Between the Lines: Our NIMBY Governor

Together we can!

That’s what Deval Patrick told us in his magical first campaign to become governor of Massachusetts.

Now, a lame duck with a year left in office, the governor is a bit more qualified in his rallying cry. Today it’s more like, “Together we can… just not in my backyard.”

Appearing last week on an “Ask the Governor” segment on WGBH radio in Boston, Patrick fielded a question from a listener from Palmer who asked if the governor would support putting a casino in Richmond, the Berkshire hamlet where Deval and his family own a lavish home. Patrick’s answer showed that, even in his waning days, he remains smug, tone deaf and utterly incapable of making the case for casinos.

“I can’t speak for my neighbors in Richmond [but] I would vote against it, personally. And the [expanded gaming] law that was enacted by the Legislature—in a democratic process—provides that local residents get a say in whether they want a facility in their community,” he said. The italics are mine, but the smugness is Patrick’s.

In the wake of voters in Palmer and Revere rejecting casino proposals on Nov. 5, joining voters in West Springfield who rejected a proposal earlier this year, the governor and leaders in the Legislature who helped usher in the 2011 expanded gaming law now find themselves at apparent odds with a waking giant. As each day brings another reason to be wary of Patrick’s casino gambit—whether overall, because it’s crappy economic development policy, or in specific cases, as the gaming commission raises questions about the propriety of some of the bidding companies—the electorate seems to be stirring against casinos.

Leave it to a pol like Patrick to show, now, some ambivalence toward casinos (at least the idea of one in his neighborhood), as if he’s been with the voters all along. Such ambivalence should have guided the governor away from his intellectually indefensible casino strategy in the first place. Now he spins the rejection of casinos on Election Day as proof that his beloved “democratic process” is working as it should.

“In terms of whether everybody should get to vote on the question [of casinos], like I said, we have a democratic process in which the Legislature is supposed to take up those kinds of issues on the behalf of the rest of us, and there were robust debates over a couple of years’ time,” Patrick went on to tell the listener from Palmer. “I think I’m right that there’s a referendum…”

Awash in money from casino lobbyists, Patrick and allied Democrats brought gaming back from the dead, after it had been wisely rejected for years by voters and lawmakers. I hope they pay now for their mistake.

Author: Tom Vannah

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