Maine Nixes Casino, Denver Kills Stress-Reduction

Maine (search) voters emphatically rejected big-time casino gambling Tuesday, defeating a proposal by two Indian tribes to build a $650 million Las Vegas-style resort that critics said would tarnish the state's image. In Denver (search), voters rebuffed an offbeat measure aimed at reducing stress.

The Maine vote came after a divisive campaign in which nearly $10 million -- a state record -- was spent by supporters and opponents of the casino proposed for the southern town of Sanford. Backers said the project would produce thousands of badly needed jobs, but opponents said it was the wrong kind of economic boost for a state that promotes scenic beauty and outdoor tourism.

"I'm very proud of the citizens of this state," said Gov. John Baldacci (search), a casino foe. "It didn't matter how much money was being spent on the airwaves. They were able to read the legislation and make the determination themselves. And it was a bad deal for Maine."

Aside from Maine, only a few contentious proposals were on statewide ballots in the off-year election, but many items on local ballots stirred heated debate.

In New York City, for example, voters defeated a proposal that would have eliminated party primaries and instituted nonpartisan elections for mayor and other city posts. Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent $2 million of his own fortune backing the proposal, while Democratic leaders, whose party holds a 5-1 edge in registered voters, urged a no vote.

In Richmond, Va., voters easily approved a proposal to have their mayor elected by popular vote, rather than appointed by the City Council. Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first black elected governor, was a key supporter of the measure in his hometown, saying it would improve government accountability. He disputed the claims of some local black leaders that it might dilute black voting strength.

Gambling was on the ballot in several other places. In southern Indiana's economically struggling Orange County, voters overwhelmingly approved a riverboat casino for an artificial waterway near French Lick. That's the hometown of basketball great Larry Bird, an investor in one of the groups hoping to develop the casino.

In Colorado, however, voters rejected a measure to expand casino-style gambling to five horse and greyhound racetracks. Opponents included business groups in three mountain towns with casinos that feared losing bettors to the tracks.

Denver's ballot included the "peace initiative," championed by former Transcendental Meditation teacher Jeff Peckman. It would have required the City Council to implement steps to reduce stress, but voters rejected it by a more than 2-1 margin.

"Common sense and good Western values prevailed," said Councilman Charlie Brown, who complained that the proposal exposed Denver to ridicule.

Said Peckman, "My 15 minutes of fame may have just expired."

Only one proposal dealing with gay rights was at stake Tuesday. Voters in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, approved a proposal allowing same-sex couples -- and also unmarried heterosexual couples -- to officially register as domestic partners. Similar measures have been passed by numerous municipal councils, but gay-rights activists said this was the first time voters took the step.


-- Tucson, Ariz., voters rejected a proposed 13-mile light rail system.

-- Prescott, Ariz., voters approved a ban on smoking in all workplaces and enclosed public spaces, while voters in Greeley, Colo., banned smoking in restaurants and bars.

-- Coloradans rejected a $2 billion bond proposal to fund water projects. Many western Coloradans feared the arid, populous East would get most of the benefits.

-- Pennsylvanians approved a pair of amendments to allow children to testify by closed-circuit television or videotape, rather than in person.

-- Ohio voters defeated a proposal for the state to borrow $500 million for high-tech research and job development.

A proposition on San Francisco's ballot would impose an $8.50 minimum wage on all employers in the city. The new wage would take effect in three months for most for-profit businesses; it would be phased in over two years for non-profits and businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Another San Francisco proposition would replace a jumble of existing panhandling laws with a broader, more specific prohibition. It would ban "aggressive solicitation" by panhandlers and outlaw asking for money on public transportation, in parking lots and from motorists.