Since casinos seemingly pass for the state’s best answer for economic development these days, one can’t imagine a mayor being unwilling to at least listen to proposals that might bring your city big bucks in taxes and employment opportunities.
When you’re Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, though, such a stance comes with significant political fallout.
The 23-year-old first-term mayor is just finding out what that might mean to his future.
Morse built a winning campaign a little more than a year ago on strident opposition to bringing a resort casino to Holyoke. Now, Morse has suddenly announced that he’s open to negotiations that would land a casino on the site that once was the Mount Tom amusement park, and which now serves as outdoor concert venue owned by Eric Suher, impresario of the Northampton-based Ironhorse Entertainment Group.
“Everyone knows that I have been strongly opposed to proposals to locate a casino in the city of Holyoke,” Morse said Monday during a press conference. “But when a business plan is presented to me, it is my responsibility to consider it.”
In this case, we think, Morse’s constituents deserve to learn what triggered the sudden about-face.
After all, this isn’t the same gradual change of thinking as is the case of state Sen. Stan Rosenberg who was an opponent to casino gambling in Massachusetts but whose stance evolved over years of talking to constituents and being part of the legislative process that built up the supervisory infrastructure for the gambling venues.
Rosenberg wound up being part of the committee that forged a bill from what the House and Senate had proposed. Rosenberg also never made his gambling opposition the thrust of a run for office.
That can’t be said for Morse. And without a better explanation behind his reversal of thinking, hearing the Holyoke mayor say “My views on casinos have not changed and neither has my belief that a casino is unequivocally not our saving grace” rings hollow.
Morse maintains there have been no “back room deals” in changing his stance.
But unless he does a better job of explaining his thinking, a lot of his constituents are going to be left feeling misled — and angry.