When 10 taxpayers formed a group to stop the land sale for a proposed casino I had a conversation with a friend and predicted that we would soon hear voices saying that these folks were stopping progress and keeping jobs from coming to Fall River. And sure enough I've heard, read, and had conversations where that very viewpoint has been expressed. I further said sooner or later someone would suggest suing the ten taxpayers because they were stopping job development. Sure enough I've seen those comments pop up too!
This whole issue has been framed as being about jobs. You're either for the casino or against jobs. Mayor Flanagan looks at the opposition as a "war on jobs" Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.
How do you tell someone who is out of work and at risk of losing their home that jobs aren't important? How do you tell someone who can't put food on the table that we need to think "long-term"?
What's the old saying "desperate times call for desperate measures"? Well times are tough and people want jobs now. Unlike some I have no doubts that if this were brought to the ballot as either a binding or non-binding referendum it would pass.
You can almost hear the rally: "what do we want? JOBS!!! When do we want them? NOW!!!!
But for some reason all these people who are crying for a casino don't seem to understand that it's NOT going to bring jobs now. It's not going to bring jobs for YEARS! All the arguments that a biopark won't bring jobs for years seems silly when the alternative won't bring anything immediately either, if at all. Even if the city is able to somehow have the injunction against the land sale overturned, even if the injunction never took place, the land sale does not create jobs because you can't build a casino there!
Everyone in favor acts as though legalized gambling is a given, well it's not!
Already you have Governor Patrick publicly stating that a gaming bill is no longer a priority. You also have Speaker DeLeo saying the same thing. Even if they change course and suddenly but this back on the front burner there is no guarantee this is going to pass. It just FAILED to pass because nobody could come up with a compromise! Oh, of course we have the brilliant Plan B, where the Wampanoag's will be able to put the land into trust and no longer have to deal with whether or not gaming is legal is Massachusetts because this will be Indian land. Well that isn't a given either. The tribe's tie to the land seems to be nonexistent and it's been said that other applications are of a higher priority. Of course let's not forget that if for some reason the tribe WAS able to go this route they don't have to worry about gaming being legal, or the environmental protections on the land, or labor laws, or any other protections we take for granted that wouldn't apply to Indian land. Oh yes, our crack legal minds will make sure to carve out the best possible deal for Fall River to make sure our interests are protected. Bullshit. This administration is so desperate to see this happen that they'd give away your first born if that is what the tribe demanded. I have zero faith that our leadership will protect our interests and you should too. Of course brilliantly as a casino faces all of these obstacles we'll spend thousands of dollars fighting an injunction because if we win we can then be stopped by the fact that it's not legal, if it were Fall River might not be picked, that there are no guarantees that the land will ever be put into Indian trust. Flanagan is spending money we don't have to win a battle, and not the war!
So meanwhile, injunction or no injunction we sit and wait. We wait to see if gaming gets legalized. We wait to see if the land becomes Sovereign land. Meanwhile weeds are growing on 300 acres of land and no jobs are being created. Even IF gaming is legalized in the state we still have no guarantee that Fall River would be one of the selected sites. So we wait and wait some more. If the land sale does go through well the RDA can help UMass Dartmouth secure a parcel for the Bio-facility (it's not longer a park) and they can PAY Ken Fiola. Well that's good it's great to know that if we sell off some of this land we can at least RETAIN a job. It would be awful to see Kenny looking for work.
In the meantime as the days, weeks, months, YEARS trickle by, this will all be time that the biopark, because it was shovel ready, could have been built and developed and marketed and maybe start attracting some job opportunities here. Yes, a lot of those jobs would be higher education jobs but there would also be tons of jobs that wouldn't require a college degree. And it's not just jobs.
Oh there's the cry again: Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Jobs are important but so is development. You can put all sorts to people back to work in Fall River but if the city is going to prosper we need more revenue and that requires development! Good example, Meditech now plans to build a huge facility in Freetown, job-wise whether it's here or there probably doesn't make a huge difference. However, Freetown is going to get a real estate tax for that new development. If the Biopark had never been disrupted maybe Meditech would have built here in Fall River and we would be getting all that tax revenue.
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Have a conversation with anyone who is in favor of a casino and tell them you're not and they say don't you want jobs? Don't you know we need jobs? But hold on, it's not going to bring jobs today, or tomorrow. In fact it could be costing us jobs because we've totally derailed a project that we've worked for a decade to bring here for one that we can't guarantee will ever see the light of day because it faces ½ dozen hurdles. It's not as simple as a casino = jobs and no casino means you're against. How much time have we spent discussing the negative issues? What will this do to existing business? What will this do the city's crime rate? What social issues will this bring to the city? I'm told that one city councilor said that people are adults and responsible for their own choices. THAT just isn't true. We as a society shoulder a large burden for the choices adults make and then take no responsibility for. This is particularly true in communities like Fall River!
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
That's all I hear! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Whether you're for this or not, do yourself a favor, grab one of our elected officials and ask them how many people will be put back to work in the next 6 months because of the casino? If you don't include LAWYERS, I'm pretty sure the answer is ZERO. Seriously go ask one of our city councilors, go ask Flanagan, or Fiola, or any member of the RDA. How many people will be put back to work in the next year? 18 months? 24 months? And if they give you an answer question it! If they tell you ground will be broken by the summer ask how? Ask how are we getting passed the legalization. How do we know when it MIGHT become sovereign land? They don't know! They can't tell you! And if you press every answer and just don't nod dumbly and walk away they're going to get mad at you asking. They're going to start throwing out "facts" that they can't back up and start making excuses. They'll blame these 10 taxpayers when the legislature failed to put a bill in front of the Governor that he would sign. They'll say the majority wants this, even though they have no facts to back that up. They'll tell you that a biopark wouldn't have put anybody to work either, when the fact is some construction could already be taking place and Fall River could possibly have had Meditech as one of the parks first tenants. Then they'll tell you we need the jobs, because they have no answers just buzzwords and rhetoric.