Times Union Editorial Supports Tkaczyk Measure on Casino Siting
Gov. Andrew Cuomo may see gambling as the salvation of upstate, but not all of upstate agrees. And perhaps the most conspicuous place where the governor’s view conflicts with local opinion is Saratoga Springs.
Last fall, Saratoga County was among the areas where more people voted against casino legalization than for it. The question now is whether the governor gets to impose a casino on any community he and gambling interests choose, whether citizens like it or not.
Here’s Mr. Cuomo’s office, suggesting that a bill to allow communities to reject a casino would “politicize the selection process.” So the will of city councils, town boards, and ordinary citizens is now just politics? They’re the special interests, not the gambling corporations with their lobbyists and generous campaign checks?
Surely Mr. Cuomo appreciates that New York is a “home rule” state, requiring, for some matters, both state and local approval. The city of Albany, for example, couldn’t create a neighborhood parking permit system without the consent of both the Common Council and the state Legislature. Nor can New York City raise income taxes on rich residents without both state and local approval.
It’s a cumbersome system, perhaps, but it also reflects how sometimes the interests and concerns of local residents and the state are equally important, and demand consensus.
At the moment, however, that’s not how the law views siting of casinos. With approval last year by state voters of a constitutional amendment to allow Las Vegas-style casinos in New York, the decision on where to place them will rest with a siting board. That board will be appointed by the New York Gaming Commission — another new body, this one dominated by the governor’s appointees. This process was set up in legislation months before voters approved the casino amendment.
The legislation also lays out how applications by casino interests will be weighed — 70 percent on economic development, 20 percent on local impacts, and 10 percent on labor matters. So local objections are, at best, secondary to the dollar signs. And in practice, they could mean nothing; If the siting board decides that all the traffic worries and other logistical local concerns are addressed, how people feel about what a casino would do to the character of their community might well be deemed moot.
Some lawmakers don’t think that’s right. A bill sponsored by Sens. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, and Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, would apply home rule to casino siting decisions, requiring consent by the local government.
But a spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo says the governor isn’t going to let politics be injected into the selection process with such unnecessary legislation. The governor shrugs off a vital home rule issue as if it’s no more serious than choosing a state muffin.
There will be plenty of communities eager for the construction cranes that Mr. Cuomo waxed on about in his State of the State address. What nobody likes is a steamroller.