Retired Banker counting on change
After nearly 50 years in banking, 66-year-old Harold "Harry" Rose retired as a virtual Taunton celebrity to parties and roasts, a feature in the local paper, even a proclamation last year.
"The community really came out for me. Folks I've known and worked with all my life," said Harry, who was surprised and humbled by the attention but understands it is part of the fabric of the community. "Taunton loves a local celebration, its part of what makes it special and part of what makes it feel like a small town."
Born and raised in Taunton, Harry has seen his hometown take some hits with the loss of the mill industry, factory closings and the recession, while local pride remains undaunted. This is why he feels the development of a destination resort casino is a perfect opportunity; because the people of Taunton are ready for jobs and willing to reinvest in the city. "Everyone knows you can't revitalize something without a heart," says Harry, "and Taunton still has a beating heart."
Say yes to the future
If Taunton has a brand, it is worn on the hearts of people like Jessica Fernandes who are born and raised in the city. Taunton is where Jessica learned to swim at the YMCA, cheered for Pop Warner, attended senior prom, graduated Coyle Cassidy, married, and then gave birth to all three of her children at Morton Hospital.
As a special needs teacher at the Friedman School, Jessica has a huge investment in the future of Taunton. It's called the next generation.
"This is a great community," she said, "but I worry about how we will keep it going. I look around at the small store fronts that can't stay open and people struggling to find work." A destination resort casino bringing economic growth, jobs and tourism not to mention more funding for schools is something Taunton voters can't afford to pass up. Especially if they want a city their children will come home to and raise their own families. "This is a rare opportunity," Jessica said. "It's going to happen somewhere. If we don't say yes in Taunton, some neighboring city will."
A case of opportunity
A first generation American, Lew Pacheco understands the value of opportunity. Born and raised in Taunton, as a boy Lew and his family made trips to his father's homeland in the Azores. They would arrive in the lush volcanic islands with full suitcases, distribute the contents among grateful friends and relatives and return home with empty bags. As beautiful as it was desperate, the Azores offered few liberties and fewer fortunes. His would be in America, but only if he took it.
"If someone gives you an opportunity grasp it," said Lew, owner of Pacheco's Jewelry on Taunton Green for nearly 20 years, "because you may never get the same opportunity twice."
The slow demise of a once flourishing mill and factory industry in Taunton has left a legacy of hard work with no jobs. Like the full suitcases in the Azores, the Mashpee Wampanoag destination resort casino is an opportunity for Taunton, which Lew describes as "a blue-collar city full of hard working people who just need to work." "It's a simple formula," he said, Taunton will get jobs and working people will have more disposable income. Shops and restaurants will benefit, property owners invest in upkeep and improvements and ultimately tax revenues will increase.
"I can't see a loser."
A promise to fulfill
The wife of a retired Taunton firefighter, Maureen "Moe" Ferris continues to work as an aide in Taunton schools only partly for the paycheck, and mostly because of her love for the children and to support the work of teachers.
"There is just so much promise in their faces every day," she says of the children, "I honestly love my work."
But budget cuts have already eliminated jobs like hers and she fears those cuts will eventually hit her. Moe will survive, but the city's commitment to the future is compromised every time dedicated education professionals are laid off. The bottom line should not fall short of the promise to those students, which is why Moe supports the proposed destination resort casino in Taunton.
"The benefits of a casino are not just the jobs and a stronger economy, but the revenue to the city that can be used to preserve our school system."
Bringing locally earned dollars home
When Mike O'Connell takes his wife out to a nice dinner or a concert more often than not he is going to Boston, Providence or Connecticut. The 32-year-old says a lot of his peers are doing the same thing - taking money earned locally and spending it in another city or across state lines fueling someone else's economy. As a local business owner he understands the role a world-class destination resort casino would play in changing that reality.
"Its not just about gaming. People do a lot more than gamble at these casinos," said Mike, owner/operator of Spark Bike Run Sports in East Taunton. "Anything that drives more people here to Taunton, to our area, to our businesses, and to enjoy the city that we live in is a good thing."
Since opening the doors two years ago, Mike's smartly branded shop with clean displays of trending merchandise is doing well, but he knows the interest in outdoor recreation is broader than most family budgets can afford these days.
"More jobs mean more paychecks and more people spending money in local shops," he said. "It's going to be captured and spent in this city."
Tribe is the right partner for Taunton jobs
Since moving to Taunton 18-years ago, Kristen "Krissy" Rasmussen has never looked back. Taunton is where she met her husband, where her now 8-year-old twins were born, and where the family bought a home. Her husband, a native of Taunton, is an electrician and Krissy works as a nurse at Morton Hospital. Like many working class families, they juggle their schedules to accommodate the children's school and other activities. It's challenging, but she considers herself lucky knowing personally that there are those out there struggling to find good jobs.
"This is a great community, but we can use the jobs and the city and schools can use the money a resort casino can bring," she said. "It will be a good thing. Opportunity is knocking."
Krissy believes Taunton is fortunate that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is at the door. Not only is the tribe prepared to make a significant investment in a high end destination resort casino, unlike independent casinos a tribal operation answers to the National Indian Gaming Commission making it among the most heavily regulated gaming enterprises in the country.