Neighbors reject Taunton casino plan by 2-1 margin

As you may have heard, Taunton voters overwhelmingly approved a tribal casino in a nonbinding referendum on Saturday. But that’s not even close to the whole story.

Residents who live closest to the proposed casino voted even more overwhelmingly against it. According to Cape Cod Times reporter George Brennan, the city voted  7,693 in favor and 4,571 opposed — but “in the two East Taunton precincts where the Mashpee Wampanoag casino is planned, voters rejected it by nearly a 2-1 margin.”

In the Taunton Gazette, reporter Christopher Nichols posts the numbers:

Ward 4 — which contains most of East Taunton — voted against the casino proposal with 755 in favor and 1,332 opposed. Voters closest to the proposed casino site in Ward 4 Precinct B voted against the proposal, 678-350.

Yet, with regard to Boston’s two daily newspapers, we’re already seeing a repeat of 2007. That’s when the big news was that Middleborough had voted in favor of a deal the selectmen had cut with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to build a casino in that town (big news!), and then turned around and took a decisive but nonbinding vote against the casino itself (shhhh … pay no attention).

The proposed Middleborough casino eventually fell apart, but town officials are still hoping there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Alice Elwell of the Brockton Enterprise has the latest.

So what happened with the Taunton vote? On Sunday, the Globe’s Mark Arsenault reported on Taunton’s vote in favor of the casino — but made no mention of the results in East Taunton. The Herald did better, publishing Brennan’s Cape Cod Times story (Herald publisher Pat Purcell runs several of Rupert Murdoch’s regional papers, including the Times). But today, the Herald offers a follow-up by Chris Cassidy and Laurel Sweet that omits the vote of the opposition in East Taunton.

Arsenault, in his Globe story, closes by noting that Taunton is a long way from actually hosting a tribal casino. Because of a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Carcieri v. Salazar, the Mashpee won’t be able to build a tribal casino in Taunton without an act of Congress. Good luck with that.

The Taunton vote demonstrates, once again, that no one wants to live next to a casino. Nor should they have to.

A final casino note: Former Boston mayor Ray Flynn turned out on Saturday to lend his support to East Boston residents opposed to a casino that’s been proposed for Suffolk Downs.

Given that the East Boston plan is already being portrayed as a done deal, it will be pretty interesting to see how a battle between Boston’s former and current mayors (Tom Menino supports the proposal) will play out.

Photo (cc) by s_falkow and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

For the Herald, a long-term lease and lots of space

We already knew that the Boston Herald, having shut down its printing presses, was getting ready to leave its hulking South End plant. Now the other shoe has dropped, as Herald owner Pat Purcell announced yesterday that the paper will move to the Seaport District in early 2012.

Two pieces of information seem significant. First, the Herald signed a 10-year lease, which, if nothing else, ought to give pause to those who perpetually predict the tabloid’s demise. Second, the paper will commandeer 51,000 square feet of space.

I’m not good at visualizing what that means, but it sounds like a lot for what has become a small operation. Is Purcell planning to expand? Or does he have additional ventures in mind? Don’t forget that he moonlights as head of Rupert Murdoch’s South Coast papers.

Memo to Tom Menino: Boston is not “a two-newspaper town” — it’s a multiple-newspaper town, with excellent papers ranging from neighborhood outlets such as the Dorchester Reporter and the South End News to specialty publications like the Boston Phoenix and Bay Windows.

Boston is a two-daily town, and it looks like Purcell intends to keep it that way for as long as he can.

The Boston Globe covers the Herald’s move as well.

Presenting the 14th annual Phoenix Muzzle Awards

The 14th annual Boston Phoenix (and Portland Phoenix and Providence Phoenix) Muzzle Awards are now online and in print, pillorying New England enemies of free speech in Greater Boston, Maine and Rhode Island, from Max Kennedy to Tom Menino. But we begin with some tough words about President Obama.

My friend Harvey Silverglate has written a companion piece on free speech on college campuses.

Sadly, since I first began writing this Fourth of July feature in 1998, finding suitable recipients has only gotten easier.

Scott Brown’s very bad — no, very good — day

Scott Brown

Monday started out looking like a very bad day for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown. But it turned out to be quite the opposite, as two media outlets backed away from reports that were embarrassing to Brown, and Brown himself smartly broke with the Republican Party over Medicare after seeming to have dithered. Let’s take them one at a time.

The handshake. On Sunday night, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) aired video that appeared to show Brown declining to shake hands with one of his Democratic rivals, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, at Newton’s Memorial Day parade earlier in the day. That’s how the report itself described it, and it appeared to be a small but classless moment for the senator. Brown’s supposed snub was the talk of local political blogs (including Media Nation) and Twitter feeds.

By midday, though, the Warren campaign was spreading the word that the mayor and the senator had already shaken hands before the video was shot. In an email to Media Nation late Monday afternoon, Channel 4 spokeswoman Ro Dooley-Webster acknowledged that “both campaigns confirm that Senator Brown and Mayor Warren greeted one another and shook hands earlier in the day.” Oops.

The incoherent quote. Late Sunday afternoon, the Boston Globe passed along an entertainingly incoherent Brown quote that he supposedly uttered in front of a business group:

“When I said last week that I was going to vote for the House GOP’s plan to abolish Medicare what I really meant was I was going to vote on it — and I have no idea yet which way I’m going to vote,” the Massachusetts Republican said in comments reported by Talking Points Memo.

Unfortunately for the Globe, that quote was a TPM parody of Brown’s position, not an actual quote. Though the faux quote does not appear in quotation marks, I can see where it would be a little confusing to a blogger in a hurry. On Monday afternoon, the Globe posted a correction and removed the Sunday post from its Political Intelligence blog. You can still read the cached version here.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jessica Heslam, the incident prompted Brown to write to Globe editor Marty Baron complaining about the use of “a manufactured quote” and saying the matter “could have been cleared up with a simple phone call to my office.” (Note: She tweaks Media Nation as well.)

The party pooper. Until Monday, Brown had been unclear on whether he would vote for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher system that would be called — voilà! — Medicare. The Ryan plan has proved to be a poisonous issue for Republicans. In western New York, for instance, a Democrat may win a congressional seat for the first time in many years because of the issue.

Then, on Monday morning, in an op-ed piece for Politico (very interesting that Brown chose neither Boston daily), Brown declared he would vote against the Ryan plan because “as health inflation rises, the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support — and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays.”

Brown’s commentary includes the requisite amount of Obama-bashing and praise for Ryan. The bottom line for Massachusetts voters, though, is that they don’t have to worry that Brown will support dismantling a key part of the social safety net.

As Channel 4 political analyst Jon Keller observes, “Scott Brown understands the politics of survival in a staunchly Democratic state.”

It’s too soon to proclaim Brown the winner of his 2012 re-election bid, as Boston Mayor Tom Menino sort of did the other day. But state Democratic leaders know they’ve got their work cut out for them. The New York Times reports today that the party is stepping up its efforts to talk financial-reform crusader Elizabeth Warren into running.

Elizabeth Warren would be a formidable candidate, at least in theory, but it’s by no means certain that she’ll run. And it’s clear that top Democrats have real doubts about Setti Warren, Alan Khazei, Bob Massie and Marisa DeFranco, the Democrats who’ve gotten into the race already.

Tom Menino, Boston’s first mensch


After a week of politicians behaving badly, leave it Boston Mayor Tom Menino to remind us of the good side of politics. (Via Universal Hub.)

The e-mail story and the big picture

Ryan Cloutier, writing in Blast Magazine, interviews Kylie Heintz of a high-tech company called Barracuda Networks, who explains that Boston Mayor Tom Menino would be sleeping a lot more soundly these days if his tech people had installed an archival system instead of a back-up system.

No, they’re not the same thing.

Chasing the missing e-mails

Two quick comments on the growing controversy over the missing City Hall e-mails:

  • The Boston Globe has done an impressive job, both in uncovering the fact that Michael Kineavy, a top aide to Boston Mayor Tom Menino, had deleted the e-mails, and in following up. In particularly like the story in today’s paper about the forensics of e-mail recovery.
  • Attorney General Martha Coakley’s quote in the Boston Herald today strikes me as the first misstep of her Senate campaign. “Particularly understanding this is the middle of a [mayoral] campaign, we get lots of complaints from folks who are adversaries who have a particular agenda,” Coakley says.

Whoa. Though it’s certainly true that the e-mails — public records — may prove to be no big deal, it’s also true that they may be related to the criminal probe of former state senator Dianne Wilkerson. Coakley’s going to have to do better than that.

The missing mayor

Joel Brown calls a television commercial put out by Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s re-election campaign, featuring his empty desk, “a terrible spot” and — with a bit of rewriting — “an excellent ad for one of his opponents.”

Adam Gaffin adds: “Maybe this is what happened to Curley’s desk.”

The formerly independent Bay State Banner (II)

Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker writes about Bay State Banner publisher Melvin Miller’s decision to accept a $200,000 government-administered loan, courtesy of Boston Mayor Tom Menino: “[I]ts independence is the only thing that makes the Banner worth saving, journalistically speaking. There is simply no getting around the fact that it will return to the stands as a less independent voice.”

The formerly independent Bay State Banner

In their wonderful little book on media ethics, “The Elements of Journalism,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel identify independence as such a touchstone that it comprises two of their nine points:

4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.

Today the Bay State Banner ceases to be an independent newspaper. By accepting Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s offer of a $200,000 government-administered loan, publisher Melvin Miller has compromised his 44-year-old weekly, which covers Greater Boston’s African-American community.

Miller tells the Boston Globe that he’ll still criticize Menino if he thinks it’s warranted. But that’s not the issue. Now, even if he blasts Menino, readers will have a right to wonder what calculations went into that — indeed, whether the Banner was being critical of the mayor just to prove that it could.

The Banner loan is neither unprecedented nor is it the end of the world. Several decades ago the late David Brickman, owner of the Malden Evening News, accepted government redevelopment money in order to build a new headquarters as part of an effort to rehabilitate Malden Square. The News continued to be a valuable local resource for many years to come. But there was a lot of criticism even at the time.

The general, inviolable rule is that government and journalism can’t mix because journalism is meant to be an independent check on government. That’s why recent suggestions to bail out the struggling newspaper business have largely been met with hoots of derision.

Miller may be right when he says accepting the loan is preferable to letting his paper go out of business. The Banner may continue as an important community outlet. I hope it does. But something was lost when Miller said “yes” to Menino.

More: John Carroll has similar thoughts.