by Chris Bowers, Tue May 08, 2007 at 12:41:30 PM EDT
Many grassroots activists, both conservative and progressive, have been working together to fight moves by the local and state government to bring casinos into Philadelphia. The central nexus of this fight is an organization known as Casino Free Philadelphia. A couple months ago, Casino Free Philadelphia collected more than enough signatures to place a referendum on the ballot for the May 15 elections that would forbid the construction of any casinos in Philadelphia within fifteen hundred feet of schools and residences. This would have effectively blocked the introduction of the casino industry into the city, and it also would have passed easily (one poll showed 79% support for the ballot measure). However, the casino industry took the matter to court, and successful had the referendum thrown off the ballot over a zoning issue.
Long story short: against the overwhelming will of the people of Philadelphia, local and statewide politicians of both parties who have all received huge contributions from the casino industry are trying to ram social-fabric destroying casinos into several neighborhoods in the murder capital of America. Yeah, that will help out the city. Here is a ten minute interview I conducted with Dan Hunter of Casino Free Philadelphia to further explain the situation, as well as what local activists are doing to fight it:
In response to the referendum being thrown off the ballot, Casino Free Philadelphia is taking a page out of the civil rights movement and holding a counter election so people can vote on the ballot measure anyway. Perhaps the most amazing part of this story is that even after having an overwhelmingly popular referendum thrown off the ballot, the casino industry is actually spending money and conducting robocalls to run in that counter-election. Even though they have a huge number of local politicians in their pocket and have denied the people a legally binding vote, the casino industry is clearly still afraid of the locals.
There are ways you can get involved in this campaign. Casino Free Philadelphia's home page can be found here. Their voter guide for the upcoming elections can be found here. They have also engaged in a number of unique actions, including clever online videos and civil disobedience. You can get involved by emailing them at email@example.com. This issue may seem local, but it is rapidly spreading around the country, as the casino industry continues to move into more and more cities and states. Fighting it here in Philadelphia is an important step in fighting it nationally.
Next up on my Philadelphia election blogging will be an update on the mayor's race.