Looting Hawaiian Gardens
-- Hawaiian Gardens report: Damning, incomplete and biased
|by Long Beach Press-Telegram
Originally published 13 July 2000
in Long Beach Press-Telegram
In the most high-profile attack to date on Dr. Irving
Moskowitz's controversial Hawaiian Gardens casino, the chair of the state's
Joint Legislative Audit Committee has demanded a return of millions in public
Scott Wildman's staff has recommended that Attorney General Bill Lockyer
assist the Hawaiian Gardens Redevelopment Agency in recovering the funds,
and that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies investigate whether
criminal or corrupt activity took place.
Ever since the early 1980s, debate had raged over whether the city should build a card club or a commercial development.
1988 Moskowitz plan called for a mixed-use commercial project. A Smith's
mega-grocery emerged as a key candidate in the early 1990s.
the city had sunk millions into the investment, Moskowitz switched gears
in 1995. Days after the redevelopment agency had approved a vague agreement
for a large commercial development, city leaders suddenly discovered there
was an initiative drive to legalize card clubs.
Beryl Weiner, says that the switch came at the request of two city officials,
but both have denied that claim in sworn statements.
more than a half-million dollars into passing the measure. What followed
was a travail of lawsuits from existing property owners, and an increasingly
entangled relationship between Moskowitz and the city.
Perhaps the most damning JLAC staff finding is that the spending of redevelopment funds on the casino violated a 1996 state law.
argues that voters approved the gambling site and that the city granted a
license well before a January 1997 legislative deadline. Weiner also points
to a settlement reached with card club opponents which specifically said
that Moskowitz had not violated state law.
But no less an authority than the Legislative Counsel disagrees.
hindsight, the City Council-Redevelopment Agency may have made some missteps.
Having Moskowitz's attorney also do legal work for the city was an unorthodox
Moskowitz didn't create the city's financial problems,
but he surely capitalized on them. He is hardly the first developer to drag
his feet and demand concessions.
Unfortunately, among the key omissions
in the report is that since opening up at the end of 1999, the casino is
earning license fee revenues at a rate of more than $3.5 million a year.
won't take long for the city to make back its investment of $9.5 million
to $12 million. That's a better payoff than many redevelopment efforts.
distressing is that a silly dispute over an interview audiotape resulted
in the report biased against gambling being written without significant input
from Moskowitz's attorney.
There apparently will be follow-up reports that presumably will be as balanced as possible.
Authorities should proceed carefully before adopting such bold recommendations as demanding a refund of all subsidies.
financial support from this point forward is another matter. If the good
doctor has a future dispute with the city, it might help leaders to know
that a few state officials were in their corner.
Copyright 2000, Long Beach Press-Telegram. For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.
2003 design by elbop for the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem