Media jumps to conclusions, ride–sharing fee-hike bad for Western Mass.

Jan. 29, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

Some inside baseball to start:

I put together a quick story last week about MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis’ departure from our casino.

Mathis will be returning to Las Vegas and has been appointed to a senior management position.


Despite the fact that not a single reporter – including myself – knew any of the inner workings of this story, several media outlets decided to go with linking the announcement that Mathis will be leaving with reports of the relatively low gaming revenues from MGM in December.

(Remember MGM also makes money from a variety of other sources.)

The idea is to create  – without saying so – a link that would indicate that Mathis has failed and is being replaced. To seal this connection several media reports then used a college professor as a source to try to bolster this theory with analysis of the MGM financial situation.

I know I’m a dinosaur. I don’t like using unnamed sources in stories and don’t like to draw conclusions between pieces of information just because they create an intriguing click-bait kind of narrative.

In conversation with several people, as of course this was the talk around town, I pointed out the MGM Resorts International is a huge company with many properties. Mathis has been here for years getting the casino built and opened.  Perhaps that was his charge: get the casino up and running. Now management wants to use his talents elsewhere.

Within large companies, transfers are common.

But such a storyline is apparently less sexy – person completes the job he or she was given and then gets a new gig – as person gets removed and must return to the corporate headquarters. Somehow, rather than celebrate competence we are drawn to the most negative conclusions.

I suppose that’s human nature.

Just to be clear: Mathis is not my friend. I don’t gamble at MGM. I do go there for the movies, the food at TAP and the drinks at the Lobby Bar – the boozed-up milkshakes aren’t bad either. I think it has helped the community rather than hurt it. There is still much to do in my mind to leverage MGM Springfield with our other attractions to maximize its potential.

I just think drawing a conclusion in this case is ill advised.

When in doubt raise taxes and fees

So, Gov. Baker has proposed an interesting way to increase funds for the ailing MBTA.

Matt Murphy of the State House News service reported last week, “The governor did propose in his fiscal 2021 budget on Wednesday to raise fees on Uber and Lyft rides by $100 million to boost the operating budget of the MBTA.”

Right now the Massachusetts government gets 20 cents in taxes for every Lyft or Uber ride. The governor wants to increase that to $1.

Now remember, the MBTA has a dedicated revenue stream through the sales tax. That’s right, every time you buy a taxable item in the Bay State, part of that is allocated to keep the MBTA going.

I get it. The governor has faced a series of the problems with the MBTA. Just search for news stories with “MBTA problems” and see what you get.

Clearly, and understandably, this is a top priority for the Baker Administration.

But is it our priority? Once again we are asked to finance a service the overwhelming number of us will never use.

Transportation and infrastructure issues are important out here in the hinterlands as well, where we do not have any service funded in the same way as the MBTA.

Share this: