Monday, November 4, 2013

Ray Flynn's remarks at anti-casino rally in East Boston, November 3, 2013

(Edited by FC)

What a dedicated group of East Boston citizens here fighting for a better community. Heroes are what you are. But I'm not surprised. This is the history of the people of East Boston and hopefully still will be.

I loved coming over to East Boston when I was young, visiting family friends, playing a lot of sports ( football, baseball, and basketball), which was long before I ever thought about being Mayor, Ambassador, State Representative or a Boston City Councilor. Whether it was going to Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel or The Assumption Church and than Sunday Dinner at a family friends house, the Columbus Day Parade, later singing Italian songs with the elderly at Don Orione Home, playing basketball with the kids at Orient Heights or talking with my father and Kathy's father's friends at the East Boston docks where they worked, and I worked down the docks during the  Summer as well. 

Kathy's Dad was a member of ILA right here in East Boston. It was always special. This is where I first witnessed community organizing in the 70's, whether it was opposition to airport expansion, escalating electric rates, traffic from the track, and gas tankers.

People like Lucy, Anna, Mary Ellen, Pixie, fought like tigers to protect this community and keep it great. Everybody knew each other and was active in the community. The neighborhood business districts were thriving, the Churches were filled every Sunday, you could hear hundreds of kids playing in every playground. East Boston Stadium, now named after my friend Probation Officer Jimmy Sartori, the Jets, Tornado's, Fittons, St. Lazarus, and the gym at Maverick. Names like Costigan, Marmo,Verone, Ivers, Lauria, Romano, Buonapane, Contilli, Bravaro, and O'Leary were leading East Boston High School to championships. Many went on to do the same in college. I know, I played against some of them.

Nobody has to tell me about East Boston, I spent a lot of time here, long before I got involved in politics.

No Boston neighborhood was more family-oriented, largely Italian, (but it had a lot of Irish at one time,) or had as much civic pride in fighting to protect its quality of life than East Boston. Mothers blocked runways and tunnels, we fought to re-open police and fire stations during Proposition 2 1/2. You raised money at benefit spaghetti dinners to support the cheerleaders and girls soccer teams, Joe Cuneo brought hundreds of people together to help sick kids at St. Jude's Hospital. Does anyone remember him?  I do, I was there. Ok, so I'm talking about my days, the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, and the early 90's, a great neighborhood, but it changed dramatically the last 15 years.

Latinos and a lot of young professionals moved in. The public schools deteriorated. Drugs and a lot of poor. So what's the solution to make the community strong once again? A gambling casino which will dominate and define the neighborhood which will Lead to Decline in residential property values. Increase Crime. Prostitution. Strip Bars. Unbearable Traffic through East Boston streets. Small businesses will be hurt.

So a big Gambling Casino is now the American urban proposal for what is really needed in cities?  And not jobs and affordable housing for working families. How about a new American Urban Marshall Plan for potentially vibrant communities like East Boston. Where do people who are willing to work hard, play by the rules, need affordable housing go to find that hope and opportunity. Certainly this dream is no longer available in South Boston, or Charlestown. Plenty of luxury condos and roof decks. And if this gambling casino goes through, East Boston will never be the once proud livable family neighborhood again either.

So why is Gambling Casino going in East Boston? Because the poor and Latino people live there and are desperate for any kind of job. Because they don't have any political clout?  I see them as Honest Decent people willing to work hard for a decent wage. Trying to support their families. We all admire them for that, but why can we do better as a city.

An American city should be a place where people come with a dream for a more positive and hopeful future. The kind of community that East Boson and my South Boston community used to be. 

What does East Boston need?  Let me tell you, a lot of kids in Little League, good schools, people working in factories, on the docks like my father, small businesses, laborers rebuilding the roads and building some housing for the elderly and schools for kids. 

What about a medical research center? I just drove my daughter and  her 7 year old son who was born a special needs child. When he tries to walk he falls and he can't talk. They are on their way to the National Institute of Health in Maryland to see if medical doctors can find a cure for Braeden and other children's struggles. Why can't we do that research right here in East Boston? Medical research and plenty of good jobs  for people willing to get training and work hard. That's called Pride and that's America,  That's what is needed in Boston at this time. Frankly, I'm convinced that this can happen, but it all begins with you and the people of East Boston on Tuesday. It's now all in your hands.

Boston is about to move in a more enlightened direction. A new vision of a better, open and more caring Boston. This is a time to think about what can be. Reject this silly Gambling proposal and bring this community together with a new, visionary and balanced economic plan which will create good jobs for East Boston residents, safer streets and better schools for your children. Do that and you will be proud to say, "East Boston Is My Hometown" once again.

Ray Flynn

(Ray Flynn served as mayor from 1984 to 1993, when he was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.)