County unanimous in support for casino
on November 11, 2009
MARTINEZ – The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to approve the Intergovernmental agreement between the county and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians.
The unanimous vote in favor of the Point Molate casino resort comes after nearly five years and $1 million of county opposition to all gambling establishments, both proposed and in operation. “We have spent more than any other public agency fighting this, “ Richmond District Supervisor John Gioia told Richmond Confidential shortly after the vote. “It was a very difficult decision.”
Diminishing revenues played a large role in the board’s volte-face. Gioia said the county needs money for health, law enforcement and other services. If the 266 acres of shoreline property are given to the Guidiville Band in trust, the tribe guarantees the county $12 million a year, with a possibility to increase that by another $10 million.
At a time when public services are being scaled back, supervisors want to reap the benefits of a possible cash cow. Moreover, they do not want a repeat of what happened with Casino San Pablo. The county’s opposition to that casino led to “zero” dollars for the county, Gioia said, while its services are being drained.
“Clearly there is a split in the community, and I respect both positions,” he said, referring to the animated public debate surrounding the construction of a large casino complex just outside Richmond; a city afflicted with “crushing unemployment,” according to supervisor Chairperson Susan Bonilla. “But I believe that the county has the most to lose if we oppose this project any longer,” Gioia said.
To those who say the county was bought, Gioia said, “It’s our job as elected officials to continually assess. We believe we can turn a project to the benefit of the community.”
Tuesday’s revised memorandum includes a new clause, which stipulates that 30 percent of all new jobs will go to Contra Costa residents outside Richmond. The City of Richmond has already signed an agreement with the tribe that 40 percent of all jobs go to Richmond residents. If costs to the county prove more that expected, it will have the right to renegotiate the contract — a clause also added this week. Furthermore, the tribe will indemnify the county for all related litigation.
The County does not have veto power over the casino project; the decision lies with the Secretary of the Interior and the City of Richmond. However, the Supervisors’ support will likely move the project forward, because the Interior Secretary considers local sentiment when deciding whether to grant trust land.
After hearing public comment for the second week running, Supervisors gave their reasons for supporting the Guidiville Band’s application for Point Molate. “I don’t see that we have a choice,” Mary Piepho said. “If this project goes forward, we will all be working together for years. While I may not be happy about this agreement, I am happy that we have preserved and protected the community.”
Responding to the charge that the county was rushing into an agreement, Supervisor Gayle Uilkema said, “this has been one of the longest, most thorough hassles this board has ever been through.”
Bonilla summed up the board’s position by saying, “to stand in the way of so many jobs is not something I want on my conscience.”
The motion to vote in favor of the casino was made by Supervisor Federal Glover, and seconded by Gioia.
The next step is for the Richmond City Council to decide whether to certify the Environmental Impact Review. The Interior Secretary is in the process of reviewing the tribe’s petition for the land.
For the Guidiville Band, a hard-fought battle was won Tuesday. “Having land after 160 years is something so important; it’s hard to put it in economic terms,” said tribal CEO Michael Derry.
The story so far:
Before Napa there was Winehaven (Oct. 13)
County supervisors willing to be wooed (Nov. 3)
County unanimous support for casino (Nov. 11)
Local casino opposition crumbling (Nov. 11)
The law behind gaming at Point Molate (Nov. 12)
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