By Gregory Bush, Vice President, Urban Environment League
Tom Paine published Common Sense in 1776 as a down to earth treatise against British authority in North America. It was a critical pamphlet in rousing support against the British and the coming of the American Revolutionary war. We now need many people to speak out against Destination Casino gambling’s attempt to take over Miami – an area not even part of the United States until the early nineteenth century . We need to use this threat to help redefine our region in a more human scale – moving away from the hype in showing that this is a destination that is well planned, beautiful, thinks about the long term, and contains people who are not filled with resentment at having lost the main chance. We should not gamble our future on “something for nothing,” the title of a book on gambling in American history by Jackson Lears. Make no mistake about it. Destination resort gambling will be a new form of tyranny.
Many thoughtful observers believe that we need more Common Sense in planning the future of Miami and MIami-Dade County (and Broward as well) without gargantuan casinos that warp our resources and degrade our downtown – when it is just starting to recover. Yet such people need to speak out more through blogs, letters to editors and their local and state representatives.
Great financial power can corrupt as we have recently learned in this nation – and bowing to further expressions of gambling power within South Florida would further degrade our politics and exploit our hope for a broad scale recovery from this recession – a recovery that will hopefully benefit far more people than before. Do we want to stimulate productive labor and healthy tourism or what such large scale gambling will bring? Politicians seem to be falling all over themselves to get their piece of the gambling pie. What a sad spectacle. We need more attention by politicians to create good jobs in our area, attract a broad spectrum of business, and build compelling landscapes for all our people – not defer to the NEXT BIG IDEA as a panacea for Miami – which is a sad but recurring feature of the city’s history.
Resort casino gambling will feed the pockets of the owners but warp the priorities of government and the people who live here and who care about the place. Miami is far from perfect. Crime exists here now – but wait and see what the future could bring if the Fresen/Bogdanoff bill becomes law.
Sadly, many people think that the fix is on to bring large scale Las Vegas like gambling to Miami. The gambling interests have hired an astonishing array of lawyers, lobbyists, PR people and other allies in their attempt to fuel the steamroller. That is the way politics is done in this area. Big money all to often seems to rule. Yet that is not what happened when the Marlins tried to take Bicentennial Park for a new Marlins Stadium or when Virginia Key Beach was slated to go away as a public park and become an upscale Eco Resort. People and groups have awakened- periodically in recent Miami history – to call for better focus on the overall quality of life here in South Florida rather than simple deference to what is perceived to be a financial steamroller. That culture of cynicism needs to be forcefully confronted – but with positive alternatives. That is the challenge in the coming months for all of us in my view. Speak out against the Fresen/Bogdanoff Bill and start addressing the broad scope of serious needs of all our people.