Youngest Mayor in Massachusetts Becomes Youngest Flip-Flopping Mayor in Massachusetts

Alex Morse, the anti-casino mayor of Holyoke, announced today that he suddenly embraces casinos.

alex morseAlex Morse and Gov. Deval Patrick. Photo via Deval Patrick’s Office on Flickr.

Welcome to politics, Alex Morse. The 23-year-old made national headlines after he was elected mayor of Holyoke in November 2011 based, in large part, on his plan for economic rival of the city as well as his stance opposing casinos. How much did Morse dislike casinos? Enough to publish an editorial in October’s edition of Commonwealth Magazine railing against them:

“Proponents of a casino here suggest that this industry will be the city’s saving grace. They frame this issue as a cure-all for our city’s economic struggles. After doing my own research, I came to a much different conclusion: A casino in Holyoke would not aid in our economic rebirth, but would ultimately undermine the effort.

Despite the fact that this industry produces nothing, sells nothing, and siphons money from the local economy and into the hands of distant owners, the casino sympathizers think a Holyoke casino is the city’s best bet for economic rebirth. Where are the examples of cities that have been reborn thanks to a casino? Which cities have made the successful transformation from an industrial-based to a knowledge-based economy thanks to a resort powered by gambling? What proponents of a casino will not say is a belief that lies at the heart of their argument: that the city of Holyoke cannot do better than a casino.

A casino in Holyoke would not lay the foundation for the type of sustainable economic growth we need. To be sure, a casino could well have some short-term benefits, including increased tax revenue. But to champion casino economics in Holyoke would be to accept a shortsighted, narrow solution, when a more holistic and long-term approach is warranted.”

Oh, and there’s also this gem: “I oppose a casino in Holyoke because I have not given up on Holyoke.”

This morning, Morse held a press conference to announce that … he’s now supporting the development of a casino in Holyoke. That’s right: Less than a year in office, and the idealistic Morse has already bowed to the pressures of politics and the lure of gambling money. As The Republican reports, Morse’s morning press conference was deluged with catcalls and jeers:

In his remarks Monday, Morse acknowledged his past opposition to a Holyoke casino, which was a core issue of the campaign that brought him to office in November 2011, defeating pro-casino incumbent mayor Elaine A. Pluta.

“But when a business plan is presented to me, it is my responsibility to consider it,” Morse said. “Regarding Holyoke resident and businessman Eric Suher’s plan for a destination resort casino at Mountain Park, this is all I have done: considered it.”

Morse said that weighing the possibility of a Springfield casino brought him to view Suher’s proposal more favorably.

“I have thus come to the conclusion that in order to mitigate the effects of having a casino in Western Massachusetts, it is not enough to oppose one in our boundaries,” Morse said. “As yet, we have not been included in any conversation about this issue. On an issue of such consequence for both ourselves and for our neighbors, we deserve a seat at the table.”

So does that mean Alex Morse has given up on Holyoke?