Is North Bay City Council blinded by bonus casino revenue?
Last night, the North Bay City Council convened for a special committee meeting. A crowd of locals came out to attend, eager to hear whether a $31 million casino is in their future. It’s a very old discussion, by most standards; one that’s been on the table for the last six years.
Following the presentations of more than a dozen townspeople—most adamantly opposed to the installment of a North Bay casino—Mayor Al McDonald and the city’s10 councilors weighed in with their final votes.
Officials Favor North Bay Casino by 8-3 Vote
The crowd was stunned when the 8-3 vote came in. Audience members clapped as Councilors Robertson, King and Tignanelli each offered votes of “No”. Otherwise, there was silence throughout the meeting hall during the process. When it was over, a resounding buzz of negativity encompassed the room.
The people in attendance were upset because, after more than two hours, all who came to speak at the meeting were ignored. 19 presenters were registered; 17 for 5-minute presentations and 2 for 10 minute presentations. A few who signed up were no-shows, but most did appear, and many of their arguments were moving.
They spoke of the negative social and economic impacts. One gave accounts of Ontario casinos that continuously lost money, or barely stayed afloat, for the last 10 years. Another listed 54 charities and non-profit organizations in North Bay that would be at least hampered, if not devastated, by a casino. A father told the story of his daughter, who’s now struggling as a single mother since her children’s father’s gambling addiction tore the family apart, leaving them in great debt.
City Officials Blinded by Bonus Casino Revenue?
Aside from Councilors Robertson, King and Tignanelli, none of those arguments seemed to bother the other city officials. They maintained their arguments that a North Bay Casino would create around 200 jobs, generate tax revenue, and that it’s the people’s choice whether they want to visit a casino or not.
Mayor McDonald, who voted in favor of the casino, notes that this debate has gone on for six long years. He is looking forward to the extra employment, having heard it could bring anywhere from “180 to 250” permanent jobs, plus “one time jobs for construction.”
As for the impending tax revenue, McDonald said, “I recommend that the money that comes back to the community does not go in the operating budget, that a portion of it goes to different sectors in our community.” No mention of exactly where in the community that unmeasured “portion” might go.
Townspeople Lash Out at City Council
Once the vote was taken, presenter Tracey Restoule gave the council a verbal lashing:
“You are all elected to represent the city of North Bay and the citizens. And yet all these people who came here—you don’t care about anything that they said. You’re supposed to be representing what we want. Not what you want. Not what your benefits are. You’re supposed to represent these people. Shame on you!”
No doubt, the emotion behind her message was reciprocated by the majority of those in attendance. No response came from the head of the room.
All is not said and done just yet. Councilor Mark King, who’s opposed the North Bay casino plan all along, immediately filed a motion to reconsider. He believes that 5 members of the city council are too new to fully understand the breadth of the situation.
“They’re having a tough time following this and getting a handle on what it means for the city,” said King earlier this week, noting his desire to delay the voting process. “I would think that rushing this through is not the way to go about it.”
King’s motion was granted. A final vote will take place at the next council meeting. However, no discussion will take place prior to that vote. Councilors must take the time to reconsider their position, and whether the prospect of bonus casino revenue might be blurring their vision, before the next meeting. Whatever vote is taken then will decide whether North Bay gets its casino.
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