Casinos: The Perfect Case Study of our Worst Attributes

I cannot read about the joke that is the Casino process without getting a little nauseous. I have said this before, but the whole Casino process has been a perfect, perfect case study of how screwed up Philly politics can be.

1) A Democratic Governor, and a powerful Democratic State Senator, both from Philadelphia, decide that the best way to fuel economic development in Philadelphia is to put big slot barns down in the middle of neighborhoods. We can't get the real changes we need to level the property tax and school funding inequities, so instead we take old ladys' social security money as they feed it down a one armed bandit. Awesome.

Of course, the jobs that are coming are generally low paid. And, there is very little in promises that the jobs will even stay, as the slot machine world becomes more and more automated. Wonderfully, to stick the needle in the eye of East Falls, G'town, Nicetown and others, Tastycake uses Trump's interest to pay their way out of Philadelphia, with their jobs following them.

2) Communities are repulsed by the idea, so they start to organize, organize, organize. But, there is a an odd feeling to it all, since it seems like the 2 parlors are a done deal. If so, the interest of keeping Trump out of East Falls, or a second Casino off of the Delaware, becomes Philly residents squaring off against Philly residents. The scraps get thrown off the table, and now its time for us to duke it out.

3) The Gaming Board is effectively a total joke, largely ignoring community input, meeting in secret, etc.

4) When things start looking bad for Trump, people like Larry Ceisler rely on the best friend of Philadelphia: race baiting. So what if the Casino in East Falls will sit next to a high school and sit across the street from a public housing project. Clearly, the opponents of Trump are just high-brow white people who don't get it.

5) Along with the race baiting, the Casino operators realize that instead of meeting with communities that largely do not want them, they will simply pick out a few groups, and start dividing and conquering. They start promising to build a ball field, and sponsoring little league teams, all to show how terrific they are. In recent hearings, the board only listens to the few community groups that the Casinos have bought off, not the myriad of them that they have not come to agreements with. (I asked my dad to write more about the farce that were yesterday's hearings, but he is in the middle of writing a reply brief to the PA Supreme Court trying to overturn the whole thing. Hopefully, he will in the next day or two.)

6) Celebrities are hired to somehow make it all OK. Apparently, because Pat Croce was a good president of the Sixers, it is clear that Casinos are good for East Falls. Also, because Sly Stallone is Rocccckkkkky, the same goes for his place along the waterfront. And Donald Trump, that wonderful humanitarian who was so bad at running Casinos that his own company fired his ass, is fawned over by the Gaming Board.

7) Philadelphians have to fight even to just keep their damn zoning rights for the Slot Barns. Only after a large scale campaign of letters, calls and faxes led by Hallwatch, do we even get that right back. And, that is our big victory.

8) City political leaders, even those nominally opposed to it, generally just stay silent.

I could go on and on and on. But the bottom line is this: This entire process, from the legislation itself to where we are now, makes me ashamed.

In addition to ashamed, I wou

In addition to ashamed, I would like to add the word "frustrated" to the mix. In retrospect, we should have taken this to Rendell during the election. Maybe just a vote-boycott. Not that it would have mattered, but now, he is there for 4 more years and we have no one, but potentially the courts, to help. And even then, the fix is temporary. What were we thinking? It is not even like the tax cuts amount to anything worthwhile, unless of course you are 65!


that was the best summation of the bs surrounding the casinos i have read.

and trust me i've tried:

but what can we do? just fighting the casinos cannot be enough. how can communities be properly represented by those elected to serve them? while so many are against casinos i feel like divide and conquer is at play among the progressive liberals as well. what is the bigger picture we are missing?

our responses: Community Planning and Operation Transparency

We are organizing locally, suing the State, using advocacy and lobbying. But we are also taking direct action. For NABR, from day one, our opposition to casinos was a result of our commitment to the idea that communities should have a meaningful say in how they are planned and developed. Casinos were an imposition upon us. We fought alongside our allies to restore zoning, and get a meaningful planning process for the Delaware Riverfront. Like so many things what is needed now is just more citizens engaged and partiicpating in these discussions-from making sure the City uses the power of siting (which we won back for them with our allies) casinos out of residential areas and to advance a positive planning vision for our riverfront and city (check out - the City funded initiative). With Casino Free Philadelphia, we joined with our allies at MCA and others to keep the pressure up at the Gaming Board. The casino industry is the number one threat to the reform movement. Open government and casinos do not mix and our State and City will become more, not less corrupt with the introduction (and ongoing expansion) of gaming. This is something all too frequently ignored by progressives. Our first campaign to tame the gaming beast is Operation Transparency, If we truly want transparent government we can act for it, through a campaign that exposes the secrecy of the Gaming Board and brings people to Harrisburg to take meaningful action to secure the information and documents that are being kept from us. The Gaming Board can still respond to our ultimatum and share the information we are asking for-things like the most up to date proposals for the casinos but to this point it is using every excuse to keep this likely damaging information from Philadelphians. We have two more actions left and I encourage you all to check out the website and sign up for the Dec. 10th training and December 11th action.

Politicians need easy answers

Changing how a community generates decent jobs is not an easy or fast process. Rather than admit that, numerous politicians have jumped on the gambling bandwagon because it provides jobs.

Personally, I think this reflects 1) a lack of honesty among the local political leadership, 2) a lack of understanding of how to promote job growth--which by and large the local government can't effectively do directly--but constituents don't want to hear that and 3) an intellectually lazy effort to tackle real problems. It's all a reflection of disgraceful political leadership.

Two Words

Gallery and SportsComplex.

Okay, maybe "SportsComplex" is technically two words.

I think the principal failure has been our politicians willingness to allow the private sector to decide where to locate the slot parlors. Instead of locating the two casinos at locations that make sense (for example, the Gallery and the Sports Complex), we're forced to choose among a bunch of second-best and third-best alternatives just because our elected officials are simply too happy to look the other way and allow their cronies to cash in.


While I do not like casinos as they engender no new wealth, they do provide jobs. I was asked what would I like to see at the old Budd site. My reply was 15,000 UAW manufacturing jobs. Alas, that is not an option. The best anti-poverty program ever developed was a job.

Unless we can come up with a plan to provide more jobs in Philly, I am afraid casinos is all we have. At least these jobs provide benefits.

Okay enough is enough with the Ceisler comments

Okay Dan - and everyone - i have to interrupt here and say enough with the larry-ceisler-trashing!!

I'm not going to argue with the main point that the casino process is totally whacked out.

But I gotta stand up for my friends.

Not like Larry needs anyone to defend him, but jesus christ, the guy did a TREMENDOUS amount of media and strategy work for free on Anne Dicker's race, Rick Taylor's race, and Bryan Lentz's race, all of which you just celebrated in prior postings.

He has contributed tremendously to the advances made by the progressive movement over the last six months in this city and state, and I know he will continue doing so in the future, for as long as he has patiently listens to my whining, and Vern, and Ben Waxman, and John, etc.

For god's sake, I didn't know what a palm card was when we started Anne's race. Larry actually had to (with SUPREME PATIENCE) sit at a table in Cosi and fold a piece of paper in half and say, "okay, this is what they call a palm card, this is about the size it is, and you put a bio on one side" etc etc etc.

You and Larry may disagree on this particular issue, but please, enough with the personal attacks.
We owe a lot to this guy. He has been awesome. If you knew more about it you would be thanking him.


Larry's a big boy

When he does good, he deserves praise.

You're right, Larry deserves credit for advancing The Cause with the local state Dems, I know he was critical with the Taylor campaign's media coup, and that he worked a similar wonder for Anne. So due kudos to Mr. Ceisler for all that.

But when he defends a debacle like TrumpStreet for fun and profit, he's got his licks coming.

It's my experience that even the city's greatest progressive benefactors are capable of terrific lapses in judgement. If we don't call them when we see them, they'll never get better, and the city won't either.

Anyway, you always complained so much about Anne's palm card, I assumed Ray wrote it...

Why I Didnt Vote for Ed Rendell

I will try to be clearer.

Here is what i see as the moral difference between the various casino applicants, and our responsibilities when dealing with them as a city.

The standards to which you hold organizations and use to negotiate with them depends on what kind of organization they are.

Trump is a large corporation based outside of the city, that operates based on a profit motive. Whatever you think about American corporate law, that's just how it is.

But the riverfront casinos have a tremendous amount of people involved who were a part of city and state government for many years. It makes me really sad.

From 1991 to 1999 the Rendell administration engineered a tiny, fragile, yet totally hopeful real estate boom in parts of the city - a city that had been totally bombed out for decades - and now he and his friends are coming back to town to plop down these things, kill the boom, and wipe out millions of dollars in equity that is the only asset that many Philadelphians own.



As a city, how do you respond to these organizations?

You try to ensure that their presence in the city results in more services and goodies.

But that's tricky - it's all really a question of how you define "bringing it home for Philadelphia."

I think of it as "bringing it home for the ENTIRE CITY."

Some people see this as meaning "bringing it home for your friends."

So if you take my definition -
if we had really been thinking about it as a city -

...what we would do is give Trump BOTH casino licenses on the condition that the Trump corporation pay to build an underground tunnel for I95 so the freeway goes away and then we could have a decent waterfront.
Wouldn't that be awesome?

As you could imagine, this idea did not fly with Ceisler, since I am not really given powers to negotiate on behalf of Philadelphia :)

But seriously. They are the only applicant with the financial resources to do something like that.

We are passing up a tremendous opportunity to redesign the city and get all sorts of municipal projects from a multi-billion dollar corporation...because we cant work together.

And so, instead, what's going to happen?
The Penns Landing crowd and the zoning goons will get new Beemers, Ceisler gets a big new office, city council takes it in the ass, and Philadelphia gets jack shit.



the most boring mayor's race ever

And you know the way i can tell that this is going to be a boring lame mayor's race??

We havent heard any candidate say word ONE about these damn things!

A Vision For the City and Walking the Walk

It is exciting to see all this back and forth about the casinos, the rirverfront and what kind of city and politics people believe in. I cannot write everything on my mind. But want to ask for your help. I am one of the residents who lives closest to a proposed casino site. I am working with my neighbors, many of whom have lived on the block for more than 50 years, to not only protect their own homes and our small neighborhood in Fishtown but also trying to make sure that as we do so we do not force casinos into anyone else's front or back yard. The problem from the beginning was siting, and from my perspective the blame can be spread around-to the City and members of the Gaming Task Force, to those who "represent" us in Harrisburg and certainly to civic and philanthropic leaders. But things have changed and rather than talking just about CBAs (discussion of benefits should happen after you resolve issues of siting, appropriate land use and other planning issues) people are talking about re-siting (which I think is a good start but still misses some of the bigger issues). If we want to solve problems I encourage that we do so based on the vision we have for this city, for our riverfront (the city's front yard) and for protecting each other from harm. I have done my best as a neighbor to one of the propposed casino sites not just to talk about my concerns. Because I know that so many people, I would argue all residents of Philly will be impacted negatively by casinos coming to Philly. The Gaming Control Board works in secret to protect the interests of an industtry that prefers darkness. This industry will continue to tie itself so tightly to our government at the State and City level that we will want a return to corruption of the past (and present) You want government reform, good luck if you don't reign the power of the casino industry in all the ways that are needed. I am tired of waiting, I have had enough of excuses, it is time for leaders to stand up, and when I say "leaders" I don't mean politicians only (or at all). I mean people with a vision, with followers and who have what it takes to solve problems without creating more problems-I think of you in that lot. I urge everyone to join us in Harrisburg on December 11th, check out for more information. I am inviting you to join us, I really want you, all of you there. You may not agree with me about many things, you may not really know me or understand the "strategy". But I am happy to talk to you about it. And I want your friends there, and I want your neighbors there. Take your vision for what you want in your city and make it a reality through taking action (I know many of you have already and it is a pleasure to be working with you). If you would like to discuss what Casino Free Philadelphia is up to with me I am happy to talk with you about it, just email me at And for a bit of inspirational background. In Boston, the Mayor, the Governor and the Legislature all supported the tearing down of historic Fenway Park. $313 Million was approved by the Legislature. It was a done deal, far more than the casinos in Philly are now. And through alliance building, direct action, community based planning, loobbying (and cultivating good candidates for office) and a lot of hard work we were able to not only stop the destruction of a neighborhood (the proposal included the taking of 25 acres of eminent domain) we also preserved historic Fenway Park, advanced a powerful vision for developing the neighborhood and created a great legacy for the Mayor and many other politicians who we were at first fighting. I belive strongy that that can happen here but we need your help, your time and your commitment to the long term, as this is going to be going on for quite some time. And right now, we need you to help us spread the word and commit to joining us in Harrisburg on the 11th, can you do that? Thanks, Jethro

Back To the Future

Wow...How many people get an advanced look at their obituary and the small talk that takes place in-line at a viewing....when on-line? Too much stuff here to comment on; my work and advice for Democratic candidates, do I get paid? How big is my office? (as I have told Young Dan, he has a standing invitation to visit), and ask Ben, he shared an office with me....and of course, what is the truth about TrumpStreet? WWG is correct, there is more to a CBA than money; Almost everything the MCA wanted is in the final signed agreement. (The only substantive thing we turned down was their demand that the Allegheny West Foundation not have one seat on a seven person board). And in fact, as of this minute, almost half of the MCA member organizations have signed the agreement along with several who were not asked to be in the MCA. Finally, Supporting TrumpStreet was not a condition for the Community Benefits Agreement that the Leaders of the MCA rejected.

I am in no mood to argue tonight, but i do appreciate the back and forth and the undisputable fact that I must make a difference...and it is in the eyes of the beholder whether it be for better or worse.

Larry, this is what rocks about RIGHT NOW

Maybe I'm just reading a silver-lining in a dark cloud.

As stated above, I think the TrumpStreet project sucks: the site screws the high school and the rest of the neighborhood and is inappropriate for the city compared with places such as the sports complex and the Convention Center area; I also think buying off groups in an economically-challenged neighborhood is cynical and irresponsible (although I agree it's preferable to building a casino WITHOUT buying off such groups). I basically stand beside Jethro in what he proposes above.

That said, the city will survive this casino fight, whatever happens. Scarred perhaps, but it will survive.

But the fact that you are posting here now, answering criticism (at least some of it) is a positive thing, it ROCKS really.

Kudos to you for that, and to Ray and Dan for providing this critical forum.

Democracy in this great city benefits when people in power or close to power engage with those committed to reform and change. We may not prevail in this one, though I hope we will, but this conversation makes the prospect of future negotiation, democracy's pulse, far, far brighter.

So kudos for posting here, Larry. But if you really want to continue making a difference, abandon the out-of-town billionaire who wants final say over disfiguring a residential neighborhood or get him to listen to everyday Philadelphians and build somewhere else.

In 2006, oligarchy is the single greatest threat to American democracy.


He may be nice, and in fact, when I have spoken with him that is the impression I get. But in the end what he did and what he was trying to do was clear- and was in the absolute gutter of Philadelphia politics. It is not something I take lightly. So, while you may consider him "awesome," I do not.

And while he may celebrate and help candidates I like- he represents people that truly hurt Philadelphians, especially poor Philadelphians- including Casinos, payday lenders and others.

I am sure he votes Democratic every time, gives money to Democrats, is at heart a nice guy, and "is just paying the bills." But, again, that ain't the point. At heart, you are responsible for what you do, and when he represents people that I think are the opposite of what we need in Philly, I will call it out, whether he is your friend or not.


What he said. A little less argumentative than me.

We agree on one thing--I did

We agree on one thing--I did not vote for fast Eddie either. It is likely I never will again.

But, aside from still being confused as to the moral/ethical issues you discuss, I cannot understand why you would treat any of these organizations differently. Foxwoods is just as capable of making civic improvements as the Trump organization (if not more) with its mulitple bankruptcies. The same with Pinnicale. None of these companies lack resources and their partners are very wealthy.

You seem to be trying to say that one, Trump, is better than the rest. Unfortunately, the city's commission and groups of investors disagree. Odds are, we are getting two casinos in Philadelphia and one will likely be on the riverfront. The last thing we need to do is start pointing at who the better investors are and what the better sites are. Which is why the lawsuit is so important--it could help make some standards. I am very familiar with Act 71 and the scary thing for me is not who or where these things will be--but what the act does not say--how the Gaming Commission makes its decisions. This may be the least glamorous issue, but, in my estimation, the most important.

Yes--the city got screwed.
Yes--Penns Landing may suck.
Yes--Ceisler may get a larger office.
But, no--it is not over. The Constitutional Challenge is promising. And, if we can organize in 2008, another election year for state representatives.

But, in the end, none of these sites are good for the city or state.

Larry's secret plan

I think Larry helps candidates like Anne Dicker, Rick Taylor, and Bryan Lentz because he knows they'll regulate the hell out of corporate power and then he'll have more work as a consultant. Bravo to Dan for exposing the reason for Larry's cynical support for progressives!

Seriously though, I am glad that Hannah wrote this post. I spent a summer working for Larry and generally find that he is much different that how described on this site. I might disagree with the positions of some of Larry's clients, but that doesn't mean the guy should be written off completely. Unlike many people in the Democratic establishment, Larry has been receptive to progressives and actually helpful in many instances.


in fact, if i were jim kenney....

and in the absence of any other candidate taking this up as an issue...
...oh wait, wait, wait.
i am not jim kenney so i cant make those kind of decisions for him ;)!

Just to prove to Dan that I d

Just to prove to Dan that I don't take marching orders from Larry (my summer internship regardless), I say that I don't think it was necessary to throw "young" in front of Dan's name. No need to make this about old vs. young.

So that I still have access to the huge mill of patronage that Larry commands, I will say that his internship paid better than any other I’ve had during my college career. Instead of spending so much time smacking Larry around, progressives ought to figure out how to pay young people a living wage so we can build our movement.


dont get lazy your back with these guys.

They are dangerous. I've seen what they do to the REALLY bad guys like Michael Nutter. For pure, unadulterated evil...they've made it clear...there's no refuge here.

Thanks Sam, and stand beside me on the 11th

I appreciate what you wrote and I hope that you and everyone else at YPP come to Harrisburg on the 11th and litterally stand beside me and the many others who are going to take action for reform, for our neighborhoods, for transparenet planning and for our city. We will prevail in this effort if we take action together and get off the sidelines. The various leaders of groups like NABR, MCA and Riverfront United amongst many others and our growing list of political allies have done a great job with little political support (nor nearly enough in depth newspaper coverage) to date. But the conversations and most importantly action has not been taken on by nearly enough people. Many people who read this blog recruited, trained and supervised hundreds, likely thousands of volunteers in the recent election, and it is truly amazing what you accomplished. In the next three weeks can you help us mobilize these same people, can you help make phone calls, door-knock, share information about Operation Transparency and what Casino Free Philadelphia is doing on other blogs, at meetings, etc. I know it seems like direct action is somehow different than electoral organizing but I know that many of you see it as one in the same. And the efforts we make over the next few months to advance a positive vision for the riverfront and for our city and against the casinos (which do not conform to our positive vision)will be a big part of shaping the politics of this city for the next Mayor and City Council. Before the June 1st rally launching Casino Free Philadelphia I made a similar request of YPP partiicipants to come out to rally. Some of you responded and got active. But we would like more people in Harrisburg on the 11th than we had in Philly that day. The State is rushing to license casinos, with 5,000 car parking garages across from homes, next to a school, and on the riverfront, and they are doing so in secret and without any meaningful opportunity to influence siting (nor whether we should host these things at all). We won siting control for the City but our leaders to date are taking a pass. Don't be distracted by arguments that keep us from acting, take action with us on the 11th, stand beside us and together we will win on one of the most critical issues facing our city. Thanks for the support and go to to learn more.

thanks Sam

I appreciated your comments. The problem here is that casinos are a fact and now we just have to site them in locations where they can produce tax revenue, spur development, provide jobs, and be an impetus for neighborhood revitilization. If you walked the Budd Site, viewed an aerial as to how large it is (the size of Center City), you would realize it is for the most part, an abandoned industrial park with a lot of history. You would look at the neighborhoods in most directions and see unemployment, poverty, and a lack of hope. So do I wish that Toyota or Apple wanted to place a manufacturing facility there that would provide jobs and create a tax base, sure I do, but unless I have missed something, manufacturing in this City basically died with Budd and not even Ed Rendell could bring it back. Look at Kverner, the government threw money at them to locate here and what do we have in the end? So you go with the what is on the table. And believe me, thousands of people in those neighborhoods want Trump. They want the jobs, they want the spin-offs from the development, and they want movie theaters and restaurants in their neigborhoods. This was a very well thought out plan and if you saw the presentation before the Gaming Board or came to some of the community planning meetings, you might grudgingly agree. Even one member of the opposition in the audience last week complimented us on the presentation. Nothing is perfect...but perfect is not nothing, and right now that is what is bound to happen there for a long time. It is a tough issue, but should Trump be successful, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome and that the positive will far outweigh the negative.

Thank you Avenging Angel Dan

Well the thing is, when you say, "you are responsible for what you do," you need to see the whole picture before you judge people.

I don't think any of us - as young as we are - as inexperienced as we are - can fully understand the experiences and tribulations of people who have been in politics for 15-20-30 years. When Bob Brady or Wil or Jim comes on's like...where do you start?

(Except, of course, the always useful subject of flushless toilets)

I personally want to hear the experiences of people who have actually made things work.
I was once very doctrinaire, and i saw the people around me dropping out because the world never conformed to their utopia.

I think it is possible to stay in politics, but it involves listening to EVERYONE. And the thing is...if you don't listen to really shouldn't be in politics anyway!

That's the number one skill!!! Listening!!!


Why dont you bitch about Ken Snyder??!?!?!

I'm sorry...yeah, i know you dont want slots in your hood...but if you really cared about this as a citywide issue you would be WAY more disturbed by the riverfront casinos.

it's like this gigantic rendell-fumo-ashdale-dicicco-leonard-sprague-trujillo-etc-etc-etc clusterfuck cashout.

everybody who helped out ed rendell - it's payback time.

it's gross.

and i live here, on the river.

and i swear to god, i wish one of them were a trump casino, becuase then maybe they wouldnt end up looking like shitty stripmalls.
which is what they are going to look like, of course.
th nicetown people at least rerouted roads, redesigned their bldgs, etc.

The riverfront casinos? NOTHING.

They won't even release their friggin' traffic studies.

You complain about ceisler - but the PR guy for Sugarhouse is Ken Snyder, who is actually on Fumo's payroll! Seriously!

I've never seen you at the Gaming Board hearings so you probably dont know who I am talking about. But he's a state senator's pr person, who is also working for a casino in which many of that senator's friends are heavily invested. Said state senator also wrote the gaming law.

Ken came on a couple of months ago.

The reporters are happy - they can talk to Ken about Sugarhouse AND the staff indictments at the same time! No need to call two numbers.

Why aren't you bitching about that, for god's sake!


Actually I do have hope for the lawsuit!

No Caitanus - I am with you there - the lawsuit is totally awesome and should have been filed ages ago!!!!!!

Accountability in government may not be glamorous, but neither safety...the rule of regulation...and so on.

Of course I have no idea what will happen with the court.

What do people think?

You can read whatever you want

Edited to read this:

Its a simple proposition. People are accountable for their work.

Based upon Larry's work--he i

Based upon Larry's work--he is a public figure. If he does not like to be critized re casinos, he should not have taken a despicable client. Same with Ken Snyder and any other person who represents interests. It is called--at least in my profession--assumption of the risk.

No matter what work he does, honestly, a Foxwoods casino affects the daily aspects of my life more than a Montgomery County state represenative. A casino in the Northwest affects Dan probably the same. That is just the way it is. If Larry doesn't like it, he doesn't have to get paid to do it for a living.

It comes down to the position you assume

When you're listening, I mean.

It's perfectly reasonable to stand up to an experienced politician and question a specific decision. A good one will have an answer, a great one will admit a prior gaffe, and the best kind admits a mistake and then works to make amends. In a recent conversation, Michael Nutter admitted a fighting a battle early in his council career that he later completely regretted. A man of integrity, when he could, he turned around and fought on the other side, even losing a powerful political ally over it.

Every person in politics who garners support deserves a listen, particularly those who have done great things.

But, in a democracy, listening HAS TO BE a two-way street. A politician unwilling to hear questions or answer criticism, no matter the experience of the source, is one who has lost his or her way. That's what's so great when Wil, Jim, and now Bob participate here: they ask AND answer questions just like the rest of us.

Score it this way

On this one, Ceisler sucks and Snyder swallows.

And don't worry about design: a friend working with Penn Praxis saw Trump's new Nicetown plans and describes them as...a strip mall. Exact words.

So Dan could get screwed up there, we could get screwed down here, and Ruby Legs has the right issue right now: if the state was so bent on imposing these monstrosities (and, you're right, we must never forget WHO was most intent in imposing them: Fumo) they could have, should have, gone somewhere else.

misguided fury

I don't understand your misdirection. above you say Larry Ceisler helped your campaign and other state house races for free - but in fact he got paid an awful lot of money from the House Democratic Caucus. in fact, if he'd cut his rates perhaps the Democrats would have clearly won the state house. he also is paid a large fee by John Dougherty and Local 98.

Ceisler and Snyder are two sides of the same coin, so why embrace one and hate on the other? simply because one gives you attention and another does not?

Ah, the irony. I write a pos

Ah, the irony. I write a post saying there is an odd feeling to the Casino fight, because in the end, it is likely to come down to neighborhood v neighborhood. And you respond by... telling me that if I reallllly cared about Casinos as a city wide, I would really want to plop one down in East Falls. Thanks!

And yes, I know who Ken Snyder is. Know why? Because my interest in what goes on in this City did not start in 2005.

Hannah, given that these casinos

each have powerful, politically connected investors, and that the lucrative licenses will be awarded in a few weeks, it is good to know that the lawsuit will be judged by a court system that is immune to politics and would rule strictly according to the law, rather than in anyone's self-interest.

This is about our standards

We are currently re-establishing the American ethical system right now.
(The Yankees got to do it, then the Southerners did, and now it's our turn!

One of my goals as we do this is to keep our ethical standards universal.

No standard should exist that is not universal.

We should all play fair.

City Government Blew It Too

Governor Rendell and the General Assembly are ultimately responsible for the casinos. But the city had an opportunity to weigh in the sites and it blew it. In fact, these sites were recommended by the City's Gaming Board.

On top of that, neither the Mayor nor any member of City Council has ever been willing to stand up and say these sites are bad. The 4th district Councilman, Michael Nutter, never said no to the site in East Falls / Nicetown. The 1st district Councilman, Frank DiCicco, has only recently been saying the sites in his district are bad. But he also says that he has no control over them and we have to make the best of them. And the seven at-large Councilman, who have responsibility for the whole city have never said much of anything--except for my friend Wilson Goode's ridiculous claim that some of the riverfront casinos are not in residential neighborhoods.

Does it have to be that way? Can you imagine what David Cohen in his prime--or even David Cohen in his early nineties--would have been doing for the last year? Does anyone remember what he did to the trash to steam plant?

The organizers of the anti-casino movement would have had organizational and legal help from his office. And they would have had a voice willing to speak out on their behalf from inside the government. An opponent of these sites on Council would have had the clout to pute more folks on the city's gaming board willing to say no to the proposed sites. And he or she would have had the ability to draw attention to the severe problems at these sites, some of the alternatives for developing them, and some of the alternative locations for casinos.

Hannah--maybe it is just me,

Hannah--maybe it is just me, but I am not making the connection between this all, Dan's frustrations re casinos, your defense of Larry and universal ethical standards. I am probably just slow tonight, I am watching Season 1 of the Wire (great show).

But, it seems the only people not playing fair are the casinos and their henchmen along with the gaming board.

I remember when.

My first year in city council in 1992, the council passed an ordinance banning assault weapons. It was a symbolic bill because the city really couldn't close its boarders to the entrance of these weapons without the state's help in banning them statewide.

By the very next Monday, the state legislature preempted us from any sort of assault weapon legislation in the future. Wow!, I thought, that was fast.

I visited recently with Anne Dicker and Marc Stier, who shared with me a proposed ordinance that would virtually ban the placement of slot parlors anywhere on the waterfront with the exception of our industrial port.

I thought to myself, "Wow!, how quickly the state legislature would act now to preempt this ordinance." This new preemption would probably include our zoning laws again and any efforts to regulate the look and operation of such facilities.

I, nor anyone else on city council voted on Act 71. None of us voted to preempt the city from its zoning powers. Unlike Reps. Keller, Taylor and Lederer, who voted for Act 71 and for preemption four times.

Unbelievably, they now attend meetings and rallies to condemn the negative affects of gaming on neighborhoods. Go figure how people buy this and then find fault with city council who have had no role.

I too admired the late Dave Cohen. I sat next to him for many years and, yes, he did speak-up often. Many times, though, to no avail.

Trash to Steam was a city initiative and therefore more effectively fought on a city level. Gaming is not Trash to Steam.

Frank DiCicco has tried very hard to craft a bill that would give us the best chance to have a say in what will happen. He is derided for his efforts. Frank and I spent the entire summer trying to convince Vince Fumo as to the severe problems associated wih zoning preemption. Do you think it is a coincidence that I spent an entire Tuesday in Harrisburgh in Fumo's Office and on Wednesday he reversed his position of preemption?

We are working hard and doing our best in a very difficult situation. We are not tilting at windmills and will not jeapordize some of the protections we have won and then lost and then won again.

Community Benefit Agreements

You have selective memory, Marc. Or is it your age? :)

Most of my discussion has been around Community Benefit Agreements - and many probably now wish that they had heeded my advice earlier.


Its fair to have the opinion

Its fair to have the opinion that the specific bill you are talking about would have been instantly preempted. But, I think there is a more general point- that as leaders of our City, you have a pulpit that few of us have- and it does not seem like anyone used it until much too late (if, at all).

You're right. I did forget

that your position on the casinos was even worse than ignoring them. I forgot that you have been supporting the Nicetown / East Falls casino because some community groups are going to get someone money from Trump through a community benefits agreement.

Most of the people in this area, and most of the community groups, do not believe that a community benefits agreement of any kind is worth the cost to the community in gambling addiction; in crime and prostitution in residential neighborhoods 100 feet from the casino; in horrendous traffic; in wages diverted from food, clothing, shelter, and school books to slot machines; or in the damage the casino is going to do to the slowly redeveloping 22nd street corridor. (Look at what Atlantic City and Detroit casinos did to nearby commercial corridors and you'll see just what I mean.)

Perhaps the most shameful aspect of the Budd location is that none of the political officials who represent it have ever been entrepreneurial enough to recognize what a wonderful opportunity it presents for urban redevelopment. And now, we may totally undermine that opportunity by dumping a strip mall casino on the site.

I have been trying to interest political officials (and to the extent I have the time and connections to do so, private businesses and SEPTA) in the Budd location since I ran for state representative two years ago. It is a site with incredible potential. There is a wonderful transportation infrastructure nearby which would be enhanced by a new on-site R8 station. There is a wonderful building that could be a great urban center with a supermarket and specialty shops, community space, and a movie theater. There is a penthouse that is a perfect place for a romantic club with dancing on the roof top and an incredible view of center city. (Imagine dancing or drinking champagne while Bobby Short sings Rogers and Hart with an incredible view of the Center City skyline in the distance…..that’s my age showing!) And there are solid factory building around the area that could become incredible residences.

My conservative estimate is that residents in Northwest Philadelphia who travel by the site by train or car spend over 2 billion dollars a year on goods and services. (In Mt. Airy alone our buying power is about 600 million per year.) Is it so farfetched to think that an urban commercial center could take off in this location…especially when you recognize that there is only one movie theater in the Northwest and none accessible by public transit from Germantown, Mt. Airy, and Chestnut Hill? Why should we in the Northwest have to go Cheltenham Avenue or Chemical Road or King of Prussia?

They can rehab old factories for commerce, shopping, entertainment and homes in Durham, North Carolina and Winooski, Vermont, for God’s sake. Why the hell can’t we do it here?

If the political leaders in the area had any vision, we would never be talking about a casino at this location. Most community groups in the area are not ready to give up on the location to make a quick buck. And they are especially opposed when they recognize that a casino would make much better redevelopment impossible.

Join Us


You must have me confused with someone else. I didn’t meet with you and Anne Dicker, although I agree in general with Anne’s approach of using the city’s zoning powers to try to change the location of the casinos. (Anne and I did have a useful meeting with Frank DiCicco…maybe he was channeling you?)

Not that I would mind meeting with you. We actually have a friend in common—a not unimportant person—who once told me, “You ought to talk to Jim Kenny. He may be the one person who is more frustrated with politics in this city than you are.”

And I agree with Hannah. We have to talk to, and more importantly, listen to everyone. I have long given up the idea that politics in the US is a struggle between absolute good and absolute evil. The problems in this city have more to do with the way the system works than with individuals. Governor Rendell and Senator Fumo are not supporting gambling on the Delaware riverfront and in Nicetown / East Falls just out of self-interest. They think that, given where we are now, it is good public policy.

But they are, I believe, wrong about that.

Forget, for a moment, about the impact on the immediate neighborhoods—although they certainly deserve more consideration than they have gotten. Just think about what a wonderful opportunity we have on the Delaware to create new homes, parks, bike paths, shopping, museums (at the old PECO generating facility on Beach Street) and maybe even a school oriented towards the river. Imagine something like the Chicago waterfront right here in Philadelphia. There is so much demand for building on the river, so many people who want to put money in, that we could totally transform it in fifteen years.

And now we are going to blow it for some casinos that are going to take up way too much space (the parking garages that are as big as the casinos), create massive traffic jams, and scare away most of the people who might want to live on the river but won’t quite like the idea of living next to a casino or having an hour long trip from Center City to their condo.

(Have you seen the traffic studies? They are a complete joke. Does anyone seriously think that Berks street can handle the traffic to Sugarhouse? Can anyone explain why there won’t be utter traffic chaos along the river while we wait for Columbus Boulevard to be changed and I-95 to be rebuilt in 2013 or, if the project goes as most do, 2020?)

In other words, for some gambling money we can get in other ways, we are going to kill a tremendous opportunity for the city, one with far more potential than the casinos not only to provide public amenities but to bring business and people back to our city.

Everyone says that these locations are a done deal. But here are two reasons I think that the casino opponents are not tilting at windmills.

First, it has taken some time for all of us—citizens and activists outside the immediate neighborhoods where the casinos are located and political officials— to recognize just how crazy this riverfront gambling idea is. But it is really is nuts. Even the most pro-development, pro-business oriented politicians and businessmen are being to recognize that these ugly duckling casinos are going to kill the riverfront goose that could really bring in the golden eggs that they want.

And, second, Philadelphia politics has changed. One reason it took so long to get organized is that citizens in Philadelphia have been too ready to take what we get from our political leaders. Even Chris Satullo has written that the opponents to these locations are too late and that the fix is already in. But citizens in this town are starting to feel their power. We are slowly waking up to the fact that we don’t have to passively take what is handed to us. We are content with politics as usual no more.

The politicians pushing the casinos—including Governor Rendell and Senator Fumo—are the most powerful people in the state. And they also are totally realistic. They want the gambling revenues as fast as they can get them and are willing to stuff the casinos down our throats if they can do so. But, by means of lawsuits and other means, we are going to try to cough them back up. And being realists, the will recognize that time is money. And, when they stop and take a second look at the potential on the riverfront, they will see that there is far more money to be made and political support to be won in sensible development than in casinos there (and at the Budd building—see my response to Wilson below). So they will eventually come around to either moving the casinos from the waterfront, or at the very least adopt a sensible public transit solution to the traffic difficulties, such as the one I proposed a month and a half ago. The Governor and Senator have shown before they can reverse course and make new things happen quickly. They can do so here.

I know that this issue is not exactly the same as the trash to steam issue. But the solution we need is the same, a broad city-wide coalition that is jointly led by a combination of community activists outside the political system and political officials inside the system who are, finally, so frustrated by politics as usual that they are willing to put a stick in the gears of the machine.

If we slow the machine down, we can back it up just enough to put the casinos somewhere else (the Gallery and the Sports Complex?) or dramatically scale back the intrusion on the waterfront by means of public transit and get the great development we want on the river and the Budd site. And then we all win.

You are right that our state officials deserve most of the blame for the problems we have now and that you have helped us out of one jam. But everyone in (or out of) public office can be part of a bigger solution. Right now, you have the position, the bully pulpit, and the credibility to make you a leader of this effort. We’d love to have you with us.


I'm Sorry

Since we have not met, I wrongly assumed that the man I met with last week with Anne Dicker, was you. I was wrong. I hope that Anne would clear up who that person was. But again, I am sorry for confusing you.

I will still state my confusion that the State Reps. who voted for Act 71 and voted to preempt our city's zoning laws, Keller, Taylor and Lederer, seem to get a free pass regarding gaming.

While anti-gaming activists seem to focus on city council for the existance of gaming, councilmembers have little legal recourse to really change anything.

Why are not the anti-gaming activists protesting at the offices of these PA State Reps. instead of blogging against city councilmembers who have never voted for gaming or zoning preemption? Why are they mad at city council?

Protesting Too Much Re:Community Benefit Agreements

Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) are about more than just money.

CBAs can address multiple community concerns in a legally binding document - as opposed to just blogging about them.

It is reasonable to both oppose a development project AND negotiate an agreement that addresses community concerns.

CBAs are often the tangible result of negotiations that began - but did not end - with protest.

We may disagree on that moderate approach as a strategy - and you are entitled to your opinion - but you are not entitled to express my position for me.

At the end of the day, every community group should have had the "vision" to get a legally binding CBA.

You should never walk away from a negotiation with nothing. That's ineffective - and reminds me too much of two liberal At-Large councilmembers who always "fought the good fight" but only had their own self-righteous words to show for it at the end of the day.

I'd rather have a Community Benefit Agreement - and so would the communities that will be impacted.


You met me and my lawyer

...another Mark.

And I appreciated the time you spent with us discussing the issue...

But as far as City Officials vs State Elected -- we've spent A LOT more time lobbying in Harrisburg and meeting State Reps and Sentors thoughout the state. (NABR and Casino Free Philadelphia make at least one four hour trip to Harrisburg a week now...Last week, we spent 3 days at the hearings and also lobbying our State Representatives.)

All in all though, the only elected officials that have REALLY stood with the people on this issue, live OUTSIDE of Philadelphia.

We did meet briefly...

when I thanked you for opposing the delay of the Cohen wage tax rebate, an issue on which I did some lobbying.

And five or so years ago I saw you outside La Pui Bella on Passyunk Avenue and thanked you for your work on, I think it was, bullet proof vests for police officers.

Not that I expect you to remember...just wanted you to know that I don't have any trouble acknowledging the good work you do.

the MCA did negotiate and protest

The Multi-Community Alliance did negotiate and protest. Problem is that Trump made kept on making it a condition of the agreement that the groups not oppose the slots parlor in their neighborhood. The MCA could not take the Councilman's advice when that was the condition. The choice was to sign on and be a supporter or to not sign the agreement. After negotiating on that point for months (with Larry Ceisler personally present - giving the neighborhoods the 'choice'), that is what the MCA walked away from. The MCA was mainly focussed on non money benefits in this agreement - things to protect neighbors from some of the problems that come with gambling.

Councilman Goode is on the Board of Directors of an organization that supports the Trump project and signed the CBA with Trump. The Agreement keeps out the five surrounding neighborhoods (Abbottsford, Southwest Germantown, East Falls, Nicetown, and Residents' Coalition). It also did not include the protections the MCA had negotiated for local residents. The Councilman could help the communities around the neighborhood by not letting this be the CBA that we have to live with if the slots parlor is stuffed down our throats. It is the Trump folks who made it all or nothing. It is true leadership that won't let the slots parlor be a winner take all game for our neighborhoods.



There are three local State Reps. here in Philly and one who just, without rhyme or reason, defeated you, who were supportive of Act 71 and Philadelphia Zoning preemption. Why is Frank DiCicco the focus of complaint?

He has tried and was successful in passing legislation that, at least, controls slot parlors. Why are not the anti-gaming folks making their anger known to Keller, Taylor and now, O'Brien?

Anne is totally right

Does anyone realize how f'ed up it is that the anticasino movement in Philadelphia only gets their phone calls returned by republicans or independents who serve districts hundreds of miles away???

How much more can Philly Dems steal from their own people??

Councilwoman-Elect Carol Campbell

First of all, I've never voted to support the Trump proposal in any capacity - and since when can Trump dictate the terms of a negotiation with the community? Never.

Nevertheless, I remain available to MCA.

Several months ago, I talked with MCA representatives and offered to endorse the components of its CBA that I could agree with - but no MCA CBA proposal was ever forwarded to me. That was MCA's choice. In fact, in addition to phone conversations, I posted the request on YPP.

Don't worry, I am already working with the councilwoman-elect for the 4th District on this issue. She'll be sworn-in one week from today at 3pm.

Hope to see you there. :)


Sailor...were you in the negotiations?

Unless you were there and heard something different than I did, everything was not non-monetary. Again, the only major point of disagreement was the inclusion of Allegheny West on a 7 person Board and for the first 5 years, using their facilities and infrastructure to save resources...that was it. We agreed on everything else even the language regarding the non-support of the casino. It was not about getting their support for the application, it was about showing everyone could work together going forward, but the leadership walked away because of AW. To characterize the five organizations as the surrounding neighobrhoods is incorrect because there are other organizations that represent in many cases more residents than those that support. Those 5 that you mentioned were selected by the MCA Leadership and I could make a good argument that some of them do not belong. But they did participate in the community planning process for the CBA and those areas will receive funds for projects should the application be successful. So maybe a few individuals might not get to sit on a Board, but be assured that no neighborhood will be left out.

in other words

i fight with my family, sure.

but if an outsider asked me to steal from them, i wouldn't do it.

Everyone is the focus of complaint

We are all plenty pissed at the Representatives and Senators who passed Act 71 without protecting the city's right to decide where the casinos will go. They have heard from us and will continue to do so.

However I really find it hard to believe that in a Gubenatorial and Senatorial election year, a united City Council, that made it clear it would fight by all means necessary, and that was willing to work with community activists throughout the city to rally our citizens, could not win back that power.

But as usual, all the energy in this fight is coming from outside the realm of our elected officials, just as it does on issue after issue: the minimum wage, affordable housing, recycling, public transit, and so on. Some legislator or counciman introduces a bill. But activists with little or no pay, with little or no staff, and with little or no sleep do most of the work of gaining support for these causes both outside among the citizenry and inside among the legislators or council members.

Our public officials are always there for the pictures when the struggle is won. It would be nice if they actually would be there at the beginning of these struggles.

Here is one example: Six weeks ago I presented a proposal for using public transit to eliminate the need for parking garages on the waterfront and to ameliorate the traffic issues caused by the casinos. Chris Satullo wrote about it in the Inquirer. I'm going to present this again in writing on my blog in the next day or so. But, in the meantime, not one council member has assigned someone from his or her staff to work up this idea, to cost it out, to see if, as I suspect, the Port Authority has already done some planning work on it, or to talk with the casinos themselves to see if, in light of their ludicrous traffic plans, they might actually but into the idea. Why not? What are you all waiting for?

Do you see why we wonder whether to take seriously any of the public officials who are now claiming to dislike these sites?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content