|Casino the main topic at RP Town Hall
Shirlee Zane and Pam Stafford cope with variety of questions on May 22
Third District Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane and Rohnert Park Mayor Pam Stafford were the only two up front where the microphones were at a Town Hall meeting in Rohnert Park's Public Library Wednesday night. Turns out they were more than capable of handling a sold-out Forum Room. Attendees filled out cards with their questions. Not everyone in the audience displayed patience or politeness.
A group called StopGratonCasino.com (not the Stopthecasino101coalition.com of Rev. Chip Worthington), apparently set up a prior telephone tree robocall system telling citizens the meeting would do something about the casino. Then flyers were distributed at the meeting pointing out faults of the casino and problems if promises about mitigation payments were not made. No names, phone numbers or e-mail addresses were attached.
Mt. Taylor trailhead
Stafford noted at the start of the meeting topics were anything people wanted to ask. Zane mentioned the new trailhead to the top of Taylor Mt. east of RP, soon to be located on Petaluma Hill Road. Questions were asked about water conservation and Ann Dubay of Sonoma County Water Agency was in the audience to answer them; Len Carlson of Rancho Grande mobile home park said there are pipe leaks and much water is wasted but the park owners aren't eager to fix them and the problems connected with SCAYD's loss of homeless prevention was also discussed by Stafford and Zane. They pointed out RP's loss of redevelopment funds by Gov. Jerry Brown's ruling was the villain here. The subject of adding sodium chloride to the county's drinking water to lessen juvenile tooth decay also got a hearing. Another question concerned RP's Dept. of Public Safety's firefighting adequacies.
Question about casino
Then a woman in the audience asked Stafford why all she got was "the silent treatment " when she talked to them about the casino. Someone else wondered why the city allowed the casino to join RP's sewer system to the treatment plant on Llano Road. Assistant City Manager Darrin Jenkins (in the audience) replied because it's a better arrangement than having the Graton Tribe build it's own sewer plant adjacent to RP.
This prompted Zane to explain the machinations leading to the casino's current location on Wilfred Avenue. She noted it started back in 2000 when California voters approved a ballot proposition allowing gambling machines on existing Indian reservations. "Then Congress gave additional powers to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and new rules came into effect," said Zane.
DC, Sacramento took over
Further machinations in Washington and Sacramento made tribal casinos extra-legal in nature and the public was virtually frozen out of the picture so counties and cities could not interfere with casino progress.
Both Stafford and Zane praised the Graton tribe's Memorandum Of Understanding approved years ago by the RP City Council. They cited it as a model that should be used by other tribes, and Zane said, "It was the best we could do to handle mitigating factors like traffic, public safety and sewer concerns."
Why no vote on casino?
A man in the audience interrupted Zane and cried out, "Why weren't the people in Sonoma County allowed to vote on the casino? You didn't do all you could to stop the casino!" Zane referred to her previous comments again, mentioned the MOU's value and said, "We did all we could do." Stafford said, "I've always been against the casino. But it was OK'd by the voters and state and federal agencies are in charge." She was not on the city council when the MOU was approved.
RP City Councilman Jake Mackenzie was in the audience and answered questions about water supply. He was the only city council member when the MOU was approved and the only one to vote against it.
"Swept under the rug"
A complaint was heard contending the
city's "sweeping the casino's dirt under the rug." She added, "If you don't get the mitigating impact money from the tribe, the city will suffer."
Zane replied, "The state has a compact with the Graton tribe, and if they fall short, the problem goes straight to the state Legislature and the governor."
Following the meeting, Tim Danesi, chairman of the RP Historical Society, unveiled a layer cake honoring RP city co-founder's Paul Golis' birthday. Sharing in the cake was surviving co-founder Maurice Fredericks and his wife, Betty.