Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Real McCoy

On Monday, there was an article in the Enterprise reporting that a draft environmental report was released regarding the land in Middleboro, land the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is attempting to place into trust for the specific purpose of building a casino – I mean bingo hall. This report has been recently released a short 8 months after the scoping hearing held in Middleboro in March. The article states:

The questions that will have to be answered by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe concerning its proposed casino have been outlined in a newly released draft environmental report.

The 1,306-page report, prepared according to the National Environmental Policy Act for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, contains written and verbal comments submitted in response to the proposed land-taking by the Mashpee.

The interesting thing here is that suddenly, a scoping report that outlines and categorizes the comments submitted from the March hearing has, according to some casino advocates, morphed into the Tribe’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. According to some, this is the actual Draft EIS, which it is not. This report is just that….a scoping report and not the draft EIS we are all patiently waiting for. If this was the actual draft EIS, it would have been posted in the Federal Register (which it is not), and the public would be given a 45 day comment period and another public hearing to address the content of the draft EIS itself.

I can’t say I really blame the pro casino side for thinking this, especially after reading the article in the Enterprise and reading the summary of the article on Indianz.com. Jeesh, just by reading what the Indianz website posted, I can see why some may actually believe this is the Real McCoy. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, both the Enterprise and Indianz.com got it wrong. The funny thing is, we have had this report in our hands for over a month now and have had the opportunity to read it…..and get a good laugh, at that. Seems the Enterprise is not on top of its game regarding Middleboro casino news ‘cause if they were, they would have been a bit less misleading on what the report really is AND they would have reported on it weeks ago. Again, I can’t blame the newspaper itself or the author of the article….they just repeat what they are told and it would seem to this Chick that they are getting their information from people who want to continue the myth of inevitability…….sigh……..

The other interesting thing is that for some reason, casino advocates see this report as a blow to the anti-casino movement when in actuality, it has helped us tremendously. Heck, we already know and expect a draft EIS to be written…..duuuuh…..that is why we have spent the past 8 months going through and categorizing the marked comments from letters submitted to the BIA. The nice thing is this report has done the same thing so now we actually know what comments are being addressed and which ones are being dismissed.

The majority of the concerns will be addressed in a final report, but some of the issues have already been dismissed.

Yes, some very important concerns have been dismissed - like the concerns regarding the socioeconomic issues of violent crime or the fact that the mitigation money the Town will be receiving isn’t nearly enough to cover the costs of the negative impacts. Well at least from reading the scoping report, we know how the Tribe is going to try and address some issues while skirting around others. The Scoping Document was reviewed by members of the CFO environmental subcommittee when it was first received over a month ago. Let me break it down for you…..

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is pursuing a Dual Initial Reservation which we already know and have already addressed. As we know, the Tribe’s complete lack of historical ties to the land in Middleboro makes it ineligible as an initial reservation. However, seeking a dual initial reservation status is serious business because this has never been done before. It really is a precedent setting case and anything can happen. Yet again, the Tribe has no significant historical ties to the land so I cannot see how the Secretary of the Department of the Interior would ever place this land into trust.

The Tribe has stated that the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) will not be followed because is illegal for them to do so. This means that no State Environmental laws will be considered in the EIS. The Tribe will only follow the National Environmental Policy Act which does not address environmental issues specific to our region. This is bad news for our area. If you consider only one MEPA law that won’t be followed – Massachusetts Water Management Act - you will understand why this will impact us – and how far reaching the impacts will be…..not to mention the host of other Massachusetts Environmental Laws that are designed to protect our air, water, open space, threatened species, and so on and how that will impact our lives and our livelihoods…..and the Tribe calls themselves the stewards of the land….

The Tribe has stated that it will not look at alternate sites for the casino because they are unable to prove historical significance to anywhere else, which is funny because they certainly can’t prove it in Middleboro either. In addition, they will not consider non-gaming revenue and will only settle for casino gambling. The interesting thing is, they don’t actually mention slot machines in the report, only video lottery terminals – probably because they know slot machines are illegal in this State and they can’t have them. Oh, and our Governor can’t be forced to negotiate with them and the tribe won’t negotiate anyway because there is no compact required for Class II gaming, otherwise known as bingo hall. Sigh….so much for all the promises about further mitigation being negotiated by our Governor.

The Tribe is claiming that the BIA has authority to take the land into trust because the Aquinnah Tribe has trust land. Ummmmm….okay…..the problem here is that the Aquinnah have a land claim settlement with the State of Massachusetts so that argument just doesn’t wash. Gosh, they must think we are dumb as stumps…..they continue down this path by mentioning the First Circuit Court of Appeals being a basis for taking the land into trust, but that’s misleading because that Court ruled that a 1983 land claim settlement, where the tribe agreed to abide by state and local zoning laws, trumped the federal sovereign doctrine of immunity. The land for the Aquinnah was not taken out of the state tax rolls, and the tribe must obey all of the local and state zoning laws with respect to use of that land. So the case doesn’t actually support the DOI’s ability to take land into trust, and it’s not exactly the “land into trust” scenario the BIA would have you believe.

The Mashpee tribe is also stating that Mashpee is not suitable for a casino because there is a strong anti-gaming sentiment.
Really?….how nice of them to consider the anti casino sentiment in Mashpee. Perhaps they could be so kind as to consider the anti casino sentiment that was clearly expressed by the citizens from Middleboro with the Article 3 vote. You know the one….the vote that said the residents did NOT want a casino in their town….

Also, here is some food for thought….we did have an opportunity to speak with the EPA officer in Boston who is overseeing the Tribe’s EIS. We were told that the Draft EIS (DEIS) should come out in the next couple of weeks, which we already know and anticipate. This would actually be a good thing for us because issuing it so quickly will only mean a poorly written draft EIS which should be easily defeated.

It would seem that apparently the Tribe is not looking at the broad effects of the project - meaning they are not addressing issues with roadways such as Rte 44. The reason for this is if they did look at altering these roadways they would be subject to MEPA , which they have clearly stated they will not follow. This translates to meaning the promised $200+ million in road improvements including the rotary elimination is not going to happen. This also means, at least to me, that they could care less about the broad effects a mega casino resort will have on our communities and we will need to address that when the real draft EIS is released and we are given our 45 day comment period including another public hearing.

So no…this scoping report that was written by a local environmental consulting company and reported on by the Enterprise is not the Real McCoy, but considering that the same environmental consulting company is also producing the draft EIS, we can look at this scoping report as an outline of the draft EIS. We can look at this report and easily identify issues we will have with the draft EIS and inform our towns and our residents of the issues. So far, it has been a huge help! The report will actually give all of us equal opportunity to prepare comments for the draft EIS and focus on the things that concern us the most – to be heard and to demand that the Tribe be held accountable for all our concerns and not allow them to be labeled “not applicable”.

Rest assured, when the Real McCoy is actually released….we will let you know. In the meantime, this scoping report has been a huge help in our efforts and we can actually start drafting comments based on the information contained in the scoping report. If you can, take the time to borrow the report from the Middleboro library – read it. If you are unable to do that then I urge you to check the CFO website for updates and information so when the time comes, we can all be prepared for another Call to Arms!

- be the change you want to see in the world -


Anonymous said...

Well done! Bravo!
You have, yet again, organized and simplified very complex issues in an easily understandable format that allows the novice to understand the issues.

Anonymous said...

You make a good point, CC. We need to prepare for the next comment period, and the scoping report is the tool we need to do that.

And we need to do it sooner, rather than later....

Anonymous said...

WOW, someone that does know the "real" deal about the EIS as being published by the media as wrong, (as usual), information.
Don't these reporters ever ck. their stories BEFORE they report??

How sad that because this state has never been faced with a "tribal" invester backed casino that they are so willing to take what the tribe/invester says as the absolute truth, without doing any backgound ck.'s into the process a tribe's application HAS to go through! If you've never had to report this information before, GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT!

Well, we have carverchick and the rest of our bloggers for that! You all should be on the payroll of all area newspapers, starting with the Brockton Enterprize.

Thank you for, again, decihpering and correcting this erroneous report!

Anonymous said...

First time I have ever left a comment. Needed to give you a big thank you carverchick from my family. We were in a big panic, and sick, when we read the Enterprize article, thank you for clearing this up for us.


Carl said...

Yes another excellent piece CC. Your easy to read details are simple enough for even the lower primates out there to understand, although they refuse to accept the truth.
Thank you for continually informing the public on the progress of the Middleboro Bingo Hall

Anonymous said...

Thank you for giving us some good news and hope.

Anonymous said...

We join the others in saying, well done and thank you.
Everytime my husband and I hear or read something upsetting about the casino comming, we turn to the blogs hoping to get the real story.
So far this has worked and saved us from running to our closets to start packing. First time I've been so happy we rent.

We're still laughing, we love it everytime someone calls it a "bingo hall"

The Brown Family

Anonymous said...

OK, I laughed when someone at work mentioned going to a blog to see if the Brockton Enterprize's story about the EIS was the real deal. That was two days ago, nothing, I laughed more each day.
He convinced me to keep trying. I was going to prove him wrong so I did.
Had to ck. before we left for home so I could rub it in again.
Not only was he correct, I'm impressed by the apparently much studied information done on this issue.
I'm not laughing anymore. Sorry I made fun of bloggers as people with little lives that need constant attention. Not true, your blog is very informative and written with knowledge in what you are writing about. You now have another reader for your blogs.

I now have to buy him lunch, I lost the deal.

Name withheld to protect the job.

Anonymous said...

Once again the media has provided misinformation about the proposed mega casino monster. Their willingness to believe their 'source' without doing their homework about the process might force them to re-think their 'source' at some point. Who promoted this 'inevitability' concept again?
Unless I am mistaken, this information was only promoted in the Enterprise. Is it possible that the rest of the media was waiting to hear what CC, our sage, said?
Keep up the good work of presenting complex information that is easy to understand and refutes the malarkey! Most of us are tired of the rumors.
A standing ovation to you! :)