12/11/2006

Is this Irony or What?

One can hardly read the local news without hearing of yet another effort to prevent a casino in the Hill District. Various church organizations & community groups are working diligently to ensure that the casino is built elsewhere.

Let me first make it clear that I personally think legalized gambling establishments are a complete cop-out from our state government. Our leaders have no vision. They lack the creativity & progressiveness needed to create jobs, decrease government waste & improve our state for the better.

Here's a novel idea: Instead of giving humble public servants lavish perks, salaries more than double the median PA income or free health insurance into perpetuity -- not to mention the extravagent pension plans that aren't subject to any state or local taxes -- use some of that money for property tax relief, infrastructure costs, etc.

But I digress. Casinos are touted as the answer to all of our problems when in reality the money being spent there will most likely just be the same money that's already being spent here right now, it will merely be spent at the casino instead of the mall, some restaurant, concert hall, mortgage payment, grocery store, etc.

The point is that instead of coming up with viable solutions, the whole casino dog & pony show has monopolized public interest, taking focus off of real issues & problems in our little corner of the world. We debate the veracity of the casinos themselves as a good solution to our ills, we bicker over the details - where will it go, how many free drinks can they serve, can we smoke there - and the debates could go on forever with no satisfactory resolution to any side of any argument.

While we debate the details, the corruption behind the entire debacle goes largely unnoticed. The average taxpayer is completely clueless about the role of lobbyists in all of this, nor are they aware of the corruption involved.

But the reality of the situation is that a casino is going to come to Pittsburgh. If history has taught us anything, we know that PA taxpayers will somehow get screwed on the whole deal. Since the proposed sites are basically within walking distance of one another, it's unlikely that any one community will see horrendous detriment due to the actual location of the casino.

Case in point: With the Isle of Capri plan, Pittsburgh will get a new arena for free. That would help our hockey team a lot since they play in the oldest & crappiest arena in the league. Anyone who enjoys music would benefit, since our existing arena is so outdated that it can't support modern equipment used by most bands these days. The arena is useful for much more than hockey & concerts, so this would offer the entire region a perk that would benefit many people.

The other proposals offer considerably less to the region & give little, if anything back to the average citizen. In fact, one of the plans offers next to nothing.

But there are all these groups from the Hill mobilizing protests, rallies & the like to do everything in their power to make sure the best plan for everyone gets shut out.

It amazes me that they'll work so hard against the one plan that would make the whole slots debacle somewhat worthwhile to the region. At the very least, it will create some decent jobs for the area & greatly increase the tax base. Plus, the developer has proposed donating $1 million per year to the Hill itself, which would go a long way toward rebuilding this once-great neighborhood.

I'd like to know why these same "concerned" community groups can't organize that kind of determination to clean up their neighborhood & reduce crime.

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