By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Globe still ignores Middleborough’s “no” vote

The myth lives on in the Boston Globe. Christine Legere writes today that the town of Middleborough “enthusiastically agreed to host what was to be the state’s first gambling house” two years ago.

In fact, residents attending a chaotic outdoor town meeting that summer voted decisively against allowing a casino to be built in Middleborough. As the Globe’s Sean Murphy reported in CommonWealth Magazine, “the vote was overwhelming against a casino,” even though town meeting had approved a casino deal with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe earlier in the day.

I do love the quote Legere has from former selectman Adam Bond, the leader of the casino pack in 2007, in referring to the Wampanoags’ scaled-down plans:

It’s gone from a Tiffany operation with an arena, restaurants, and a large hotel to a gin mill with a buffet table. A small casino with a little food and some rooms says “Go gamble and have hookers.”

Bond goes on to suggest that a referendum be held to see if Middleborough voters support having a casino built in town. They don’t, and they didn’t two years ago, either.

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  1. O-FISH-L

    “They don’t, and they didn’t two years ago, either.”

    Do you have someone in your pocket, Dan? How do you know what THEY want these days? Who appointed you spokesman? After all, you’re now up on the North Shore, many miles from Middleborough, no?

    Support CHOICE for self-sufficient local gamblers!

    • Dan Kennedy

      Fish: They voted no two years ago, and if you’d been following the coverage, as I have, then you’d know the proposal has only gotten more unpopular since then — especially since it has been scaled down to what one opponent recently characterized as a liquor store with a slot machine. It’s telling that enough support has been lost that cheerleader-turned-opponent Adam Bond is now confident the town would vote it down if it had been put on the ballot. Hell, it would have been voted down if a referendum had been held two years ago — the town meeting was packed with supporters, yet people still voted against it when given the one clear opportunity they’ve had to do so.

  2. Newshound

    Yes, Dan, and the support that came from many of the supporters was fueled with propaganda, t-shirts, refreshments and promises for lower taxes with improved community services when Middleboro was already a model community.

    Middleboro is a great town. A visit at the newly rebuilt YMCA is a testament of the quality of the town and its people.

    A few people were bought with crafty salesmanship.The outdoor town meeting was truly historic – a great town get-together on a warm summer day. Experienced and most principled Moderator Jim Thomas did a great job as usual.

    Fortunately, for all, not all were for sale.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Newshound: It gets better. Pro-casino T-shirts were just fine. But anyone who tried to pass out anti-casino information was barred by the police — who were being supervised by a lieutenant whose family stood to make $2 million if the casino was approved. Details here.

  3. At least they’re not still calling it an $11M deal. It took about a year and 1/2 to dispel that myth.

    Now let’s look at some numbers. The tribe is bound by their agreement to do some $250M in infrastructure. That didn’t even make financial sense when we were talking about $1B magic bingo hall.

    If the tribe were to proceed with this facility, it would be interesting to see of the Middleboro BOS would allow them to selectively skirt parts of the IGA(Inter-Governmental Agreement).

    BTW – even a Quickee Mart with a slot machine would still require reservation land. Currently there is no realistic scenario that would lead to that.

  4. Newshound

    Yes, indeed. That just about tops all.

    A few tunes, a little nude swimming, a baby born and Middleboro would have been Woodstock II.

    Maybe for a little decorum the next vote should be outdoors in January to avoid the summer festival-carnival type town meeting even though that is more fun for voters.

  5. Michael Pahre

    Dan, you’re right to hold the media’s feet to the fire to acknowledge the 2nd vote on that day last year, particularly since it clouds the whole issue of where Middleborough residents actually stand on casinos.

    But I think you are pushing the language — as well as not acknowledging other relevant information — when you say they “voted decisively against” casinos altogether in Middleborough.

    There were far fewer ballots cast for the 2nd vote that day. Media reports support your characterization of the Town Meeting that day being “chaotic,” which is likely why so many people in the crowd left after the first vote — unaware that there was another vote on the agenda.

    It is difficult (albeit not 100% impossible) to understand how the meeting could be both chaotic and decisive. A more neutral report of the meeting would say that the view of the residents was ultimately unclear after the Town Meeting due to the somewhat contradictory results of the two different votes.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Michael: You’re engaging in what-ifs. Gee, how would the vote had turned out if there had been a hail storm that day? I don’t know.

      Only once was a clear question put before Middleborough voters in any forum asking whether they wanted a casino or not. The second-largest town meeting in Middleborough history voted overwhelmingly against the casino. The second vote has been well publicized, and of course it was on the warrant. If people wanted to vote “yes” on the second question, then they should have stuck around.

      One town official, Ted Eayrs, told me on the record that he favored the deal as the best the town could get, but that he opposed having a casino come to town. I don’t know how many folks took the same position. But town officials had been browbeating the residents for many months that a casino was “inevitable,” and that residents should vote for the best deal they could get. So you tell me which vote was more valid.

  6. Michael Pahre

    I don’t disagree with anything you just wrote. The most obvious explanation for the two votes, taken together, is what you wrote (“favored the deal as the best the town could get, but that he opposed having a casino come to town”).

    The one issue I disagreed with was your use of the word “decisive” in the original post, when most observers (including yourself) characterized the Town Meeting itself as “chaotic”; it is also a superfluous and judgmental adjective. I think the word “decisive” should have been left out. Others, including yourself, may disagree.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Michael: Both the Boston Herald and CommonWealth described town meeting as “overwhelmingly” voting against having a casino come to town. The vote was certainly decisive in terms of what town meeting did that day.

  7. It’s interesting that Mr. Bond, prime casino cheerleader and the one who misled voters by saying that if the town didn’t accept the deal, the town would get nothing, just like Foxwoods, is again misleading people.

    Mr. Bond was also quoted in the Boston Globe not once, but twice calling casino opponents “Braying Mules.”

    He at first denied he had said it, so I contacted the reporter. Then he foolishly repeated it. Go figure!

    At no time did he ever call for a cost analysis of the local impacts, but rather got on board with gusto!

    At no time were Middleboro residents permitted to ask questions or insist upon a public discussion of expenses and impacts, but instead were gavelled to silence. That’s the experience you see duplicated elsewhere, most recently in Milford.

    If you review the WMCAT Report or the Palmer Impact Study Committee’s Report, the costs are staggering and far outstrip a measley $7 million, or even the fanciful $11 million.

    More important in this entire discussion is that the Mashpee Wampanoags keep discussing the Carcieri v Salazar decision as the important one. Not so!

    SCOTUS, shortly after that decision, rendered a far more important decision in Hawaii that seems to indicate the federal government can’t take land away from a state.

    The Tribe can believe as it chooses, but that decision nullifies the LIT process. Besides, the Tribe doesn’t own land in Middleboro, the investors do.

    As a footnote: The “Casino Vote” was actually the third article on the warrant and I believe it was recorded as a unanimous vote. It doesn’t get more decisive than that.

    Setting the entire matter of Middleboro aside, the state needs to review the recent reports about the costs of predatory gambling because the reports are proving that it’s far more costly than previously estimated.

    We can’t afford to subsidize wealthy investors by impoverishing one class in this state.

    This isn’t simply “entertainment.”

  8. Mark Coelho

    I still find the recollections of those that attended Middleboro’s Town Meeting very interesting. My recollection is somewhat different.

    Firstly, let’s set the stage. It was very hot-dangerously hot. (I work outside in the heat and at one point I thought I was going to pass out.) There were signs for and signs against. There were T-shirts for and T-shirts against. There were speakers for and speakers against. When the speaker was repeating a point that had already been beat into the ground then they were asked to move on. There was a time limit set for each speaker and some felt that the longer they spoke and the more they repeated themselves then -of course- the more the vote would go their way. There were public meetings held prior to our vote and again every point was brought up over and over. I do not believe that any word spoken or any point brought up at the meeting was going to sway anyone’s mind at that time. I believe that almost 100% of those of us in attendance already knew how we were going to vote before we got there. Again, it was dangerously hot out there -in the middle of a field.

    Now back to setting the stage. We all were told initially, by the Town Moderator, that we were voting whether or not to accept the agreement with the tribe and whether or not we wanted a casino in our community. Now, here is where I find the recollections somewhat fuzzy. We were all told more than once that the vote as to whether or not we wanted the casino in our community or not was a non-binding vote and that it basically held no weight. When the time came to vote for or against the agreement we were basically herded(like cattle) to areas so that a count could be taken. This is the point that I thought I was going to pass out. The count was taken and public record shows the number of votes for and the number of votes against. Now, because we were told that the next vote was non-binding and held no weight, the overwhelming majority of people left. If there was no need to stand for another minute in that heat then why would you? Well, I would have to say that the overwhelming majority of those that left were in favor of the agreement and after it passed they felt they did not have to stand in the heat any longer to vote for something that they were repeatedly told held no weight. So as public record should show, the final vote was not even counted to any real numbers. It was indeed supported by those opposed that wanted to do whatever they could to have their side heard. It only stands to reason that if you supported the agreement, then you would have to be in favor of the casino in your community.

    Those that say that the town voted overwhelmingly against having a casino in our town are not lying. They just are not telling the whole truth.

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