Contra Costa Times editorial: We recommend voters to reject Richmond casino
NO ON measure u: Richmond voters could gamble away a prosperous future if they approve the gaming facility
Posted: 09/21/2010 12:01:00 AM PDT
FOR MOST communities, their economies and identities are the result of geography and historical factors that evolved over time. Along the way there are key decision points, where the leaders of a city or county must decide which path to follow. The consequences can define a community for generations, even centuries.
Richmond faces such a decision point. For six years now, the City Council has been pursuing a path aimed at turning the city, West Contra Costa and, indeed, the Bay Area into a gambling center. The council has been negotiating with the tiny Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, which proposes to build a massive resort, convention center and casino at Point Molate on the Richmond shoreline. The casino would be bigger than two football fields with more slot machines than the largest gaming facility in Nevada.
The development would reshape the character of the region. Indeed, backers say their plans anticipate attracting residents from throughout the Bay Area, as well as tourists from around the world, who would drop their money into the slot machines. The backers brag about how Asian tourists would stop in San Francisco rather than Las Vegas and then ferry across the Bay to gamble. They see this as an asset to the region.
We disagree. The last thing the city of Richmond should do is gamble its future on a small tribe with no roots in the community that promises the sky, but would instead work with gaming interests to suck out money from our region and leave behind gambling addiction and increased poverty. Point Molate is a beautiful site. Richmond can and should do better.
Fortunately, as time has gone on, as negotiations have dragged out, as the financial backers of the proposal have shifted, some city leaders have wisely started to reconsider this ill-advised move. And, for the first time, they have decided to seek Richmond voters' opinion. Measure U on the November ballot asks whether a casino should be included in plans for the Bay-front property.
While the ballot measure is nonbinding, it could nevertheless have a profound impact on the deal. The plan requires federal government approval to essentially turn the property into an Indian reservation. For that approval, the Guidiville Band must show that it has a modern and historical connection to the land, a claim that is questionable at best.
It must also show that it would benefit from the transfer while not harming the surrounding communities. Here, it greatly matters what the local cities and county say. And, on that point, Richmond and Contra Costa officials have shamelessly gone along with the casino plan in exchange for promises of dollars and jobs. It's shortsighted political pandering. It's time for them to hear that this is not the vision their constituents see.
By voting no on Measure U, Richmond residents can send a loud, and critical, message to the City Council, to county supervisors and to federal officials that they don't want to turn the East Bay into a gambling destination -- that they have bigger hopes for their community.
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