In this town, the color of money is white
If I were Don Barden, I would be suspicious.
Barden, of Detroit, is the man behind the $435 million Majestic Star casino to be built on the North Shore. Even though the state Gaming Control Board chose Barden — who is black — to develop Pittsburgh’s first slots parlor back in December, his competitors are making life hard for him.
In February, competing casino operators Isle of Capri and Forest City Enterprises filed lawsuits with the state Supreme Court challenging Barden’s casino license. The litigation might delay the casino opening by six months — enough time, according to the Gaming Control Board, to lose an estimated $84 million in potential revenue.
Now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are requesting that the city planning commission delay a vote, slated for tomorrow, on a master plan for development around the proposed casino.
Steelers President Art Rooney II feels there may be traffic tie-ups with a casino located a few blocks from Heinz Field, even though Barden has pledged $10 million toward traffic improvements.
It’s frustrating as a black Pittsburgher to watch this.
Barden is expected to rake in millions once the Majestic Star opens, and Pittsburgh isn’t known as a town friendly to black success stories.
Take a look at the business pages of any newspaper and notice the dearth of black faces receiving promotions and partnerships. Thumb through the society pages and you’ll get the impression the only black folks attending society functions are either A) Franco Harris, or B) carrying trays of hors d’oeuvres.
And who can forget the less-then-warm welcomes of other prominent black men in Pittsburgh?
Former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart was chased out of town on a wave of ugly rumors and catcalls for playing much like Ben Roethlisberger did last year. John Thompson, the city school superintendent from 2000-04, was reviled for proposing ideas like closing underutilized schools to save money. His white successor, Mark Roosevelt, championed the same concepts to universal applause.
To dispel suspicions that Barden is being singled out for harassment, his competitors should take the high road and leave him to handle his business.
If Majestic Star is successful, there likely will be additional slots parlors in our city for Isle of Capri and others to operate. But as for other local black millionaire businessmenâ¢
Right now, it seems to be Don Barden and counting.