Campisi says he will vote in favor of Pinnacle proposal
County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, finally has decided to place his bet on Pinnacle Entertainment.
In what was the most difficult decision he has had to make about the 6th District, Campisi revealed during an exclusive interview with the Call Saturday that he planned to go public Tuesday — after the Call went to press — at a County Council meeting in support of Pinnacle's casino proposal.
Councilmen currently are considering legislation — introduced last week — that would approve Pinnacle's proposal to construct a 90,000-square-foot gaming facility at the former National Lead Site in Lemay.
A 280,000-square-foot non-gaming space, environmental remediation of the site and additional community enhancements would bring Pinnacle's potential total investment to $300 million. Pinnacle also projected its south county casino would bring an additional $25.5 million to county taxing jurisdictions in its first year of operation along with 2,000 permanent and 1,000 construction jobs.
"I expect there'll be some opposition to my decision," Campisi told the Call. "The decision to do what I did wasn't a very easy one, I can tell you that ... Man, I tell you, this was the absolute toughest decision I've had to make for the 6th District ever. I just don't know what else I could have done."
A second reading of the bill was scheduled for Tuesday's council meeting, during which Campisi told the Call he planned to deliver a speech, explaining why he plans to vote "yes'' on the proposal. Unless councilmen vote to suspend the rules of order Tuesday, the legislation will not be up for final consideration until the council meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 8, at the Administration Building of the County Government Center, 41 S. Central Ave., Clayton.
"I have listened to the residents of the 6th District … from Oakville, Mehlville and Tesson Ferry to Concord and Lemay …," Campisi stated in a copy of his speech that he gave the Call before it went to press. "While I greatly respect the views of those opposed to gaming and the casino in Lemay, the people of Lemay have overwhelmingly expressed their desire to have the opportunity to better their community and their personal lives with these promised improvements and jobs. I cannot rightfully deny them this opportunity for jobs, increased tax revenues and community improvements."
In past months, Campisi told the Call he had received numerous reports and information from people who were for and against Pinnacle's proposal — enough for a 3-foot-high stack of papers.
"When it came to the reports that everybody gave me, most of the reports were geared toward their side, so it really wasn't objective," he said.
In April Campisi conducted a town-hall meeting, in which the public was invited to speak on the casino issue. The County Council also conducted two public hearings on the matter — one in Lemay and one in Clayton. Numerous citizens voiced opposition and support for the proposal.
In conducting his own analysis on the issue, Campisi said he spoke with many state representatives and senators, while also reviewing a great deal of information from the Missouri Census Bureau. He particularly paid attention to crime statistics, he said.
"They were all statistics from all other states, but nobody had anything from Missouri and that's what made it tough," he told the Call.
He reviewed crime statistics, he said, in the St. Charles area, comparing before and after figures regarding the presence of the Harrah's casino.
"The crime stats (now) compared to before they started ... things really didn't change much despite what everybody else was saying," he said.
During public hearings and anti-gaming presentations, numerous information was presented asserting that crime increases dramatically in areas surrounding casinos.
"I think most of their information was coming from where — like Atlanta, Florida," he said. "It was all the other types of cities. And my concern was we don't have those types of people here. Our community here in south county is more of a bedroom community. It's a keep-to-yourself kind of community. And I had to make all of my decision-making based on my area."
Campisi told the Call he also planned on Tuesday to discuss a piece of information that caught his attention.
Missouri lost more than 78,000 jobs and led the nation in job losses, according to the April 15, 2003, U.S. Department of Labor report. Missouri lost 20,000 more jobs than the next-worse state — Ohio, he contended, with a state population that is twice the size of Missouri's population.
"Even more disturbing," Campisi stated, Missouri's job loss shows trends of acceleration. "As the elected representative for the 6th District, these are statistics that I cannot, in good conscience, ignore," he stated in the prepared speech.
Regarding anti-gaming groups, such as South County First and Rally Against Gambling Expansion, Campisi told the Call he had tremendous respect for those who voiced their opposition through the whole process.
However, he believed it was in the best interests of the community to support the proposal.
"Roughly 10 years ago, the voters of Missouri approved gaming. Whether you patronize the gaming institutions or not is an individual decision. For some it is an evening of entertainment, for others it is considered wrong or immoral ... and each of us makes the personal decision to participate ...," Campisi stated in the speech he planned on delivering at Tuesday's council meeting. "I respect each person's right to approve or not ... participate or not ... I have my own personal religious and ethical beliefs and try to live by those rules ... We all have the right to make our own choices because we accept individual freedom of choice as a given right."
On Tuesday, Campisi also planned to emphasize the important role Pinnacle plays in the potential revitalization of Lemay — a crucial decision-making point for Campisi.
"Since taking office in 2001, I have been working hard to bring business into the south county area … wherever and whenever an opportunity presented itself ... and another opportunity exists now for Lemay," the councilman stated in the speech prepared for Tuesday's council meeting. "Other possibilities to build on the (former) National Lead Site have been visited but, to date, none has come to fruition for one reason or another. The facts are that the site is too contaminated for the average business to consider developing it, and bringing the property out of the flood plain will be a significant financial undertaking for any interested party, including the gaming company."
Isle of Capri and Harrah's also had submitted proposals for casinos in Oakville, west of the Jefferson Barracks Bridge, but were not selected by the St. Louis County Port Authority.
Despite any endorsement made by the county, the Pinnacle, Harrah's and Isle of Capri proposals all will be considered by the Missouri Gaming Commission in July.
"We haven't had a chance to really look at any of the other information from the casinos, because it wasn't given to us," Campisi told the Call. "We were only given Pinnacle, so that's what I had to base all of my information on."
Asked how he believed other councilmen would vote on the matter, Campisi speculated that Councilman Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury, and Councilman Greg Quinn, R-west county, could decide to vote "no'' on the Pinnacle proposal, but he believed the other councilmen would support the measure. But he added he was not 100-percent confident as to how the final vote would turn out, noting that he just recently had made up his mind on the issue.
"It was a 50-50 split down the middle for me and I really didn't come up with my decision until a couple days ago," he told the Call. "When I decided, I said, you know, people in Oakville don't want to tell Lemay what to do. Lemay doesn't want to tell Oakville what to do ... and Mehlville, those areas are pretty much to themselves and they like their area. I could see that maybe the Gaming Commission may be looking at it from a different way, but as a councilman, my area is my concern and I have to make sure that all of the information I was able to gather — man it was, tough ...''