When Council met on Monday, May 13, the dominant topic of discussion for the evening was the imminent casino opening, currently slated for the end of June.
Among other concerns related to the casino was the ongoing preoccupation with the City’s plan to mitigate road and waterway traffic in the face of increased visitors to the area.
Everett Police Chief Steven A. Mazzie told Council that the City would turn in a “full traffic and waterway presentation” on May 28, created with the assistance of Encore’s traffic manager, in which Mazzie said he believed the Council would have most of their concerns addressed.
Council had previously expressed feeling underwhelmed by the City’s preparation for a potential traffic crisis, but Mazzie’s announcement of a pending presentation did little to assuage their fears.
Councilor John McKinnon had requested that the Boston Harbormaster appear before Council to discuss in detail the plans and dealing with increased waterway traffic to and from the Encore Resort. However, he learned that someone in the City’s administration had told the Harbormaster not to come.
“I’m disgusted,” he said. “When I make a request, I want the [person] that I am requesting to come here.”
“We’ve been requesting different people come before us, yet we haven’t seen anyone that was requested,” the councilor continued. “This has been going on for quite some time.”
Councilor Wayne Matewsky was also incensed at the absence of the harbormaster.
“We requested [that] the Boston Harbormaster appear,” he said. “That was blocked by somebody here in this building.”
“A lot of interception is going on,” echoed Councilor Michael McLaughlin. “Individuals want to intercept our work as a body.
“There’s something missing here,” he went on. “We’re looking to hear from people who are not in this building. And they’re being told not to be here. I need to hear from them about why they were told [not to come].”
Councilor Rosa DiFlorio agreed, stating, “Nobody has the right to tell [someone] not to appear without letting [Council] know.”
But the Harbormaster wasn’t McKinnon’s only example of when the Council’s direct request for someone’s presence was overridden by the administration. He mentioned that the Marine Division of the State Police was also supposed to have been present at the meeting but had canceled at the last minute.
Assistant City Clerk Michael Mangan responded that the Marine Division had other engagements but that he had been told that Police Chief Mazzie was “well-versed on the bridge situation and he could easily come in front of you to explain it.”
The Mayor’s Chief of Staff Kevin O’Donnell added that Chief Mazzie had been working with State Troopers assigned to the Mass Gaming Commission on getting a joint task force ready to police the gaming area.
But some Councilors wondered why they hadn’t been involved in any of the meetings so far.
“Why has no member of Council been invited to meetings of the traffic commission?” asked Councilor McLaughlin. “We’ve been shown no real respect by letting us sit in and be informed so we can report back to our colleagues.”
“Council should at least be invited to these meetings,” O’Donnell conceded. “I will follow up to see why that isn’t happening.”
Councilor Peter Napolitano said that, not only had the Council members not been invited to the meetings, but also they had failed to receive any details as to what was being discussed at those meetings.
“You’ve been meeting this whole time,” said Councilor McKinnon. “Why doesn’t the City Council—the city fathers and mothers—have a clue what’s been discussed at those meetings?”
“They’re trying to hammer out a memorandum as far as jurisdiction is concerned for the resort area, and it hasn’t been signed off on,” O’Donnell responded. “It’s an ongoing process.”
Councilors expressed a desire to be more informed about how the City plans to manage traffic caused by an increase in vessels using the waterways.
“Whatever benefit we get from the casino is going to be drastically overshadowed if we’re not prepared for the influx of people coming into the city,” said Councilor Napolitano. “If we’re trying to address it during June and July, it’s too late. The impact has already hit.”
“If you don’t think there’s going to be a lot more boating traffic in that area, you’re missing the boat,” said Councilor Matewsky. “There’s three yacht clubs. There’s going to be thousands of boats. They’re going to be opening that bridge like nobody’s business.
“It’s unfortunate the harbormaster is not here,” he continued. “I just want to clarify when that bridge is going to go up and down.”
“[The casino] is about to open up in just a short amount of time,” said Councilor McLaughlin. “We get questions every day [from residents]. We need to get direct answers.
Councilor McKinnon agreed.
“We should know what’s happening. We need to act like the board we are,” he said. “We need to actually look at everything that’s going on down there, and if you don’t feel like you can, that’s a problem.”
Councilors will hear the City’s presentation on traffic and waterways on May 28, where they hope their concerns will finally be put to rest. Another meeting is scheduled for May 30, dealing specifically with potential impacts to Wards 1 and 6.