Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The best of a bad situation.

Over the years, I have tried to keep an open mind with regard to the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians and the development of a casino square in the middle of a once quiet agricultural valley. I respect the sovereignty of designated tribal land, and if their casino had a limited impact on the quality of life for the residents of the Capay Valley, I wouldn't say a word if they built the Taj Mahal or the Eiffel Tower on their land. However, there comes a time when all the Tribe's talk and press releases about their 'commitment to the community' has to be considered disingenuous at best, and spiteful at worst.

Their 'commitment' seems to stop at the front entrance to the casino and at the bottom line of the accounting ledger. I understand the value of a good business model; when the tribe opened the first Nevada-style gaming casino, they had a gold mine. With the first major expansion of the casino, along with a hotel-resort, the tribe now has a diamond mine. The money the tribe spends to 'mitigate' the impact of the 414,110 square feet of development is a mere drop in the bucket to its bottom line.

Tripling the size of the current casino, when its impact to the local community has been far from 'mitigated', is a slap in the face. Now the tribe wants to use non-tribal land in its expansion plans. The development of the Elden property, which the tribe purchased, is Non-Trust land. This property is under the same County zoning regulations and land use restrictions as any other parcel in the Capay Valley.

I doubt the Yolo County would let me build a waste water facility and 500 space parking lot on my property in Esparto. In fact, they would probably ask what I had been smoking.

The tribe has an interesting argument for using the Elden property in their expansion plans. The 500 space parking lot, the use of the Elden property to store excavated materials and build a waste water facility will cut down on traffic. Really? I have a better idea, why don't they use some of their 'Trust' land for these uses? Oh, that would take away valuable gaming and revenue making square footage from their plans. We can't have that, the tribe needs to squeeze every last drop of revenue from every square foot of their diamond mine.

The casino expansion is going to happen, that is simple fact. Even as the Rumsey Tribe is partnering with a Bay Area development group and another tribe in the Richmond area to build a billion dollar casino resort in the north bay, they want to short change their neighbors. Being a capitalist at heart, I am all for making as much money as possible, but not at the expense of the community and values the tribe says it holds in high regard.

The County has a opportunity to make the best of a bad situation. With the agreement between the County and the tribe heading for arbitration, residents can only hope the County prevails and the arbitrator doesn't fall for the empty talk of commitment and community values.

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