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Like a person using CPR — or a scene from some sordid XXX movie — Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has been taking the residents of his once-fair little city on a roller coaster ride that’s sent most of them into fits of either anger or bewilderment. Or both.
Morse’s youth and inexperience – and perhaps his ability to be influenced – was never more evident than when he flipped on the casino issue and then – just two weeks later – flopped back to his original stance.
What will the young Mayor decide to do next?
The casino resort issue has transformed local and regional politics and truly polarized the communities of the Pioneer Valley like few issues in the past have ever done. Morse is just the latest casualty in the frenzy to Get -It- Before-Someone-Else-Does pandemic that has been sweeping across the state since legalized casino gambling was approved by the Legislature and signed-off on by Governor Patrick in November of 2011.
Over a year ago, a once-ambivalent Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno seemed at peace with the notion of a “casino in the woods” concept in the region. That suddenly changed just a few months afterward when the Mayor declared he would fight “tooth and nail” to get a casino in the city.
The competition since then has been surprisingly sparse, with only the Mohegan Sun’s bid in Palmer currently challenging Springfield’s now-two surviving candidates.
Morse flipped after saying a casino in nearby Springfield would affect Holyoke anyway, so why not host the resort and reap the benefits that came along with it. That seemed a rational stance – and it may have worked for anyone other than a mayor who was elected primary because of his anti-casino position.
Only time will tell, now, if Morse’s flip-flop – no matter how brief in duration – will have any lasting effect on his administration. Already, challengers are emerging to take him on in 2013. (Resident Jim Santiago even has a campaign website up and running.)
Meanwhile, in Springfield – in what is shaping up to look like more of a political contest than a developers contest — the local police and firefighters unions have come out in support of MGM Resorts’ bid to build a casino in the city’s South End.
That perhaps makes sense for the police, since most of the city’s prostitution and gunfire is in the South End, anyway. Why take a chance on it migrating elsewhere?