SEEING IS BELIEVING
By Chris Eachus, Orange County Legislator, District 15 [New Windsor]
As published in the Mid Hudson Times on July 30, 2014
Questions abound about the impact of casinos in the Hudson Valley region. What are the pros and cons of a casino built in your community? How do those questions get properly answered?
My wife and I decided to find the answers to questions about a proposed casino for my legislative district, the Grand Hudson by Greenetrack from Eutaw, Greene County, Alabama. This is a duty I feel as an elected official I should fulfill especially with an issue of such importance to my constituents. Of course, an unbiased investigation required that my wife and I receive no compensation or other ‘perks’ for this venture in order to ascertain the truth about this proposal.
First, the most outstanding feature of the Greenetrack proposal for New Windsor is that the commitments made for the New Windsor and surrounding communities are not new but promises which have already been fulfilled by Greenetrack in the Eutaw, Alabama vicinity. These are pledges of money and other assistance by Greenetrack that have contributed to an entire county and the state of Alabama for decades.
Examples include an educational scholarship program which had 75 students in college with full or partial scholarships sponsored by them. Not only were these students awarded scholarships but mentors were hired for tutoring and visits to each student in college to be sure their needs were fulfilled in order to maintain their scholarships.
The President of the Greene County Volunteer Fire Association, Hodges Smith, spoke of the donation of money for the purchase of 10 brand new fire trucks so that the county fire departments could finally properly respond to their emergency calls. The Greene County Executive Director of E911 Communications Services, Iris Sermon, also told of yearly donations of money from Greenetrack for the purpose of hiring, purchasing, maintaining and manning the equipment necessary to run that department. She flatly stated, “The department would not and could not exist without these donations”.
We heard from nonprofit organizations such as the local public library and their director, Marilyn Gibson, and a local support -mentoring program, Woman-to-Woman, Director Mrs. Johnnie Knott, that receive funds from Greenetrack on a yearly basis dating as far back as 2004 in order to keep their programs functioning. My wife and I spoke with local residents who have received grants and other donations from Greenetrack in order to pay for their taxes and for heating bills which could not be afforded.
Workers at Greenetrack spoke of receiving living wages and health benefits while working for the organization. Stories were shared with us about the massive improvement in the quality of life since Greenetrack came into the Eutaw, Alabama community. Local realtors spoke about the decrease in foreclosures locally and the number of individuals employed who could now afford their own homes. Farmers, such as Thed Spree, with roots in that area for over 200 years, and Toice Goodson, Black Farmer of the Year, spoke of the increase in the values of their properties and increase in ability to sell their products locally. The mayor of Eutaw, Hattie Edwards, recounted the quarterly payments to her municipality and how it balances the budget and keeps their taxes at a minimum.
Customers at Greenetrack spoke of the enjoyment of using the facility and the attention given to them by the administration and employees.
Finally, President/CEO of Greenetrack, Luther Winn Jr., and other stockholders told their stories of marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Eutaw and Birmingham in the early 1960’s while being subjected to bigotry, segregation and physical abuse. And their response, after years of this subjugation, is to give back to their community in as many ways as possible. For instance, a brand new high school to serve all of Greene County, built with a contribution of millions of dollars.
Here in New Windsor and in the surrounding communities we have the opportunity to receive the same benefits showered upon us by Greenetrack. We have the opportunity to have a caring and giving organization enter our community and be as gracious as they have been to the enlarged community in and around Eutaw, Alabama.
The one collective statement of all who have been affected by Greenetrack and Luther Winn Jr. is that their word is as ‘Good as Gold’. Promises made are promises fulfilled by them.
Go visit your own proposed casino enterprise and make your own determination of its promises and value to your community. For, as my father always said, “Seeing is believing”.