Democrat Marion Porterfield and Independent Vince Riggi were the only Schenectady City Council members to vote against the River Harbors casino proposed by the Galesi-RSG partnership. It took a strong backbone for Ms. Porterfield to resist the heavy pressure for unity among the Democrats, and she deserves thanks.
The same goes for Vince Riggi, who surely found it easier to resist the Mayor and Peggy King, but also felt that a significant part of his base wanted the casino. Vince ended by saying that they simply did not have enough information to make a decision that could affect Schenectady significantly for decades to come. He opened with words he said were by a man we all respected. It was Rep. Paul Tonko, who had this to say about the competition for casino licenses (Rep. Tonko, With Several Possible Locations In District, Lukewarm On Casinos,” by Alan Chartok):
Rep. Tonko: “You know, I’ve seen these dividing communities along almost a 50-50 threshold. If there is going to be an issue that people decide, if there is going to be a casino in the area, I hope it’s going to be a situation where it’s not in a poor neighborhood because of the disproportional impact on the poor,” he said. “But in general, I’m concerned about us hinging our hopes for a better economy on casinos. I think there has got to be a better way, a more straightforward way. What we have is a dependency on perhaps someone to lose their retirement check or their week’s salary so that we can invest in children and their future through education. Somehow that doesn’t make sense to me.”
“I know people have been saying that it equals jobs and it provides for economic recovery. I don’t know if the soundness of that recovery is as great as we would like to think; you look at the economy in Las Vegas and Nevada, it has not been that great, the property values have dipped precipitously,” he added. “I talked to my colleagues from Nevada, they have had tough, tough times and you see this growing number of states in the Northeast that are delving into this concept of casinos. I have to believe there is a finite amount of money that people are able, not necessarily willing, but able to give.
“And of course the impact on the cultural industry in these towns: Proctors, SPAC, the track itself in Saratoga. This has to be done in a way that puts together a plan that can avoid however possible, the negative impact on some of the standing cultural entities or entertainment entities as they exist today and also just being conscious of just where we provide for the setting so that it is not going to make it so convenient for some of the poorest amongst us.”
Ed Kosiur, perhaps heeding Lincoln’s advice on remaining silent, merely said “Yes” when it came time for his vote [note: I learn much later that Mr. Kosiur had to leave due to a medical issue]. All the others gave several reasons for their decisions. John Mooterveren, who was at one time thought to be leaning toward a No, said that Schenectady needs the jobs. Carl Erikson no longer seemed like a likely No vote for the past few weeks, but he struggled to come up with convincing reasons for his Yes. One weak notion was the attraction a casino would be for sought-after skilled workers looking for a place with diverse entertainment options.
The crowd was probably 65% Yes supporters, but very few of them were Schenectady residents. Rev. Sara Baron asked a telling question to each camp: How many of you are from Schenectady? A much larger percentage of the casino opponents than of the supporters were Schenectady residents.
We opponents plan to reflect a bit, continue to collect signatures on our Petitions, and give some thought on how to best bring our cause before the State Gaming Facility Siting Board. Making our presence and our concerns known was and will be an important part of the campaign to keep a casino out of Schenectady.
PETITION UPDATE: We brought a packet with 187 signatures on 26 Petition forms to the City Council meeting, which were presented to the Council, saying it was just a downpayment on the signatures we would be submitting from people the Council has been ignoring. [click on the image at the head of this paragraph for a copy of the petition, and go here for instructions.]
While at City Hall, one avid worker handed me 30 additional signatures, and another 30 were obtained outside the meeting room during the session. Many people sought out the opportunity to sign.
At this point, 77 Stockadians have signed the Petition.