(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
As a lifelong resident of East Boston who is privileged to represent this great neighborhood, I believe that a world-class resort casino at Suffolk Downs, done the right way and with the interests of the community taken into account, would be extremely beneficial to East Boston and our neighboring communities.
First: It will bring jobs. A destination like the one Suffolk Downs is proposing — not just gaming space but a hotel, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment — would create thousands of much-needed jobs.
Wherever I go in this community, I meet people who are looking for work. It pains me to see families suffering as they try to make ends meet. East Boston residents are looking for good-paying jobs with benefits and room for advancement. They need them now. We have to maximize this opportunity for them.
Second: It will pay for local road improvements. The development’s impact on traffic is a major concern among local residents. It is one of mine, too, and as part of my discussions with Suffolk Downs officials over the last few years I have not been shy about voicing that concern. Based on what I’ve seen, I think they’ve heard that message loud and clear.
They’ve had traffic engineers and planners working on this for three years and have pledged publicly to spend $40 million on infrastructure improvements, including addressing existing conditions at Boardman Street and along McClellan Highway. While concerns about traffic are legitimate, it is also worth noting that without this development at Suffolk Downs, the traffic problems that persist today would not be addressed to the extent that they are going to be and woud not be completed in the same timetable.
Third: The neighborhood decides. As part of the gaming law, Suffolk Downs is required to have host community agreements with both Boston and Revere to make sure that the needs of the host communities are appropriately addressed.
Once host community agreements are reached, there will be referenda votes in both communities, and both must approve the plan for it to proceed.All of Revere will vote in their referendum, but the Boston vote will be limited to East Boston unless Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Boston City Council opt to seek a city-wide ballot question.
Senator Anthony Petruccelli and I fought hard in the legislative process to ensure that the residents of East Boston, the people who would be most affected by the development, are the ones who get to decide. Mayor Menino and Councilor Salvatore LaMattina support the East Boston-only ballot question. This project cannot move forward without the neighborhood voting to do so.
There is still a lot of work to be done. Suffolk Downs needs to roll out detailed development and traffic plans for the neighborhood to review and react to. Mayor Menino recently appointed an advisory board to help ensure that the city maximizes the benefits of the Host Community Agreement.
I look forward to working with Mayor Menino, the casino advisory board, Senator Petruccelli, and Councilor LaMattina to ensure that East Boston’s needs are met in this process, so that when the time for a local ballot question comes, you know exactly what you’re voting on. There will be ample opportunity for the community to be heard during this process.
I know people are concerned and want to know all that is going to happen. There will be many community meetings and opportunities for the neighborhood’s issues to be addressed. Your voice will be heard and with that input, I’m confident that we can make this work for East Boston.
After it is all said and done, this is in the hands of the people of East Boston, and we will listen to what the people want.
Carlo P. Basile is a state representative. He can be reached at Carlo.Basile@mahouse.gov or 617-722-2220.
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