They don’t officially become Boston city councilors until January. But Michelle Wu and Michael Flaherty already have jumped into the political fray, criticizing a proposal to build a casino in Revere now that East Boston voters have rejected the idea..
The state gambling commission is meeting today to consider the new Suffolk Downs casino proposal. While current Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Mayor-Elect Martin J. Walsh have shied away from the controversy, the two incoming at-large council members have chosen the casino spat as the first major municipal issue upon which to seize.
The original $1 billion proposal sat on the border between the two communities, with all of the construction located in East Boston. But when East Boston voters rejected a casino referendum, developers proposed an alternative blueprint, that moved the construction across city lines into Revere, where residents endorsed the plan.
That new proposal incensed casino opponents in East Boston, who have called on city officials to help them oppose Suffolk Downs’ improvised casino efforts.
Menino has called it a “Revere issue’’ while Walsh has largely put off questions on where he stands, saying he believes the new proposal may be illegal but wants to sit down with casino developers first before commenting fully on the proposal.
The new councilors have been less cautious.
Elected to the two citywide council seats vacated by incumbents who ran for mayor, Wu and Flaherty have both voiced strong opposition to the improvised casino proposal.
Just 10 days after winning back a spot on the council (having previously held a citywide seat from 1999-2009), Flaherty condemned the new Suffolk Downs plan.
“The suggestion that permitting gaming operations only on the fifty-three acres of the site situated
in Revere would fulfill the spirit and intent of the Gaming Act is preposterous,’’ Flaherty wrote in a recent letter to the gaming commission. “East Boston sent a loud and clear message that it wants neither to host a casino nor to suffer the impacts a clear and convincing majority of voters there believes would result from a Suffolk Downs casino — regardless of which side of the border the casino would be located.’’
Today, Wu joined the assault on Suffolk Down’s attempt to salvage its casino bid — issuing a three-page letter arguing against allowing the proposal to move forward and appearing before the commission to state her case.
“Voters in East Boston decisively voted ‘No’ to a casino at Suffolk Downs,’’ Wu wrote in the letter. “Because of that, voters in Revere approved a proposal that is no longer viable.’’
The incoming councilors join several East Boston politicians — each who had previously backed the original East Boston casino plans — in publicly opposing the new plan.
The new Suffolk Downs proposal has pitted elected officials in Boston against those in Revere — who, with their city now standing to receive all of the revenue, jobs, and tourism that comes with a casino, have ardently supported the revised proposal.
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo has said he supports the plan, and state Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein, of Revere wrote a letter to the gaming commission enthusiastically backing the Revere-only resort casino.
“As someone who was involved in crafting the gaming legislation, I am confident that this possible development site is viable,’’ Reinstein wrote.