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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Brooklyn Lawyer Lends Hand to Faltering Casino Opposition

This guy is my new hero.

Eric Snyder is a Brooklyn-based lawyer "who provides bankruptcy advice to corporations, landlords, creditors’ committees, and bankruptcy trustees, as well as to museums seeking advice on matters related to the lending of artwork to commercial galleries."

He's also the guy many of us have been waiting for - the one who has stepped forward to call bullshit on Governor Cuomo and the outrageous ballot language that reads like an advocacy ad for the casino referendum.  

The language, which the State Board of Elections approved in July, mentions a series of positive “legislative purposes” of the casino proposal, including “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.” That language was approved by the board after consultation with the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, which has backed the measure.

But the suit filed in State Supreme Court says the rosy terminology violates the State Constitution’s provision against use of public money in the aid of a “private undertaking.”

“The Constitution is pretty clear that you can’t use public money to sway or influence a vote,” the lawyer, Eric J. Snyder, said. [NY Times]
I love how we always read that the language was approved by "the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo."  The governor himself recently said that he hadn't "studied" the wording, which I would surmise makes him a liar in addition to a bully and a guy who took over the NYRA tracks but refuses to set foot inside of one.  (I will refuse to consider stepping into a polling place to vote for him unless he does.)
Snyder said the elections board did not have the authority to adopt the language and that expending resources to craft what he called the pro-casino ballot wording goes against constitutional prohibitions of state money being used to promote a ballot issue. His legal papers cited several precedents, including a 1975 case brought against a state agency that was using state resources to promote adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment.
At a minimum, the lawsuit seeks to change the ballot question to a simple question: does a voter support or oppose a plan to add up to seven casinos in the state? If the language doesn’t change, Snyder is asking the courts in his Article 78 proceeding to strip the casino question from the ballot. [Buffalo News]
A state court will hear arguments next week.

As if there was any doubt, a Siena poll released earlier this week confirmed that the language is indeed persuasive.
When the Siena College poll asked voters without the political spin if they favored authorizing several casinos, New York voters were split at 46 percent.

But when shown the glowing wording of the referendum, 55 percent approved it.

"Clearly the wording on the ballot for the casino amendment matters," said Steven Greenberg of the Siena poll. [Associated Press]
Another poll, conducted by a coalition of business and labor groups known as New York Jobs, which will lend support to passage of the referendum, also showed support for the measure throughout the state; including - and especially - in New York City, which will likely supply most of the voters but which will not be immediately affected, by a whopping 52-31%. Again, this is when presented with the rosy language on the ballot. This survey did not poll on the neutral language which was changed by the legislature and Governor Cuomo.....oops, that is, by the administration of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Interestingly, the poll showed upstate voters split nearly even.  That's all very odd considering that aiding upstate communities in need of jobs and an economic boost was the whole point of Cuomo's decision to limit the facilities to upstate.  On the other hand, some upstate areas are precluded from getting casinos due to the governor's giveaways to Indian tribes that could have thrown their financial muscle into opposing the measure.  (And at least two affected towns are suing the administration over it, accusing Cuomo of vote-buying.)

This poll was conducted by The Parkside Group, which issued an accompanying memo asserting that a well-funded, well-executed campaign should prevail and propel the referendum to passage on November 5th.
The survey shows room for growth in the five boroughs, where support from a very popular Governor and Democratic nominee for Mayor, along with the active participation of labor unions, can transform remaining undecided voters into supporters of the referendum.
When I read this, I was like 'What?  Since when did the Democratic nominee for NYC mayor, Bill de    Blasio, say he supported the referendum?'  Surely, that can't be the case, right?

Well, wrong.  On September 27, de Blasio released this statement via the Public Advocate website:
“The casino referendum is a win-win for New York. Our neighbors upstate will benefit from the jobs created, and New York City will receive new revenue to support education. It’s good for the city and the state, and I join with labor and business in supporting this measure.”
Hmmm.....Seriously, Mr. Mayor-to-be?  What happened to the thing about "two New Yorks?"  You know, the stuff about inequality and the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots; about Bloomberg favoring the rich at the expense of the disappearing middle class and those who struggle to make ends meet?  Maybe de Blasio has been too busy to drop by Resorts World and take a look at the working class types sitting in a trance while the slots drain the money from their player cards fed intravenously into the machines.

Or to have read about the recently issued study by the "non-partisan" Institute for American Values (large pdf file here).  The report affirms reports I've read lately that conclude that 35-50% of casino revenues derive from problem gamblers.   And that casinos actually serve to lower property values in the areas where they are located.  And it concludes:
"[S]tate-sponsored casino gambling ... parallels the separate and unequal life patterns in education, marriage, work, and play that increasingly divide America into haves and have-nots. Those in the upper ranks of the income distribution rarely, if ever, make it a weekly habit to gamble at the local casino. Those in the lower ranks of the income distribution often do. Those in the upper ranks rarely, if ever, contribute a large share of their income to the state's take of casino revenues. Those in the lower ranks do." [Via CNN]
Seems to me that this is language that could be taken out of de Blasio's playbook....that it refers to exactly the kind of inequality that he's based his campaign on, and which he has used to portray himself as the progressive alternative to the last twelve years.  I would think he'd surely have second thoughts if he thought about the use of casinos to balance budgets as a form of regressive taxation.  Of course, the casinos won't actually be in New York City at first.  But does that mean that he thinks that "two cities" is OK elsewhere in the state as long as it benefits us here?

 - I'll sneak in a horse pick here figuring that most people who read this strictly for the racing stuff are long gone and won't see a potential losing selection.   The 8th at Belmont today is an extremely tough six furlong turf sprint, deep in contenders who would hardly surprise me should they win. But let's take a flyer with Bluegrass Springs (12-1).  Three-year old son of Bluegrass Cat was claimed by current trainer Linda Rice off of a win under similar conditions at Belmont in June.  She promptly stretched him out at Saratoga, and he showed good speed in a similar class level to today, got bumped around a bit in the stretch and held on for an OK third.  Then, a funny thing happened in his next two efforts in that the horse does not show a listed workout prior to either, both also routes.  Typically, Bluegrass Springs works a half-mile a week or so before his races; he did so prior to each of the abovementioned solid efforts, as well as before others in the past in which he's shown good speed from the start.   Maybe it's just coincidence that he uncharacteristically lagged behind early in each of these last two races before mounting just a mild late response.  I mean, I wouldn't want to suggest that Ms. Rice is cheating playing games, or anything.  Maybe she just forgot.

Anyway, here, not only does he get his half mile work, but he cuts back from a mile after 19 days - his six furlong turf win came 20 days after a mile effort.  So I'm looking for him to be closer early. Will need to improve on his speed figures, but seems intriguing on price.  Abra (7-2), also trained by Ms. Rice, seems strictly the one to beat, also cutting back to the six furlong distance at which ran a close second and earned a big TimeformUS figure two back before - for some reason following such a stellar effort - stretching out for the first time, hmm.  So a Rice exacta box could be in order here. Slamarama (5-1) and Bernie the Jet (3-1) also seem well fast enough to at least get a piece; tough heat, as I said.  Best of luck and have a great day.


jk said...

de Blasio (and Cuomo) need all the money they can get so public employees can retire in their 40's and 50's with million dollar pensions not subject to state or local income taxes. Everyone else has to work into their 60's (or play slots) to pay for it. Tale of two cities indeed.

kyle said...

iHow could DeBlasio not be for it? It grows the government. You first have to take people's money before you can give a little back to them. I thought you were a Progressive. Isn't this basic principle explained at first meetings?

Alan Mann said...

kyle - You can take money from people who can well afford to have money taken from them (which is what De Blasio is proposing), not to lure those who can't into gambling palaces with false advertising depicting them as some kind of posh playgrounds. Personally, I don't see how any Progressive could be in favor of this.

Figless said...

"So a Rice exacta box could be in order here."

NICE call!! $73, hope you put your money where your keyboard was.

I didn't read the post until now, bummer.