Friday, December 26, 2008

Beginnings

As 2008 draws to a close (an Annus Horribilis by any measure) and 2009 draws closer, it's gotten me thinking about beginnings.

If you want a clear understanding of how the idea of a resort bingo hall in Middleboro began, read this article in CommonWealth (Fall 2007), it offers a very good, accurate overview of the major events in the Middleboro resort bingo hall timeline, and it is definitely worth revisiting in light of what we now know about the activities of Mr. Marshall during the final stages of obtaining federal recognition for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. It is also salutary to consider the murky beginnings of the resort bingo hall project as we consider what the impact of the guilty plea may be, on Middleboro's partnership with the tribe and its financial backers.

A reading of this article should also make clear to everyone why we need to pay attention to what our representatives are doing on our behalf. If we as a community had been paying closer attention, I argue that we would not have been in the position of feeling that anything was "inevitable" in the summer of 2007. Perhaps we would to this day retain the major bargaining chip -- the land itself. Even proponents of the project (or the subsequent deal) understand that possession of the land was the community's main leverage, and that the community sold it very cheaply.

The essay by Mr. James Lynch, included in Carverchick's post, offers a useful dissection of the truth (defined as that which is supported by evidence from the historical record) --from the assertions (defined as public utterances by tribal leaders and Middleboro advocates of the Resort Bingo Hall project) --of the historical beginnings of the present-day Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. It paints a very clear picture of the historical development of the present-day Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and is very useful and informative reading for anyone interested in the resort bingo hall issue.

Most importantly, it outlines what the historical record says about the links between the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and the land in Middleboro. In short, that there aren't any, beyond those created in 2007 by the sale of the land on Precinct Street to the tribe's financial backers.

Many reading the news over the past 2 weeks who are interested in the final outcome of the resort bingo hall project may well ask, How did the tribe get into this position? How was their then-chairman able to carry out the illegal activity that he has admitted to in his guilty plea? The recent editorial by Ms. Paula Peters, a current member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and former Cape Cod Times reporter, gives some insight into the conditions within the tribe that enabled Mr. Marshall to pursue his strategy. She calls on tribal members to put an end to those conditions once and for all on February 8. One can only hope that the members of the tribe heed her call.

It is interesting to read the counterpoint offered in Mr. Michael Decker's opinion piece in response to Ms. Peters. In it, he asks if it is indeed possible to avoid the taint of corruption, given the convoluted nature of the federal recognition process, and the financial opportunities available to those who achieve federal recognition, thanks to IGRA. He also makes some interesting observations about how the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe had fared under Massachusetts stewardship:

The Wampanoag were under the stewardship of the commonwealth of Massachusetts for 200 years. That's an undeniable fact. Subsequently, they were known as a state tribe. As far as we can see, the tribe did well under the commonwealth's stewardship. They established a town, Mashpee, learned the language, learned new trades and occupations, accepted Christianity and married settlers and immigrants for over 12 generations.

Finally, in relation to Mr. Decker's opinion piece, I'd like to bring to your attention a very interesting (if somewhat lengthy) article, again by Mr. James Lynch, giving an historical perspective on the concept of tribal sovereignty. The points Mr. Decker makes about the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe are echoed by Mr. Lynch in this article. The article appeared in the Fall 2006 supplement to the One Nation United Newsletter, and provides a clear overview of the historical development of this important concept. I'll summarize what I feel are the key points below, but Mr. Lynch's article is worth reading in its entirety.

Lynch demonstrates the fluid and cyclic nature of the political relationship between recognized tribes and the United States. During the course of the past 300+ years, he shows how tribes that were once

distinct political communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive, and having a right to all the lands within those boundaries, which is not only acknowledged, but guaranteed by the United States…

were ultimately transformed into dependent wards of individual states, subject to the jurisdiction of those states.

Lynch then states "what Congress giveth, Congress may also [taketh] away," and outlines the legal basis for this change in status. Ultimately, the evolution of the political relationship between recognized Indian tribes and the Federal government led, in 1871, to Congress ceasing to recognize Indian tribes as sovereigns by the simple expedient of denying to itself the right to recognize such relationships, via an amendment to the 1871 Indian Appropriation bill. This in its turn led to a rather important shift in the relationship between tribes, and the United States government, as explained by Lynch:

Prior to [the 1871 amendment], Congress did not exert any direct legislative control over recognized sovereign tribes. After the enactment of the 1871 amendment, Congress for the first time had the legal right to exert full plenary powers over Indian tribes that came under Federal jurisdiction.[emphasis mine]

Lynch argues that, after the 1871 amendment, "the political status of Indian tribes was on a level parallel to that of a community", but with one important distinction. Instead of being a community subordinate to a state’s jurisdiction, Indian tribes had now became communities subordinate to the plenary powers of Congress itself.

By 1901, Lynch explains, there were in effect, no sovereign Indian tribes within the United States. All Indian tribes were subject to the jurisdiction of either the individual states in which they resided, or were subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal government.

Having outlined the historical development of the concept of sovereignty as applied to Indian tribes and their relationships with the United States government, Lynch then asks, "Where does this concept of tribal sovereignty stand today?" He then goes on to explain:

Tribes today are certainly being urged towards “inherent” self-government. the [purpose of] The Bureau of Indian Affairs in its post 1978 acts of tribal recognition (which are not congressionally sanctioned) was to simply declare an Indian community as a tribe for purposes of receiving Federal benefits, not to bestow political power outside the tribal community.[emphasis mine]

Yet when the political term "government–to-government relationship" began being used to describe federal/tribe relationships it began an erosion of the intent of the 1871 Amendment, which stipulated that relations between Indian tribal communities and the Federal government [were] to be regulated only by contracts, not treaties, and only with the approval of Congress.

According to Lynch, erroneous use of the term 'sovereign' began to appear in [descriptions of] tribal ‘community’ powers. "Most notably its usage began creeping beyond Cohen’s incorrect concept of ‘inherent sovereignty’"

Lynch explains that the concept of ‘inherent sovereignty’ was developed by Cohen in his seminal Handbook of Federal Indian Law, published in 1941. In Lynch's view, "The concept is roughly synonymous with just being a ‘little bit pregnant.’" Lynch argues,“It appears that Cohen ignored the implication of the term sovereignty and its notions of supreme or absolute authority.” He states that Cohen may have been misled by the erroneous “sovereign power more or less absolute” concept articulated in United States v. Montoya, and that Cohen ignored the findings regarding the absolute nature of sovereignty in Cherokee v. Georgia. According to Lynch, Cohen apparently did not fully understand the intent of Congress when it enacted the 1871 amendment: the political reduction of tribes from entities having sovereignty to the status of communities, and the establishment of Congress’ right to exercise complete plenary power over those tribes as communities (in place of what had been the right of individual states to exercise plenary power over tribes located within their borders). In developing his concept of ‘inherent sovereignty’, Lynch states that Cohen also ignored the 1886 US. v. Kagama decision. Lynch goes on, “If Cohen had instead framed his concept as ‘inherent self government’ [instead of ‘inherent sovereignty’] he would have been right on the mark.”

Lynch argues that there is no basis for the application of Cohen’s flawed concept to of inherent sovereignty to tribal community powers, he then states: "it appears that a conscious act of promoting a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ is in play. In other words if you repeat something that is not true often enough it gains the aura of truth." We in Middleboro are intimately familiar with "self fulfilling prophecy" - we've seen it in action for the past 19 months.

Lynch goes on to conclude that the concept of sovereignty is not the only thing at work. There is also "tension between states rights and [the rights of] of the Federal government.:"

Lynch concludes:

On the basis of the preceding arguments, by recognizing a tribe, the Federal government is not declaring a tribe ‘sovereign.’ It is merely removing this recognized Indian community and its lands from state jurisdiction and placing it under the plenary authority and control of Congress. No sovereign nation has been created. So we come back to the statement or rhetoric, “we are a sovereign nation.”

As Lynch says:

Really?

Things to ponder as the old year passes, and a new one dawns.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Casino Capitalism, Anyone?

Thank you Bumpkin, for posting the vids of Chairman Bond discussing the guilty plea and his perception of what it may mean for the continued enforceability of the IGA as a contract between the Town of Middleboro and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. I remain bemused at Chariman Bond's willingness to set aside Mr. Marshall's concealment of a rape conviction, and lying to a government body as "personal" matters, completely separate from and non-indicative of how Mr. Marshall might discharge a public trust, or how he might interpret "good faith," but I digress.

I received something interesting in the mail today, a letter from StopPredatoryGambling.Their focus is combatting the proliferation of aggressive advertising for state lottery product. In it, Mr. Les Bernal, their Executive Director, made some interesting observations: "in the midst of a global economic crisis, plummeting pension values, unaffordable health care, high food costs, and millions of American families facing foreclosure ::Fiferstone raises hand:: --state government...continues to agressively advertise predatory lottery products."

In our case, we might substitute -"our chairman of the Board of Selectmen continues to state his faith in the revenue potential of a predatory gambling enterprise."

Mr. Bernal goes on to say, "This is not about whether people can gamble, or about people playing poker on Friday nights...It is about the practice of using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit [that] has become the preferred method for governments to raise money for public services." Remember that stewardship thing? I think may have mentioned it...

Mr. Bernal's letter also made another interesting and fairly disturbing point. There are unsettling similarities between the present addiction of governments (large and small) to gambling proceeds as a revenue source, and the feeding frenzy that preceded the subprime mortgage meltdown. "AIG and Lehman Brothers executives were part of what has been recently called "casino capitalism", using predatory practices and financial gimmicks to promote an illusion of free money, at the expense of unsuspecting Americans." Speaking of the subprime mortgage mess, and casinos, and capitalism, and meltdown, Nevada currently has the highest foreclosure rate in the country. Las Vegas, long the glittering jewel in the crown of the U.S. casino industry, and a real-estate success story, now has an astonishing 48% of mortages on single-family houses in its metropolitan area underwater (the owner owes more than the house is worth). By contrast the national average for single family houses in which the owner owes more than the house is worth, is 18%. That's definitely good, but certainly it's better than something approaching "1 in 2."

As Mr. Bernal says, "Why would anyone think a government run like a casino {or for the benefit of of a casino, for that matter} is going to turn out any better?"--emphasis mine

Given the recent revelations about incomes earned by tribal leaders, and Mr. Marshall's antics leading up to federal recognition, some of the things that I'm annoyed [read mad as hell] about are:

1. The lack of contingency in the IGA. Any agreement of the magnitude of the IGA should have had a contingency spelled out explicitly within it, as a matter of course. What happens if, for whatever reason, the agreed-upon enterprise does not go forward? Most divorce and separation agreements (the effective ones, anyway) have a contingency of some kind. For example, what happens to monies set aside for college education for a dependent child if, for whatever reason, that child does not attend college? What do the parties agree to do in that event? Last summer (after the meeting at which the vote was taken and the IGA signed) I pointed out to Mr. Bond that it appeared to me that the agreement lacked a contingency, and I wondered if that might be a problem. Now Mr. Bond has articulated publicly that this could be a problem, or at the very least, that the town may now be running more risk than it factored into its calculus when it decided to accept the proffered annual mitigation payment and enter into the agreement in the first place (gosh, that sounds depressingly familiar).

I feel sorry for the people who grudgingly supported the casino idea because they thought it was "better than low income housing." Given the fact that there is no contingency in the IGA, and the fact that the land is owned by a private entity (Trading Cove at Mashpee is an equity partnership and is definitely not the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe) , which has a perfect right to dispose of the property as and how it sees fit. Those who sought to prevent the use of the land for low-income housing by voting in favor of signing the IGA may very well find that the land on Precinct street is ultimately used for exactly that which they sought to prevent with their vote at the TMFH. If such a thing comes to pass, those folks have my condolences, and I will welcome my new neighbors to the neighborhood. After all, it's just a short walk from my house.

2. The concept that we can now negotiate the mitigation upward, to what it should have been in the first place. I'm sorry, but no amount of money will offset the damage this thing will do to us if it is "successful." Conversely, no figure anyone chooses to write on a piece of paper will actually translate into money in the town's bank account if the enterprise fails to succeed because there are too many others of its kind in existence already, it is too similar to the all the others in all important respects, and if the others are overleveraged, and resort to cannibalizing each other in a grim effort to stay alive in a shrinking economy. In short, if Middleboro builds it, who's to say anyone will come? Gamblers seem to be staying away from the enhanced, hyperthyroid Connecticuit casinos in droves. Lurk on Indianz.com and check out the reservation casino news from Indian Country - in three words, it's not good. I also wonder what will happen to Michigan's 20 and counting casinos (and their deep-pockets financial backers) when the auto industry finally collapses. I wonder how they, and the state, are going to fare? Probably not well.

3. The continued reliance upon legal experts enmeshed with the gambling industry. Nuf said. I think we ought not to draw from the same poisoned well whence was drawn the water for the first batch of Kool-Aid. At the very least, we need a second opinion, from someone prepared to advocate on behalf of the town, and preferably someone who has some expertise in civil and criminal liability exposure connected with financial malfeasance. I agree with Bumpkin that that no one in our town government is guilty of wrongdoing, but again, what is the risk and exposure to the town and its officers, given the antics of the former tribal chairman and any other tribal officers that he may name? Middleboro needs a legal advocate who can effectively gauge that risk. I'm not convinced that Mr. Whittlesey is thus equipped.

4. The continued silence of the current Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Leadership. Ms. Andrews, you have some explaining to do, most of all to the members of the tribe. But by all means, maintain your silence. What is it that a spokesperson does, again? Mr. Hendricks, why are Ms. Bingham and her son Steven not reinstated to full tribal rights and priviledges immediately? Has the tribe not spoken on this matter, and was she not right after all?

In my very humble opinion, it's time to stake the "magical casino" vampire for the final time, bury it, and then sow salt on the ground where we've buried it. There's some land on Precinct street where such a healing ceremony might be carried out, but we'll have to get permission from the property owner first. I'm definitely in favor of job creation and economic development. I was out of work most of this past summer, and in November my husband was laid off after 15 years at the same place of business. However, neither he, nor I, believe in the tooth fairy anymore. We never believed in the casino fairy either, not even when he stood before us in the High School auditorium, and promised us that anyone needing a job would find one at the Resort-Bingo-hall.

I firmly believe that we're not going to achieve economic development for Middleboro by revisiting our now-soured deal with the devil. If we do that we'll have no one but ourselves to blame. Ms. Bingham no longer needs to try to tell us exactly what sort of people we're dealing with. Now we know. The disgraced former tribal chairperson has convicted himself out of his own rascally mouth rather than face a jury of his peers. He will cooperate fully or do serious time. He will tell the federal investigators everything, and omit nothing.

The casino fairy and his magical enterprise were a fever-dream. It's time to wake up. We have to give up the idea that any one enterprise will rescue us in one fell swoop, from the effects of decades-long crisis management and shortsightedness. By all means, we should hope and pray for the best, but the hard, cold reality is that we must arrive at a consensus on how we want our town to propsper, and then be willing to work hard, together, to achieve that common purpose.

To continue to believe in this "easy money" fairy-tale of a mega-destination-resort-whatever (whether reservation or commercial) or that the legalization of class III gambling will cause the Town of Middleboro"get well" fiscally, is to sow the wind. If we continue selfishly and destructively to prey on the weakness of others for our own profit, we will reap what we sow. ...the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

I may not believe in the tooth fairy, and I'm definitely much too old for Santa Claus, but I do believe in community preservation. I plan to support the CPA. Better the CPA than the IGA. The CPA, to me, is a windmill. Who knows? In an economic whirlwind, windmills just might prove useful.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lord how the money rolls in

This is nothing short of obscene.


I am utterly disgusted, but not at all surprised. Conflict of interest much?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Loophole Narrows

The latest clarification of Section 20 of the IGRA will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to claim the 500 or so acres in Middleboro as an initial reservation, primarily because of provision (d) of this newly-revised section (emphasis mine):
(d) If a tribe does not have a proclaimed reservation on the effective date of these regulations {5/23/08 – fiferstone}, to be proclaimed an initial reservation under this exception, the tribe must demonstrate the land is located within the State or States where the Indian tribe is now located, as evidenced by the tribe's governmental presence and tribal population, and within an area where the tribe has significant historical connections and one or more of the following modern connections to the land:
(1) The land is near where a significant number of tribal members reside; or
(2) The land is within a 25-mile radius of the tribe's headquarters or other tribal governmental facilities that have existed at that location for at least 2 years at the time of the application for land-into-trust; or
(3) The tribe can demonstrate other factors that establish the tribe's current connection to the land.

The Mashpee Wampanoag application for land into trust for the Middleboro parcel fails on all of the points above. I’ll examine them point-by-point:

(1) The land in Middleboro is NOT where a significant number of tribal members reside. Most of the members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reside in and around Mashpee. I will now quote the relevant sections from the Mashpee Wampanoag’s application to take lands in both Mashpee and in Middleboro into trust as the “initial reservation” now under review in the Department of the Interior. In the executive summary of the Mashpee Wampanoag application to take land into trust as their initial reservation, page 7, paragraph 2, the following is stated:

…The tribe currently has 1,531 members, of whom over half—826—live in Barnstable County (i.e. within approximately 10 miles of the Town of Mashpee). Another 88 tribal members live within Plymouth County (which includes Middleborough) and 70 live in neighboring Bristol County for a total of 984 members living within an approximate 50 mile radius of Mashpee Town.

The tribal population pie chart looks like this


(numbers are the number of tribal members indicated in the application for each county, the “Elsewhere” figure has been arrived at by subtracting the sum total number of tribal members residing in both Barnstable and Plymouth counties from the total number of tribal members cited in the above quote from the application).

I don’t think you can call 5% of the tribe’s overall membership (the 88 tribal members living in Plymouth County, which includes Middleboro) a “significant number of tribal members” as required in item (1). However, you can call the 53% of the tribe’s overall membership (the 826 who live in Barnstable County and in and around Mashpee), a “significant number.”

(2) The Land in Middleboro is not located within a 25-mile radius of the location of tribal headquarters (483 Great Neck Road in Mashpee). The land in Middleboro is located within 44.53 miles of the location of the tribal headquarters. The Tribe’s application includes a Mapquest printout that gives the distance between the tribal headquarters at 483 Great Neck Road and the Middleboro parcel at 438 Plymouth Street as 43.46 miles, the application also includes a Google map printout that gives that same distance as 40.2 miles, see application, tab 10 for both maps. None of the maps provided by the Tribe as documentation of the distance between their tribal headquarters and the Middleboro parcel indicate a distance within the new 25-mile radius guideline.

The Middleboro parcel is also not within a 25-mile radius of the location of any of the Tribe’s other governmental facilities in Mashpee. See the application, tab 7, Chart—“Lands to Be Taken Into Trust in Mashpee” showing parcels and maps for lands to be taken into trust in Mashpee.

(3) Other Factors: Although the tribe can point to the IGA signed by the now-deposed rapist-congressional liar and the Middleboro BOS as an “other factor” that establishes a current connection for the tribe to the land in Middleboro, that connection can and should be challenged. At the same meeting at which the town voted to allow the Board of Selectmen to sign the IGA, it also indicated, by a majority vote, that it did not want to have a casino in Middleboro.
Finally, the most important issue is that the land in Middleboro DOES have significant and documentable historic ties to the Massachuset tribe. It was part of the 26 Men’s Purchase parcel acquired in 1661 from Wamatuck, a direct descendent of Chickataubut of the Massachuset tribe.

Shown on the map below are the 26 Men’s Purchase and the area occupied by the Initial Reservation & Destination Resort Casino, superimposed over a map of Modern-day Middleboro. (Thanks to CDPLakeville for permission to use this graphic)


Obviously, the 539 acre +/- parcel the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe wishes to take as an initial reservation in Middleboro is located within the boundaries of the 26 Men’s Purchase acquired from Wamatuck of the Massachuset tribe. For this reason alone, it should be impossible for the Department of the Interior to approve the Mashpee Wampanoag request to take the land in Middleboro into trust for an initial reservation and Destination Resort-Bingo Hall.

Therefore, the Middleboro “initial reservation” fails on all 3 of the points outlined in Section 20:

(1)The overwhelming majority of the members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe live in and around Mashpee, not in and around the proposed “initial reservation” in Middleboro. A fact stipulated in several places within the application for land into trust submitted by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe themselves.

(2) The land in Middleboro lies well beyond the 25-mile radius limit from the location of the Tribe’s headquarters or other governmental facilities imposed by the newly-adopted guidelines in Section 20. This application is currently under review and must meet these new, more stringent Section 20 guidelines.

(3) No only do the Mashpee Wampanoag have no significant historical and cultural connections to the proposed land in Middleboro, and not only do they not claim to have any significant historical and cultural connections to that land within their DOI application, they are also overstepping the historic and cultural connections of another tribe in making their claim on the Middleboro land. Finally, the Mashpee Wampanoag’s only modern connection to the Middleboro parcel is tenuous at best and remains sharply contested.

It should now be clear to all why the hurry last summer. The hope of the backers and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was that the land into trust process could be well underway (with the initial DOI review completed?) before the revisions to Section 20 were signed into law. However, the horse has left the barn, the new standards have been approved and are now part of IGRA, and the Mashpee Wampanoag’s application must meet them. When it comes to the Middleboro land, it should also be abundantly clear that as far as the land in Middleboro is concerned, it cannot.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

TOWN MEETING CONTINUES ON MAY 15

FOLKS - WE GOT THROUGH ARTICLES 1-19 AT TOWN MEETING ON 5/13 UNTIL THE MOTION WAS MADE, SECONDED, AND PASSED, TO RECESS THE MEETING.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: PASSAGE OF A BALANCED BUDGET; DEFEAT OF ARTICLE 14 (LOCAL ADOPTION OF 43D); INDEFINITE TABLING OF ARTICLE 15 (LOCAL ADOPTION OF CHAPTER 43D EXPEDITED PERMITTING - COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT DISTRICT SOUTHEAST OF MIDDLEBOROUGH ROTARY)

TOWN MEETING WILL RESUME WITH ARTICLES 20-43 REMAINING TO BE ACTED UPON. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU GET THERE AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD. THERE ARE SEVERAL IMPORTANT ARTICLES WHOSE OUTCOME WILL DIRECTLY IMPACT YOU.

TIME: 7:00 P.M. TIL ?
PLACE: MIDDLEBOROUGH HIGH SCHOOL
PLEASE ATTEND AND VOTE

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Town Meeting Warrant Article 30 - This Land is Your Land, No Now It’s My Land


===============================================
UPDATE:

Article 30 passed unanimously, after having been amended to include a conservation restriction. The Gibbs land has been preserved in perpetuity as open space, and my thanks go to the Town Planner, the residents of Thompson Street, and the voters who wrote and called to voice concerns about the future of this property. Thank you one and all for a win-win resolution--Fiferstone

=================================================



The "architecturally and historically sensitive" area that I live in is in danger of being toasted by a bingo hall at one end, and creeping expansion of Oak Point at the other end…and both may become nearer neighbors to me than I originally thought.


On Friday night, Judy Gibbs advised several people in CasinoFacts of the latest developments on the purchase and sale of her land. Her own words tell the sad tale best.

Dear friends,

I can now tell you what Dick & I have been doing for the last several weeks. We have had many meetings with our lawyer and Timothy Hashem, (TNT Excavating), and his lawyer Craig Medeiros. Tim is the person who was buying our land, however we have to let the town have first refusal, this is a legal deal that we have always known and always agreed with, if this is what the town residents vote for so be it.
No problem!! We're just as happy to have it for conservation/protected land & still sell.

HOWEVER, after hearing from two different people some weeks ago, that Ruth had her own plans to have town buy our land, (again OK with us, no surprise, this is what we signed up for), and then in 5yrs. sell it to the tribe!! NOW I HAVE A PROBLEM, being a member of cfo.org since April/May of 07 to fight this casino which I still am fighting now, as of May of 08, this news ate away at me, day & night, I have been sick, it has bothered me so much to know not only were they planning to give my land to the tribe, but to make it even worse Ruth and the BOS were not being honest with the town residents, this fact was & never has been given to the residents. Dick, to save my sanity, so I could finally sleep through the night, decided that we would see about rescinding the "deal" meaning NO ONE BUYS OUR LAND. We took it off the market. We would let it sit and be OURS, no money, but no casino will ever own it!!!!

After spending much money, going back & forth w/Tim, & lawyers, (Tim who has been wonderful and very understanding), FINALLY, legal letter was ready & FINALLY everyone signed off on the purchasing sale agreement, so now our lawyer could legally rescind the whole deal, and FINALLY the letter was ready this Thursday morning so Dick picked up the 4 letters that needed to go to 4 different dept.'s to be legal and delivered them, well 3, the BOS room was closed & locked for the afternoon, so he went back Friday morning & successfully dropped it off. FINALLY!!

HOWEVER, back up, Thur. afternoon, our lawyer received a call from Dan Murray, Town Counsel, the town will go ahead and buy the land anyway. In the legal document for chapter 61 land, the process for selling has two short lines in the part of "the sale of" the town will proceed anyway and use this confusing piece to legally purchase it anyway. Our lawyer who does this on a daily basis was very surprised that the town will really push this for only 12.2 acres (when he knows they don't have the money) and we're not going to sell it anyway, it would sit there in chapter 61 as it has been for the last 20 yrs, US paying the taxes on it, and now the town will buy it and the residents will be paying taxes on it, it didn't make sense to him, unless this is a very rich town!! He knew a casino could, his words, possibly come to Middleboro. but didn't put the two together, casino - our land, Ruth's plan. I told him the "whole" story, what I have been told by these two reliable people who are on the "inside." When we first started this saga I didn't feel it necessary to tell him about the casino & Ruth, small town politics wouldn't matter to him on the why, just asked him to do legally what we had to do to get out of agreement w/poor Tim.

Now, our last word from the town, via Dan Murray, it looks like they are confident they have the votes, they will purchase our land!! I wanted all of you at CFO board of directors to know, we tried to take it away from the town by taking it off the market, meaning Tim loses, we lose, but it was that important to me ONLY because of the REASONS THEY ARE PURCHASING THE LAND. YES I DO BELIEVE THE CASINO IS NOT COMING!! BUT, I COULDN'T LET THIS CORRUPTED BOS/RUTH, GET AWAY WITH THE LIES AND SUCH DISHONESTY, WE WERE WILLING TO GIVE UP THE MONEY TO DO THIS, AND KEEP PAYING THE TAXES, (GRANTED IT IS NOT A LOT), BUT IT WOULD BE "OURS" & NOT THEIRS!! AND I COULD NOW SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT. SO I THOUGHT.

I have one last thing to say, yes Tim was going to build houses. Before we decided to sell, we had to know how many, after surveyors, engineers, conservation people had been all over our land, the count was 5, with a possibility of 6, but very unlikely. That didn't seem like many to us, as our neighbor on the right side of us, Bonfigleoni already has the OK for 21 houses, which at this time he only completed 3, it appears he has started building again and will eventually in time complete the rest. Now, on our left side, we have the owner of Oak Point, who, we strongly feel, has already purchased all of the Cumberland Farms land from the corner of Plain St. right up to the edge of the Blanchard farm, (in our opinion this will be Darmen's next purchase), for many, you know this to be true, many mobile homes!! So ok, we shouldn't build 5 more houses, but why don't they stop the growth of Oak Point, which is now filtering down Thompson St? How can Ruth justify 12.2 acres for conservation when the town gave away many more acres, the Striar land, to casino backers!! so it's bad to have 5 homes as neighbors but it's OK to have a casino as a neighbor?? it's Ok for Darmen to "keep" growing w/huge amounts of homes? on Ruth's beloved rural Thompson St. ?



Fiferstone here. How can the Board of Selectmen and the Town Planner justify forced acquisition of 12.2 acres from Dick and Judy Gibbs for “conservation” of open space, when the town practically gave away 10 times as much existing open space to foreign reservation bingo hall backers so that more wetland could be lost, and when it has thus far approved every expansion of Oak Point to date? As Judy says, it’s OK to have a bingo hall as a neighbor in a rural-residential zoned designated historic district, away from the proposed “commercial development area” and in the middle of a watershed. It's also OK to grant repeated approvals for the seemingly-endless expansion of Oak Point. But by all means, let’s not have 5 more houses on Thompson Street.




Well in my heart we did the right thing, we tried, the letters were delivered, we have our receipts for each one, we so wanted to NOT let them, get away with being a casino town, we know they are purchasing our land for the wrong reasons!! We will have our money, but I'm sad about who it will come from, the residents.



To me the HUGE point in this, is that the Town Counsel (at the behest of the Town Planner and the BOS) is going to bulldoze the rights of Dick and Judy Gibbs as a property owners, in all probability so that the proposed reservation bingo hall can have a bigger parking lot or an access road or a sewage pumping station or what-have-you five years from now. Because the Gibbs land land is chapter 61 land, town counsel is going to invoke a rarely-used clause to force Judy and Richard to make a sale they no longer wish to make—to anyone—for any purpose, and we are going to pay for that sale. Think such a thing cannot happen to you because your property is not Chapter 61 property? Think again! Remember the City of New London in Connecticut? (a state which offers two examples of how casino development ought not to go), New London trampled the rights of longstanding property owners in Fort Trumbull, a neighborhood, in favor of a private developer, in the name of “revitalization,” the property owners resisted the taking of their property by eminent domain, and the case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the city and the developer, with some dissenting opinions. The net result for New London? Several lifelong residents of Fort Trumbull, who owned their homes outright and who paid their taxes, were done out of their homes. Yet, instead of “revitalization,” the city got nothing. The project for which they were evicted never materialized (does that sound familiar? It ought to. This reservation bingo hall has as good a chance of coming to fruition as the New London revitalization). The city of New London created some lovely attractive nuisances (see the picture at the beginning of this post), and the developer defaulted.



Given the precedent set by the Supreme Court in 2005, what chance would a homeowner here have, who stands in the way of a private developer that this town wishes to partner with in the name of economic development and revitalization? Slim to none, and slim left town. Unless you vote against article 30 on Tuesday, May 13, at the High School, starting at 7:00 p.m. PLEASE PEOPLE, COME TO TOWN MEETING AND STAY AS LONG AS IT TAKES TO VOTE NO ON ARTICLE 30! This bingo hall madness must stop.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Peace Breaks Out??

Please check out the following post on cranberrycynic's blog, in which it is pointed out that the comments on the news story on WickedLocal: Weymouth are themselves illuminating. Judging from these comments, many of the commenters who have identified themselves as members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe appear to condone physical violence and attempted destruction of private property as a means of defending their spiritual heritage against exploitation and profiteering.



I have read the information available on the web about the person giving the demonstration at which the brawl erupted. I followed the link provided by one of the commenters, to a site that watches and reports fraudulent new age practitioners and I checked out the foundation's website. I would be hesitant to patronize the services offered by the foundation. For one thing, their prices are indeed awfully high. I can see why Native Americans would find this foundation and its program director and president deeply offensive and repugnant, but there are ways to register one's displeasure that do not involve violence. How about an e-mail campaign to area school superintendents, asking them not to patronize this foundation's services and advising them of the issues you have with this foundation and its director and president? How about offering an alternative program of instruction to area schools as a public service or community outreach endeavor?



As someone who could soon be a near-neighbor to the Mashpee Wampanoag Bingo Hall in Middleboro, I hope that the events of April 4 in Weymouth are not a harbinger of things to come.

Slot Machines - Pay No Attention to That Man Behind The Curtain

The legislature will soon vote on Rep. Flynn's two bills to bring machine gambling to area racetracks, including Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park. In Indian Country, several tribes have gone on record opposing the "bright line" that National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Phil Hogen plans to draw, to reinforce the distinction between class II electronic bingo games and class III slots.

Look into machine gambling, and how these machines are designed to separate the player from their money as swiftly and efficiently as possible, and I am confident that you will come to the conclusion that introducing machine gambling to Massachusetts will likewise have negative effects on hundreds of individuals and by extension, the economy. This negative effect will more than offset any "benefit" of revenue captured from taxing this income stream. This video is very instructive and quite easy to understand



video

Modern computerized slot machines with their virtual reels and their reel-mapping practices are inherently deceptive and ultimately cause harm to the consumer. They hide the rules of the game, and the true odds of winning from the player while appearing to be transparent (i.e., to behave in exactly the same manner as the earlier mechanical devices they appear to emulate). These machines are designed to optimize the money captured from the player, ultimately distorting the player’s perceptions of their odds of winning, and encouraging the player to chase and play to extinction – until all of their cash, and their available credit, is exhausted.

Equally if not more troubling is the fact that practical oversight and consumer protection standards are currently up to the manufacturers, and their customer – the gaming industry – to set.

All expansion of slots should be halted until the Federal Trade Commission can investigate their legality. Electronic gaming machines would not pass muster if held to the standards of consumer protection laws, but if they are approved and regulated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, they become exempt from MA state consumer protection law. Please, tell your elected officials that you do not want to open up the economy of the Commonwealth to an industry that will not have to abide by our consumer protection laws. Ask them to vote against Rep. Flynn's slot machine bills.

I thank you for your support.

Friday, April 25, 2008

We Got The Jack

Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it
George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense

The information provided below can be found on the Nemasket Forum, in posts made by several members between 2/18/08 and 2/19/08. On the surface, this may seem a useless rehashing of a past that can never be altered, but again, I beg your patience. In April 2007, events in the Middleboro casino timeline began to come to the notice of the residents of Middleboro and surrounding towns. Now, in April 2008, the search committee for the new Town Manager has narrowed the field from 12 candidates, to four finalists. Of those four, two merit close consideration and scrutiny. One finalist has alleged connections to gambling interests, and a second finalist leaves his current post as Marshfield Town Manager under a cloud: a judgment against Marshfield in a high-profile discrimination suit. Given these realities, I think it is useful to review the history of how we got to where we are, in the biggest development undertaking in Middleboro history. It is especially instructive to review the role played by the Town Manager in the process. Finally, we should try to understand the lessons to be learned from this recent history, so that we are not in fact condemned to repeat it.

In March 2007, the Town Manager requested to speak with the representatives of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, following the Tribe’s achievement of federal recognition. The Board of Selectmen agreed to have the Town Manager speak to the representatives of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. According to one BOS member, the Town Manager’s mandate was limited to exploring terms of an agreement between the tribe and the town in a hypothetical “what if” fashion. At the same time, the Board of Selectmen was to seek, and engage, expert legal help versed not only in real estate law, but also in reservation gaming, in preparation for negotiations with the tribe in earnest. That was what was supposed to happen.

However, as we all know, that is not what happened. Instead, the Town Manager and Attorney Witten negotiated actual terms with the Tribe, despite the limitations imposed by the BOS. The Town Manager was told by the BOS not to negotiate an agreement between the town and the tribe, but that is precisely what he did. Then, in April of 2007, the Town Manager proposed auctioning off the former Striar property. Yet this same plot of land had come up in the discussions in March between the Town Manager and the representatives of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, BEFORE the public auction was proposed.

I believe that we all can agree that the sale of this land before details of an agreement between the town and the tribe were worked out really weakened the town’s bargaining position. This land was “the key to the kingdom”, the board of selectmen voted unanimously on 4/9/07 to sell the land at public auction, although Adam Bond has stated that he argued for public discussion of this particular sale, and sales of town-owned land in general, during open session of the Selectmen’s meeting before taking a vote on the sale. Unfortunately, despite his efforts, a public discussion in open BOS session did not take place. Instead, the vote was taken, was unanimous in favor of selling the land, and the land was sold to the highest bidder, who happened to be acting on behalf of the financial backer who had bankrolled the tribe’s application for federal recognition. Then, after the sale of the land to the tribe’s financial backer, the town “negotiated” with the tribe, after the land was already in the hands of the tribe’s backer, and after the major compensation components of the agreement had already been worked out between the tribe and the Town Manager, acting (outside of his mandate) on behalf of the town.

Did the tribe want and need that 500+ acre parcel in Middleboro so badly that they would have agreed to provide real compensation (2% of slot revenue plus other fees) in exchange for the signatures of the Middleboro BOS on an intergovernmental agreement and in exchange for ownership of that land? We will never know. Instead, we have the 7 million, or 11 million payment (depending on who’s reading the agreement), and the payments in lieu of room tax. There is some speculation that the 7 million figure is roughly twice what the parcel would have earned in tax revenue, as commercial property.

Nocasino, one of the members of Nemasket Forum, ably articulates the frustrations several people on both sides of the issue have felt with this process:

Many residents feel we were purposely denied an opportunity to question and to research and understand the casino issue. We feel we were put into a no-win position by our elected officials without input from us. This will always bring resentment that will not be resolved until the facts are available.


Several questions still remain:

Will the real costs of hosting this facility more than offset the negotiated payments to the town?

Will every issue facing the town be viewed through the lens of the casino? The casino has become the “cowbird” issue, distracting us from considering and acting on other pressing matters.

Will the revenue stream provided by this enterprise guarantee fiscal responsibility? In my experience, increased revenue does not necessarily bring fiscal restraint. Fiscal restraint typically precedes increased revenue!

Our state representatives oppose the plan to construct this destination resort casino on reservation land, which is presently undeveloped watershed. The speaker of the house successfully opposed the governor’s casino bill and defeated legalization of class III gambling, mostly on the basis of the costs of gambling and the projected negative impacts of the expansion of gambling on the state's economy.

Until and unless class III gambling is legal in Massachusetts, a tribal gaming enterprise cannot be commercially viable, especially given the existing competition and its present expansion “arms race." Finally, more and more surrounding towns and communities, which will share the impacts but not necessarily the mitigation, are publicly voicing their opposition to this project.

So, what lessons can be taken away from this recent history? Two immediately come to my mind:

Lesson 1: How do we as a town, (or our representatives, the Board of Selectmen) outline the scope of the Town Manager’s role,and (equally if not more important) what lies beyond that scope? How do we prevent a Town Manager from exceeding that scope in the future, both in the ordinary course of town business, and in the course of extraordinary events? How do we insure that, in the future, no one individual can deny residents at large the opportunity to question, research, and understand the major issues facing them, prior to action being taken on those issues?

Lesson 2: How do we insure that the public always has the opportunity (as is its right) to discuss and consider the sale of town assets, before a vote is taken by our elected representatives, to sell such assets?

Food for thought, as we consider the finalist candidates for Town Manager.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On Stewardship

Recently I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what this word means, since I’ve heard it brought up in several contexts over the past year or so. Repeatedly, it has been invoked by those who support the building of a Casino on reservation land in Middleboro. They believe that the casino will be a good thing for the local economy, in large measure because the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe are “good stewards.”

This begs the question, what does stewardship mean?
Per Merriam Webster’s dictionary online, the word dates from the 15th century, and has two main meanings:
1. The office, duties, and obligations of a steward.
2. The conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care, stewardship of our natural resources.

Most people, when they invoke stewardship in support of the casino, have definition #2 in mind. One issue I have with the use of the idea of stewardship in support of the casino enterprise is that stewardship appears to me to be on the endangered species list in the current ethical environment. We are becoming increasingly unable to see, and plan, long term. We are fixated on the short term solution for the immediate crisis; on achieving the short term gain no matter what its long-term cost. We unfailingly believe that, once we’ve got ours (or have arranged to get it), the future will take care of itself.

Traditionally, in the corporate world, management embodied the concept of stewardship. Although the latest bottom line was always important, a manager of an enterprise was also expected (if not required) to take a longer range view and insure that the enterprise would survive beyond the current fiscal year. That was a given.

That given has eroded completely. Take Enron as a case-in-point. Where was the “stewardship” of the Enron executives who willfully and knowingly colluded in fiscal mismanagement and outright fraud, leading to the destruction of the organization, and severe hardship to thousands of people whose only crime was to come in to work every day and do their jobs? When personal short-term gain came into conflict with the long-term needs and health of that corporate entity, and the long-term welfare of its rank and file employees, the “stewards” of that enterprise repeatedly chose their personal gain, and devil take the organization and it workers. The result played out in front of us in news stories about the collapse, and regular updates on the court proceedings. The employees who lost not only their jobs, but also thousands of their dollars in the collapse of the company were simply out of luck. They backed a losing horse, they shot the dice and came up craps, choose your gambling metaphor.

Only they weren’t the ones that were gambling, were they?

On the surface this may appear to have nothing to do with the proposed reservation Casino in Middleboro, but please bear with me. Consider the recent agreement between the Town of Mashpee and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in this context. The Tribe has promised not to seek any private or town-owned land, and promises not to build a class II or class III casino in Mashpee. The Tribe did retain the right to offer bingo in Mashpee at the level allowed by Massachusetts law. In exchange, the town of Mashpee agreed to support of the tribe’s application to take 140 acres in Mashpee (which acres are currently not on the town’s tax rolls) into trust as a reservation, which would also (presumably) place the land beyond the jurisdiction of local zoning ordinances.

The agreement is intended to protect the Town of Mashpee from further land claims by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe as an entity (and presumably, by members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe as individuals), and from the construction of a destination resort-casino in Mashpee. Neither the residents of Mashpee, nor the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are content to trust in each other's “good stewardship” of their relationship without the underpinning of a negotiated and (they hope) legally-binding instrument. Given the sometimes adversarial relationship between the Wampanoag Tribe and the Town of Mashpee in recent history, especially with regard to land ownership, this reluctance is understandable.

Consider also the governor’s championing of class III gambling in Massachusetts in the context of stewardship as defined above. Is it “careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care” to insert into a budget money that cannot actually be collected until several years have elapsed, to spend money on a study that will be at least a year out of date by the time the issue of commercial gambling in Massachusetts is again placed before the legislature, and to use wildly-inflated estimates of jobs and revenue in one’s projections in support of expanded gambling in Massachusetts?

Finally, consider the recent history of the Middleboro Casino proposal, the development of the Intergovernmental Agreement, and ponder the role of the Board of Selectmen as stewards of the residents of Middleboro. Res Ipsa Loquitur.

Please, let us not blindly place our faith in “stewardship.” As an ethical concept that actually motivates the actions of people in power, it is going the way of the Dodo bird, as a shield against exploitation it is a cobweb.