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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This time it's personal

The battle over casino gambling is getting personal.

The Globe reports Sal DiMasi is now calling members in for "chats" on casinos, making the issue a key benchmark is his increasingly sour relationship with Deval Patrick.
It's trying to convince you, 'I'm right, the governor's wrong, and we really want your vote,' " said the representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private. "I thought it was going to be on substance, talk about the pros and cons. But it's been made pretty clear that it's more than that."

"He doesn't do this very often, so you know when he does it's personal," the representative added.

Coming the same day DiMasi "lobbed another grenade" but unveiling a legislative report skeptical of DiMasi's casino claims and rammed through a pay raise for key supporters, it's become abundantly clear just how sour the mood is on Beacon Hill.

And how there is a need for cooler heads to prevail before everything grinds to a nasty halt.

Naturally the report by House Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Chairman Dan Bosley takes a skeptical view of Patrick's casino jobs and revenue claims. Bosley has been focusing on this subject a long time.

And the Globe's Steve Bailey took a closer look at the Chamber of Commerce report and found reasons to question the foundation on which the Chamber analysts made their observations that while the construction jobs analysis was wildly off base, permanent job and revenue estimates were closer to the mark.

Toss in the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation report and I am convinced that casinos are a bad idea. But I am troubled by DiMasi's increasingly strident and personal approach to the issue.

Patrick has merely done what a politician would do to legally curry votes (obviously to the surprise of DiMasi, who thought Patrick a "slow learner." It's obvious that letters and brochures to his members has touched off a reaction in DiMasi that is more than political.

And this is where cooler heads need to prevail.

Next Tuesday's hearing on casinos will be the political event of the decade. Union supporters will be out in force, hoping to pack Gardner Auditorium and working the halls find the same lawmakers getting DiMasi's "personal" touch. Members are going to be between a rock and a hard place equivalent to the gay marriage amendment vote.

And that's why I think some independent arbiter may be needed. In this poisoned environment, casino supporters are going to look at the Bosley report with cross eyes. It's time for someone without a dog in this hunt to step forward.

MassINC, you out there? How about you, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center?

And it's also time for Senate President Terry Murray to sit the boys down for a chat. There are too many problem that need to be resolved to be stymied by a personality conflict.

UPDATE: Great minds and all that. Check out Joan Vennochi. Some good thoughts about the ethics challenges being lobbed at DiMasi -- and the important insight about Patrick's appearance at the Globe editorial board.

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