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DEMOCRACY isn't always pretty.

Proof of this should be on ample display at the Free Library Tuesday at 1 p.m. That's when the Planning Commission will be reviewing Foxwoods casino's development plan.

The hearing follows a similar one in May on SugarHouse, the other one of two slots parlors approved for the city by the state's Gaming Control Board. That hearing had plenty of fireworks, but tomorrow's is likely to be extra raucous and volatile, since community members have been particularly critical of the Foxwoods site.

The state-mandated casinos have been an explosive issue in the city, and the state's approval of two casinos in December not only did not provide a calming pause, but instead, opened up a new chapter of angst, in the form of citizen protests, numerous lawsuits filed to block or postpone the completion of the projects, and many mixed signals from lawmakers.

For example, in April, City Councilman DiCicco, in whose district both casinos are, changed the zoning from commercial to residential for these two sites. Tuesday's hearing is to rule on the re-zone. And on Friday, state Sen. Vincent Fumo, the original author of the gaming legislation, added to the confusion by announcing legislation that would create a 1,500-foot buffer zone between casinos and residences. Fumo took pains to warn he created the legislation only because he promised to, but that he doubted it would ever see the light of day in Harrisburg, thereby making the law sound more like a giant pacifier.

Such mixed signals, crossed wires, loud voices and strong feelings certainly makes it hard to keep a scorecard on the casinos' development, and almost makes you almost feel sorry for Foxwoods. Surely when going through the hoops required for state approval, they probably had no clue that the Delaware River was so full of quicksand. For that matter, neither, probably, did recently appointed Planning Commissioner Janice Woodcock, who has been forced to lead the commission - and the public - through a delicate, land-mine-filled process of giving legally required approval to something of which many don't approve, and over which the city has had little say.

Those who want to demonize anyone who doesn't agree with their anti-casino stance should remember that the true culprits here are the governor and the General Assembly.

It's also important to remember that the casino law both prompted and pre-empted a large public conversation about what the city should do with its waterfront. (Read more about this process on the following page. ) The Delaware waterfront is critical to the city's future. We hope the strife over two of its buildings ends soon, the dust clears, and we can better see the whole thing. *