Councilors Look for Answers from Mohegan Sun Casino on April 1

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
By Cary Shuman
Dr. Astrid Weins speaks at the Council meeting.

Dr. Astrid Weins speaks at the
Council meeting.

The Town Council has invited representatives from Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs to its meeting on April 1 to discuss the $1.3 billion casino/resort project proposed for the Revere portion of the Suffolk Downs property.

Councilor-at-Large Phil Boncore made the motion for the meeting to allow the representatives “to show us their new plan and invite our citizens to question them and let their feelings be known.”

Boncore also requested that a videotape of the meeting be sent to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. He also suggested that the meeting be moved to the Cummings School as opposed to the Joseph Harvey Room at Town Hall where the Council meets regularly.

Councilor Nick DelVento made an amendment to the motion that the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs presentation be no longer than 15 minutes.

Councilor Linda Calla said the Council shouldn’t place a time limit on the presentation. “If you start limiting the presentation, we’re only going to see what they want us to see,” said Calla. “This is a very big decision with this casino and I think we need to know as much about it as we can.”

Councilor Russell Sanford felt the Council should consider a time limit not to exceed 30 minutes, with Council President Peter Gill using his discretion whether to extend the limit beyond 30 minutes.

Councilor Craig Mael spoke against a set time limit. “The only thing about limiting them is now they come back and they say, ‘Well, we didn’t get a chance to talk to you because you cut it back.’’’

After further discussion and an 8-1 vote (DelVento dissenting) against a 15-minute time limit, the Council approved unanimously an amendment that grants Gill the authority to determine the length of the presentation.

The decision to invite Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs representatives to the meeting followed the opening public comment period during which casino opponents addressed the Council and two councilors, Craig Mael and Rich Boyajian, criticized current Winthrop legislators, Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo and Sen. Anthony Petruccelli. At one point, former Senate President Robert Travaglini also drew the ire of Mael.

Boyajian read a letter from Gary Luderitz, Mohegan Sun vice president of operations and development, addressed to Town Manager James McKenna that stated: “In response to your recent offer of $5 million in unspecified annual mitigation to the Town of Winthrop and request for an additional $20,000 for additional study of traffic impacts, please be advised that we reject your offer and request.”

Boyajian also read a letter in which the town objected to Mohegan Sun Massachusetts (MSM) officials releasing “MSM’s version of the facts and events of the supposedly confidential negotiations.”  The councilors seemed perturbed by MSM’s “breach of confidentiality.”

Boyajian later called Mohegan Sun’s counteroffer to Winthrop’s multi-million dollar mitigation offer “insulting.”

“Mohegan Sun doesn’t believe that there is any impact on this town,” said Boyajian.

The first-term councilor-at-large elaborated on his earlier criticism of Winthrop’s legislators.

“They only seem to see the positive aspects of casino gambling,” said Boyajian. “It seems to go lockstep with what Mohegan Sun is saying: ‘Everything is rosy and there’s no negative impact.”

“We have looked at data that there will be a significant impact but they choose not to honor that,” said Boyajian. “And they [MSM] don’t want to negotiate in good faith.”

Winthrop resident Dr. Astrid Weins, one of the anti-casino speakers at the meeting, told the Council, “We are deeply concerned about the fate of this town in the event the casino comes in. In the best case scenario, the casino will be a mere nuisance, but in the worst case scenario, it will throw us back years in our communal efforts to attract young, prospering, involved individuals and families, efforts that would build on what is already being done successfully: improving schools, supporting local businesses and restaurants, restoring beaches and parks, and reviving the cultural life of this town, changes that we all want, and that we all agreed to pay for with our taxes.”

Winthrop resident John Ribeiro, who is leading a campaign to repeal the law allowing casinos in Massachusetts, said after the Council meeting, “The [April 1] meeting will give Winthrop residents an opportunity to hear the proposal and for the Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs officials an opportunity to hear from the people. That’s an important dialogue that needs to continue despite my personal stance on whether it should be here or not.”

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