All sings point to the Boston City Council voting today in favor of a ‘ward only’ vote versus a ‘citywide vote’ on the Suffolk Downs casino referendum. This would allow East Boston voters sole authority on deciding whether or not they want a casino in the neighborhood and the potential $20 million cash windfall that comes with it.
On Friday, September 20 the Boston City Council heard testimony both for and against a ward only vote. Suffolk Downs requested the vote be held during the city’s general election on November 5.
The three and a half hour long hearing featured city officials, mayoral candidates, Eastie’s elected officials, the proponents of the Suffolk Downs resort casino, residents and casino opponents. Some tried to sway councilor’s supporting a ward only referendum to make it citywide while a majority of Eastie residents that testified favored a ward only vote and lambasted councilors favoring a citywide vote.
So far City Councilors Sal LaMattina, Bill Linehan, John Connolly, Rob Consalvo, Felix Arroyo, Mark Ciommo and Mike Ross have all said they favor putting the vote in Eastie’s hands. Council President Stephen Murphy is not on the record but will most likely vote in favor of a ward only vote. Councilor Matt O’Malley and Tito Jackson have been on the record for a citywide vote as well as Charles Yancey. That leaves Ayanna Pressley and Frank Baker silent on the issue but LaMattina, who spearheaded the effort to wrangle his colleagues into giving his neighborhood the right to a ward only vote, said the votes are there for an Eastie-only vote.
At last week’s hearing, Eastie’s Alice Christopher, the neighborhood’s former City Hall Manager under the Kevin White Administration, gave the councilor’s supporting a citywide vote a piece of her mind and stole the show.
Christopher, the feisty 84-year-old longtime activist told the pro-citywide councilors they should be ‘ashamed of themselves’ for trying to take away Eastie’s right to decide its future as she held up a picture of Logan Airport. She asked the council ‘where were you when this was going on?”
Another star was Eastie’s Thomas Tassinari who told the council the neighborhood cut its teeth dealing with airport expansion, the creation of harbor tunnels and the development of a highway through the neighborhood. Tassinari argued Eastie resident never got the chance to vote on whether they wanted any of this transportation infrastructure that disrupted lives and the quality of life in Eastie and should get the chance this time around.
Senator Anthony Petruccelli and Representative Carlo Basile put District Attorney and Mayoral Candidate Dan Conley literally in the middle of a political sandwich.
Petruccelli, who helped craft the ‘ward-only’ language in the gaming bill, testified before Conley while Basile went immediately after.
The Eastie elected officials, knowing Conley would testify in favor of a citywide vote, took the opportunity to discredit his position.
Petruccelli in his testimony and subsequent opinion piece in the Boston Globe said the vote on Suffolk Downs belongs in Eastie.
“Recently though, some Boston mayoral candidates have argued against an East Boston, ward-only vote, citing polls that ask Bostonians whether they would prefer a citywide vote. This is a flawed position,” Petruccelli testified and later wrote in the opinion piece. “A better question for pollsters to ask would be, “If the casino development would have a disproportionate impact on your neighborhood, would you want the entire city to determine its fate?”
Conley followed by saying “As I have repeatedly stated, I have significant concerns that a referendum limited to East Boston could prove divisive. While East Boston will undoubtedly feel the greatest impact of a casino, its impact will not be limited to that one neighborhood.”
Basile who followed slammed Conley’s position.
“We the people of East Boston are personally insulted at the idea that others would use our community as political football for higher aspirations,” said Basile. “Where was everyone when we fought Massport on airport expansion? This is about our community, our voice and the impacts on East Boston. We deserve the right if we want (a casino).”