2006-10-12 / Front Page

No casino resolution coming from council

By Dotti Farrington

The Town Council Tuesday failed to adopt an anti-casino resolution that they had discussed last month. Several towns have registered their opposition to the casino question that will be on the Nov. 7 general-election ballot.

Councilors here could not agree on the wording of a resolution, on reasons to oppose the state ballot question or on any significance to any resolution that might adopt.

Councilmen William Kelly and Michael Schnack voted to adopt a resolution. Council President David Long, Council Vice President Julio DiGiando, and Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski voted against the measure.

Long noted that signs supporting the casino ballot question can be seen on residents' properties throughout the island. He said it was not the place of the council to tell people how they should vote. He said the issue being on the ballot made it available for all voters to register their own opinions.

Craig Amerigian, a former council president, provided the resolution wording. It was identified as the work of CCACG, presumably standing for Concerned Citizens Against Casino Gambling. There are several groups - national, Rhode Island and various states - with those initials. Amerigian said he did not know the exact source of the wording he presented. He said he presented it because it formed a basis for wording the opposition he wanted the council to express.

Amerigian was given permission by Long to address the council about the wording of a resolution, but was cut short by Long when he started detailing the reasons for opposing the Narragansett Indian Tribe's casino proposal instead of restricting his remarks to the definition of the resolution provisions.

The ballot question provides for an amendment to the state

Constitution to provide exclusive rights to the Narragansett Indian Tribe to build a privately owned resort casino in West Warwick. Debates have included whether or not amending the state Constitution in this case would be legal, basic issues about gambling, and arguments over the economic impacts of such a facility.

Some of this week's discussion, primarily by DiGiando and Amerigian, focused on disputes about claims that the Narragansetts needed the special rights because of past poor treatment of Native Americans, versus arguments of equality needed by all possible casino operators. No consensus was reached on that aspect, or any aspect of the ballot question.

Variables

Long said last month that he was against gambling in general and that the Town Council went on record two or three years ago to protest any expansion of gambling in the state. He also emphasized that the question now is before every citizen via the ballot vote "and it is not for the Town Council to weigh in on the way people should vote." He questioned whether the council needs to take a position on every ballot item.

Schnack said last month the council's taking a position would be to send a message to the state General Assembly that the ballot proposal for a constitutional change to enable a casino "is a stupid idea." He specified "I can care less whether there is a casino or not. The issue for me is that this ballot is a reprehensible use of the constitution." Szepatowski originally agreed with Schnack, but voted against the resolution after a discussion about the constitutional aspects and about the non-binding nature of any resolution.

Schnack said this week that he was elected to represent voters here and he wanted to be on record against the constitutional approach for the casino and that he wanted any permission or denial of permission "to be done legislatively."

DiGiando last month said he was "uncomfortable with the assumptions others have made about where or why there should be a casino and those assumptions may not be true." He said this week he reviewed the constitutionality aspect and was convinced it would and should be decided by the courts.

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