On January 2, City Councilor Sal LaMattina was sworn in to another term as Ward I City Councilor. After the swearing in it was announced by At-Large City Councilor Stephen Murphy, who was elected to another term as Council President, that LaMattina would head up the city’s new committee to study gaming in Boston.
The pick by Murphy to tap LaMattina to head the committee raised some eyebrows because LaMattina has not been shy about his support for a resort-style casino at Suffolk Downs and supports a ward only vote on the matter.
However, a few City Councilors, some of whom support a citywide referendum opposed to a Ward only vote have defended Murphy’s pick. Councilors like Matt O’Malley said LaMattina is know in the council to have the ‘utmost integrity and fairness’ and will listen to all sides on the issue.
LaMattina himself said he will approach his new role as chairman of the committee from a development standpoint.
“Look, the gaming issue has been passed at the State House and signed by the governor so the state will have casinos,” said LaMattina. “As a Boston City Councilor and representative of East Boston I look at this as a major development issue—one of the biggest since Logan Airport.”
LaMattina said to this date he has not seen an official proposal of what Suffolk Downs ownership wants to build at the racetrack site so he is reserving judgment until that day.
“I know for sure there are going to be concerns about traffic and other impacts and so the developer has to address those impacts and I’ve always said those most affected by those impacts should have a say one way or another on whether or not they want a casino.”
With Suffolk Downs the only proponent currently seeking a casino license in Boston, LaMattina said both he and the Council President want to address concerns and impacts as soon as a proposal becomes available.
“I plan to sit down with Council President Murphy and the other councilors over the next few weeks to hear their concerns and issues of a potential casino in Boston.”
Murphy’s pick of LaMattina may also have another motive–to get Suffolk Downs minority owner, Vornado Realty Trust, to do something with its property in Downtown Crossing. Both Murphy and Mayor Menino have voiced their displeasure of Vornado’s ‘dirt hole’ in the middle of Boston where Filene’s use to be.
It just so happens that LaMattina’s district includes Vernardo’s Washington Street property.