Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Wynn Resorts confirms financial support of Everett United

I’ve been in Seattle the past couple days, so I hadn’t had a chance to search for Everett United news until today. Now that I have, I’m happy to report that a bit of sunlight has begun to seep into the organization’s inner workings. Two separate articles published last Friday by the Boston Business Journal and The Boston Globe confirmed Wynn’s financial backing of Everett United.

First, The Boston Globe (“Wynn finances ballot drive for Everett casino”):

In the critical campaign to win local support for his $1.2 billion casino resort, Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn has foregone a television or radio advertising blitz and put his faith and money into a street-level, door-to-door campaign, performed by unpaid volunteers under the guidance of professional political consultants he has hired.

“Wynn Resorts financially supports Everett United and its hundreds of volunteers committed to bringing our development to Everett,” said Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver. “They are a dedicated group, and we are grateful for their enthusiasm and support.”

To guide the effort, Wynn has hired Saint Consulting, a Hingham-based political specialist with expertise in winning controversial land-use campaigns, and ML Strategies, the high-powered Boston lobbying firm run by former Massport director Stephen Tocco.

Wynn Resorts did not disclose how much it has spent to support the campaign. The company will disclose campaign spending in a mandatory filing in mid-June, according to Wynn.

And the Boston Business Journal (“In Everett, as in Eastie, casino campaign groups are not what they seem”):

Steve Wynn’s firm isn’t the only one pumping cash into the race to build an Eastern Massachusetts casino. Wynn Resorts is backing Everett United, the pro-casino group disclosed Thursday – but like other developers, Wynn has been loath to disturb the grass-roots illusion that adheres to the groups they fund, and state campaign finance law does little to compel them to do so.

We still don’t know how much Wynn paid Everett United – and we probably won’t, until eight days before the June 22 special election, when municipal ballot question campaign law will require Everett United to file a finance report.

“Wynn Resorts financially supports Everett United and its hundreds of volunteers committed to bringing our development to Everett,” the company informed me in a statement. “We worked this past year to introduce our development plans and to inform the public,” Suffolk Downs chairman Bill Mulrow wrote in a similar statement. Neither addressed questions about how their on-the-ground campaign groups were presented to the public.

Everett United’s “about” page still calls the group “a coalition of local residents and business leaders,” and makes no mention of Wynn’s financial support – other than promoting a “special VIP party” for “Founders Club” supporters, hosted by Wynn.

Interestingly, the Globe article refers to “unpaid volunteers,” suggesting that Wynn’s financial backing extends only to Saint Consulting Group and non-labor expenses incurred by Everett United (such as the ubiquitous yard signs in Everett). This would appear to indicate that Everett United founder and president Sandy Juliano, for example (about whom I wrote in my original piece), is not being paid for her efforts.

Speaking of not being paid, I had a brief, interesting conversation on Twitter with Galen Moore, the author of the above-excerpted Boston Business Journal article, the day before he posted it. He asked me if I’d been paid to write my original piece that exposed Saint Consulting Group’s ties to Everett United. Naively, until he asked me this question, it had never even occurred to me that such a perception might seem plausible.

But I’m glad he asked. So let me be clear here, as I was to Moore: I am not in any way being compensated in monetary form or otherwise, nor have I ever been, by any casino or casino-affiliated group, nor any other group that stands to benefit from opposition to a Wynn casino resort in Everett. Everything I’ve written about Everett United, Saint Consulting Group, and Wynn Resorts (like everything I’ve ever written on my blog) has been done without compensation.

Indeed, if you’ve followed this blog for the past couple years, you’ll quickly notice that a common thread is my passion for transparency — especially as it pertains to financial transactions that affect public policy. This is true not just in content I’ve written for my own blog, but elsewhere as well: my sole Huffington Post article to date, for example, lambasted Michael Bloomberg for attempting to influence Congressional elections via a Super PAC.

Everett United, therefore, captured my attention both for its utter lack of financial transparency and, perhaps more crucially, due to my own longtime connection to the town of Everett. It was a Facebook acquaintance’s Liking of the group’s page that first led to my curiosity about it. And I’m glad to see that, thanks to Galen Moore and Mark Arsenault (the Globe reporter of the above-excerpted piece, with whom I also communicated prior to the publication of his article), Wynn Resorts, Saint Consulting Group, and Everett United are slightly more transparent now than they were just a few weeks ago.

There is still a long way to go. Outside of that one open letter posted last week to Everett United’s Facebook page, I haven’t yet seen any references on the group’s Facebook page or Web site explicitly linking Everett United to Wynn Resorts. Moreover, this continued opacity has taken its toll on casino opponents who lack comparable funding. From the Globe article:

The relentless Everett United campaign has overwhelmed opponents, who lack a sponsor.

“It’s pretty intense from the pro side, Everett United,” said Everett resident Evmorphia Stratis, an opponent who has tried to organize against the development without much luck. “There is so much money behind it, and who am I?”

This is not to say that Wynn Resorts has no right to fund a pro-casino group simply because its opponents lack similar funding. But the secrecy of the coordinated effort certainly contributes to an impression of widespread organic support that may not be quite as unanimous as it currently appears.

Enhanced by Zemanta

An update on Everett United

It’s a very small step in the right direction, but it’s (slightly) better than nothing: a letter to the editor, signed by various Everett personalities, was posted to the Everett United Facebook page yesterday, and it included the phrase “Everett United, a Wynn supported group.”

The letter is reprinted in full below:

Everett has always been a tough and resilient city.  Like our much lauded football team, we play hard.  Multigenerational rivalries, competition and decades old slights and offenses long forgotten add to a complex culture.  Politics here is a beloved full contact sport.

Those of us who call Everett home have been both shocked and amazed to see long time rivals, disparate ethnic communities and diverse political factions coming together united in a common vision for Everett’s future.

The Wynn Resorts proposal for a world-class resort complex in Everett has sparked imaginations and ignited Everett pride.  It has made us question our ideas about what our community can be and the kind of city we might just be able to leave to future generations.  Many preconceived notions about our little city and our inherent inferiority complex are truly being questioned.  Just listen to the reactions as neighbors look at the project renderings with the gleaming tower, lush landscaping and waterfront parks.  “I can’t believe that could be in Everett!” is heard over and over again.

The financial implications are truly game changing with a one time payment of $30 million, ongoing yearly payments of $25 million, additional tax revenue from hotel and food taxes and much more. This turbo-boost to our City’s beleaguered tax base is a foundation upon which we can build.  There will be a vigorous debate about how these funds are allocated and how we agree on shared priorities for the future of our city but this staggering opportunity is within our reach.

People across the city have come together to support this project and this new vision for Everett’s future.  Over 1500 signs promoting the Saturday, June 22 vote blanket the city.  Everett United, a Wynn supported group made up of Everett residents and business owners, has over 800 members and a large, enthusiastic and dedicated team of volunteer precinct captains, door-to-door canvassers and phone callers spreading the word to fellow neighbors.  Their very active Facebook site is closely monitored by thousands of Everett residents supporting and monitoring the project’s progress.  18 current elected officials, the Chamber of Commerce, over 100 local businesses and numerous others have come together to endorse the project.  Everett’s leaders have put politics aside to stand together in a way none of us have ever seen before.

Ultimately the decision on which community gets the sole license for our region, the billion-dollar plus investment, and all the jobs and benefits that come with it lies with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.  This is a competitive process with Everett, Milford and East Boston all in contention for one available license. Everett is United and standing together as never before.  It is crucial that everyone comes out to vote on Saturday, June 22 to make our voices heard and show everyone that no one wants it more, needs it more or deserves it more than the City of Everett.  It’s our time.

Mary Boever
Robin Brickley
Paul Dobbins
Tom Fiorentino
Vincent Ragucci
Roger Thistle

This is, of course, verification of what we already knew, essentially. Nevertheless, it’s good to see a public record of it. Obviously, it’s not nearly enough: one letter to the editor, stuffed in amidst a flurry of other Facebook and web site messages that make no reference to the Wynn Resorts/Saint Consulting Group/Everett United nexus, will reach only a small percentage of Everett United’s audience. And even among those who read the letter, the phrase “Wynn supported group” may not click unless it’s repeated prominently over and over.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No Saint in this game: Is Wynn Resorts using Everett United to gain casino support?

An image on Everett United's Facebook page.
An image on Everett United’s Facebook page.

(UPDATE 5/31/2013 6:48 PM EST: The headline of this post has been changed from “No Saint in this game: Wynn Resorts uses Everett United to gain casino support” to “No Saint in this game: Is Wynn Resorts using Everett United to gain casino support?” Additionally, per Seth Cargiuolo’s request, I have removed a screenshot of his Facebook profile that included a photo of his minor children. This photo has since been replaced with a screenshot of his newest profile.)

(UPDATE 6/3/2013 11:34 AM EST: I have updated this post to reflect confirmation from one of the Facebook commenters that she did not delete her own post on the Everett United Facebook page.)

Several weeks ago while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I ran across a post that had been Liked by an acquaintance from my old hometown of Everett, Massachusetts. The post was written by Everett United, a group I’d never heard of before, and it concerned a new casino being proposed for Everett by Las Vegas casino/resort mogul Steve Wynn.

Out of curiosity, I began reading through the group’s Facebook page. Having lived for nine years in Everett, it seemed improbable to me that anyone would find it a good idea to place a casino there. A small suburb just north of Boston, Everett had just under 42,000 residents in the 2010 census, and its median household income is $48,319 (about 8.4% below the national average). From long personal experience, I know that Everett is, in every way, the polar opposite of glamorous.

The Facebook page for Everett United, which launched in March, describes the group as “a coalition of local residents and business leaders who support the idea of a world-class resort hotel and entertainment complex in Everett.” The group’s dedicated web site, EverettUnited.com, contains a similar statement: “Everett United are your neighbors…the clerk at the checkout counter…your friends and co-workers. Together, we view the Wynn Resort and Hotel in Everett as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to greatly improve our city and quality of life. It’s a project we need, and deserve, more than any other community” (ellipses in original).

The objective of the group is to drum up support for a June 22 citywide referendum in Everett, required under state casino law, in which Everett residents will decide whether to approve the host agreement between Wynn Resorts and their city. If they do, the proposed hotel and casino complex will then be one of three contestants for a Greater Boston casino license, whose winner will be decided by the Massachusetts gambling commission.

Continue reading No Saint in this game: Is Wynn Resorts using Everett United to gain casino support?

Underground theater

New York filmmaker Joshua Z Weinstein took an above-average interest in subway dance performers. (By “above-average,” I mean he glanced up from his newspaper long enough to notice them, which is more than can be said for most of us.)

It’s a good thing he did, too, because he deftly managed to elevate what can often seem an irritating (and invariably loud) performance into something approaching art:

After weeks of calls, I managed to book an afternoon shoot with some of the men, who call themselves the W.A.F.F.L.E. (We Are Family for Life Entertainment) crew: J-Black, Goofy, Boy Aero, Lex Aero, John-O and Sonic. I focused my lens on their hands seizing poles and feet fluttering in the air. As I zoomed in, I noticed that these self-taught artists are not just part of an underground subculture; their graceful moves also evoke a classical ballet.

Enhanced by Zemanta

“Shall we do this weekly?” A statistical jaunt through View From Your Window history

The daily View From Your Window feature.
The daily View From Your Window feature.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the two years I’ve just spent in grad school (an all-too-short, intercontinental reprieve from working life that just ended with Thursday’s graduation ceremony), it’s that diversions from studying and writing papers are absolutely crucial in order to stay sane.

Enter The Dish. Longtime readers of my blog (hello, family) will know that I’m a Dish obsessive, and I probably spend more time scrolling through its contents than on most other sites combined. One of the blog’s most popular features is the View From Your Window, which is really two features in one. In the daily version, Andrew Sullivan posts a reader-submitted picture of a view from a window, with a caption revealing where the photo was taken. And in the weekly feature that runs every Saturday, Sullivan posts a view from a window without any caption, inviting readers instead to guess the location. Dish readers are scarily accurate, generally finding the exact window of whatever building the photographer was in when (s)he snapped the photo. (And yes, I will be sending in a guess for Saturday’s View From Your Window contest.)

Since I’ve spent much of the last month or so cramming in last-minute papers, reports, and presentations, the need to escape has become more pronounced as well. And so that is how I came to catalog — sporadically, in fits and starts between bursts of academic inspiration — every daily and weekly View From Your Window post in the “modern era” of VFYW — the honorary category I’ve awarded to the library of posts starting from the very first weekly contest on June 9, 2010. (The source file is available here.) Continue reading “Shall we do this weekly?” A statistical jaunt through View From Your Window history

I’m not gone, just busy

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnydFmqHuVo]

I haven’t disappeared. But the combination of final exams for my master’s program, preparations for moving once again (thankfully only within Manhattan this time), and gearing up for a couple graduation ceremonies has taken its toll.

I’ll be back with more shortly.

– Jay

Belieber

The New Yorker, following up on pop star Justin Bieber’s awkward attempt at memorializing Anne Frank, has a little fun re-imagining history:

Göring: You see, mein Führer, being a Belieber isn’t just about music. It’s about love and trust, about being sweet but still complicated, cocky but non-threatening, sexy but not precisely sexual—whether you’re commanding the Wehrmacht or hiding in an attic somewhere in the Netherlands. Sure, it’s easy to sit here and talk about making a Fascist Bieber, but chances are we would all just end up Bieber-Fascists. Look, Himmler’s already doing the slide-glide thing.

(Hitler turns to see Himmler doing Bieber’s signature dance move across the room. Hitler sighs heavily, realizing it’s useless.)

Hitler: Well, in that case, I suppose we ought to surrender.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Who are the 7%?

From today’s Washington Post:

A large majority of Americans support the death penalty for the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing should he be convicted in federal court, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Overall, 70 percent of those surveyed say they support the death penalty for 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. While most Democrats and Republicans alike say they would support the death penalty for Tsarnaev, there are deep racial divisions on the matter, reflecting a common gap in public views of the death penalty itself.

And from a Gallup press release on January 9th:

Americans’ support for the death penalty as punishment for murder has plateaued in the low 60s in recent years, after several years in which support was diminishing. Sixty-three percent now favor the death penalty as the punishment for murder, similar to 61% in 2011 and 64% in 2010.

So 63% support for the death penalty, but 70% if it’s Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Assuming that the national sentiment on the death penalty hasn’t substantively changed since January, this means that 7% of Americans allow their feelings to be changed by a massive police overreaction and overblown media coverage of an attack that took fewer lives than your run-of-the-mill school shooting.

It makes you wonder how many more of us are so easily manipulated on issues other than the death penalty as well. And it certainly helps explain the need for critics like Glenn Greenwald.

On the other hand, this may just be an extension of the futility of poll-watching, as is hopefully evidenced by a recent survey which found that 42% of Americans didn’t know Obamacare was still in effect.

Note to future self: write post about the nonsensicality of polling (replete with a brief digression in which I nevertheless praise Nate Silver for his innovation).

Enhanced by Zemanta