On Monday, January 7th the Jefferson City Council did something very curious; they decided to put gambling on the April 2008 ballot. This move is curious because the people have not asked for this issue to be revisited. In 1995 the issue came up for a vote and the people decided to ban casinos in Jefferson City. Since that time there has been no overwhelming support for gambling. No groups lead a charge to influence the minds of the people. As a matter of fact it wasn’t even the people that brought this issue up before the council, it was a single Jefferson City Council member who decided to reintroduce gambling.
The Council chose to hold several public hearings to get a pulse on the issue. At the first meeting we shared with you that:
Over 60 people attended the public hearing with 24 choosing to speak to the City Council. The overwhelming opinion was against allowing a casino in Jefferson City with only three of the 24 speakers being in favor of a casino. According to KRCG13, ‘If it’s any indication, don’t bet on riverboat gaming coming to Jefferson City – at least, not anytime soon.”
The second meeting was no different from the first as the opposition greatly outnumbered the pro-casino speakers with 14 speaking against and only two in support. And there was great diversity in the speakers who opposed the issue so it wasn’t as though one group was in opposition in an effort to skew the numbers against. There were veterans, clergy, a bankruptcy attorney, the ex-wife of a compulsive gambler, businessmen, former law enforcement officers, a number of people who had lived in areas into which casinos had moved, people who had chosen Jefferson City as a home because it had no casino, and other concerned citizens.
Despite all that, the vote by the Council was 6-4 in favor of adding the issue to the ballot claiming they want the people to decide. I want to be very clear on my position. I have no problem with letting the people decide, but what those six council members didn’t seem to realize is that the people have decided. They voted in 1995 to ban gambling and there has been no support for gambling since that time. I could understand these votes if there had been any semblance of support at the two public meetings that were held. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
I am curious as to why in the face of such obvious opposition those council members would vote to place the issue on the ballot. Did they do so because they believe its okay to make losers of its citizens in order gain revenue as an alternative to taxes because if they raised taxes they might not get reelected? Did they do so because they were more concerned with their own self-interest than the interests of the people? Did they do it because as resident M.L. Allison said to the associated press, they have ” a total lack of respect for the people they represent.” Or did they do so because the help of casino campaign contributions elected them into office?
I guess we may never know why they ignored the will of the people but one thing is certain; we must be vigilant in sharing the truth about how this issue got on the ballot and we must work even harder to help fight back the money the casino industry will bring to Jefferson City in order to sway the vote.