The Race for City Hall

Update: Walczak formally urges councilors to allow citywide casino vote

Bill Walczak, a former health care executive who is running for mayor, formally urged all 13 Boston City Council members to “change the direction of voting on casinos’’ and allow a citywide vote on the plan.

Walczak presented a letter to the council that called for a casino vote on Election Day, Nov. 5. The mayoral candidate, who had initially appealed for a vote during the Sept. 24 preliminary election, said he changed the date after learning that state law requires 60 days between signing a casino-host agreement and a vote.

“During this campaign, I’ve been allowed to go all across the city, and what I’m finding is not what we’ve been told—that it is only an East Boston issue,’’ said Walczak, standing outside the front doors of City Hall Thursday morning. “People all across the city of Boston have been asking ‘Why can’t we vote on this?”

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In his letter to the council members, Walczak said that a casino would lead to such scourges as crime, violence, and increased gambling addiction.

“Once a casino is built, there is no going back, and Bostonians will have to deal with it for generations,’’ Walczak writes in the letter. “As it stands now, the voice of 93 percent of Boston’s residents will not be heard, as the casino vote is restricted only to registered voters in Boston. However, the Boston City Council has the power, under the state gaming law, to initiate a citywide referendum on the casino question.”

Earlier this week Mayor, Thomas M. Menino signed a Suffolk Downs casino deal that would pay the city at least $32 million a year. The mayor has stressed that he prefers to leave the voting to East Boston residents, because they would be the most affected by the project. City Council President Stephen J. Murphy has said there is hesitancy on the council to have a vote citywide.

Murphy, citing the “terrific deal’’ Menino signed, said this afternoon that there is strong support for an East Boston-only vote on the council and that most residents want to decide on economic development projects in their own neighborhoods.

In counting the votes on the council, he said, “There is no appetite to do anything but the letter of the law. The letter of the law directs cities like ours a ward-only vote based on the impacted community.”

He said the casino issue will come before the council on Sept. 11, and will be assigned to the Economic Development Committee. A public hearing will be scheduled later, in which residents can weigh in on the merits of the casino plan that has already been negotiated.

“We are not going to take up the question about whether or not there are going to be casinos in Massachusetts. There already are. We are going to take up wither or not this is a good package for the people of East Boston and the taxpayers of Boston,’’ Murphy said.

Some of the candidates seeking to replace Menino have supported a citywide casino vote, including John Barros and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.

Conley has urged a citywide referendum on a proposed East Boston casino and threatened a lawsuit to stop a proposed Everett casino.

At a forum in West Roxbury on Wednesday night, Conley reiterated his position, saying East Boston would not be the only neighborhood that would feel the impact of a casino there.

“They are not an island on this,’’ he said. “Everyone in this city should have say.”

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