June 26, 2017
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Jud Snyder
Commute trains and Graton Tribe’s MOU still hold their validity
June 22, 2017

All the City of Rohnert Park wanted was to be a part of a historic venture in local railroading. You know the story. Sonoma Marin Area Transit, noted as SMART to its army of quixotic spectators who have their own wheel barrel of adjectives, most of them unprintable in The Community Voice.

In truth, Sonoma and Marin counties have had steam trains in their backgrounds about 100 years ago when the Russian River area was a pleasant, water-filled playground for big city commuters.  Freight trains are still running, albeit slowly, through RP and Cotati.

NOT MANY PEOPLE ARE interested in historical data but they are wondering why SMART trains have to be so noisy with their whistles. That’s because a sub-agency called Department of Transportation is part of the huge Commerce Department in Washington DC, has decided that the train engineers are the only technicians who know if their track ahead is safe. If the feds at the Commerce say so they instructed the Dept. of Transportation to make it a rule.

This brought about an enthusiastic glee so that cities could set up their own “Quiet Zones” and post signs saying this illegal euphemism was perfectly legal. Once the Dept. of Transportation in Washington DC got wind of this they told the cities they had to take their cherished euphemisms down and pay the expenses of doing so.


ENTER NOW THE GRATON Casino. It has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Rohnert Park pledging a donation every year to the city because of how out of town people connected the Graton Casino with The City of Rohnert Park and the Federated Indians of Graton California.

This was worked up by a woman attorney from Napa (whose name I’ve forgotten) who analyzed the Graton Tribe’s authenticity and city council followed her advice. In a crowded Spreckels Performing Arts Center (City Hall was too small), the MOU was approved.

The Graton Tribes budget held a surprise. It included money for road repairs near the casino and money to cover the 2017-2018 season of the Spreckels theater’s expenses until the end of the fiscal year. This amount is nearly $230,300 total.

It’s a most unusual donation and leaders of the Graton Tribe, including tribal chairman Greg Sarris, hope it sets an angle other tribes should follow.

Since the resignation of Spreckels’ artistic director, Gene Abravaya, the search for his replacement has a greater urgency now that the first season at Spreckels is financially covered.

 I’VE BEEN TRYING TO find someone who knows the name of the woman attorney from Napa, but it’s difficult. It’s a four-day weekend and when you call city halls all you talk to are answering machines. I’ll try to contact Pete Callinan or Carl Leivo later next week. Somebody must know.

A recap article on the origins of this unique MOU has a nice angle for a future article.