Waiting on Menino: Suffolk Downs Casino Mitigation Negotiations for Revere Ended; Boston Still Negotiating

Mayor Dan Rizzo announced this week that the City’s mitigation package negotiations with Suffolk Downs have been largely completed, but the agreement will not be revealed until Boston has finished its process.

For many City Councillors, that has become a frustration point, and has led to some postulating that both Revere and Boston are trying to line up the referendum vote for the same day as the U.S. Senate Special Election on June 25th.

“Negotiations have been pretty much completed and legal documents are being drawn up,” Rizzo told the Journal. “However, nothing will be signed until agreement has been reached with the City of Boston and the two cities have had a chance to discuss our respective agreements. Per the legislation, content of these agreements do not become public until seven days after signing.”

The news of the negotiations being completed came in a revelation during an interview with Mayor Dan Rizzo on a RevereTV talk show. This past January, Mayor Rizzo told the Journal that negotiations were not done, but that it simply came down to both sides agreeing upon what was a fair number.

It appears that after a great deal of work over the past month, that process has concluded.

But, despite the fact that all of the City’s hard work – including almost a year’s worth of surveys and negotiations – the final result will not be known to elected officials and, more importantly, the general public until Boston gives the green light.

That has numerous City Councillors very upset, with most saying privately that they haven’t been given an inkling of what’s in the agreement and are put off by that.

City Councillor Bob Haas – a former mayor of the city – had a great deal of frustration with the process.

“It’s somewhat embarrassing when you’re out there on the street and people ask you about the mitigation agreement – about the fact that the mayor said on TV that the negotiations are completed,” said Haas. “Here we are the legislative body of the City government and we don’t know anything about it and we have to tell people that. I always had an open government when I was mayor. I don’t know what’s going on now. Everything is quiet and off the record. Where is the transparency?

“We want to know what the game plan is,” he added. “I don’t know if there is a game plan and if there is it must be between the mayor and his staff. We’re elected officials and represent the people too.”

He said he would have liked to see a meeting with councillors, perhaps in Executive Session if need be, to fill them in on what has taken place and when things might be done.

“We’re not going to reveal any of that kind of information or disclose something that could hurt the City or it’s position,” he said. “When Dan was a city councillor he was talking exactly how I’m talking right now.”

Others, however, have tried to take a measured approach publicly.

“Technically, it is not done,” said Council President Ira Novoselsky. “The only thing that may be completed is the initial negotiations. I am sure the Mayor has this under control. Are we anxious to see what is in the package? Of course. But we must be patient.”

Councillor Brian Arrigo said he is anxious to see what’s inside the document, and was a little put out to learn about it on TV.

“I am looking forward to taking it in and analyzing the final results of the negotiations between the City and Suffolk Downs,” he said. “I was just a little surprised to find out it was done and actually found out the negotiations were over on a (local cable) TV show.”

That being said, many were wondering why such a long-awaited document would be sat upon in order to compare notes with Boston.

State law indicates that nothing in the agreement is public until seven days after the City and Suffolk Downs sign it. After those seven days, the document becomes public and a referendum vote of the City must be held within 90 days.

A number of sources indicated that Boston, Revere and Suffolk Downs might be trying to time the referendum vote to land on June 25th – the same day that the U.S. Senate Special Election takes place.

“I think the strategy there is that with either Democratic candidate, there will be a big turnout by labor, and that fact could only benefit the track in being successful in Revere and East Boston,” said one source close to the issue.

If that turns out to be the case, then the City would have to sit on its agreement until around March 27th. If it is signed at about that time, it could likely time out to be on the same day of the Special Election.

Mass Gaming Commission spokesperson Elaine Driscoll said any referendum could be held on the same day as another vote, but indicated that a casino referendum vote cannot take place until the Commission determines the applicant (in this case Suffolk Downs) is suitable and passes a background investigation.

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