Casino-Free Philadelphia

On Being a Casino Slayer, By Dan Hunter

Dan Hunter organized CFP for 3.5 years and is now writing a book about it. I am reposting his excellent reaction post from Casino Free's website. I am also posting here also the timelines of the casino fight that Dan talks about so you can look that them yourself and compare:

Casino Free Philadelphia's timeline of the anti-casino fight is here.
The version the Inquirer posted is here.

A must read.

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On Being a Casino Slayer
By Daniel Hunter
Dec. 17, 2010

Join O'Brien and Thomas in opposing major expansion of predatory gambling

Today, two Philly Democrats, joined the opposition to video poker in the Gaming Oversight Committee.

Watch this video to learn more and please join these two Philly elected officials, Michael O'Brien and Curtis Thomas, in their opposition to video poker. Encourage them to keep voting "no" and help turn other Democrats into no votes. Supporting casinos and the expansion of predatory gambling is not progressive, Democatic, or democratic. Check out the video and take action to stop casinos and the expansion of gambling and corruption in our state.

Anti-Casino Protest, report from PhillyIMC

Check out this excellent new photo-essay by Rich Gardner, from Phillyimc.org:

http://www.phillyimc.org/en/anti-casino-protest

Casinos are cool places, but in the wrong places, too close to communities, they can be a bad thing. Casino Free Philadelphia is fighting to keep a casino from opening right on Market St.

Jethro Heiko responds to Councilman DiCicco

Below is my response to the following letter from Councilman DiCicco's attorney.

DiCicco Threat Letter

Yesterday, through his attorney, Councilman DiCicco sent me a letter claiming that I defamed him by posting on YPP that the Councilman has engaged in “corruption” to the detriment of our waterfront and city planning. The letter demands an immediate retraction and apology. Rather than respond to his attorney I will post my response here. I will not retract my post nor will I apologize.

I am, however, happy to explain in greater detail what I meant when I referred (and will continue to refer) to the Councilman as a politician who engages in corruption. But let’s get real about the term – it means lacking in integrity, virtue and moral principle; it means a deviation from what is right; it means failing to represent the public interest. It does not mean that the official took a bribe and I have never used it that way. I should be able to use the term when I think the shoe fits. Whether you agree with me or not, I hope you support my right to voice my opinion.

In my post, I said that our Delaware waterfront is in a sorry state due to “his and his mentor’s corruption.” I think this is a obvious and unremarkable assertion. Our waterfront is an embarrassing joke. The control over its development is largely a function of local zoning and land use laws; and the Councilman has been in charge of zoning in the First District for some time now. The gated towers of Waterfront Square, the wholly inappropriate solid walls of the garage at the Hyatt Hotel, the overloading of the southern end and the resulting traffic, I could go on and on and on. We all could.

Our Delaware River Waterfront is one of the City’s greatest assets and its development history and current status is horrendous. Some would even say, rhetorically, that it’s a sin and a crime. Why hasn’t the Councilman changed the zoning on the waterfront in the many years that he has been the district councilperson? Why? And, finally, when we have a fantastic planning effort led by thousands of citizens, guided by Penn Praxis in an open and transparent manner – that gave us the Civic Vision – the Councilman drafts, sponsors and passes a new Zoning Overlay that fails to adopt all the recommendations of the Civic Vision and worse yet, drafts zoning for casinos that exempts them and their satellite parking from that zoning overlay. Sure, he passed some of the recommendations but not the key one about the width of the waterfront setback. Why can’t the Councilman just do what the people want? Why is it so hard? All of that is evidence (on top of what we can see – or not see – when we walk on Delaware Avenue) that his conduct was and is lacking in integrity, virtue and moral principle, that it deviated from what is right and that it is not in the public interest. It gets worse when he claims that he will protect one constituency and neighborhood at the expense of others and attempts, with some success, to divide and conquer. In my view, that is corruption.

And when crafting the zoning legislation which allows Sugarhouse satellite parking, exempting surface parking lots from the new zoning overlay for the Waterfront he opens the door for more corruption at the newly named Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, formerly the Penn’s Landing Corporation. Rather than advancing the civic vision in a transparent way we have an agency, City Council, and Mayor whose vision for the riverfront mirrors that of Neil Bluhm, developer of the proposed Sugarhouse casino, rather than that of the thousands of citizens who spent tens of thousands of hours developing the civic vision.

I think it was wrong for the Councilman to accuse me of defamation. YPP is a place for people to have discussion and debate in a public forum. Yes, when I wrote my post I was mad (and I still am). If the Councilman wants to rebut my statements, if he wants to claim that his stewardship over the development of the waterfront was based on integrity, virtue and moral principle, then he should post a response online. He is a public person and he stands up and takes praise wherever he can get it. But Councilmanic prerogative has to work both ways – it means that the Councilmember is responsible and should be held accountable for the zoning laws in his or her district, especially when there has been as much tinkering in the First District; and especially when he has presided over so many failures and lost opportunities at our waterfront.

The anti-casino argument in 246 seconds

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsXDYnBeVLU&feature=channel_page

When they try to situate the casino at the hub of our mass transit system and in the center of our city, in a very densely populated part of the city, and in a family shopping mall, they're therefore targeting all Philadelphians. So that no matter what part of the city you're from, you're a potential target of this industry.

Ellen Somekawa

Evans Says State-Sanctioned Gambling Is "Change We Can Believe In"

In a recent column, http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/39129332.html, in the Daily News Philadelphia's Dwight Evans made an outrageous comment.

Excerpt:

When I point out to House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans that in the past he was never a fan of funding government through gambling, he says, "People change. We're living in a time of change we can believe in."

Signs of Trouble for Foxwoods

When officials began a news conference yesterday celebrating the planned move of the Foxwoods Casino to Center City, the audience already was sprinkled with protest signs held by community opponents, many from nearby Chinatown....

Nutter and Rendell said that they hope that the project will revive the Gallery, which was built in the 1970s and '80s with government assistance, and they believe that it will trigger further development on Market Street East.

Foxwoods Considers Moving From The Riverfront! YES!

Our friends and neighbors at Casino-Free Philadelphia, as part of a struggle they've shared with groups like NABR and other community organizations fighting casinos in the city, have just won a huge victory -- they've gotten Foxwoods to consider moving from the Philadelphia waterfront.

They visited Governor Rendell today and yesterday, as he prepared to meet with Mayor Nutter, Senator Fumo, and Representative Evans and the executives of Foxwoods. Casino-Free does it right, every time -- they continue to demonstrate that public pressure and accountability from ordinary neighbors can break down even the most established power blocks.

In their email that they sent out to supporters, Casino-Free Philadelphia reminded us that it isn't just the riverfront neighborhoods -- but every neighborhood that deserves the right to be free of gambling parlors and the problems they introduce. CFP has asked us to sign on to principles that the Governor, and the casino operators, must consider in any resiting plan:

1) The resiting process must be fair, transparent and inclusive. The process used by the PGCB was unfair, secret and exclusionary. Any effort to resite the casinos must be the opposite.

2) Casinos cannot be built in or near any neighborhood. Act 71's and the PGCB's lack of social standards in its decision-making resulted in untenable sites. Around-the-clock 5,000 slot parlors with multiple liquor licenses, attracting tens of thousands of cars each day are uses that are incompatible with neighborhoods.

3) Any resiting process must consider the "no casino" alternative. No one needs two casinos in Philadelphia. A cost-benefit analysis should be performed. Prior assumptions deserve to be revisited.

4) Casino companies are not to receive bailouts. They did not merely participate in a system riddled with mistakes but they actively tried to undermine the system. (Governor Rendell suggested today that no state money would be used.)

CFP will get this letter to Rendell, Nutter, Evans, and Fumo.

We have to celebrate this as a huge step forward -- and think hard about how we can use the media attention, the deep thinking on accountable use of our neighborhoods' and communities' land, and the organizing infrastructure to engage with housing issues and other land use issues in Philly.

We also need to step up and support groups like CFP and other neighborhood champions. Bread and Roses is honoring them this October with their Community Empowerment Award. But I'm not going to wait to donate more to one of the most effective groups I've ever seen in Philly.

There's a few articles popping up online about this victory -- read them, celebrate for a minute, and then -- on to Sugarhouse and no casinos in any neighborhoods!

Al Dia: http://www.pontealdia.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=917&Itemid=1

KYW: http://www.kyw1060.com/Rendell-Says-Foxwoods-May-Bend-on-Waterfront-Site/2829622

Editorial in the Inky: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20080821_Editorial__Riverfront_Casinos.html

Major Step for Philly Neighborhoods Against Casinos

Wow folks -- what a victory for people fighting to make sure that we get casinos moved out of any Philadelphia neighborhood that doesn't want them --

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/20080704_Evans__Fumo_give_casinos_a...

House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans and State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo said at a news conference that they would draft legislation to remove the casinos' tax breaks if they did not abandon their proposed sites on the Delaware River waterfront.

The locations, which were decided upon 21/2 years ago, are "untenable and contrary to the public interest," the Democrats said in a statement.

"We are sending a message to citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that we are trying to fix the problem," said Evans, joined by nine Philadelphia-area lawmakers in addition to Fumo. "We didn't think it would be the problem it is today, but it has created tension for people in the community as well as politically."

City Council Cancels: Sugarhouse cries Uncle and re-asserts need for community support

September 21, 2007 - Today, City Council canceled its scheduled public hearing on bills relating to SugarHouse's commercial entertainment district zoning and other slots gambling bills. According to political insiders, SugarHouse requested the delay after they unsuccessfully tried to force Fishtown Neighbors Association to the negotiation table.

Fishtown Neighbors Association (FNA) refused to sit down at the first negotiation on Monday claiming SugarHouse did not do its part to establish a fair table. FNA has agreed to negotiations with resiting as the first priority, and with the stipulation that any agreement would require the support 75% of the community. Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association, the civic association representing the neighborhood in which half of SugarHouse is located, has refused to enter into negotiations.

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