Toni Harp: Casino benefits undeniable
Attributes shared by the cities of New Haven and Bridgeport make mutual, wholehearted support for a partnership in the recent MGM casino resort proposal seem self-evident. Each of the state’s two largest cities is characterized as a transportation hub and education cluster, with an historic legacy of commercial and cultural appeal.
Beyond that, each stands to benefit broadly from the economic boost and job creation benefits built into the plan.
All Connecticut cities are hamstrung by municipal revenue limitations: by state law, property taxes are the only viable, permissible game in town. Connecticut cities, with their high concentration of tax-exempt properties — colleges, universities, hospitals, government buildings, and nonprofit businesses — are casualties of a crippling double-jeopardy, and face perpetual financial uncertainty as a result.
The state’s willingness to bridge that revenue gap has historically been tentative; this year, given the legislature’s failure to pass a responsible, balanced budget now nearly 90 days into the fiscal year, regional cooperation at the municipal level has become a necessary alternative.
My support for this project is encapsulated in the phrase: “jobs creation for residents of the New Haven/Bridgeport region.” With plans for a half-dozen restaurants, a hotel, waterfront amenities, and an entertainment venue all to complement the casino, literally thousands of positions will need to be filled, in jobs ranging from housekeeping to bookkeeping, and from event advertising to event security.
Most of those who will work at the resort will be trained at a workforce development/training center in New Haven, to be set up specifically for that aspect of the MGM operation. This facility, with proximity to residents of both cities, promises new job skills, an opportunity for career changes, ready-made job placement, and potential job promotions for thousands upon thousands of local workers.
And the Metro-North/I-95 connection will keep these workers and their new skills close to home and family.
Potential revenue for both the region and the state are other appealing aspects of the plan. The promise of private capital, rather than government subsidies, to underwrite construction jobs and revenue from significant licensing fees will boost economic prospects here and in Hartford.
Bridgeport’s Steel Point, a prime, ‘shovel-ready,’ shoreline parcel, is meant to be a destination: the MGM proposal matches its potential. This bold initiative to engage private capital, create jobs, and yield significant revenue throughout the region must not be ignored.
Toni Harp is mayor of New Haven.