EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 12, 2012

Candidates back gambling at Plaistow forum

By Dustin Luca dluca@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — PLAISTOW — Atkinson and Plaistow candidates for the state Senate and House of Representatives found they actually agree on some issues.

A public forum Wednesday night at Town Hall gave each of the 10 candidates a chance to express their views on key topics such as expanded gambling and the addition of a commuter rail line through town.

They were also asked how they would help lower the unemployment rate, ensure the state’s budget woes don’t affect town finances, and whether they would continue to use the district courthouse on Elm Street.

The candidates represent Senate District 22 and House Districts 14 and 34.

On most issues, the candidates were in agreement and differed only when giving additional details.

“All I can see, up and down the table, is that we’re agreeing on everything tonight,” said Democrat Kay Galloway of House District 14. “Maybe we’ve made a beginning on being conciliatory in Concord. That would be a welcome change.”

Though, in some cases, there was disagreement on issues such as whether a commuter rail line should run from Boston to Plaistow.

Senate District 22 candidate Victoria Czaia of Atkinson, a Democrat, said “commuter rail needs to happen.”

“I say this simply because I’ve spoken with many students, many people in Massachusetts who would love to come this way,” she said.

Others, including Republican Jack Hayes of House District 14, said concerns raised by area residents made officials hesitant to pursue the plan.

“Some of the people I’ve talked to (at a recent forum) had their concerns,” Hayes said. “A major study should be done to check out all the aspects before a final decision can be made.”

The discussions focused heavily on money. When asked what they would do to ensure budget shortfalls at the state level don’t affect town budgets, the candidates said a downshifting of costs to town governments was unavoidable.

One question focused on whether the candidates supported expanded gambling in New Hampshire. All 10 said they support gaming.

Democratic District 34 candidate Harlan Cheney said he wanted more than one casino, “but if we can get one done, we’d go a long way in solving our revenue problems.”

Though he cautioned against the risks that casinos can bring, including increased crime, District 34 incumbent Jeffrey Oligny, a Republican, said building a casino in Salem “is an opportunity waiting to happen.”

“We would not be very prudent to stick our hands in the sand, call New Hampshire a great place to live, and not take advantage of this economic opportunity,” Oligny said.

Jean Sanders, Democratic candidate for House District 14, said the current facility at Rockingham Park “is a lot of wasted space.”

“I envision the casino, that being there, mushrooming the economy, people going over to The Mall at Rockingham, shopping at the restaurants,” Sanders said.

Debra DeSimone, a Republican incumbent in House District 14 and board chairwoman for Family Mediation and Juvenile Services, said gambling “keeps my charity alive.”

“If we have the intelligence to pass expanded gambling this year, not only will my charity not die, but 36 other charities won’t die,” she said.

Some of the candidates also brought up the plan when responding to a question on how they would help create jobs in New Hampshire.

Others said loosening regulations on small businesses would also help create jobs.

“What they need to do is look at the regulations,” said District 14 incumbent Norman Major, a Republican. “Is a company not growing because of regulations? And can the regulations relax, or do we need it to spur growth?”

Republican Chuck Morse, an incumbent in Senate District 22, said large projects such as widening Interstate 93 will help entice businesses to New Hampshire. A drop in taxes would also help, he said.

“That’s what Rockingham should do — reduce the two business taxes, and pay for that highway to be built. I think that will bring jobs, “ Morse said. “The infrastructure is key, and we need to pay for it.”

William Friel, a Republican candidate in House District 14, said the key is to make New Hampshire enticing for new business growth.

“It’s incentives. It’s infrastructure. It’s tax reductions. It’s long-term sustainable businesses,” Friel said. “We’re not looking for the local $10-an-hour people. We’re looking for people who have long-term projects, long-term employment with benefits.”