By Matt Youngfrau
SULLIVAN COUNTY May 23, 2003 Several local groups have decided to get together and form a unified voice to speak out on issues of casino gaming. They call themselves the Catskill Casino Coalition.
The group is headed by the president of the Orange, Sullivan, Delaware, and Greene Building and Construction Trades Council, Hank Bunce. With President/CEO of the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce Jacquie Leventoff and Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development President Michael Sullivan as vice presidents, the coalition has met twice.
At those two meetings, 37 people attended, representing the Sullivan County Legislature, the Town of Thompson, several different unions, and other interested parties. It was decided that the group would hire Arace and Company Consultants, LLP to lobby for them in Albany.
Members are in favor of casinos coming to the county.
To be in the group, each organization has to put in money to be a voting member. That issue was discussed at the Sullivan County Legislatures monthly meeting on Thursday, May 15. A resolution was proposed that the county would join the coalition and pay $500 to do so.
District 1 Legislator Chris Cunningham offered an amendment to the resolution. He suggested the county be an ex-officio member (non-voting), nor pay any money into the coalition.
We are all interested in protecting the county, commented Cunningham. We need to interact in a positive way. We should be neutral.
They are still working through the process, responded District 5 Legislator Rodney Gaebel. Just passing this does not commit us if the group does not do what is in the countys best interest. This is a tough issue. We will not spend anything without discussing it. We will weigh all decisions.
The coalition is forming rapidly, added Legislature Chair Leni Binder. I am comfortable with the resolution as it is. We can step back and look at it. There is no harm to go forward and have this in place.
Only District 2 Legislator Kathleen LaBuda supported Cunninghams amendment. Thus, it died. The original resolution, joining the coalition and paying $500, passed the board 7-2, with Cunningham and LaBuda opposed.
Binder and Sullivan, as a part of the coalition, went up to Albany Wednesday to meet with the governors office on casino issues. No details of that meeting were available at press time.