The following op-ed piece was submitted by Michael J. McLaughlin, Ward Six City Councilor for the City of Everett, regarding the proposed casino project and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's recent comments on the matter.
As late November set in, the City of Everett was thrust into the spotlight and into the middle of an ongoing Region A Casino License process. It is a great honor as a first-term City Councilor to have the opportunity to be involved in trying to reactivate a long-dormant site in my area, namely Ward 6. A project of this magnitude could and will bring in thousands of jobs to the City of Everett, which is currently facing a 6 percent unemployment rate in both construction and full-time, long-lasting jobs. In addition, it would bring in millions of dollars in taxes and improvements in the overall quality of life for our city.
As I stated to NECN'S Justin Michaels very early on in November, there needs to be some communication with the City of Boston, because the line between Boston and Everett is a stone's throw apart. With this being said, I don't think it is the City of Everett's job to go out and seek support for this project from anyone other than the people that put us into office. I do, however, believe that the responsibility should rest with Wynn Resort Group, or any other developer for that matter, to seek input and try to gain support for their project.
As far as Mayor Menino's comments last week, he has every right to try and keep on course with a project that he has been backing for a very long time, and voice his opinion regarding Suffolk Downs being his preferred site. I only take issue when people like Marjorie Egan of the Boston Herald and others speak out against the people of Everett. Contrary to their opinions, I know the people of this great city—the residents who have elected me and my colleagues to be their voice in City Hall. And, for anyone to speak badly about the people from where I live, work, and are elected by, that is very upsetting to me—not only as a councilor but as a life-long resident.
As I have said many times to the Boston Globe, WBZ's Keller at Large and several others, we as elected officials needed to reserve judgment until we understand more of the details and of course confer with the people that matter, which are the residents by which we have been elected. I have spent a great deal of time speaking with both residents and business owners about this project, whether at the local Tedeschi’s on Main Street early in the morning after my night-shift job, talking to people at the local coffee shops or in the senior buildings, speaking with my co-workers at the Everett Home Depot, or hearing from many residents on Facebook. One of my greatest jobs right now is communicating with people about how they feel and what they think about the idea of a development of this size coming to our city.
I have received feedback from both sides of the coin, but I must say that I believe there is more support in the city for this project than against, at this point. Understandably, people are talking about traffic on Route 99 (or as we call it lower Broadway). But when you stop and think about it, we have a bridge in the City of Boston that has been in the air for months blocking half of the roadway, and cars that pour off of the Tobin bridge each day and use the city of Everett as a short cut to the North Shore to skip the three dollar toll fee. I don't feel that Route 99 is any worse off than Bell circle in Revere, with regard to traffic issues.
Some of the residents and elected officials in our city have brought up some of the social ills that have been documented about the impact of casinos. To this point, I would say that YES there will be some bumps in the road and issues we need to address with the casino.
But let's not be misled.
Some, if not most, of those same issues are going to face our city whether it comes to Everett or Revere. And, we will be faced with a lot of issues that will have little to no impact if this goes to the City of Revere. Route 16 (Revere Beach Parkway), will be a main road to get in and out of the Revere Casino. And, the developer of that site has never reached out to any member of our city government to discuss what this would mean for the City of Everett and how it will impact our roadways, crime level and overall quality of life.
Mayor Joe Curtatone of Somerville speaks ill about the site in Everett and says he is against casinos all together. Well, Mr. Mayor, it is winter in Boston and snow is coming, and so is a Category 1 resort casino. Whether that casino sits in Everett or Revere, there IS going to be one license issued in the Greater Boston area, and a casino WILL be up and running in the area soon.
Many people have asked me, how can Everett overcome the support that Suffolk Downs has gained? They have Mayor Menino and "your" Mayor is not as strong or has as much power. To this point, my answer has and always will be, I really hope and do believe that the State of Massachusetts Gaming Commission will look at each development on its own merit and not by whose name is behind the project. I hope people understand that this Commission has been given a major job in this state, which will change the face of the whole state. And I don't think they will issue a casino license on the merits of who's backing which project.
They, I hope and feel very strongly, will issue the license based upon which project will be better for the entire area and provide the best chance for growth and prosperity. Yes, Revere has the backing of the Boston Mayor, but our City’s site sits on the banks of the Boston Waterfront and offers great opportunity to clean up and redevelop another site along the Boston waterways.
In closing, I would like to ask that all of our residents keep an open mind as we move from pre-qualifying phase (Applicants submission of completed RFA-1) and enter into the next phase of this project (Host Agreement). I feel very strongly that we as a community can come together and work on what we would like to see offered by Wynn, whether it be funding for our school system, funding for our city’s parks and playgrounds, funding for a new police and fire station or other ideas to better our city. Please be willing to work with our councilors, alderman and mayor in the coming days and weeks and keep an open mind during the process.
I as a councilor can't hear from every resident, as much as I would love to, but if you want and are willing to share your ideas with me, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by picking up the phone and calling me at 781-560-3791. I hope to work with you to bring in what I would call the greatest opportunity for the betterment of our city. I look forward to the coming weeks and months for our great city.