Council approves another Point Molate extension

Dueling messages flew about a proposed casino at Point Molate on Tuesday night. (Photo by: Robert Rogers)

Dueling messages flew about a proposed casino at Point Molate on Tuesday night. (Photo by: Robert Rogers)

In a session that highlighted the contentiousness of a proposed hotel and casino plan for Point Molate in Richmond, the City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday night to grant the casino’s developers a fourth extension on a deadline for a proposal for the controversial entertainment complex. 

Upstream Point Molate, LLC., the property developers working alongside the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians to erect a vast casino on a former U.S. Navy depot, will now have until July 20 to submit a revised plan. In the meantime, the developers will continue to pay the city $90,000 a month to guard and maintain the land. 

Over 80 speakers came forward during the meeting, underscoring just how highly divided the city remains on whether or not to back the casino plan. Proponents, many of whom came wearing matching green Point Molate T-shirts, pointed to the opportunity for job creation in a city struggling with 19 percent unemployment.

 “The casino’s not going to be the only thing out there,” said Carrie Steele, an ironworker from Vallejo who spoke in favor of extending the developers’ plan deadline. “There’s going to be jobs for Richmond city folks to go to. And right now there are none.” 

Opponents, however, brought up the social and environmental perils of backing the 2,000-slot, 50-table casino that could increase traffic congestion and, some say, contribute to drug use, problem gaming and prostitution in the city.  

Upstream Point Molate LLC managing partner Jim Levine.

The public comment period Tuesday ran the spectrum from colorful to downright rowdy, with members of the audience alternately cheering and booing. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, the council’s staunchest opponent of the plan, also got in a bit of a verbal tussle with Councilman Nat Bates, one of the plan’s supporters, over how much time to allow developer Jim Levine to speak at the podium – indicative to a certain extent of a level of testiness that hovered above the entire evening. Ultimately Levine himself tried to quell the moment. 

During his address to the council, Levine noted that he’d vowed to develop the Point Molate site through “thick and thin,” regardless of whether a casino is ultimately approved. “I guess this is the thick part,” he said. 

McLaughlin and Councilman Tom Butt opposed extending Upstream’s deadline. “Even in the most optimistic scenario,” Butt said, “these construction jobs wouldn’t start for another two years. And if it gets held up in litigation, that could be four years or six years. How many people here can afford to go without a job for two years?” 

Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman was absent, while Bates, Ludmyrna Lopez, Jim Rogers and Maria Viramontes all voted in favor of the proposal extension. Bates hailed the 16,000 jobs that could come with the casino as vitally important to getting city residents back on their feet. 

“My response to the so-called ‘sins of gaming’ is that life itself is a gamble,” Bates told the crowd. “I’m not in a position to dictate what anyone does with their own funds.” 

Tony Sustak, a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a local citizen group allied with McLaughlin, said after the meeting that informal polls of city residents found a nearly 50-50 split on the casino debate. “The jobs issues here is very real,” he said. “But this is not the way to build a sustainable economy.”

6 Comments

  1. A Richmondite

    The Richmond City Council – specifically the Casino Four – Viramontes, Rogers, Lopez, and Bates have no respect for the law and no respect for the people of Richmond who spoke in the majority against extending the LDA. In what can only be described as a despicable act of sleight of hand, Viramontes rambled off a substitute motion that included vast changes to the LDA and a change on the extension date of what was on the agenda (July 20, 2010) to April 2011.
    Without publice review of the grossly altered change to what was on the agenda for a vote, Bates, Viramontes, Lopez and Rogers voted to approve the substitute motion.

    We need a city council that is respectful of the people of Richmond – and each other, one that votes to support the people, and one that does not simply kowtow to the sources of their campaign funding – against the will of the people.

    Vote these people out of office in November. We need leadership and compassion in the city, not a posse of clowns that care more about lining their campaign coffers than serving the people of Richmond.

  2. Don Gosney

    Isn’t it amazing how people can view the same item and see it through completely different eyes as if it was a different event?

    What I saw last night was not the people of Richmond but a slice of the people—those that chose to show up and voice their displeasure. Those that show up at a Council meeting should never be confused with being representative of all 103,000 of us. None of those in the audience was voted to be a representative of the people. Self appointments only count on third world dictatorships and we’re still a few days away from that here in Richmond.

    While the anonymous author before me failed to see members of the Council who voted their consciences and tried to look at the matter objectively, what I saw was a mayor who feels that her elected position gives her the right to interrupt speakers both at the mic and alongside her. I saw a mayor who thinks that it’s better to spend 20 minutes to keep someone from speaking rather than spending 2 minutes to actually let them speak.

    I saw associates of Her Greenness—especially her former campaign manager—who stood along the back wall clicking, making loud comments from the floor and booing speakers who he disagreed with. I saw the same person—known for playing the race card on street corners when the police try to stop law breakers—try to make race an issue last night.

    I saw speakers—speakers who align themselves with the Mayor—who were allowed to speak to things other than what was on the agenda while the Mayor herself tried to silence other speakers she disagreed with even when they were speaking on the agenda topic.

    I saw the mayor trying to interpret the law as though she had actually passed the bar. When she told the City Attorney that he was wrong I know he had to be just as flabbergasted as I was.

    I’m sure the previous commenter is aware that the Richmond City Council does not operate by Roberts Rules of Order and that Councilwoman Viramontes’ amendment to the agendized motion was well within the law—as the City Attorney so stated.

    Motions are amended all of the time and it’s only when they exceed the purview of the agenda are they required to be re-noticed.

    I agree wholeheartedly with A RICHMONDITE’s demand that we have a Council that is respectful of the people of Richmond. Might I suggest that it start at the top with a mayor who doesn’t show such disrespect and contempt for those who have opposing views whether they are in the audience or sitting alongside her.

  3. That display made me ashamed that I voted some of these people into office. Since hearing about the Molate casino project, I’ve discovered a number of unsavory things (see here, for a full report), and I continue to do so. Richmond needs to remember that it is a proud, industrial town – not a city that should build itself from the plunder of others.

  4. Don Gosney

    I’ve been listening to both sides of this development issue for many years now and I keep hearing from people telling us that this project should be scrapped because it doesn’t actually create anything, because the profits will leave Richmond and, as the previous commenter alluded, that exists to “plunder” others.

    You may find an exception here and there but if you ask gamblers to be honest and ask them if when they buy a Lotto ticket or buy a square on a Super Bowl pool if they KNOW FOR A FACT that they’re going to win, they’ll tell you ‘no’. When it comes down to it, most people gamble to be entertained. Even if it’s just for the 15 seconds it takes to scrape the gunk off of their scratcher ticket, they want a brief thrill.

    When they go into a casino, whether it’s in Vegas, Cache Creek or at Point Molate—just as it is when they get down on their knees behind Minnie Lou’s to throw dem bones—they do it to be entertained.

    Isn’t this the same as when they go to a movie theater, to a concert or to a ball game? Isn’t entertainment a legitimate business to be in?

    As for profits staying in Richmond—does anyone think that Chevron, Wal Mart or BofA keeps their profits here in Richmond? Of course not. That’s the nature of business. With the exception maybe of that roach coach selling ptomaine dogs on the street corner or the mom and pop run corner bodega, almost all businesses work in some way or another outside of Richmond’s city limits.

    Whether we like to admit it or not, very few businesses actually create anything. Not all jobs are manufacturing jobs. Financial institutions rarely create anything but heartache these days but they’re all over the place. Department stores sell us goods that are made overseas and send their profits out of town by the truckfull. Even the service industries like repair shops, landscapers and City Hall don’t build or create anything but they’re a necessary part of the business community.

    What almost all of these projects have in common—and Point Molate leads the way—is that they provide jobs to Richmond residents and that means that the money they earn WILL, to a large extent, stay here in Richmond as they buy their groceries, shop at our department stores and pay their taxes. Add to that the fact that a business such as the Point Molate Resort will pay more than $30 million per year directly into the City and County coffers. Considering that both the City and the County are running in the red, knowing that they’ll be able to keep paying their employees should be considered a good thing.

    Lastly, just how many jobs will a dog park create? What will they create or build there? And how much will it COST this community so a few dozen people can walk their dogs in a place they haven’t pooped on yet? [The dogs—not their owners.]

    When considering what the future of Point Molate should be, I hope that everyone actually looks at the alternatives because some of the proposed alternatives don’t pencil out and many will cost this community dearly in subsidies just to keep them afloat.

  5. Carolyn Mann

    “Life itself is a gamble”? That’s Bates’ reasoned response to this issue?

  6. Don,

    While I agree with many of the well-reasoned points that you make in your comment. I feel that it is disingenuous to say that a casino is simply entertainment and nothing more. It’s clear that a casino does have a human cost and you can no more write it off as simple entertainment as making alcohol available through bars and liquor stores is entertainment. Or for that matter the shooting gallery where the intravenous drug user escapes into heroin bliss.

    In the case of bars and liquor stores, we accept that human cost given our propensity as a society to rely on alcohol consumption in moderation as a social lubricant. In the case of shooting galleries and most recreational drugs, we have established laws dictating that the entertainment value comes at too high a cost to be sanctioned by the state.

    When it comes to a casino the same balancing act must apply. Gambling addiction is real and it’s impacts are widespread in Vegas, as reported by the Las Vegas Sun. Whether the benefits of opening a casino at Point Molate outweigh the costs associated with the casino is an important thing to consider. But suggesting that a casino provides nothing more than entertainment comparable to that which you find at a concert, movie or sporting event is silly.

    Find me someone who went to a movie expecting to spend less than $10 on a couple hours entertainment and ended up walking out $50,000 poorer.

    Sure you might get suckered into a $5 popcorn and a $6 coke. Hell you might even meet a cute girl in line and offer to buy her ticket, but it’s just about impossible to spend even $50. But we both know casinos are a different story when it comes to how much money you can spend in a night.

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