This morning’s roundup is brought to you by the letter “C.”
- After what, by some accounts, was a surprisingly weak performance on an obvious question in Tuesday’s debate — are you or are you not with Gov. Spitzer on his plan to give NY’s undocumented immigrants limited driver’s licenses — Hillary Clinton has now come out in favor of the Spitzer plan. I missed the debate and haven’t had a chance to watch the video yet, but it doesn’t sound like Hillary did herself any favors with her peculiar dodging of the issue. It’s her own state, for heaven’s sake. She should’ve seen that one coming a mile away. Seems to me she’s unlikely to suffer heavy long-term damage from this one, but the aura of inevitability may have been pierced. (Ouch — mixed metaphor alert!)
- So Suffolk DA Dan Conley and BPD Commissioner Ed Davis “have been talking on the phone and meeting occasionally over coffee” in an effort to patch things up after their schoolyard spat escalated into a full-blown turf war a few weeks ago. Are we supposed to be impressed? Are we supposed to admire the maturity of these two grown men, who finally seem able to carry out a civil conversation about how they might work together to protect the people of Boston? Or should we, instead, shake our heads in wonderment that this kind of thing is still going on while the homicide rate creeps ever upward?
- Yesterday the House engaged in some theatrics around the casino debate: the Joint Committees on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, and on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, held a hearing — not on the casino bill — but on the question of compulsive gambling. And they expressed dismay when state officials declined to engage in a guessing game of how many new compulsive gamblers would be created by opening casinos in Massachusetts.
“It’s impossible to extrapolate a number at this time,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the Substance Abuse and Addiction Bureau of the Department of Public Health.
But lawmakers were dissatisfied with the answer. They argued that the administration shouldn’t commit to the gambling proposal until they have a better grasp of the problem.
“I raise the question about whether we want Massachusetts to be the testing ground to figure out what those statistics are,” said Representative Ruth Balser of Newton ….
Obviously, though, this is a charade — it’s classic “heads I win, tails you lose.” If state officials offer an estimate of how many new gambling addicts we’ll have, casino opponents — and this hearing was co-chaired by Ruth Balser and Dan Bosley, both on the record as staunch opponents — get to trumpet the administration’s own estimates of how many more lives will be ruined by gambling. “How can they countenance the destruction of x more Massachusetts families that they themselves predict will be sucked into compulsive gambling?” they will cry. And if they don’t offer such an estimate, the opponents get to say that the administration is unprepared and hasn’t thought the problem through. Nice.
Apparently, the most recent study on this stuff is ten years old. Also, there are apparently no studies of the impact of, in Secretary JudyAnn Bigby’s words, “some of the most aggressive funding and regulatory structures of any state in the country to make sure that we are able to prevent and mitigate the potential negative impact of gambling in Massachusetts.” So any estimate based on a ten-year-old study that didn’t take into account aggressive mitigation measures like those proposed in Patrick’s bill could well overstate the problem.
Here’s the most telling fact about this. Although this hearing was convened by Joint Committees — i.e., committees consisting of both House and Senate members,
Senators, many of whom back the governor’s plan, did not attend the hearing. Some said they thought it was unfair to the governor to debate the potential negative consequences of casinos before the bill itself has a public hearing. Those hearings won’t be held until next year.
Maybe the House should cut the theatrics and just do its job.