|Casino planned near RP clears one more hurdle
In what proved to be a mere formality, the California State Senate on Monday overwhelmingly approved a compact allowing the Federal Indians of Graton Rancheria to build a 3,000-slot machine casino west of Rohnert Park.
The agreement between Gov. Jerry Brown’s office and the Federated Indians passed by a vote of 34-4. Also, there was no discussion of the agreement, carried by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) on the Senate floor. Sen. Lois Wolk, a Democrat from Davis, voted no. Wolk, as a result of redistricting, will represent Rohnert Park starting later this year. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, also voted no.
The plan for a gaming casino has been in the works for nine years, and it was believed ground would break on the project next year. But by getting 27 votes in the Senate, the compact is now an urgency statute and takes effect this year instead of 2013. The bill now goes to the 80-member Assembly for approval and needs 54 to advance.
The local tribe and Rohnert Park entered into a $200 million revenue-sharing agreement in 2005. “All the money that will be expended by the tribe (in mitigation) is for local communities,” Leno told the Press Democrat. He said the agreement is the “setting of a new bar, a high bar, for future compacts” between the state and its Indian tribes.
Opponents of the proposed casino probably lack the power to stop this process, but they’re still not going quietly, claiming the people are on their side.
“Politicians wonder why there is such a disconnect between the people and their elected officials,” said Pastor Chip Worthington, founder of the Stop the Casino 101 Coalition. “This is why. The people are opposed to the casino four-to-one. The politicians, as usual, listened only to the special interests, in this case labor.”
Worthington is basing the level of support on a flash poll taken last month in the area codes representing Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Cotati, Penngrove and southwest Santa Rosa. That poll showed 68 percent were opposed to the casino while only 16 percent were in favor of it. It surveyed more than 5,400 residents.
Worthington said, in a statement released on Monday, his group will focus on what he calls the seriously flawed environmental study done by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NICG) in 2010.
“Our focus has always been on the environmental issues,” Worthington said. “A decision by a federal agency based on a flawed environmental study is subject to challenge in court. We’re challenging the NICG’s decision to approve the management contract because that decision was based on a flawed environmental study. We content the environmental study used for the gambling compact is not adequate, and that the compact has already been breached. And we’ll prove it in court.”
Should this compact be ratified, the next and final major step is the federal Department of the Interior, which has 45 days to approve or reject it.