Casino Lovers and City Haters: A Case Study in Local Hypocrisy
I spend a lot of time pointing out disconnects between what is said and what is done, between what works and what doesn’t, what is true and what is false, what is rational and sound versus what is irrational and foolish. So it comes as no surprise to see a torrent of disconnects — sheer hypocrisy — arising from the casino initiative.
Before you dismiss my ‘city haters’ comment as hyperbole, please review the list below and then see if you can draw anything but the same conclusion.
Here we go:
Residential Development: For the casino, we see absolutely zero pushback to the building of 100 to 200 residential villas as part of the development. I have yet to read or hear a single word ridiculing or disparaging residential development as unworkable, impossible, yada yada. On the other hand, when other developers propose residential development or repurposing, you hear a million reasons why no one wants to live here and no one can possibly afford to live in a home above the median home price in the city. Just imagine the local uproar if an outside developer came looking to build ‘villas’ — editorial ink would run red and radios would smolder. And of course, our local politicos would make quick work of derailing any effort citing their well worn mantra that “No senior wants to live in a villa”, and hence it is a project that must never see the light of day.
Section 8: For the casino, the smear that the housing will be used for Section 8 housing is not even mentioned. For any other developer, no matter how the project is funded or positioned, the end state is always secretly Section 8 housing. And for that, the development must be stopped.
Risk : For the casino, the risks appear to be wholly ignored or dismissed. In other words, the casino supporters see nothing but upside with negligible downside. I find it more than amusing that a $250 million project with a developer admitting some of the financial risks gets none of the usual pushback on its risks that any other project, even with much smaller investments and risks, would face. Funny how the risks in the Chalmers project were viewed as nothing but negative downsides while the risks with the casino are viewed as nothing but upside.
Profits: For the casino, it is more than clear that the investors and developers plan on making money, likely quite a bit if you look at the $250 million investment. On the other hand, if any other developer comes in looking to make a profit, that developer is deemed unsavory as how dare they seek to make profits? Of course, the hypocrisy is especially delicious as this view often comes from ‘conservative’ pundits and ideologues who value profits as holy testaments to capitalism, unless it benefits someone outside of their circle, in which case, profits be damned. And taxpayers too.
Public money: For the casino, the developers are asking the state to waive $25 million in application fees. In other words, the state will forego $25 million to enhance the risk/return for the developers versus the public who would otherwise see that added to the state coffers. Imagine the local outrage , mostly ‘conservative’ of course, that would be generated by such a deal for a private investor using public monies. Look again at the rhetoric surrounding Chalmers development use of public HUD monies versus the deafening silence on a proposed $25 million fee waiver.
12010: For the casino, you see a collaborative effort amongst the county executive, the legislator and county economic development. You see a cohesive effort pulling together to meet the goal of bringing this venture, even though it’s risky and a longshot, to fruition. If faced with a similar venture in our very own city, you can be absolutely sure that the effort would in no way be deemed ‘collaborative’ but other words could be used: ‘disruptive’,’dysfunctional’,’discordant’,’disarray’,’disingenuous’, et al. Of course, the project would ultimately be shepherded by our local politicos to AIDA for economic development, thereby assuring its slow and painful death.
Golf: For the casino, the concept of not one, but two , championship golf courses meets zero resistance in terms of viability. Remember the recent discussions on the city municipal golf course which basically stated that golf and members as a whole were on a decline due to limited local players and local affordability? The developers may be interested in hearing about the downward spiral of golf and why a golf course could go anywhere but down based upon the impeccable economic analysis cited previously.
Protecting Our Seniors: For the casino, we get no push back to its impact on fixed income seniors who may gamble away what little they have. I’ve been to Vegas and Atlantic City and it is truly a very sad sight to see seniors handing their small earnings to the house. Apparently, for the casino, we don’t care too much what happens to seniors as long as they fill our tax coffers. However, for any other initiative, we must always assure that seniors remain topmost and utmost in assessing its impact. So if you want some program to benefit kids or homeowners or non-seniors, you simply can’t have it if it has any impact, no matter how slight, on a senior. For the casino, however, that consideration seems quite quaint.
State versus City: A casino development is only possible from the recent state wide referendum on casinos and gambling which passed at a state level. In other words, we did not have a local referendum that local voters decided on whether or not they wanted casinos. It seems to me that local residents who oppose the casino could argue that the state referendum is meaningless as it was not subject to a local referendum by voters. After all, this is the same line of thinking used by the bridge opponents who claim their right to stop bridge construction because they did not have a local vote, it was a state vote. By that reasoning, they must accept the casino opponents as having veto power on a casino development. It’s hypocrisy plus cognitive dissonance as a bonus.
And there you have it.