Go back tot he table
I write to respond to the comments of two Town Councilors as referenced in your story, “Councilors Look for Answers from Mohegan Sun Casino” and editorial, “Councilors’ Criticism of Bob DeLeo Is Not Right” (March 19th).
I believe the initial mitigation offer made by the proponents of the Suffolk Downs casino is unacceptable. I call on Mohegan Sun to go back to the table with Winthrop.
I am proud Winthrop has the right to negotiate a mitigation agreement with Mohegan Sun. When the gaming bill passed in 2011, I insisted that casino licensees negotiate not only with their host communities, but also with surrounding communities. In addition to, and separate from requiring agreements with abutting communities, the law also required that 10 percent of licensing fees and 6.5 percent of annual gaming revenue (potentially over $22 million a year) be deposited into a Community Mitigation Fund. This fund will be used to further offset any negative impacts of casino gaming on host and surrounding communities.
Mitigation isn’t the only benefit to Winthrop’s residents we put in the bill. It provides supplemental local aid to cities and towns, funds local capital projects, supplements education spending, funds economic development and helps our community colleges.
Some folks disagree with having gaming in Massachusetts at all. Some don’t want a casino at Suffolk Downs. I have the highest respect for those who feel that way, but I do take issue with those who question my commitment to Winthrop. The facts, and the numbers, just don’t bear that out.
I read with dismay the front page of last week’s edition of the Winthrop Transcript, on which Councilors Mael and Boyajian are noted to have criticized Speaker DeLeo and even former Senator President Travaglini.
It is very unique for a small town like Winthrop to be represented back to back by the President of the State Senate and the Speaker of the House. Winthrop has benefited greatly from this unique political experience. Funding for the Ferry Terminal building, the Town Landing and Town Pier did not happen by chance. They happened in large part because of the leadership of former President Travaglini and Speaker DeLeo. Winthrop’s placement on the funding list of the Massachusetts School Building Assistance Authority did not happen by chance. We can thank Speaker DeLeo for his ability to highlight our need. Today, Winthrop receives nearly $1.8 million a year from Massport AND the MWRA in large part because of the efforts of former President Travaglini and Speaker DeLeo. As Winthrop residents drive over the Winthrop bridge each day, we can thank Speaker DeLeo for assuring the funding for this project. And with upwards to $40 million set aside to restore Winthrop Beach, we can thank Speaker DeLeo for his efforts. The above list is not meant to be comprehensive. I could talk about: grants for our senior center; MAPC grants; vehicle grants. The list goes on.
To criticize these men, both of whom have served honorably for decades, because of a disagreement over casino gambling is short sighted and wrong. Reasonable people can disagree about the merits or demerits of a casino at Suffolk Downs. The fact that the Town of Winthrop has botched its negotiations with Mohegan Sun should cause our town negotiators to reflect on their own shortcomings rather than attempting to blame others for their failings.
The Greek playwright Sophocles once wrote, “One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.” The day will come when the Town of Winthrop will look back at the era of President Travaglini and Speaker DeLeo, and their representation of our Town, and realize how splendid the day had been. I, for one, am grateful for their efforts to make Winthrop a better place, the comments of Mssrs. Mael and Boyajian notwithstanding.
Jeffrey Rosario Turco