Saturday, October 23, 2010

Palmer City Council Presidents Says His Support For A Mohegan-Backed Casino Is His Personal Viewpoint, Not Speaking For City Council

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article in The Republican media outlet of Massachusetts concerning the Palmer Town Council President stressing that his support of a possible Mohegan-backed casino in Palmer reflects his personal viewpoint and that he is not speaking for the City Council.

Casino backer aims to clear air
Lori Stabile
The Republican
October 22, 2010

PALMER - It's no secret that Town Council president Paul E. Burns supports a casino opening in Palmer, but some people still apparently have a problem with him.

Burns read from a prepared statement at a recent Town Council meeting reiterating that his views on the casino are his own, and are not reflective of the council, which has not taken an official stand on the issue.

Because Burns has been such a proponent of Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun's plan to build a resort casino across from the Massachusetts Turnpike exit on Route 32, he also has opened himself to criticism - from people he said he bumps into at the store to his fellow councilors who have told him that it seems like he's speaking for them.

"I felt it was necessary," Burns said about making the public statement.

In the statement, Burns explained that he will continue to advocate for a casino and that he views it as a fight for jobs and economic development opportunities for the town. He also said he thinks it will provide a significant source of revenue "in a time of declining revenues in general."

"As an elected official, I feel advocating for jobs, development and revenue is an appropriate role," Burns said.

"Having said that, I know there are concerns on the part of some on this council and in the community that my statements and comments may be construed to imply the approval of the Town Council for this development. While I make it a point to state that I am only speaking for myself when I present my views on the issue, that statement is not always included in media coverage," he said.

Burns said he hopes that by making the public statement he finally will put the issue "to bed."

At-large Councilor Michael R. Magiera and District 4 Councilor Roger R. Duguay Jr. have said that they think Burns has been clear that his views were his own.

Burns is the only councilor, however, to regularly appear at Mohegan-related functions and send out press releases in support of the project. He also spoke at a gaming summit in Connecticut.

But he is not the only one who has publicly voiced his support either. In October 2009, Burns issued a press release saying Magiera, District 1 Councilor Philip J. Hebert and at-large councilor Karl S. Williams support the concept of a casino in Palmer. Hebert also has appeared at Mohegan functions and pro-casino rallies, but not as often as Burns.

James L. St. Amand, Northeast Realty's community liaison, said Burns as council president has every right to take a stand on the issue.

"When you're involved in politics you're always going to have people take a different position. He's done not only a fine job with the casino but a nice job on economic development just by letting people know that Palmer is available for development," St. Amand said.

Northeast Realty is leasing the property off Thorndike Street (Route 32) to Mohegan so it can build a casino, should casino gaming become legal in the commonwealth.

Kathleen C. Norbut, of Monson, past president of United to Stop Slots, had this to say about Burns and St. Amand. St. Amand also is vice-chairman of the School Committee: "Why have two local elected officials taken such strong positions for proposals that don't adequately protect the town when our wizened state senator and their equally astute state representative voted no?" Norbut said.

Norbut was referring to state Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, and Rep. Todd M. Smola, R-Palmer, who voted against the casino legislation that ultimately failed this summer.

By Lori Stabile, Casino backer aims to clear air, The Republican, Oct. 22, 2010, at: