Friday, February 12, 2010

Things Change

There is a wonderful 1988 movie starring Joe Mantegna and the late great Don Ameche, called Things Change. It was a subtle comedy that took a poke at mobster films, and the connection between The Mob and Las Vegas. To get from where the film started to its uproarious conclusion, things changed.

Time is measured by change. We look at a clock and every tick of the second hand, and the minute and hour hands, is a change. We measure it in different types of changes. Mostly we tend to remember times past by certain events, as most assuredly the recent snow falls will mark the first two months of 2010.

Several years ago there was an effort by local entrepreneur and philanthropist David LeVan to impose upon the rural character of the Gettysburg Area, a casino full of slot machines. His application for a license was denied for a number of reasons: public opposition, proximity to gambling establishments in other states, and a financual plan that failed to impress the state gambling board. [We refuse to call it gaming as that connotes sports and other non-wagering gaming events, whereas gambling calls it what it is, wagering money. And remember, the house never loses.]

So, in the years that have passed, we have awaited Mr. LeVan's next attempt to impose his will on the people of Adams County.

He has not disappointed those expectations. More than a year ago, he floated a trial balloon involving a casino license with a sulky racing track south of Littlestown on land owned by the Hanover Shoe Farms. The trial balloon turned out to be a lead balloon.

Now we have a new effort to gain a license, and while some things have changed, others have not.

This effort involves the tentative purchase of the Eisenhower Inn complex on Emmitsburg Road near its interchange with US 15, an ideal location for such an enterprise as the resort stipulation for the license is already there as is the access to a major Interstate.

What has not changed is this: it is too close to the Battlefield, it is too close to the already existing casino at Charlestown, West Virginia, and the likely location of Frederick, Maryland for a casino there in the not-too-distant future. The increased use of the facilities there will mean increased use of the local water table, something already at the maximum.

Mr. LeVan flouts his philanthropy, and points to his financial support of Battlefield restoration. Yet he does so without showing the least bit of understanding of the reverence, honor and respect the Gettysburg Battlefield engenders. Pumping money into its restoration with one hand while insulting it with the other is exactly what Mr. LeVan does. Repeatedly. Respect, honor and reverence have no price tag with a $ in front.

Mr. LeVan, no amount of your philanthropy will ever be a measure of your respect, honor and reverence toward the Gettysburg Battlefield. Indeed, you seek to cheapen the idea of the Battlefield by using its natural attraction to the public to line your pockets. In the end, all you are about is lining your pockets.

Mr. Levan has courted political and press allies since his failed attempt in the past. Promised advertizing revenues certainly got the attention of the Gettysburg Slimes last time, and now have reached the less financially strapped Hanover Evening Sun. Print newspapers are selling their souls to stay alive. These two newspapers are perfect examples.

Not in trouble financially, you say? No layoffs? No reduction in print size to save pages? No reduction in ink to save costs? Not in trouble financially? Surely you jest.

Politicians in Gettysburg Borough and in Cumberland Township [where the proposed site is located] are like those old cartoon characters with big eyes, and a $ sign in each eye. Certain promises have been made, or inferred that each municipality will get a cut of the pie that will be the casino's revenues.

The previous casino attempt was accompanied by what was an open bribe by LeVan, made to the Borough Government in exchange for its positive support and testimony before the State Gambling Board. The Borough gratefully accepted it. Shame on them. Ten years of financial mismanagment must come to an end. Accepting bribes to sell your souls is not the answer.

Cumberland Township is a financial black hole where taxes increase by the hundreds of percent. The Cumberland Township supervisors have their own little feifdom going that allows them to raise taxes at will, spend the money on developing their own site [which already out sizes and out facilities any and all municipal sites in the county], and bending the law to make any and all development as easy as $1, $2, $3!!!

They are about to pass an ordinance allowing gambling in the township. They say they must do that because it is an allowed use for townships, under the law. What they will not tell you, and will try to convince you otherwise about, is the plain fact that it does NOT have to be allowed in the township. They do NOT have to permit gambling in Cumberland Township.

By rights, they should put the gambling question on the ballot in the township for the May Primary election. Then they should proceed with a decision on allowed use based on the results of that question. If the question draws a majority who say NO to gambling in the township, then they should not allow it. If the township cites a provision of the state gambling laws that require it to accept a casino in the township, that law has not been seriously tested in court. It is fundamentally unconstitutional for the state to determine what a township MUST do when that action may conflict with the majority wishes of the citizens of that township. Would you want a Nuclear Waste Dump in the township if it meant a million dollars per year to the township budget? And no one will force that on you. No one has the right to force that on you, no person, nor any government entity.

We dare the Cumberland Township Supervisors to put the casino question legitimately on the ballot for May.

The state Gambling law was passed in the identical fashion as the last state pay raise for its legislators -- after midnight, when no one was watching, and with no public posting in advance. Many of those legislators, including our own here did not survive the next election.

There is much wrong with that law and it needs to be fixed. No municipalities are truly better for having a casino in their midst, financially, or morally. There has been no reduction anywhere in the real estate taxes that were to be relieved by the casino money, indeed any money has been hijacked to pay for other programs, and the current effort to pass legislation to add table games gives homeowners short shrift. This bill adds insult to injury by ignoring the homeowners.

About the Battlefield, casino supporters will say that the men gambled here during the Battle. This is true. It is also true that Little Round Top, in the years after the Battle, was the location of small casinos and brothels.

That is where the supporters of casinos stop. What they do not tell you is of the way the Veterans who fought here reclaimed the land over a half century span, so it could be preserved, monumentized, and left for people to revere, contemplate and honor, and to learn from it. Veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg began returning here in 1868 and placing markers indicating where they fought, and holding dedication ceremonies when they erected monuments. It became a place of reverence. Little Round Top was reclaimed from the prostitutes and the gamblers by those Veterans reaching into their meager pockets and buying up 12 foot squares of land, one at a time. Eventually they were successful in driving out the irreverent interlopers.

Now we have a new irreverent interloper. His name is David LeVan.

Next up: Economics of the Casino vs. Adams County statistics.

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