Blogster's Miscellany: Casino Foes' Woes. Photo-Ready Plates. A Clinton BFF

Thursday, September 25, 2014

DID ANTI-CASINO GROUP PEAK 10 MONTHS AGO? As the ballot fight over repeal of the state’s casino-enabling legislation nears its decisive phase, Repeal the Casino Deal (RCD) looks like it’s gasping for breath.  The State House News Service reported earlier this week that the group “owes consultants, lawyers and supporters about $440,000 and has less than $11,000 in cash.”  An RCD spokesman, David Guarino, put a brave face on that body of red ink.  “While we always knew we would be out-spent by the deep-pocketed casino bosses who wrote two checks to fund the first $1.7 million of their campaign, we are encouraged by the steady growth in support for stopping the casino mess,” said Guarino, a principal of Melwood Global.  RCD reportedly owes $36,000 to Guarino’s firm alone.  Question 3 on the Nov. 4 ballot, if approved by the voters, would repeal the state’s casino law.  If voters reject Question 3 – and polls to date suggest it will be defeated -- we will look back at November of 2013 as RCD’s high-water mark.  That was when the group led a successful local referendum in East Boston against a casino at Suffolk Downs, a defeat that surely had some impact on the decision last week by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to grant the Eastern Massachusetts casino license to Wynn Resorts for its proposed casino in Everett.  The losing alternative was for a casino located entirely on the Revere side of Suffolk Downs.  The Suffolk Downs folks have said the final races at the track, probably ever, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 4.  I grew up in Revere.  My uncle was on the City Council when the track was approved and built in the Thirties.  My father worked a second job on Saturdays at the track for many years during racing season, counting money.  Though I never placed a bet there, I am sentimentally attached to the old place. I’ll be sad to see it go…but I’ll get over it quickly.  What will eventually arise on those 130 acres in Revere and East Boston now occupied by the racetrack will be so good as to make us wonder why we ever thought it was a good idea to have horses racing there.  With direct access to the MBTA’s Blue Line, it has huge upside potential as a mixed-used development with housing (apartments and condos), shopping and offices -- and room left over for plenty of green space.  It doesn’t strain the imagination, for example, to see a beautiful elevated pedestrian walkway/bicycle path bringing hundreds of residents and visitors from “Suffolk Downs Village” to nearby Revere Beach every day when the sun is shining.  By contrast, it’s hard to see something good and exciting being built on the Everett casino site, a former Monsanto chemical factory, if Steve Wynn isn’t in the picture because the site is severely contaminated and it will cost upwards of $30 million to clean it up.  Wynn has $1.6 billion on hand to build the Everett casino and can take the clean-up costs in stride in a way that a regular real estate developer can't do.  The Gaming Commission must have regarded the site clean-up as a big plus for Everett,  Charlestown and Somerville, and for the Mystic River and Boston Harbor, whose waters are threatened by toxins washed from the site by rainwater.  The commission must have given Wynn’s proposal extra credit for the enviro-clean-up.

CONCERN FOR YOUR LICENSE PLATE NEVER HIGHER.   Now that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has moved to all-electronic tolling (E-ZPass) on the Tobin Bridge and will move similarly on all toll roads in the state within the next two years, there’s a sharper focus on the condition of license plates.  Today, if you take the bridge over mystic waters from Chelsea to Boston and you don’t have an E-ZPass transponder in your window, a camera takes a picture of your plate, and you will soon receive in the mail a bill for the full toll.  This is the so-called Pay-By-Plate option.   A plate that cannot be recorded clearly and fully by a camera thus gives a motorist an edge over the state in the never-ending battle between revenue collectors and revenue payers.  So it’s no surprise that the State Police are stepping up enforcement of Section 6 of Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Laws, which requires that license plates be plainly and fully visible, and that the plate numbers and letters be legible from a good distance.  (Vehicle inspection stations have long been instructed to fail a vehicle if the plate cannot be read from 60 feet away.)  According to an August 5th MassDOT press release, state and local police issued approximately 4,000 citations for obscured and illegible plates during the first six months of this year.  “We want to warn motorists about the legible plate requirement and also encourage everyone to sign up for E-ZPass,” said Highway Administrator Frank DePaola at that time.  First-time violators of the visible/legible plate requirements are fined $35.  For a second offense, the fine is $75, and for the third, $150.

PORTENT OF A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY.  A man well known around Boston was in Washington, D.C., not long ago when Lou D’Allesandro, an East Boston native who’s had a long and distinguished political career in his adopted state of New Hampshire, personally invited him to a D’Allesandro fundraiser there that evening.  A football star at UNH in his younger days, D’Allesandro has been in the 24-member New Hampshire senate since the late-Nineties, serving a district centered in Manchester.  “You should come,” Lou told the man from Boston.  “There’s going to be a special guest, someone you’d definitely like to say hello to.”  “Who might that be?” asked the man.  Lou answered with one word: “Hillary.”  Seventeen months before the nation’s first presidential primary, Hillary Clinton is lending her star power to a fundraiser for one electorally secure New Hampshire legislator. She must be running for president -- coyly running, but running, running, running.

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