Boston got one step closer to a casino at Suffolk Downs this week, when Mayor Menino signed an agreement with the racetrack that would guarantee the city $32 million each year. Still, a public vote hasn't happened yet. There's looming competition from Steve Wynn in Everett. And some, like Globe columnist Adrian Walker, are clamoring for more discussion -- from the public, and from Boston's would-be mayors.
This week, we asked the mayoral candidates to give us their vision for Suffolk Downs -- and to tell us whether or not it includes a casino. Feelings are strong, and opinions vary. Add yours to the comments, or tweet them at the hashtag #BosMayor.
Bill Walczak, @BillforBoston
I’ve spent my life trying to bring Boston up; a casino will bring Boston down, providing low wage jobs, crime, vice and addiction, right on the Blue Line. The average casino salary, a blackjack dealer, pays just over $22,000 annually, nearly the same as the average annual apartment rental cost in Boston. Instead I am proposing that we build a new Innovation District at the Suffolk Downs location. Attracting innovation economy jobs will mean attracting jobs that pay living wages. Look at the success of the South Boston Innovation District. It is successful partly because of its location near the airport, as is Suffolk Downs. Boston has become a magnet for innovation economy businesses and we need to make sure we have the locations to continue to attract those businesses and the jobs they bring. Boston is better than a casino.
Charlotte Golar-Richie, @Charlotte4Mayor
Former State Representative
My vision for Suffolk Downs mirrors its history: providing jobs and economic opportunity for both the local community and the region. Whether it’s the hospitality-tourism industry, biotech, and/or the health care sector, the site should support our economy through meaningful and long-term job creation. I am on record in support of a casino in East Boston at Suffolk Downs for the construction jobs, the permanent jobs and for the millions of dollars of procurement spending that will benefit local businesses. And, I personally support that the vote on the casino proposal be held as an East Boston only vote. The development process must ensure that resident concerns are addressed, whatever the final plan.
Dan Conley, @DanFConley
Suffolk District Attorney
I was the first candidate to propose a second innovation district at Suffolk Downs because the site has the potential to create tens of thousands of great jobs for decades to come. But whatever goes there must advance the community’s own hopes and aspirations and the city as a whole. It’s an embarrassment that no one has even had a chance to discuss other ideas, and that other candidates – especially those elected citywide - see nothing wrong with this. We aren’t a confederacy of neighborhoods. We are one Boston. While East Boston will feel the brunt of the impact, our tax base and city services will also be affected, as will downtown restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, hotels and the jobs they provide. One thing I’ve learned in my career is that if you give people all the facts, they usually make the right decisions. That’s what needs to happen here.
Mike Ross, @MikeForBoston
Boston City Councilor
I don't support casino gambling in Massachusetts. If I had been in the legislature, I would have voted against it. But we can't stick our heads in the sand. State law says casino gambling is coming to Eastern Massachusetts. Every expert I've talked to has said it's going to come down to between Everett and East Boston. The entire region is going to suffer negative consequences when a casino opens, so I support a casino in East Boston so we get the tax revenue to fund things like early childhood education, job training, and programs that mitigate the negative effects. In terms of my ideal vision, I think it would be a great spot for a mid-size stadium for the New England Revolution in the city of Boston. A new soccer stadium and family entertainment complex, developed as part of a neighborhood planning process, would be a great addition to our city, whether at this site or on the South Boston Waterfront.
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