It wasn't supposed to go this way. The way it was supposed to go was the Mayor would ride in on his white horse and announce that instead of waiting 20 years for the realization of the BioPark, the Mayor would announce a deal to sell the land for an Indian Casino. The land sale would result in millions of dollars for the cash strapped city, the construction was equal 1000's of jobs and the resort would mean even more jobs and the type that would immediately put Fall River citizens back to work! Flanagan would then iron out the details to relocate the BioPark elsewhere in the city, after all UMass wants to be in Fall River, the city could have its cake and eat it too. Flanagan would be heralded as the most brilliant Mayor in Fall River history and the city would be renamed in his honor.
Somehow things haven't gone that smoothly. The meeting for the Redevelopment Authority vote turned into an hours long bitch session that had several city councilors and most of our local delegation expressing concern and reservations. UMass also expressed concerns about this change in plans and while Flanagan and Co. originally tried to downplay this, the University released their letter to the public. Suddenly the BioPark looks like a brass ring free for all with New Bedford rolling out the red carpet.
So now Will is running around telling everyone we can have both and urging everyone, especially some anxious city councilors to give this a chance. But the reality is Will has nobody to blame but himself. While Mayor Flanagan feels that a casino will be Fall River's salvation he has done nothing to include the city council, the local delegation or the people of Fall River in the developments that have been taking place. When the Mayor announced that he had signed an agreement with the Wampanoag tribe, nobody seemed to know any of the details! How much money would this mean for the city? What was the purchase price for the land? How much additional money would the city get? Instead the Mayor, who's been in office for less than 6 months, seems to feel that we should risk 10 years worth of development on the BioPark solely on his judgment. Really, I find that pretty damn arrogant. I know somebody is going to say that Will was elected to lead, elected to make decisions and while that's true the city is not his own real life Sim City to play with. You don't casually change 10 years worth of planning without bring everyone into the conversation. The Mayor says that he believes 70% of the people support this and now a poll seems to back this up, but hold on one second. Well I'm not surprised that people support this. Fall River does need the jobs and the revenue. However, when some idiot from the plumber's union says he's for casinos, he's not thinking of our long term goals and he's not thinking about any of the negative impacts. All he's thinking about is putting his members to work. That's admirable and all, but it's not how decisions should be made. I wonder when this 'poll' took place did they ask specifically if Fall River citizens were willing to risk the BioPark for a casino? Did they mention that a casino in Fall River would face several hurdles and may never become a reality? I doubt it.
Now it looks like Mayor Flanagan feels we can make this all work out if we shift the BioPark to Freetown. What?? 10 years worth of work and we're just going to give it away to Freetown? I know its right next door, but I don't think a Freetown BioPark does much to enhance OUR reputation. Well at least we'll be putting Fall River people to work. However, Speaker DeLeo was just stating that while Fall River would be in a running for a casino that's no guarantee it would get one. He also felt the decision was probably 2-3 years down the road. Such a long time frame would certainly not be of much help to Fall River. Not only would we not see any job creation during that time but with the retirement of Joan Menard, we would also be losing the one member of our local delegation who has been actively pushing for a Fall River casino.
Lefty's View: Fall River needs money and it needs jobs and that's what Mayor Flanagan is trying to deliver. Perhaps I should be applauding him, but I can't. There is so much uncertainty to his casino proposal, so many hurdles to overcome. IF the legislature reverts the 'no casino' clause, if, the casino bill passes, if Fall River gets picked as one of the locations. What happens if, one of those ifs doesn't happen? I suppose the Mayor feels that the reward is worth the gamble. I just wish he understood that most of the time when you gamble, you lose.
*The Ojornal has a really great article on all of the 'casino events', well worth a read!