LEWISTON — After some testy exchanges over the proposed Lewiston casino, the Lewiston School Committee passed a resolve Monday night that it has no position on Question 3.
On Sunday Lewiston School Committee Chairman Jim Handy issued a statement and was interviewed by television stations, raising concern about where a temporary casino would be located if the ballot question passes.
Handy said he was troubled that casino backer Stavros Mendros said he'd seek to have a temporary casino open in February. Handy's worried it could be near a school, and that critical information about the location, size and duration of a temporary casino has been withheld from the public before they vote.
On Monday night, the City Council's School Committee representative Larry Poulin, who with the council, backs the casino, took issue with Handy making the statement without discussing it with the School Committee.
By making that kind of statement it gave the impression the School Committee is opposed to a casino, Poulin said. Handy “certainly was not making a statement for the casino, so one could be led to believe it's a negative statement against the casino,” he said.
Several committee members, including Paul St. Pierre, said Handy's statement without consulting with the board was inappropriate. St. Pierre said he didn't see the news reports, but based on what he's heard, “the chair made a public statement as the chair of the School Committee without the School Committee's authorization.”
Member Walter Hill said he did see the report. “I heard the chair say he was concerned about the location. I never heard him take a position on the casino,” Hill said. “To take a position that we have no position seems like a waste of time.”
Poulin and member Thomas Shannon countered a no-position resolve was needed.
“Whether it's accurate or not, the perception in the community is that the board does have a position,” Shannon said. “Unless we wish that perception to remain, we need to put forth another statement.”
Finally Handy spoke, saying he had a right to publicly question the location.
“I don't check, and nor does anyone at this table, the guarantees of freedom of speech at the door,” Handy said.
Looking at Poulin, Handy said, “You certainly didn't check your protection of freedom of speech when you decided to be a member of the political action committee advancing the (casino).”
If Poulin is going to raise an issue with him speaking without asking the board, the same logic should apply to Poulin, the City Council's representative on the School Committee, when he decided to work for the casino, Handy said.
Member Sonya Taylor said she's disappointed the committee is sitting back and letting a casino happen. It's not a good example for students, she said.
Schools now have programs to fight drug and alcohol abuse. “We'll probably have to put in a gambling one.”