WIGA News Clips June 7-8, 2006 LOCAL Casino backers, foes gear up for hearings The Oregonian 6/8/06 County seeks casino talks with tribe The Bellingham Herald 6/7/06 Tulalip kids 'step up' The Daily Herald 6/7/06 NATIONAL Gorge casino opponents cite gambling threat in Hood River forum The Dalles Chronicle 6/6/06 LOCAL Casino backers, foes gear up for hearings La Center - The two sessions next week will look at the feasibility of the Cowlitz plan Thursday, June 08, 2006 ALLAN BRETTMAN VANCOUVER – This time around, there's no such thing as a free pizza or free hats or free T-shirts. Those perks, courtesy of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, awaited anyone who attended two public meetings in February on the tribe's proposed casino and resort at the La Center- Interstate 5 junction. Casino opponents passed out free stickers and informational fliers at the meetings held by federal officials to explain the process judging a casino proposal's merits. Wednesday and June 15, however, are expected to be different. Two public hearings, overseen by the Portland regional office of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, will be held to gather public comments on the draft environmental impact statement on the casino resort. Despite the lower-key approach, the tribe and casino opponents are doing their best to assure their sides are represented in the 1,100 seats at the Skyview High School auditorium. On Tuesday, an opposition group sent a widely distributed e-mail reminding recipients of the public hearings and encouraging them to attend. "We're trying to get as many people as possible to get out there," said Chuck Cushman, executive director of American Land Rights Association, a private property rights organization based in Battle Ground. On Wednesday, the Coalition for Oregon's Future, a group with disparate interests, issued a news release announcing its opposition to the casino and resort. The organization includes the Oregon Family Council, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Oregon Restaurant Association. As for the tribe, it is paying for a supporters' breakfast today at the Red Lion Hotel at the Quay near downtown Vancouver. Also, within the past few weeks, the tribe sent 80,000 fliers to households in Clark County and nearby touting the benefits of the proposed $510 million casino and resort. The complex would be operated by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which also runs the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, one of the largest casinos in the world. Speakers at the public hearing will be allowed three minutes. Written comments also will be accepted until July 14. That's 90 days after the draft environmental impact statement was issued and 45 days more than is typically allowed for public comment in the BIA decision-making process. "Everyone will be given a time period to speak" next week, said Gerald Henrikson, the bureau's acting project manager overseeing the Cowlitz proposal. The hearings, each beginning at 6 p.m., will go on "for as long as they have to," Henrikson said. After the comment period ends, it is not known how long it will take for a final environmental impact statement to be issued. After the final document is issued, it is not known how long it will take for the federal government to decide whether it will take a 152-acre site at the I-5 and La Center junction into trust, opening the door for the casino and resort to be built. Allan Brettman: 360-896-5746 or 503-294-5900; email@example.com County seeks casino talks with tribe Papers show property in untouchable tribal trust JON GAMBRELL THE BELLINGHAM HERALD The Nooksack Indian Tribe should consult with Whatcom County government about environmental concerns before building a planned casino north of Lynden near the Canadian border, the Whatcom County Council decided Tuesday night. However, documents released by the tribe show the site of the planned casino is on tribal trust land, meaning state and local officials cannot stop or affect the development. The planned 35,800-square-foot Northwood Crossing Casino would sit on 20 acres of tribal trust land at the corner of Northwood and Halverstick roads. The $14 million casino would focus on Canadian customers, with profits going toward moving and expanding its Nooksack River Casino in Deming. Since the tribe announced its plans in May, local farmers and others warned that building a casino surrounded by farmland would destroy the area's agricultural base. "I am of the strong conviction that this is a cultural and environmental disaster in the making," said County Councilman Sam Crawford. "It is going to change irreparably and alter the landscape out there. Once it's done, there is no going back." The County Council argued back and forth for more than an hour, trying to decide what its role should be in the process. As a federally recognized tribe, the Nooksacks have the same rights as a sovereign nation, able to make decisions about their land free from local and state control. Because of this, Councilwoman Laurie Caskey-Schreiber warned it was not the place of the council to "dictate" what the tribe should do. "We have no jurisdiction over this. Whatever goes on, it is still going to happen, it is still going to be built and meanwhile we'll get nothing for it if we go at this approach differently," Caskey-Schreiber said. "I feel like there is this climate of fear out there that this is going to put everyone into a world of hurt." Councilwoman Barbara Brenner, who proposed the resolution asking the tribe to speak with the county, openly argued with Caskey-Schreiber for much of the debate. "I just wish we had been notified in a timely matter so we can discuss things," Brenner said. "I just feel very strongly this is a very respectful position." Ultimately, council members Carl Weimer, Ward Nelson, Crawford and Brenner voted to support the measure. Council members Dan McShane and Caskey-Schreiber voted against it. Citing his work as a contract attorney for the tribe, Councilman Seth Fleetwood recused himself from voting. After the vote, Nooksack tribal administrator Pat Check said the tribal council would discuss what response to offer the county. However, he did describe any county resolution as "unnecessary." "We don't need to have resolutions to talk to each other," Check said. "We have talked with each other for all of these years." Since the casino announcement, several County Council members and state Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said they would examine the land's trust status. To confirm the land's trust status, the tribe recently gave the county a series of documents outlining the property's history. Among them is a photocopied deed from the Bureau of Indian Affairs showing a Matilda Tom Carson sold the tribe the land for $20,000 in 1975. A signed note from the U.S. Department of the Interior shows the land was placed into trust in 1984. County Prosecutor David McEachran is examining the documents to confirm the land's status, Caskey-Schreiber said. However, she said the documents appear to leave little in question about the land's trust status. Reach Jon Gambrell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2263. Tulalip kids 'step up' Tribe graduates a large class from Marysville schools By Eric Stevick Herald Writer EVERETT - Don Hatch was more than a Marysville School Board member attending a high school graduation Tuesday. He was a proud grandfather watching two graduates close to his heart reach a milestone. And he was a tribal elder with renewed hope for the future. Although no graduation rate is available for this year's class, tribal leaders say it is the largest class they can remember. Fifty-two American Indian graduates from the area were honored at a tribal banquet last week. On Tuesday, 38 American Indian students from the Marysville School District, including 28 from the Tulalip Tribes, received diplomas from Marysville-Pilchuck High School and Tulalip Heritage Option School. They were among 540 students participating in graduation ceremonies. "It's a great thing," Hatch said. "Hopefully we can build on it." It's an encouraging sign for educators and tribal leaders. In Snohomish County, about half of tribal teenagers drop out of high school, according to 2003 statistics, the last year for which data were available. By comparison, about one-quarter of white students drop out. The rate is about one of every three Hispanic and black students. The 17 graduates from Heritage, a predominantly American Indian school, are the most the school has ever had, said Shonta Retasket-Truong, a counselor at the school. She believes the graduating class felt connected to its school and community. "There was just a sense of belonging," she said. Tribal students were glad to see so many peers earn diplomas. "It makes me happy and it makes me feel proud to be from Tulalip," said Richard Fryberg-Jones, 18, who graduated from Heritage. "People are finally starting to step up and take their parents' advice." Classmate Michael Calflooking-McKinney, 18, a member of the Blackfoot and Upper Skagit tribes, said he once had doubts he would graduate from high school. "You just wanted to show people you could graduate if you put your mind to it," he said. Cecilia Gobin, 18, graduated from Marysville-Pilchuck and will study political science at the University of Washington next fall with an eye toward law school. "I think a lot more of us are starting to recognize what it takes to make it in the world," she said. "The typical stereotype, as it is with many minorities, a lot of people don't have high standards for them. I think a lot of us want to prove the world wrong." Glen Gobin, a tribal board member and Cecilia's father, believes more tribal kids are buying into the importance of an education. The tribes' economy is growing, with good- paying jobs that require more schooling. The tribes are willing to pay for their college education, he said. "It gives them the extra incentive to take that extra step," he said. Gobin's two older children graduated from Washington State University. A survey of 36 American Indian students in the Marysville district found 21 planning to attend college or a vocational school. At Marysville-Pilchuck High School, most American Indian graduates planned to continue their education after high school, said Matt Remle, the school's Native American liaison. Getting students past the first year of high school without falling behind is the biggest challenge, he said. "We have 30 or so juniors, and I expect to see the number of graduates from this year increase next year," he said. Districtwide, the percentage is likely to increase, too, said Cynthia Clauson, the district's director of student achievement. Heritage will have a new campus in a year, the district is working closely with the tribes on making decisions, and an Internet option is helping more students finish their coursework and earn diplomas, she said. Hatch, the school board member, said he believes tribal youths understand that they could be tomorrow's tribal leaders. "I think they are looking around and saying, 'We have to do something now,' " he said. NATIONAL Gorge casino opponents cite gambling threat in Hood River forum Damage slight as harvest nears By RAELYNN RICARTE for The Chronicle Opponents to a tribal casino focused heavily on the social ills brought by gambling during a special forum last week. “There is a tremendous amount of crime directly associated in Las Vegas with gambling,” said George Holt, who is a former prosecutor from Clark County, Nev. He said that prostitution, vice and fraud accompanied casino activities. Holt predicted a “ripple effect” of public safety problems within a 50-mile radius of any facility constructed by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in the Columbia Gorge. The tribe is seeking to build a casino/resort in the Cascade Locks industrial park with a footprint of about 280,000 square feet. If the off-reservation site is turned down, the Warm Springs have stated their backup plan will be the construction of a casino on 40 acres of trust land just east of Hood River. About 40 people gathered on May 24 at Hood River Valley High School for anti-casino arguments presented by six panelists. The event was co-sponsored by the Hood River Valley Residents Committee and No Gorge Casino! “Pathological gambling has a fiscal impact on social welfare and law enforcement. They are going to need a hospital and a jail in Cascade Locks, and other things they never thought they needed,” said Holt. He said the population of the rural town, which currently stands at 1,150 people, would likely exceed the 6,450 citizens now living in Hood River. Holt based that belief on the fact the casino would be providing 1,740 new jobs — and problem gamblers and career criminals would also move into the community. John Randall, co-founder of No Gorge Casino! said the growth would not benefit existing local businesses. He said once the $389 million project was completed, it would provide multiple restaurants, shopping outlets, and even spa and daycare services — all at prices that undercut “mom and pop” establishments. “How can retailers compete with casinos, which are notorious for giving out free food and merchandise to get people inside?” asked Randall. He said if the casino in Cascade Locks brought in the conservative estimate of $200 million in revenue each year, local decision-making would begin to revolve around its tribal wants and wishes. And there would be no way for government officials to control the activities taking place on the casino property. The Warm Springs want to purchase 25 acres from the Port of Cascade Locks for the casino. And lease an additional 35 acres for parking. Randall said if the project is approved at the federal level, the purchased land would be given “sovereign nation” status and exempt from outside regulation. “Casinos bring in ‘cannibalized dollars.’ They don’t create wealth, they take it from other sectors of the economy,” he said. Tiffany Pruit, the only member of the Cascade Locks City Council to oppose the casino, agreed with Randall’s assessment. She said many residents had been drawn to the Gorge by the quiet lifestyle. She believed most commuters felt that a longer work day was a good tradeoff for a safe place to raise their children. “Cascade Locks is a bedroom community because most people want to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life,” said Pruitt. Jonathan Maletz, a family therapist, cited two studies that addressed the potential crime problems facing Cascade Locks or Hood River from the siting of a casino. He said statistics from Casino Crime and Community Cost by Earl Grinols and Davis Mustard painted a grim scenario. Their report, based on national trends, revealed a dip in social problems immediately following the opening of the casino. But that good news was followed by a “huge jump” in property crimes that begin in the third year. In fact, the study showed robbery typically rising by 136 percent, assault by 91 percent and auto theft by 78 percent. In addition, burglary rates were hiked by 50 percent, larceny by 38 percent, rape by 21 percent and murder by 12 percent. Maletz said the National Gambling Impact Study Commission’s report of 1999 also outlined a spike in divorce rates as the lure of riches through gambling lured people into addiction. “I guess what I am trying to say tonight is that a lot of the ills we face as a society are so big there isn’t a lot we can do about it. But we can do something about this one, we can say ‘no’ to a casino,” said Maletz. Kamie Christensen-Biehl, co-chair and founder of Stand up for Clark County Citizens, spoke about her research in fighting the proposal for a Cowlitz Casino in La Center, Wash. She co-authored a book and amateur documentary on experiences gained by a 6,000 mile 26-day trip via car to 14 states and 17 Indian reservations. Christensen-Biehl said she viewed first hand the dismal results of government leaders not taking time to learn about the long-term detriments of a casino because they were more interested in the immediate gain. She said, in one scenario, wastewater was flowing from tribal land onto nearby properties and no enforcement action could be taken. The Warm Springs have agreed to abide by state building and health regulations – but Christensen-Biehl said enforcement action would be difficult because of the tribes’ “sovereign nation” status. “It’s all out there for elected officials to educate themselves and do a good job of protecting their constituents and communities,” she said. Michael Lang, conservation director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, was also a presenter. He said any Gorge casino was likely to bring traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as damage wildlife habitat areas and scenic vistas.
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