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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Off to a flying stop

I'll skip right past the commenter on Media Nation who summed up Deval Patrick's casino gambling plan as the product of a "spineless unprincipled wimp."

Instead, let's look at the type of myopic, illogical reasoning that passes for professional media commentary in these parts. Here's Jon Keller's initial take on the four-page bullet-pointed summary says:
Thus, Gov. Deval Patrick’s clever political play today, telling freaked-out motorists they can avoid a budget-crushing hike in their gas taxes if they rally behind his casino plan. Either everyone, including you, suffers, or the suffering is voluntary, and you can probably avoid it if you stick to Keno and scratch tickets.
As Keller is fond of telling us, the problems of Massachusetts are the result of liberals like me who stand for "an insular political culture with tunnel vision that ignores the popular will and feathers its own nest when it isn’t collapsing on innocent motorists. All of it driving worst-in-the-nation population loss as disgruntled residents vote with their feet."

Never mind that conservative, part-time governors named Weld, Cellucci, Swift and Romney, each with an R after their name who placed personal ambition over the state's problems "led" Massachusetts for 16 years.

It was that type of astute, sharp analysis on the part of the media that let it happen. Where was Keller then?

Probably in the same tunnel as he is today, arguing that the problem of crumbling infrastructure is somehow separate from the broader economic and social issues facing Massachusetts.

Patrick presented a reasoned proposal that reflects the pluses and minuses of a "destination resort casino" plan.

While I certainly want to see the documentation that supports Patrick's claim that economic models show the proposal can produce 20,000 new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue, I see more substance than in critics' name calling. I also see recognition of the social and personal costs of gambling (and I want to see the documentation for that too!)

I also recognize that our roads and bridges -- neglected by 16 years of corruption and mismanagement on the part of Republican-appointed Mass. Turnpike Authority hacks -- are crumbling before our eyes.

I also see my property tax bill going up, my trash collection fee going up and slower police response times. I see cities and towns starved for revenue by a state government living by the rules created by no tax and spend Republicans and conservative Democrats like Tom Finneran.

Through it all, I have seen a coarsening of the debate -- exemplified by these two random comments and no doubt echoed on talk radio across Massachusetts today. And let me tell you, if Kris Mineau is against casino gambling, I certainly want to take another look.

I'm not sure I buy the trade-offs involved in the Patrick proposals. But I am sure that casinos are looming as inevitable -- thanks to the Indian gaming laws. And I am also sure that the abomination of a deal "negotiated" by Middleborough selectmen is a sign of what can happen without any state input.

So can we have a reasoned and reasonable debate, using facts and not names. I'm all for the idea being put forward over on Blue Mass Group about a referendum that will accurately gauge public opinion (even if the pro-casino forces will far outspend the opponents).

The governor has put forward a thoughtful proposal. I expect the Legislature will offer a thoughtful rebuttal and either turn it down or negotiate to make it better.

What is at stake here is the commonwealth's future. That's far more important than selling copies of a commentator's books.

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