Wynn Everett officials and a large contingent of state and municipal officials met Monday morning with state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack in Boston about long-term casino-related traffic plans in Charlestown’s Sullivan Square, but noticeably absent at the table was anyone from the City of Boston or the Boston Transportation Department (BTD).
State transportation officials confirmed that Boston had been invited to the meeting, but opted not to accept the invitation to the the meeting that many believed might just be the healing medicine in a hostile situation – a mediating session between several parties in the casino discussion that are at extreme odds with one another.
It wasn’t to be, though.
Wynn Everett President Bob DeSalvio first announced the meeting at a routine quarterly project update on Thursday, May 28, at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s regular meeting.
“We’ve been talking with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Secretary Pollack has convened a meeting to get to major stakeholders together and to get the process moving forward – that being this long-term plan for Sullivan Square,” DeSalvio said on Thursday.
That meeting took place at 9 a.m. on Monday of this week.
“Consistent with the MEPA certificate for the Wynn casino proposal, MassDOT convened a working group to discuss the development of a planning process for long-term improvements for Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square,” said DOT spokesman Michael Verseckes this week. “This was a first step in the process that will lead to corridor improvements to mitigate traffic impacts resulting from the construction of a casino in Everett. The improvements would advance pending successful completion of the MEPA review process.”
Among those in attendance were Wynn officials, the MBTA, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), Secretary Pollack, representatives of the secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, The City of Everett and even the City of Somerville – which has a lawsuit lodged against the MGC for granting the Wynn license.
State Rep. Dan Ryan was not at the meeting, but he said he applauded Pollack’s initiative in getting things rolling on what is a major concern for Charlestown, regardless of the casino issue.
“I applaud Secretary Pollack’s willingness to convene the regional interests around the revitalization of Sullivan Square,” said Rep. Ryan. “This needs to happen. Whether there is a casino or not, this area of the world has been ignored for far too long and is already being closed in with major development on all sides. Mayor Walsh addressed some immediate concerns when he assumed office last year. He continues to fight for a respectable figure that can make this thoroughfare work. Boston cannot do this alone. A regional approach to this traffic nightmare needs to happen and soon.”
The meeting was largely seen as a way to jump-start the long-term planning process for Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue in relation to traffic improvements – a key piece to the puzzle of getting moving on the casino project. Starting a process – one where Wynn was involved heavily – was a requirement listed in the most recent environmental regulatory requirements issued by state Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton. It is something Wynn had to do in order to achieve a certificate from Beaton.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and his corporate counsel, Gene O’Flaherty, have taken a firm stand against the Wynn Everett project on all fronts. Many wondered beforehand if Monday’s meeting might be an opportunity for the state to mediate between the two warring parties.
DeSalvio was asked that much last Thursday by Commissioner Gayle Cameron, who asked if there would be a firm consensus on Monday to move forward.
“I don’t know if I can answer that,” DeSalvio responded. “I think it’s important to get all the stakeholders in a room.”
However, it wasn’t so as Boston sent no one to Monday’s meeting. Deciding not to attend is something insiders have postulated was as much a snub of Gov. Baker as it was the Wynn folks.
Boston told the paper it had no specific comment on the matter, referring to restrictions due to ongoing litigation.
“The City has been, and will continue to be, open to having discussions about the impacts a potential casino would have on the residents of Boston,” said Walsh Spokesperson Bonnie McGilpin. “Due to the ongoing litigation, any conversation relating to the lawsuit would be had through counsel.”
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria told the Boston Herald Tuesday morning that Boston and Mayor Walsh needed to move on.
“Hey, this is it,” he told the Herald. “It’s in Everett. It’s not anywhere else. You’re not going to be getting any more money.”
Those comments came after Mayor Walsh told Boston Herald radio that the ball was in Wynn’s court and that they hadn’t talked in weeks. Walsh’s comments came about two hours after Boston sent no one to the state-convened meeting for which it was invited.
Wynn officials declined to comment on the meeting other than to say it was very productive.
“We hope to work productively with the City of Boston and Mayor Walsh,” said spokesman Michael Weaver.
A spokesperson for the MGC also declined comment, deferring to the DOT.