By Seth Daniel
City Councillor George Rotondo has never shied away from the controversial, and just two months into his newest Council term, he is calling for Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone to pull his appeal of the Wynn casino.
Rotondo has put in a motion for the March 7 Council meeting that calls on the Council and Mayor Brian Arrigo – who used to work for Curtatone in Somerville – to draft a letter asking for the legal action and appeal to be dropped. Rotondo said the action is hurting Revere by preventing potential job fairs and construction work for Revere residents.
“The issue is very simple because it is all about jobs and this is just political posturing by Mayor Joe Curtatone,” he said. “Joe Curtatone needs to be responsible and release this. He’s affecting thousands of people – many from Revere – from building the hotel and casino for Wynn in Everett. Moreover, the people who lost their jobs at Suffolk Downs and have priority for jobs at Wynn are being held hostage by Mayor Joe Curtatone.
“Mayor Arrigo used to work for him and I’m hoping their personal relationship can leverage some affect to unlock these jobs to help build a catalyst for tourism that will trickle down to Revere, Everett and Somerville,” he said. “If Joe Curtatone is so concerned about traffic, why hasn’t he done anything about traffic during his years in office?”
Rotondo pointed out specifically that Wynn has agreed to honor a promise to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to allow preference for Suffolk Downs employees – whether they lost their jobs or just wanted to exercise the opportunity at Wynn.
“As you may be aware, Wynn made a commitment during the MGC licensing process that we would offer hiring preference to Suffolk Downs workers if the track, for whatever reason, should close,” wrote Wynn Everett President Bob DeSalvio in a letter dated Feb. 2015. “We want to honor that commitment.”
Councillor Tony Zambuto agreed with Rotondo, saying he will support the motion.
“Frankly, I agree with George on this one,” he said. “I think Curtatone should withdraw it. They wanted the thing and got the thing. Let the project go forward and let it get built. His argument is nonsense. Everyone is looking forward to these jobs. Let it go forward. I think he’s trying to extort more money and they won’t give it to him.”
Councillor John Powers said he doesn’t agree with the motion.
“I don’t think it’s any of our business,” he said. “He’s the mayor of Somerville and I’m a city councillor in Revere. I would certainly like to see the jobs open up over there. The casino didn’t happen here. Is the Everett casino going to happen? Yes. I just don’t think I should be telling Mayor Curtatone what to do any more than he should be telling me what to do.”
Rich Pedi of the Carpenter’s Union said the local needs jobs.
“Currently our unemployment rate for the Local 218 is 18 percent,” he said. “We definitely can use the jobs. Most private projects don’t have hiring goals for diversity and this one does. That’s one thing that really bothers me about this so much. There are going to be a lot of minorities, women and veterans on this job. That’s huge. Everett residents and surround communities, including Somerville, will be benefitting.
“A lot of people had counted on this project being on time and starting soon,” he continued. “I don’t know what will happen now, especially at 18 percent of workers who are now unemployed. What will they do? We’ll try to get them work when the season starts up, but this was a project everyone was looking forward to getting started.”
Mayor Arrigo’s office said they had no official comment on the motion, as they plan to reserve their comments until when, and if, the matter passes the Council on March 7.
Council President Jessica Giannino said the order will be taken up on March 7, and she is also reserving comment until the night of the discussion.