Armada of Lobbyists, Lawyers and Consultants Has to Fear Curtatone in His Rowboat

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

If you’re in a construction trade, you’re probably not too happy with Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, the only person standing between Steve Wynn and his dream of a $2 billion casino in Everett.

Yet I have to believe that even the most diehard union carpenter or electrician silently admires how Curtatone is standing up so forcefully to the crowd that wants to get on with building the casino, which was renamed yesterday by Wynn as “Wynn Boston Harbor.”  (Previous name: “Wynn Everett.”)
The typical union guy would likely use a different short word for courage but I’m sure he's crediting the mayor for having guts…and getting a boot out of the mayor’s in-your-face style. 

Curtatone told the Boston Globe in late-February that he expects Wynn’s “armada of lobbyists, lawyers and consultants” to attack him personally, but vowed that “no amount of public theater and political harassment will stop me.”  For emphasis, the one-time competitive weightlifter declared, “I’m not backing down.”
Earlier this month, after Wynn’s on-site executive in Boston announced they were stopping the multi-million-dollar environmental clean-up at the site until Somerville’s challenge of a key state permit for the casino was resolved, Curtatone issued a statement that said, in part:

“We have a city to run, and we’re not going to let the antics of Wynn’s giant PR machine distract us every time they choose to issue another statement rather than get to work addressing our very real, serious and legally grounded concerns.”
On a different occasion, Curtatone told the Boston Herald, “We’re not looking to be bought off.  We’re not looking for an arbitrary payday.  We are resolved on our principles and we will fight on.”

Continuing in that vein, he said, “There are serious issues here.  We’re seriously committed to them.  We’re not backing down…The City of Somerville works with its regional partners, but make no mistake, we will not wither.”
He also said, “Not one job, not one dollar of new revenue coming to the Commonwealth (from a casino project) is worth the well-being of any resident, certainly not in my community.”

Curtatone is the kind of guy who, if you tap him on the nose, he pummels you all over -- the kind of guy that guys who wear hardhats look up to.  Mayor Joe is also the kind of genuine, sharply defined leader who could one day -- as I am not the first to observe -- be a credible candidate for governor on a Democratic ticket. 
I happened to offer that opinion in passing the other day to a former elected official, a Democrat, who is close to Charlie Baker, who responded, “Charlie’s going to be very hard to beat in 2018.”

I said, “Yes, of course.  But what if Curtatone, as an energetic upstart with a much smaller campaign treasury, decided to take Baker on?  Say Curtatone runs a good race and cuts a strong figure across the state.  Say he draws a respectable vote while still losing, then comes back four years later, like Charlie did after losing to Deval, and he wins.  A respectable-but-unsuccessful first run can be a good way to eventually become governor.”
Given the way we like to elect governors president in this country, why don’t more mayors run for governor?  The executive parallel exists:  effective mayors are in a place to demonstrate executive ability in the public sector.  A mayor makes tough choices in any number of complex areas and has to take sole responsibility for difficult decisions with the electorate, just as governors have to do. 

Mayors, however, do not become gubernatorial candidates in Massachusetts.  Maybe Curtatone will be the one to break that mold.

MITIGATE THIS! I was glad to see today that Steve Wynn is continuing his outspoken and plainspoken ways.  (In a public square stale with pre-programmed sound bites and meaningless generalities, the casino mogul is a breath of fresh air.)  Speaking with reporters at an office he has in Medford, Wynn commented thusly on the expensive community agreements he had to negotiate:  "If someone had a hemorrhoid, we had to mitigate it."

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