After signing the mitigation agreement one day after Boston last Wednesday evening, Aug. 28, Revere City officials are touting the agreement this week as the best possible agreement that could be had for a project that essentially is completely located in East Boston.
Most City Councillors – who met with Mayor Dan Rizzo informally Saturday afternoon – are on board with the agreement, though there is a strong group that is rather disappointed with the outcome of the agreement.
Sentiment amongst residents so far has been mixed, but most agree it is far too early and there are far too many questions right now to get a good indicator of the public’s reaction.
More will be learned on Tuesday night, in a meeting that came too late for Journal deadlines, but was touted as an informational meeting where questions would be answered. Councillors were also expected to begin debating what date to have the citywide referendum vote – which is expected to be timed with any Boston vote and is likely to come just prior to Halloween.
Council President Ira Novoselsky said the Council is waiting for Boston to set a date for their referendum, and Revere would set the referendum for that same day. He predicted the date would be set at the Sept. 16th Council meeting.
At the outset, Mayor Rizzo said the City took a measured approach and looked forward to further investment in the future.
“We took a very measured approach and weighed the opinions, and ideas, of the community throughout this process,” said Rizzo. “The prospect of a resort style casino at Suffolk Downs will surely create jobs and lead to further investment within our city. The host community agreement will act to protect the city’s interests and ensure that we have the resources needed in the future. The citizens of Revere, through an election, will be the final deciding voice on the prospect of a resort style casino. My feeling is that when the citizens of Revere see this agreement, they will support the committee host agreement overwhelmingly.
“I believe that the Revere host community agreement is an extraordinary deal that will help make the transformation of Revere a reality,” he continued.
Suffolk Downs principal owner Richard Fields said Revere would help his company set the standard for gaming venues in Massachusetts.
“Mayor Rizzo and his team have been true partners as we have pursued this opportunity and we are grateful for the effort they have undertaken,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to foster that partnership with the City and its residents and, together, setting the standard for gaming resorts in Massachusetts in every way.”
However, a group of about four City Councillors – led by Councillors Stephen Reardon and Brian Arrigo – were vocally disappointed with the way things played out and the numbers that have been disclosed.
Reardon said a more inclusive process could have eliminated Boston driving the train in negotiations.
“I’m not thrilled with the agreement and I’m not thrilled with the process it took to get the agreement,” said Reardon. “I keep hearing that 70 percent of the property is in Boston and Boston is a huge city, but all of that has nothing to do with the problems that will come and which will be shared equally between Revere and East Boston…To suppose the numbers here are a fair proportion is, I think, wrong. I’m particularly farklempt over the jobs situation too. Boston is getting 50 percent of the jobs and that’s unfair. To say Revere only gets consideration for 10 percent is unfair.”
He continued, “One thing I think is the City of Boston took over the process. I would describe Mayor (Tom) Menino’s machinations as Machiavellian. He took this and let it run its course until it was thrown on the doorstep and it was to our disadvantage I would argue. If the negotiations were tri-partite with Boston, Revere and Suffolk, then we come out the better for it.”
Councillor Brian Arrigo said his initial reaction was that of being underwhelmed.
“I was hoping to have that sense of the ‘wow’ factor, but I didn’t get that,” he said. “Everett had a ‘wow’ factor. Boston certainly had a ‘wow’ factor with their financial provisions and 50 percent of the jobs for Boston residents and all of the tax revenue and fees and such…Right now, with the numbers being thrown around, I feel a little disappointed and only because I think the Legislature gave us a gift in letting us negotiate the agreement and gave the mayor a lot of leverage and opportunity…I think with us being the last to sign, there was a lot of opportunity and leverage to go back and squeeze to get the ‘wow’ factor.”
He said he would like to see transportation studies, financial analyses and real estate value breakdowns when getting the details from the administration.
“I know people will say that if you have any criticism or comments about the deal, then you are anti-administration,” he added. “However, this is a deal that will set the standard and will affect the City for generations to come…This is the biggest issue anybody on the Revere City Council will deal with for a long time. It’s really only about making sure we get the best deal for Revere.”
He urged residents to examine the agreement for themselves, as he believes it will affect the City for generations to come.
Councillor Bob Haas was reportedly also a bit underwhelmed, though like the other two councillors, will likely support the agreement in the end.
“This whole thing was predicated on jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said. “I would think more than 10 percent would come for Revere. Menino really twisted the arms and he got everything. The hotel was supposed to be in Revere and arms got twisted and at the last minute everything was in Boston…Are we happy with this? Some say it’s all we could get. I don’t know about that. I think if we held strong, maybe we could have gotten more than 10 percent of the jobs and probably a higher percentage of fees than $4.2 million. We want our equal share, bottom line. This has the potentially to be really lucrative for Revere if the money is spent correctly.”
Councillor John Powers also had some reservations, but wasn’t entirely disappointed.
“One question I have is about the minimum $4.2 million payment,” he said. “In the event there are details needed, are we paying for these? We could blow through that money pretty quickly on details. We had to pay for them when Wonderland was in its heyday. If we have to pay for them, then that diminishes the fee by some 20 or 30 percent. Those are some questions I have so far.”
Councillor Arthur Guinasso said he was for the agreement, but a little disappointed with the jobs numbers.
“I think it’s a great agreement that the City got,” he said. “One concern I had was about the fact we’re only getting 10 percent of the jobs. We have 30 percent of the land and only 10 percent of the jobs. It’s something we can live with though…Everyone is pounding on the traffic situation. I’m not fearful of the traffic. I think that’s overused and overstated. That’s not a bonafide excuse to deny this.”
However, those with any concerns appeared to be in the minority.
Ward 1 Councillor Richard Penta – who represents the section of Revere where Suffolk Downs is located – said he thought the agreement was sensational.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” he said. “I talked to councillors about this a year ago and they expected $5 to $6 million a year. This is much more than anyone thought we’d get just a year ago. Anyone who says differently is not being genuine. This is a 15-year license, if they get it, and that would be $200 million in total to Revere. Think of this. We’re getting that kind of money and there’s not one thing being built in Revere. I think that’s sensational.”
He said he had heard some negative comments initially, but he had also heard an equal measure of enthusiasm.
“You’re never going to make everyone happy,” he said. “The administration did a good job here. To pit us against Boston is not realistic. That’s a major city. That’s just a cop out and that’s just somebody who is anti-administration. I don’t see how anyone could knock this agreement.”
Councillor Tony Zambuto said to put him down as a cheerleader for the agreement, saying he felt the City got the best possible deal.
“I think the mayor and his administration are to be commended for what they extracted,” said Zambuto. “I don’t think we could expect anything better than what we got. It’s a great deal for the City. I actually think we got a better deal than Boston because we have all of that money – $8 million – up front before it even opens…You have to put it in perspective in what Boston has 70 percent of the land an all the buildings…None of the construction is in Revere. We have air space and we’re guaranteed money.”
Council President Ira Novoselsky said he was happy with the outcome as well.
“The City has done very well – better than what we thought,” he said. “Everyone has their own opinion. Look at it this way; we’re a City who doesn’t have a casino within our City and we’re getting $200 million over 15 years. You can’t mitigate everything the people want. I got my two cents and Richard Penta got his two cents and we are the two councillors closest to the facility. We are content with what we got.”
By contrast, Revere’s agreement was the least lucrative of all four communities in the Greater Boston area that have negotiated a host community agreement, including Everett, Milford and Boston.
Boston received $33.4 million in its negotiated one-time fee, money that will be expended in East Boston exclusively, and a projected $52 million per year in impact fees if the casino hits $1 billion in gross gaming revenues.
Also by contrast, the competing casino proposal in Everett proposed by the Wynn Group agreed to pay $25.5 million per year in mitigation – which includes property taxes. It has a guaranteed increase of 2.5 percent annually built into the payment formula.
Everett also negotiated a $30 million one-time fee from the Wynn Group.
The only other proposal is by Foxwoods and it’s located in Milford. That Town has a newly expanded draft agreement hammered out and a spokesman for Foxwoods told the Journal last week that they expect a successful vote of the Town government late this week.
Milford’s new agreement – announced last weekend – calls for $31 million per year in taxes and impact fees, and a one-time payment of $34 million. They have also committed to $100 million in transportation and infrastructure improvements. That development is projected to be 2.8 million square feet.