the City Council — and especially D5 Councilor Bill Eddy — really care about the democratic process.

Councilor Eddy, who says “I never take a position on something until I actually see a plan in front of me,” but who expects people to testify about mitigation for something that has no plan.

He moved to authorize the manager to negotiate a host agreement to put before the people.  Councilor Lukes held it under privilege.

So — at the April 23 City Council meeting, they will be voting on whether or not the City Manager should negotiate a host agreement with Rush Gaming.

You need to show up at this meeting.

Next Wednesday, April 17, at 7:00pm in City Hall, there will be a second hearing on the slots parlor.

You need to show up at that meeting, too.

It is just that simple.  You need to show up.

The one city councilor who is absolutely committed to making sure that people never get a say is accusing us — the people who regularly let people know about meetings that affect them, who encourage people to participate in government and the community at large, and who actively work to make this city a little better every day — of not wanting a democratic process.

We weren’t the ones who ran a meeting that didn’t tell people what their true options as a community are, and who misinformed them about what the Mass Gaming Commission can do.

We weren’t the ones who said that people should “focus” on money and not on their community’s well-being.

And we certainly weren’t the ones who interrupted and yelled at people to stop testifying at a public meeting.

What we are asking is that our leaders, for once, act like leaders.

As Colin said so eloquently tonight:

This isn’t about some claim to a democratic process.

YOU were duly elected by the people.

YOU were sworn in to represent your constituents.

Passing the buck on this IS NOT about democratic process.

Passing the buck on this is all about letting Chicago slot money decide the fate of our community.

I’ll leave it with Colin:


Slots Parlor, First Hearing

Here are my notes; there was some livetweeting from Steve Foskett, Kevin Ksen, and Chris Robarge.

Here’s WoMag’s Liveblog.

Meeting called to order at 6:36pm.

Mike Germain is not in attendance.  (Councilors who are: Palmieri, Eddy, Rushton, O’Brien)

I’d estimate about 125-140 people in the room.

City Manager, City Solicitor, City Clerk.  City Councilors Sarai Rivera and Kate Toomey; State Senator Michael Moore; slots lobbyist Dennis Irish; Roberta Schaefer, and numerous city and neighborhood activists.

6:39 – Germain enters.

6:41 – Eddy reminds us that the city does not own the W-G site, and that Richard Freedman first came to the city fourteen years ago.

Former City Councilor Barbara Haller enters.

Rushton tells people that they should really not speak on whether they are for or against the slots parlor, or how people should vote, just talk about the host agreement.

6:47 – City Manager discussed his memo.

Councilor Lukes enters the room.

CM – “At this juncture, we’ve had ongoing conversations with the developer” (both casino and hotel).  They have provided schematics, access would be from I-290 through Kelley Square.

They expect it to be large and have other uses (restaurants, entertainments) – 1200 to 2000 cars for parking, still too early to tell; they would probably want 24 hour operation.

Palmieri – countless discussions over time.  Question to CM: in his general knowledge of this project, what would the investment $$ be, how many jobs, comparison of tax revenue?

CM: Legislature said minimum investment for category 2 (slots) is $150million; hotel and casino might be $240 million in this case.

For permanent jobs, he has heard in excess of 500 to 600 permanent jobs.  Above and beyond construction of the facility.

For comparison of tax revenue, it is reasonable to assume that taxes generated would be in millions of dollars, include hotel/motel taxes.

Russell: is there any real plan available to show the public?

CM: it was a first generation colored schematic.

Russell: on agenda items D, E, F: asking for input of police chief, health commissioner, commissioner of public works, not able to give us additional feedback.

CM: As we get more specific information from developers, will engage entire administration in this process.

Russell: Didn’t we already take the vote about whether this was a city or district vote?

City Solicitor – it will be a citywide referendum, voted on Dec 18.

Rushton: this is going to happen primarily in Green Island, this is why we are having the meeting here.  When we are talking about the primary impact of host agreement, it will be on Green Island.

If they do not negotiate a fair agreement, the state Gaming Commission will do so.

Lee Vuona, LWV – they are opposed to gambling, they oppose a slot parlor in downtown Worcester.  Accepting addiction rates in exchange for money.  Slots most addictive gambling habit.  Encourages gamblers to play until they run out of money.  Frankly, our most disconcerting discovery was that state and local officials become addicted to gambling —  once one casino or parlor to open, need to establish more operations to access easy money.  Don’t want to see slippery slope here.

Vuona, continued – 450 jobs – every one of Rush Gaming’s jobs – part-time, no-benefits, go nowhere jobs.  Planting down big box with no windows will further divide sections of this city.  Energy and water use, disposal use, etc.

Economou is here as well.

Lorraine Laurie, Green Island Residents Group, Inc. – This is not our first choice – they want a bank, a pharmacy, etc.  The slots parlor will go in the island.  If the voters want a slots parlor, and it passes gaming commission, it will need to benefit the island.  The island needs to collect.  They want a bank.  Other parks got benefit of CSX money; they want Crompton Park master plan to go into implementation, they want more foot patrols.  They want streetscaping to make it more attractive.  Quinsig Ave needs to be finished.  They want Kelley Square redesigned.  Fire on Suffield Street, Providence Street station is closed, we have to do something with Kelley Square no matter what.

Margarita Okendo – Expresses concern as 40-year resident, mother, grandmother, and Christian.  Addiction to gambling, repercussions it brings.  Addiction results in so many other things.  “Corruption will eventually seize our city.”

Victor Ortiz, MA Council of Compulsive Gambling – we cannot deny problem gambling whether you are for or against slots parlors.  One out of 5 pathological gamblers attempts suicide.  He asks city councilors – opportunity for economic development – talk about issue of problem gambling.  He oversees helpline – there are zero resources for problem gamblers in this city now.  Nearest location is in Fitchburg.  The City of Worcester has highest rate of pathological gambling in the state.

We need a work development plan for current system providers who are trained about problem gambling.  We need a gambling treatment site: comprehensive to work with individuals impacted by gambling.

Art Shea – runs a small business in allied health field, has been here 11 years.  There is a reason you have to pass laws to allow gambling.  Historically, people have viewed it as a bad thing.  This is like proposals to build a mall in this city.  This is like the mall, but worse.  By the sounds of it, how will this bring people to downtown when there’s easy on/off access from the highway?  Does this possible development help image of schools?  Would this attract future students?  “We citizens in this democracy are watching you” – (speaking to city councilors)

Jeannie Shea – works in early intervention.  Most problematic area to understand in the city is Kelley Square “and all those convoluted streets.”  Does not see any benefit to the city to bring slot parlors here.  Finally trying to redevelop a long-term plan, allow them to redevelop.  Feels this would drive people away from the community, herself included.

Mullen Sawyer, for Oak Hill CDC – would like a shopping list.  Our city manager showed his merit for negotiating CSX agreement.  “He has my faith,” and support, he will do exceptional job negotiating this agreement.  Would like business district in between hotel and slots parlor.

John Reed – Shows his enthusiastic support for project.  Brownfield to greenfield – for an area that would otherwise not be redeveloped.  You’d be able to fix multitude of problems.  Could have green roof on top of casino.  Beautification program –  new economic model.  Shared risk/shared profit program.

Kate O’Neil , lives in Boston, Unite Here (Casinos union, also textiles and laundries) – city should get a full understanding of Bluhm’s company.  They have run aggressive anti-union campaigns at Sugarhouse in Philly, and Rivers in Pittsburgh.  They have hired anti-union consultants to hold forced meetings.  She is very good and very persuasive.

Kent Bailey – this is something that is going to be ongoing, 10 year plan.  If we do have to take the slots, that direct area of the island needs to be addressed, long-term.  Public safety in that area is already a concern, it’s going to be a very difficult thing to mitigate.

Barbara Roberts, owns property that spills over into Worcester – she is a long-time airforce wife.  Has seen Atlantic City go down.  This will change Worcester into a sleazy place.  Definitely not good for the community.  Knows there is a gambler in this room who borrowed money from people in a coffee shop, dodges them because they can’t pay him back.  Don’t destroy this beautiful community with sleaziness.  The investor will not live in this neighborhood.

John Giangregorio – They want to focus on the mitigation money.  He’s president of the Canal District Alliance.  He thinks people are open-minded and want to see what the mitigation monies will be.  Flattering that they want to come into the Canal District.  Concerned that this will be a destination where people will be “buried” in the parlor.

Canal Re-creation – $20-30 million.  Thinks a Canal Community Fund should be created, Crompton Park Master Plan should be done.

Their vision is to create a destination neighborhood, and this could be part of it with a re-created canal.

Jo Hart – there’s nothing high-class about gambling/slots.  The idea of 12 million cars is unthinkable.  What kind of city is this going to be?  There’s a railroad that goes right through it – you can restore passenger rail to Providence and Hartford.  Don’t just simply slap something here in the worst kind of setting.

Very upset at secret meetings that Rivera and Palmieri have had.  Resents neighborhood meetings, wants meetings at City Hall that are televised.  Don’t be divisive.

Mitigation, like CSX, should not just be for what DPW can not or will not do.

Eddy – respectfully, Rivera and Palmieri have had neighborhood meetings, not secret meetings.

Alejandra Duarte – represents workers from United Here, lived in Worcester from 2000-2011, speaking here as a worker.  There should be language that secures rights of workers to have living wages, right to organize, etc.

[The a/c has finally turned on, thank goodness]


Colin Novick – Effort to put together agreement in time for June 25 election; can’t be done without doubling up electoral staff.

This will negatively impact attractiveness of national and international companies to come here, for new residents.  It’s going to be a self-contained unit.  The only thing we’re going to get is out of this package.

There are no impacts that we will have that will be positive.

Even big-ticket items will not offset negative community impacts.

Not all jobs are created equal, not all employers.

Nicole Apostola spoke.  I have no idea what she said.

Rick Rushton – we’re getting sidetracked.  We’re here to tlak about what can go in the host agreement.  Stay focused on that.

Roberta Schaefer – thanks everyone for coming here tonight.  From what she has heard, no longer feels alone in this effort.  A slot parlor is not a destination casino, the majority of people coming from less than 30 minutes away.  Slot parlor incompatible with

Bill Eddy interrupts her.  Says they are not going to accept any more of this testimony.

Roberta tells him to stuff it, essentially.  Much applause from the audience.

The city council is asking for comment on a proposal that the city manager says he has not seen, and why are they asking the public for comment on a non-existent proposal?

If a high-end hotel requires such a subsidy (of slots), then is it really sustainable?

7:48  – Mayor is finally here

Eddy has banged the gavel.  Roberta keeps going.

Eddy gets really ticked off, Roberta is on fire.

Eddy – There is no set date for June 25.  There is no rush, if there is a host agreement that has been properly vetted then they will consider it.

Rushton – lot of passion in this room, he doesn’t want people out of here thinking that the CC has more power than the voters to.  Tell your neighbors your concerns.

Ed Moynihan – “I have tried to contact you all and I have not heard much reseponse”.  How do you mitigate urban blight when people who would be spending money on various local businesses getting food and booze in a slots parlor?  How do you mitigate the sorrow of a child who loses a father or mother to suicide?  Ed is on fire.

How do you mitigate the civic corruption of our life?  There’s only one way to mitigate this – to instruct the CM to say no to Mr. Bluhm, do not let them force a slot parlor down our throat like a goose being force fed to the slaughter.

We could look at family-friendly jobs that ennoble and enrich all of us and not just a few folks from Chicago.

Kathleen Pagano – not what should go into the host agreement, do promises of low-income jobs and tax revenue mitigate negative elements.  Why should we fund schools, parks, etc., with something that encourages addiction.  People get into desperate situations when they come into addiction.  Let’s not take a step backwards for the prospect of a quick buck.  This is not economic development, this is blood money.  Worcester deserves better.

27 more people to go.

Paul Franco – His concern is what type of risk are we taking as a city with this development.  Place risk with private developers – last thing he wants to see is for us to finance a private business, doesn’t want to bail it out in five years when it fails.   The city shouldn’t be picking winners and losers – don’t saddle us with a failed investment.

Rushton – all of the costs of this are borne by the developers themselves.

Michael Perotto – believes that this is a good thing for the city of Worcester.  600 jobs, $5-6 million in tax revenue, mitigation is good for Green Island.  Public safety mitigation money.  And improve education.

Allen Fletcher – does not want to address moral or taste issues.  Casinos are designed to be internally focused, self-contained, just like the mall we all fell in love with and spent a vast amount of money tearing down.  Three blocks from the old strip in Las Vegas, it’s horrific.  Atlantic City is a pathetic husk, it would be comical except it’s so tragic.  There is no spin-off because people are not allowed out of the casino.  For the mitigation agreement, do not allow restaurants in the slots parlor.  That could be a genuine benefit to the Canal District.  If you do not allow restaurants in the slots parlor, they will go out.

8:05 – Peter Schneider – agrees with all the previous speakers.  Concerned about Rush Gaming’s being fined; can’t be 100% prevented.  There will be addictive gamblers, underaged gamblers, can’t do anything about this.   Personal experience: has seen the inside of slots parlors, you really see addictive behaviors there.  Mitigation: explicit, zero-tolerance for not following rules.  Very severe fines.

Dante Comparetto – Economic Development 101 teaches that you build on embracing historical heritage, creating cultural destinations, redeveloping old mill buildings.  A casino does not fit into this approach.  There are not too many studies that show the benefits of casinos.

Bill Breault – we’ve been battling prostitution in the Main South corridor. EMS, police, fire – where does this come into it?  Prostitution in the Providence Street area.  If it’s not going to be tolerated in a slots parlor, it should not be tolerated in Main South.

Deb Cary – she thinks there should be an indoor/outdoor sports complex at W-G.  Perhaps even something like the High Line.  Invest in health, recreation, and fun.  Slots casino will decrease property values and increase crime.

Jay Foley – when you google the principals behind the project, they have a very mixed reputation.  They need to put down a deposit for the demo costs, in case it turns out to be a white elephant.  Have them stop hiring lobbyists.  How about clocks, no restrooms, and no liquor license.

Steve Gordon – In his view, the only mitigation is to pull the plug on this plan.  The people who have going to be negotiating are more sophisticated, can litigate us into oblivion, it’s a pure money-grab for them.  Just look at Twin Rivers.  They have had nothing but economic problems, asked RI for relief, have not provided any benefit to the state or the area.  Nickel slots – put money in, push a button. What will this do for the image of the city?  Worcester: city of colleges, or city of slots?

Clarence Burley, lives in Paxton, but worked in Worcester his whole career, member of Worcester Friends Meeting – historically, Quakers felt it was wrong to gain from someone else’s loss.

Mesfin Beshir – main concern is crime.  Nowadays, bullets are everywhere in that district.  If it goes through, we need Navy SEALs in that neighborhood.  Police even now are not handling the situation.

Eddy condescends to Beshir, says that our crime rate is lower.

Beshir: my office was shot.

Sue Moynagh – if this comes to fruition, she wants to see benefits for residents and businesses in this area.  How about having partnerships with suppliers?  Make sure that the jobs are focused on this neighborhood.  We need sustainable jobs that pay a living wage.  We need a bank that has tellers.  A lot of us don’t have transportation.  Traffic.  Mentions Suffield Street fire.

Dave Kenny – he’s not for or against, he’s for 500 jobs in Worcester as long as they are for Worcester residents, equal pay, equal rights, union based.  He works for a union company now, and thanks to the union they have good pay, good rights.  Wants developer to let the union in.

8:26 – Kate Fitzpatrick – seems like first public forum where people are able to express their feelings about this.  To help Mr. O’Brien in mitigation – environmental proposals (green roofs, LEED), funding social services in proportional rate at very long term.  Traffic and prostitution issues.  Personal liability on Bluhm, Friedman, etc.  For City Council – can they enact a living wage ordinance?

Sarah Loy – is strongly opposed to legalized gambling in Worcester.  If fellow Worcesterites vote for it, should be annual sizable charitable giving for social services agencies.  Include homeless services, environmental organizations, legal services.  City administration should give us a report, analysis of the most successful strategies for implementing this.

8:31pm – Eddy – next meeting: anticipate that they will hear from Chief Gemme, Derek Brindisi, etc., about their research and discussions with colleagues in other cities.

Noel Williamson, Pleasant Street Baptist Church – this whole thing concerns him.  He has people who knock on parsonage door who say they have scratched their rent money away.  If the city passes it, there should be resources so that people are not out on the street.

Maura Pinish (I can’t spell her last name) – she is opposed.  Would like to see allocations for what would happen with revenue: education, Crompton, gambling treatment center.

Joseph Zwirblier (spelling) – access road divided community, charming character of Kelley Square must be preserved.  Theater District should not become an island, link the Theater District to Kelley Square, mitigation money for youth groups should be considered.

Paula Courtney – husband and her formerly owned manufacturing concern for 50 years.  Would like to see industry come back.  We had to pay a livable wage, and pay for people’s medical expenses, we had to obey the laws.  Concerned about addiction, Father John Madden is concerned about addiction, and he’s working with people who are drug and alcohol addicted, as well as gambling.  Concerned about prostitution and drugs.  All these things need to be mitigated and discussed and thought out thoroughly.  Very good thing that it will be put on a referendum.

Harry Kokkinis – Table Talk Pies – they have concerns about transportation.  Not just a question of Kelley Square – it’s called Green Island because it’s separated from the rest of the community.  Transportation is critical.  Real loss when Quinsigamond Ave entrance to 290 was closed.  Concerns about crime.  They talk about the property and it’s environmental liability.  Any agreement has to include this.

Jeff Muradian (sorry, couldn’t catch the last name) – Canal District Business Association – wants this to go to a neighborhood fund, recreation of Blackstone Canal on Harding Street.  Doesn’t see anyone going to a slots parlor who will visit their neighborhood businesses.  Only way to do it is to create destination – something else to do in the city/neighborhood.  $300 million over 30 years invested in the neighborhood.  CM asked if he was aware of 2003 study

City Manager responds.  Yes.

Sarai Rivera – Economic benefits – she has heard about banks, pharmacy, parks, streetscaping.  Green Island has been historically forgotten.  Want to be able to look at fair, living wages.  We should have conversations with union organizations.  Want to be able to support smaller, non-profits for workforce development.  Small, local, general contracting businesses should be used in the construction.  Look at schools, youth employment, possibility of scholarship programs for local students.  Limited or no restaurants in the facility.  From a public health perspective, we need to meet the need that will arise as a result of this situation.  Accurate assessment of whether this will increase or decrease property tax.  More rectangular fields.

Tina Thamel – she shares the concerns of many others. Has a petition against the slots parlor to present.

Barbara Haller – for the past 20 years, as an inner-city activist and as a D4 councilor: a vacant building that is secure is better than an occupied drug house.  People will support putting in something undesirable in a neighborhood they don’t live in.  Money changes or softens people’s opinions.  Personal connections are powerful.  Everybody has an agenda.  Unequivocally opposed to the slots parlor.  Concerned not only for predatory gambling, increases in crime and grime, etc. – getting people in Worcester in Green Island to give their money to a few very wealthy people.   Gambling the health and potential of our community and this neighborhood….

Bill tries to cut her off.

Barbara will not participate in this game.

Todd Salmonsen – wrote his notes on the back of a Keno slip.  He looks forward to the investment, taxes being paid. He’s a schoolteacher, he gets paid by taxes.  Thanks them for a job well done.

Konnie Lukes – (Eddy notes that she gets her dream in the city council – “the last word”) – Green Island traditionally welcoming point for immigrants.  We’re here to discuss mitigation.  Mitigation assumes that there is some damage that will be done by the project.  Mitigation assumes that you can measure the damage, and you can’t in this case.  When we talk about mitigation, and what’s happening in the neighborhood…will foot traffic increase?  Will local businesses benefit?  She feels they should have an agreement to respond to.  Just by having meetings, you have basically said that you’re supporting this proposal.  The manager is hired by us, if we told him to throw the proposal in the wastebasket, he’d have no choice.

Mitigation – we should be much more aggressive about bragging about Worcester.  If this is such a great project, then let’s do something that we always emphasize: let’s have the developers move to Green Island, have a residency requirement.  Anti-neighborhood, anti-business, anti-family.

-end of public comment-

46 people spoke:
32 opposed
5 opposed but resigned
6 ambivalent
5 pro

Councilor Russell – would like two chairs consider scheduling of next meeting, unless manager can provide proposal for next meeting.

Rushton reiterates, again reiterates that many of the opinions generated tonight are referendum related, not towards mitigation.

9:04 – O’Brien – recognize Councilor Russell’s concern that we don’t have a proposal.

And…the meeting wraps up.

Let’s talk about slots, baby

Friendly reminder that tonight is the first hearing on the proposed slots parlor.

As far as I know, the Joint Meeting of the Standing Committees on Public Safety and Economic Development will only have TWO hearings to get feedback from any member of the public.

The first is tonight: Monday, April 8, at 6:30pm, at the Hibernian Cultural Center on Temple Street.

The second meeting is next Wednesday, April 17, at 7:00pm at City Hall, Levi Lincoln Room.

I will take notes (and liveblog, WiFi permitting) tonight’s meeting.

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.


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!