E-Mail Forum
  Roger's Response to Critics of His Point Molate Vote
May 22, 2010

The editorial at the bottom of this E-FORUM was submitted by Richmond City Council Member Jim Rogers. Although I voted against the latest extension of the LDA to April 2011 (Casino Four Hands Out 11-Month Extension of Point Molate Casino LDA, May 19, 2010), I like to publish opposing views in my E-FORUM.

I would, however, like to comment on Jim’s characterization of my position on Point Molate (“Note: Tom Butt has voted not to extend the LDA because he believes Upstream is dragging its feet on making changes concerning the design and preservation of historical buildings, but he has not changed his opinion/vote that the big picture idea is worth considering.)” I would be the first to admit that I have flip-flopped on Point Molate related votes. My record is about 50-50, for and against. I voted to move the project forward in hopes of furher developing the positive spaces and mitigating the negatives, but progress just isn’t being made, and I believe it is time to move on.

As I have repeated many times, I was initially attracted by Upstream’s plan that included the Bay Trail, a shoreline park, uplands open space with public access, rehabilitation of buildings in the Winehaven Historic District, thousands of jobs with preference for Richmond residents and tens of millions of dollars for the City of Richmond through a Municipal Services Agreement.

I knew there were problems, but I thought it was worthwhile to roll the dice and see if they could be worked out. The solutions, however, have been elusive. The Draft Environmental Impact Report described three unmitigated impacts (1) demolition of Winehaven Historic District historic buildings, (2) social impacts of gambling, including crime, and (3) traffic jams. In my opinion, the EIR was fatally flawed. Neither the comments addressed to the EIR nor the final EIR have been published. Despite months of negotiations, Upstream has not formally agreed to any changes to the Land Disposition Agreement that addressed some of the flaws.

Meanwhile, with so many things unresolved, Contra Costa County has traded early support for the project for the promise of millions of dollars of annual payments once the casino opens. A plethora of environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, led by Citizens for Eastshore Parks (CESP) has entered into a tentative settlement agreement that trades unqualified early support of the project for tens of millions of dollars targeted for acquisition of open space on the North Richmond Shoreline. The CSP lawsuit has also had the result of tolling the agreement with or without the City Council’s consent, although this remains in contention. Neither of these deals takes into account the unmitigated adverse impacts to Richmond, the mitigation of which, if any, remains a mystery until the EIR/EIS process completed.

Meanwhile, Jim Rogers continues to support the project, and tells us why:

The Pt. Molate Casino issue has provoked very passionate and extensive comments on both sides of the issue. 

I have been invited by supporters to declare support and by opponents to declare opposition. 

However, the Council's  had not solicited, or accepted, competing non-Casino proposals from others for 6 years.

On May 18, the Council directed staff to solicit competing, non-Casino proposals, a move I had been advocating for several months.

These will be analyzed through the EIR process, which protects the City from being sued by Upstream for breaching our contract with Upstream. (Further Upstream, not our General Fund, pays the EIR costs and pays over a million a year to maintain the Pt. Molate property.)

Once we get all meaningful proposals on the table, and vetted, I look forward to hearing from the  public, and then making a decision. 

We will have a Council meeting to evaluate the final proposal, and I would be happy to get anyone interested onto an email notification list.

The fact that I am open to getting the best possible proposals on the table- Casino or non-Casino- does not mean I will eventually vote for the Casino project, and the fact that I would not vote for the Casino project's current version does not mean I will eventually vote against the project.
I have gotten a huge amount of pro and con mail on this, and, in case it is of interest to you, I have summarized below some of the concerns/objections raised by opponents and responses by supporters.

Please feel free to call me on my cell if you wish to discuss this further.

Jim Rogers
Richmond Councilmember 

Con: We shouldn't ruin a beautiful and irreplaceable piece of Richmond's shoreline merely in order to get jobs and tax base.
Pro: Leading conservationists like Tom Butt, the Sierra Club and CESP (Citizens for Eastshore Parks) are in negotiations with Upstream about supporting the Casino project because it would concentrate the development in a fairly small part of the 3 mile Pt. Molate shoreline, provide funding to open beaches, and build a first class Bay Trail link. Further, the proponents have offered about $40,000,000 to preserve other Richmond Shoreline areas, if the project is approved. (Note: Tom Butt has voted not to extend the LDA because he believes Upstream is dragging its feet on making changes concerning the design and preservation of historical buildings, but he has not changed his opinion/vote that the big picture idea is worth considering.)   

Con: Gambling preys on Richmond residents who can't afford it, and should be limited to non-urban settings.     
Pro: There are other gambling options around here (e.g. Casino San Pablo), and the City needs the tax base to provide a decent level of services to deal with Richmond's crime, unemployment and other problems. Further, extensive programs could be funded to assist Richmond residents with addiction problems (gambling/alcohol/drugs.) 
Con: Gambling has been shown to increase dramatically when casinos are nearby. Why spend Casino generated money to cure problem gambling? Why not avoid encouraging problem gamblers in the first place?

Con: The developer's promises of 1200 jobs for Richmond residents and about $20,000,000 per year in taxes will turn out to be just as empty as the promises of other Casino Resort developer's promises.
Pro: It may be possible to negotiate an ironclad, no wiggle room guarantee that a minimum of 40% of the roughly 3000 direct jobs will be hired from a pool of unemployed Richmond residents. Many other Richmond residents would be hired for the remaining 60%. The taxes are also clear contractual provisions.

Con: The jobs are lousy, low paying, dead-end jobs.
Pro: The jobs are subject to Richmond's Living Wage ordinance, which guarantees about $16/hour without benefits, or about $14/hour with benefits. There will be potential for employees to get their foot in the door and then move up to the many mid-level jobs supervising a large workforce.          

Con: All the guarantees sound great, but as a sovereign nation, the Indian tribe can do what they want.
Pro: According to Richmond City Attorney Randy Riddle,  guarantees can be made part of a legally enforceable contract.

Con: Even if the City is going to develop this area, it should be a better project, e.g. a conference center or hotel. The beautiful land at Pt. Molate should be used to kick start Richmond's transition into the new Green Economy.
Pro: Although there are lots of good ideas, no developer has yet stepped forward to actually do such a project. Richmond has lots of other wonderful places to build these other projects.
Con: They haven't stepped forward because, up until May 18, the City wasn't willing to consider any non-Casino proposals.  

Con: The City will be tarred with an image of being a gambling mecca.
Pro: The City's image is more tarred by its crime rate, and the $20,000,000 per year will help reduce the crime rate by funding prevention and police programs. If we can guarantee1200 decent paying jobs for unemployed Richmond residents, the effect on the crime/homicide rates will be huge. 
Con: There will be harmful crime, drug, and prostitution impacts on nearby neighborhoods. We can get jobs through other proposals more quickly than through the Casino proposal which may be tied up in Federal and State approvals and lawsuits for years to come.   
Pro: The remote location decreases the chances of bad impacts. As part of an approval, mitigation measures (e.g. extra police) can be mandated. Since it is a complex, controversial issue, and the real estate market will be bad for  few years, non-Casino proposals will also take a long time to start generating jobs.

Con: Extremely bad traffic problems will be caused on the I-580 interchange.
Pro: The Council needs to adopt appropriate mitigation measures as part of the approval, including helping to fund the gap in the Bay Trail where bicyclists are forced to  ride on the shoulder of the freeway, with predictable, and tragic results.

Con: I should be against the Casino proposal because Upstream is overpromising jobs to a desperately underemployed community.
Pro: I should be for the Casino because the card clubs that are financing the anti-gambling PR campaign are hycoprites.
My Response: My vote will be based on what's good for Richmond, not on my feelings about the supporters' and opponents' PR campaigns.

One final note: regardless of whether we support or oppose this project, or (like me) are undecided, we all have an interest in seeing the best proposal- Casino or non-Casino- be considered by the City Council. The proposal has been revised in important and positive ways as a result of the public's suggestions/criticisms. I appreciate all those who have taken the time to contribute their thoughts.