Reporter's Notebook: Council prez eyes new course on Eastie casino question

Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Jan. 12, 2012

City Council President Stephen Murphy appears to be shifting course on the 13-member body’s approach to the issue of siting a casino in Boston.

In an appearance on Chris Lovett’s Neighborhood Network News (BNN-TV) show on Tuesday, Murphy said he would announce on Wednesday that he will refer the question of siting a casino to the Committee on Economic Development, chaired by District 2 Councillor Bill Linehan of South Boston. Murphy acknowledged that is different from what he announced at the first City Council meeting of the year, when he said he would set up a special committee to study gambling, with District Councillor Sal LaMattina of East Boston as its chair.

“The question is, where does the council go with the question of a casino,” Murphy told Lovett. “I originally thought it would be better to set up a special committee on the siting of a casino in East Boston. The members since that time have been persuading me, one by one, that it is better left, in their opinion, in the Committee on Economic Development, which is a full standing committee of the council.”

The state law authorizing the set up of three casinos across Massachusetts includes a provision allowing for a city-wide referendum on a casino, by a vote of the City Council. Otherwise, it would be a referendum limited to the ward the casino would be located in. Mayor Thomas Menino has said he supports a ward-only vote.

“I don’t want to speak for the mayor, but part of the prevailing wisdom is that if you were talking about putting it in the middle of Franklin Park, well that’s geographically nearer to the center of the city and would impact a whole host,” said Murphy. “East Boston is geographically isolated. You have to either go over a bridge or go through a tunnel to get over there. So the question of whether or not there’ll be negative impacts, that’s going to be borne, much like the airport is, on the residents of East Boston.”

Murphy also reiterated his intention to ratchet up the pressure on Vornado Realty Trust, a company that wears two hats: one as a minority stakeholder in the proposal for an East Boston casino at the Suffolk Downs race track and another the company that created the hole in Downtown Crossing.

The mayor has had “direct” conversations with Vornado and has been rebuffed, Murphy said. “And I said, ‘Well gee,’ I said, ‘here’s an opportunity for us to leverage something that they’re looking for, in return for something that we’re looking for. And I just thought, let’s put it out there on Day One, that we’re not looking to partner with somebody who doesn’t want to partner with us. So that was my message on opening day and it’s having an impact. They want to come in and meet with me and they’ve conveyed that to the minority partner, the other partners, and I think maybe it’s going to make a difference for filling that hole quicker.”

Murphy added that he wants the construction jobs a casino would bring.

“I think the issue of whether or not we’re going to have a casino has been decided,” he said. “The question is where. And I certainly would like to see it in the city of Boston. But I also think that, not so fast. Let’s not turn a blind eye to somebody who’s not been willing to even engage us in the possibility of helping out on a site that they own. Because frankly I know they own it, and I know they’re questioning their investment, but the fact that they’re leaving it the way it is, it’s neglect, and it’s neglectful to the neighbors, to the city and frankly it doesn’t deserve us rushing to put more money in their coffers. It’s a delicate balance but I think you need to lay it out there.”

Dorcena eyes mayoral run as Sanon launches another bid for City Council
Two months after finishing in sixth place in a seven-way scrum for four City Council At-Large seats, Hyde Park’s William Dorcena said he is campaigning for City Hall’s top job in 2013. Dorcena’s campaign launch was first noted by a sympathetic blog, “Marry in Massachusetts.”

Dorcena grew up in Uphams Corner, like his sister, state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, who has been estranged from him for a number of years. Rep. Forry is married to Reporter managing editor Bill Forry.
Dorcena becomes the second candidate to announce a mayoral bid. (Mayor Menino has not yet publicly said whether he is running for a sixth term.) The first, Charles Clemons, co-founder of TOUCH 106.1 FM, made the announcement at his 50th birthday party in August.

He isn’t the only one pairing his birthday with politics. Jean-Claude Sanon, who unsuccessfully campaigned for one of the four City Council At-Large seats in 2009, is giving it another go. Sanon will launch another effort to grab one of the at-large seats this weekend. He is holding a fundraiser on Jan. 15, his 53rd birthday, at the Haitian American Adult Day Care in Dorchester.

Sanon, who came in 12th place out of 15 candidates in the Sept. 2009 preliminary, has also worked as an organizer with the left-leaning group Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, and campaigned against a Wal-Mart coming to Boston. Suggested donations range from $15 to $53 for “the years on earth.”

Casting call goes out for political play, “Murph”
A casting call has been posted for a Boston-themed political drama written by Dorchester playwright —and longtime political operative— Catherine O’Neill.

Her play, “Murph,” is set on “the eve of the Clinton administration,” and focused on Boston’s political scene and state Rep. Kevin Murphy (not to be confused with the real-life state representative from Lowell).

Local theater production company Argos Productions is putting the play together. Auditions are set for Jan. 30 to Jan. 31 at the Boston Playwrights Theater.

The cast includes the pol, his kitchen cabinet and a nationally-orientated political strategist.
The company is looking for someone in his thirties to play Murphy, who is described this way: “Fiercely ambitious and secretive, but pretends not to be. Charming, a political star on the rise, but truly a man of the people.”

The play is scheduled to run at the Boston Playwright’s Theatre from April 13 to April 28.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Email us at and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.