Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Forum feedback

Some thoughts on tonight's "Forum on Casino Gambling at Suffolk Downs":

1. The event began more than a half-hour late for no reason that was evident or announced to the crowd, which became restless and started chanting for things to begin. The forum finally began at 7:07 p.m. I left about 8:10 while the question session was going on.

2. The format was apparently decided on the fly, as the moderator would, at each juncture, look back and forth and around the room as if to say, "How should we do this?" I'm not sure why time wasn't used to figure out the ground rules while the speakers were standing and chit-chatting.

3. I don't know why Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle was included among elected officials who were given time to speak. I didn't vote for him and neither did anyone else in the room. Plus, his weekly newsletter is distributed free to all of us.

4. Some elected officials, in a move that seemed rather arrogant, made clear that they were going to speak longer than the time allotted. Since some of them are part of the bill-crafting process and have the media at their disposal -- especially the East Boston Times, which is their mouthpiece -- it seems unfair that they would go past the time they were given when members of the public were limited to writing questions on pieces of paper.

5. The most misguided -- and frankly, offensive -- statement was that an independent and comprehensive study of the positives and negatives of casino gambling in Massachusetts is not needed. Huh? Since the research that the legislature is currently using was provided by studies funded by the casino industry AND since an independent study of casino gambling nationally, cited tonight by one of the speakers for the opposition, shows that there are $3 of public expenditure for every $1 expanded gambling brings to a state, it would seem shortsighted and negligent not to have one done -- unless proponents of casinos do not want the public to see the list of consequences that a study reveals.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Abandon your money -- and your kids

Globe columnist Kevin Cullen does a good job raising only some of the pertinent issues in the legislature's rush to permanently change the culture and quality of life in this state by introducing expanded gambling. The first part of his piece today describes the machinations involved in arranging a local referendum on a proposed casino, but take a look at the last half of his column:

In the same week Massachusetts state troopers buried one of their own, a father of four run down by an accused drunk driver while he was questioning another accused drunk driver, the Massachusetts Senate voted to let casinos serve free booze to their customers.

What do you call a state that endorses the concept of getting its citizens liquored up and taking their money in a game of chance that’s stacked against them?

“Nuts,’’ said Susan Tucker, a Democrat from Andover, and one of a minority of senators who thinks this is madness.

“We outlawed happy hours in this state because we had statistical evidence that they increased the number of fatalities and serious injuries,’’ she said. “And now we’re saying it’s OK for casinos to have an open bar? We’re overturning our public safety laws for a predatory industry.’’

Welcome to Mississippi-on-the-Charles, where anything goes, as long as it convinces some corporation that it’ll be able to maximize its ability to fleece people. We are so desperate for jobs, so desperate for tax revenue, that we will sell our collective souls, and then redefine what constitutes those souls.

To be fair, the Senate is asking the casinos to step up to the plate on at least one thing: The bill would require casinos to check their parking lots regularly for abandoned children and animals.

“Maybe it’s me,’’ Susan Tucker said, “but if we believe there are going to be children and pets abandoned because of this industry, should we be facilitating them? I don’t remember ever requiring a biotech company to check its parking lots for abandoned children.’’

Meanwhile, a few elected officials and a representative from Suffolk Downs have been added to the program of Wednesday night's "Forum on Casino Gambling," which will be held at Don Orione starting at 6:30 p.m. This move, I think, is a terrible idea. The politicians' opinions are always broadcast through the media, and as for Suffolk COO Chip Tuttle -- well, we get to see the East Boston Times play footsie with him every week.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New home for Excel

Word is that Excel Academy has purchased the old St. Mary's Star of the Sea school building from the Archdiocese of Boston. One source put the price at $1.8 million.

Excel is a charter middle school that opened in the fall of 2003 at 1150 Saratoga Street, while St. Mary's was shut down by the archdiocese in 2008 after 120 years. There have been a number of media reports in recent years touting Excel's successes, and it's been clear for a while that the school was searching for a new home.

The St. Mary's church, across Moore Street from the school, was infamously sold in November of 2006, with the archdiocese only getting $850,000 for the property. Several weeks later, new owner Michael Indresano sold the property to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God for $2.65 million. That misstep has never been thoroughly explained.

Photo from

Update (7/1): A story on Page 3 of the June 30 East Boston Times starts out:
Word on the street is that Excel Academy Charter School of East Boston has purchased the building that formerly housed St. Mary’s Star of the Sea School on Moore Street from the Boston Archdiocese for a reported $1.8 million...
I don't care that their lead sounds quite similar to the opening of my blog post and I don't care if they never refer to my blog by name, but how does a story passing as legitimate journalism actually say, "Word on the street is..." Seriously, what kind of source is that?!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Paralympic Training Clinic at Piers Park

This press release came via email:

Piers Park Sailing Center, a national leader in community and disabled sailing, will host a Paralympic training clinic with demonstration sails aboard new 2.4-meter class sailboats. Likened to a go-kart on the water, the new 2.4-meter class is not only specially suited for adaptive sailing but an absolute thrill-ride for all able-bodied sailors.

Members of the public are invited to visit Piers Park Sailing for a rare opportunity to try their hand aboard a 2.4-meter – a one person boat often utilized for Paralympic sailing. U.S. Sailing Team’s Mark LeBlanc will offer world-class coaching. Later in the weekend, participants will have an opportunity to race the boats during a round-robin tournament. Interested sailors should call Piers Park Sailing at (617) 561-6677.

Piers Park Sailing Center, the closest non-profit and recreational sailing center to downtown Boston, was recently designated Paralympic Sport Club Boston, part of the US Paralympic Team’s national network of training facilities. US Sailing named the organization “Best Community Program for Disabled Sailors” in 2009.

Friday: Sail boat demos from 12 p.m. to sunset
Sail boat demos from 9 a.m. to noon; round robin races from noon to 5 p.m.
: Gold Fleet Round Robin Finals – Saturday’s race winners return for more races from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New butcher store at Orient Heights

The El Paisa Butchery is located where Carmen's Kitchen used to stand at 1010 Bennington Street, right across from the El Paisa Restaurante, a Colombian eatery. I stopped into the butcher store and meat market yesterday, leaving with some steak tips and chicken sausages made on the premises. Thumbs up.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Casino forum site shifted

The site for next week's "forum on the benefits and disadvantages of building a resort-style casino at Suffolk Downs" has been changed to the Don Orione Hall at 150 Orient Ave. The event, scheduled for June 30 at 6:30 p.m. and sponsored by the East Boston Times, will feature a discussion between proponents and opponents of the issue. Details can be found at Neighbors of Suffolk Downs.

In the meantime, former AG Scott Harshbarger outlines a few questions that need to be asked -- and answered -- before the state lurches ahead with casino gambling.

Sacred Heart Festival

The annual Sacred Heart Festival will be held this Friday and Saturday just behind the church, which is located at corner of Brooks and Paris streets. Details are available here at

Photo from

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Times continues Suffolk lovefest

The East Boston Times continues to shill for Suffolk Downs as the track moves forward on its quest to bring expanded gambling to the Eastie/Revere line. In a front-page story this week, Times' new favorite son Chip Tuttle, Suffolk's chief operating officer, is quoted extensively from his appearance at a recent public hearing -- and between his quotes the newspaper itself sounds like a Suffolk press release.

Though three people who support the gambling proposals are mentioned in the story by name -- Tuttle, State Sen. Anthony Petruccelli and Teamsters leader Sean O'Brien -- no one opposed to the idea is named or quoted directly. There are exactly two sentences in the story that express a contrary opinion and in both cases the people holding those opinions are referred to as "some." For example: "Expanded gaming or full scale resort-style casino’s in the Commonwealth are not going to be as epidemic as crack was in the 1980s as some suggested at the public hearing."

Yes, that is an undoctored sentence from the story (and the spelling and punctuation errors are the newspaper's, not mine.) The Times would have us believe that fear of a crack epidemic is the best argument that those against a rush to casinos have. It is, of course, a commonly used tactic: rebut the most far-fetched opposition argument you can so as to divert attention from smart, solid arguments.

Why won't the East Boston Times dedicate some space to a real discussion of an issue that is of huge importance to this neighborhood?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The evil hand

Last night, in his address to the nation from the Oval Office, President Obama said, in his closing paragraph, that "we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day." The irony here is clear and poignant: there is a hand at work in the Gulf oil spill and it is the "invisible hand" of free-market economics. Along with BP's sloppiness and the lack of government oversight, capitalism-as-usual is responsible for the current environmental catastrophe.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, lists a number of points where BP could have prevented the oil rig explosion and the spill that followed but instead, each time, the multinational oil conglomerate decided on a course that was cheaper and/or faster. Guess what? That is what companies do. Similar decisions are being made all around the world right now and some of those are hurting people directly, others are hurting the planet. The only thing relevant is the bottom line.

Financial institutions almost destroyed the world economy; health-care providers are bankrupting the nation; oil companies and others have poisoned our air, water, land and food. And our response to all this? We sit here and do nothing about it. Americans seem to be numb to all that is going on around us. Capitalism chugs along, with the same results: the rich get richer, etc.

Tonight on The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart showed video of the last eight presidents, including Obama, saying that the US needs to free itself from dependence on oil, but our appetite has only increased. There is only one way to force people to use less energy: tax it more. Every elected official knows this is the only answer, but no one has the courage to do it. Oil and other fossil fuels have many "hidden costs" and one of those that is now less hidden is the environmental damage and the cost of cleaning that up. The gas tax should be raised significantly to pay for these costs.

It won't be, however, because we have become a nation of spoiled materialists. So the spill keeps spilling, people keep whining but take no action, and the invisible hand keeps sacrificing everything in the name of profit.

Traffic folly

I was pulled over by a Revere police officer yesterday afternoon and reprimanded for going through a red light as I turned from Broadway left onto Central Ave. At first I tried to spit out a few words to make my case, but it was immediately clear that the cop didn't want to hear it and since he was warning me instead of giving me a moving violation I nodded and said, "Yes sir."

I was surprised to see the cruiser's lights in my rear-view mirror because I honestly didn't believe I had committed any infraction. I was heading south on Broadway and moved into the left lane in front of the firehouse. The light was green when I rolled into the intersection and waited for oncoming traffic to stop so I could turn. By the time I took the left the light had, in fact, turned red, but I couldn't sit in the intersection at that point, right?

The officer said to me, "You cannot enter the intersection if you can't make it out before the light turns red," and I understand what he means, but there is one hitch at this particular intersection that caused me to turn after the red. As I waited to turn I assumed that when my light turned yellow the cars heading north on Broadway would slow and stop so that I could move before the red light. What I didn't realize is that their light remains green longer, which means those cars kept moving past me even as my light was red.

I couldn't explain myself to the cop, but at least I told someone, and as the saying goes, "Many a man would rather you heard his story than grant his request."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Clinic groundbreaking Monday

Groundbreaking for the new 49,000 square-foot health center building at 20 Maverick Square is scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. with Gov. Deval Patrick on hand. Check out the press release on the event at

Monday, June 7, 2010

Doubting Thomas silenced

Helen Thomas is a giant in the field of journalism -- a groundbreaking woman and a thorn in the side of those in power for five decades. Thomas, who will be 90 years old this summer, was forced to retire today after insensitive remarks about the Middle East. Her legacy is much bigger than this last misstep, and tonight -- without Thomas sitting in the front row of the White House press room -- our democracy is that much weaker.

Photo from

Sunday, June 6, 2010

This land is NOT your land

Despite Woody Guthrie's wishful thinking, this land -- "from California to the New York island" -- is not mine and it's not yours. It belongs to giant multi-national corporations, who've used America's vast natural resources to make a tiny percentage of the population obscenely wealthy.

Everyone is justifiably outraged by the current spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Obama Administration's frequently muddled response is deserving of criticism as well. Today's New York Times has a story that makes clear that "a hodgepodge of oversight agencies granted exceptions to rules, allowed risks to accumulate and made a disaster more likely on the rig." Most of these regulatory failures at the Deepwater Horizon rig -- owned by Transocean and leased by BP -- took place while Obama has been president, but these missteps are part of a much bigger issue: the overall weakening of government regulation over the past three decades.

While we should all be holding BP's feet to the fire -- insisting that they "make this right" as the company CEO says somberly in a new TV ad that's received widespread criticism -- this whole episode is just one example of the devastation that corporations have wrought upon the planet. Industry has been allowed to remove resources, destroy ecosystems and dump pollutants as governments colluded via campaign contributions and revolving-door jobs -- if not, in some cases, outright bribery. Air, water and land are all filled with the toxic byproducts of unbridled capitalism.

In some places -- the old Soviet Union or today's China, for example -- the average person can only stand by and watch, but in the United States we, the people, are culpable. Americans exercise their will at the ballot box locally, regionally and nationally, and we have a (theoretically) free press and now, the Internet, to provide vast quantities of information. Yet, we sit by and watch as corporations continue to level mountains, denude forests, poison waterways, darken the skies and render lifeless the oceans -- all for profit.

With apologies to Woody: This land is their land, from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. This land is here to make them rich.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Senate casino plan unveiled

The leadership of the state Senate today announced their plan to legalize casino gambling in Massachusetts, and the proposal differs in one key way from the plan approved by the House: no slot parlors at the state's four racetracks.

Speaker Bob DeLeo has been the biggest proponent of bringing the flashing, ringing gambling machines to Suffolk Downs, Wonderland, Raynham and Plainridge, but Senate President Therese Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick have been vocal in their distaste for slots.

Unlike DeLeo's blatant disregard for the citizenry, the Senate will hold a public hearing on its proposal on Tuesday. Of course, one hearing announced six days prior is not a very open process, but big money has co-opted this issue and it appears to many a foregone conclusion.

The anti-casino battle is led by Kathleen Conley Norbut, the leader of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts.