What is going on at the County Building? Why are the leaders and legislators so willing to become cheerleaders for the casino, and to ignore the will of their voters, which was expressed only 7 months ago, rejecting casinos in Upstate New York? And, why are they unable to see the plain English wording in the Gaming Facility Siting Board’s Request for Applications, which makes it clear that the County is not a “Host Municipality” and cannot provide the required local legislative resolution of support for the proposed casino?
First, the Election Results: In his posting “Schenectady casino vote 2013,” blogger and Stockadian Tom Hodgkins crunches the results from the November 2013 vote on the constitutional proposition permitting gaming casinos, and comes to a conclusion as to its meaning.
- NISKAYUNA: Every single one of their 20 election districts voted against the casino. The no vote overwhelmed the pro-gamblers by 25.7%: with 61.0% No to 35.4% Yes, and an undervote on Proposal One of 3.6% (those not answering the question)
- GLENVILLE: The people opposed to new casinos garnered 55.3% of the votes on Proposal One, while the Yes votes received 39.6% (a 15.7% margin). Even more decisively, 25 of the 27 or 92.6% election districts voted against the casino
- DUANESBURG: 4/5ths of the election districts in Duanesburg were conclusive, and on the whole 54.4% of the people voted against the casinos, and 42.1% voted No. This was a margin of decisiveness of 13.3%, while the under vote was only 4.5% of the electorate.
- PRINCETOWN: Both of their election districts voted against a new casino in the Capital District, and the margin of decisiveness was 14.1%, with 53.7% voting No and 39.5% voting Yes; the undervote was 6.8%.
- ROTTERDAM: In aggregate, people who supported increased gambling won by 6.7%, but the undecided or the under vote was 7.6%. . . On the whole, the only conclusion we can draw is that the vote in Rotterdam is suggestive of moderate support for a new casino.
- CITY of SCHENECTADY: The City has the most muddled results of all the municipalities in the County. Only 7,723 voters or 25.8% of the electorate turned out to vote; . . . Election district under votes ranged from 3.7% to 48.3%, and accordingly the certainty of a decisive vote in an election district could only be determined in 22/42 districts. As a City, people who supported a new casinos upstate won by 2.3%, but the under vote was 10.3%. People living around Schenectady High School and in the Stockade were conclusively against more casinos upstate, while people in Mount Pleasant and Belleview supported new casinos.
Here is Tom’s rather reasonable conclusion:
What we can say with certainty is that the majority of the people that would be most impacted by a new casino in downtown Schenectady expressed clear opposition to more gambling for their families and communities. People opposed to more gambling were 50.6% of the vote in the county, while the people supporting more gambling opportunities for their children lost by a margin of 7.9%. The under vote was 6.6%, so the countywide decision against additional casinos was conclusive. Additionally, 72 of the 120 election districts or 60% voted against more gambling for their families and communities. The people have spoken, and the answer is no casino.
Of the 30,083 people in Schenectady County who voted on Proposal One last November, 16,316 said No: 54.2%. There was a 6.6% undervote on that question (ballots on which no choice was made). When the undervote is added into the total, 50.2% of those who went to the polls said No and 42.7% said Yes. About 7.5% more of the County’s voters said No to casinos than said Yes.
That’s a significant spread, but apparently not significant enough for any of the County legislators to even bring up the subject during casino discussions.
Second, how can the folks in the County Building and at Metroplex make the silly argument that they can give the Schenectady Casino the necessary local legislative support, because they are also a Host Municipality? I know Gary Hughes and Ray Gillen can read. Did they bother to peruse the relevant portion of the Request for Applications for Gaming Facilities [RFA], or just ignore it and engage in wishful thinking? Had they peeked into the RFA or asked a staffer to do so, they would have discovered that the definition of Host Municipality (p. 9) is:
“each town, village or city in the territorial boundaries of which the Project Site described in an Application is located.” (emphasis added)
And, if that wasn’t enough to quash the itch to approve a casino, the section on Initial Requirement of Local Support is even more explicit (at 7):
“For purposes of this requirement, the Host Municipality of a Project Site located in a city is the city. The Host Municipality of a Project Site located in a town, outside a village is the town. The Host Municipality of a Project Site in a village is the village and the town in which the Project Site is located.” (emphasis added)
Here, there is only one Host Municipality, the City of Schenectady. The County Legislature cannot void a negative vote by the real Host Municipality by substituting its own vote. The municipal legislature closest to the affected people and businesses is given the task.
Maybe the County Legislature is going out of its way like this to register a meaningless vote to show their electorate just who is boss. I hope that the specter of the County overriding a negative vote by the City Council did not weaken the resolve this weekend of undecided Council Members to stick to their principals. With the rumor that the County Legislators are virtually unanimous on approving the casino, a No vote by the City Council could seem merely symbolic and quixotic, and certainly not worth the punishment that would surely come from the Democratic Party and the Mayor.
Like any other nearby government or interested organization, the County Legislature is free to voice its support of the ALCO casino. But, it cannot override a negative vote by Schenectady’s City Council. So, it will be interesting to see if any Legislator raises either the November 23 vote or the plain meaning of Host Municipality at their Meeting.