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  Point Molate Casino Proposal Dead?
November 7, 2010

Following are two post-election Point Molate stories with different slants, the first by Contra Costa Times writer Katherine Tam, and the second in the Oakland Post by Merlene Sanchez, Chairwoman Guidiville Band of Indians.

Point Molate casino proposal dead?

By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 11/07/2010 04:48:38 AM PST
Updated: 11/07/2010 06:59:38 AM PST

The death knell may be sounding for a glitzy Las Vegas-style casino-hotel resort on Richmond's waterfront.
Voters marched to the polls last week and picked candidates who oppose the casino, creating a powerful voting bloc on the City Council with five of the seven members ready to kill it. Measure U, a nonbinding advisory measure, went down in defeat as well, with 57 percent of voters rejecting a casino at the sprawling Point Molate -- lending the anti-casino bloc a strong political hand.
"The casino was not something that resonated with the community at large," said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who won re-election.
McLaughlin, Vice Mayor Jeff Ritterman, Councilman Tom Butt and the newly elected Jovanka Beckles and Corky Booze all have pledged their opposition to a Point Molate casino.
Unless the current council tries to fast track approvals within the next two months to push forward a project, the new council majority will have ample opportunity to nix it when they take control Jan. 11. That council could decide against certifying the project's environmental report, which some say is deficient. They could stall negotiations to revise the city's agreements with developer Upstream Point Molate and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians. The land disposition agreement, setting the terms for transferring Point Molate to Upstream, expires in April.
Officials also point to a 2006 legal settlement with the developer and Citizens for East Shore Parks over the land deal, in which the city won the right to choose an alternative project.
"At the end of the day, there are some legal arguments that the city maintains full discretion whether to sell this to Upstream," Butt said. "It's hard to imagine (the developer) continuing paying money into a project with an adversarial council."
Jim Rogers, a longtime supporter of the casino project who was re-elected to his third term, said, "We need to take a look and evaluate the whole issue in light of the vote. I don't have any snap answers right now."
Whether rejecting the casino will land the city in court remains uncertain. Upstream has paid the city $15 million of the $50 million cost for the land and is making $90,000 monthly payments to the city.
Jim Levine, Upstream's managing partner, challenged the city to find another project that would bring the jobs and revenue -- close to $20 million a year for the city -- that the developer and tribe have pledged if the casino gets built. Gambling would drive needed seismic work and preservation of historic buildings, open space protection and other benefits that no other project could deliver, he said.
"When people get elected they take on the responsibility of governing, which requires them to look at the facts and analyze realistic options," he said. "What are you really going to do? Pick up the costs, let the buildings fall down and lay off employees and cut city services? "... I don't believe the people that got elected are fundamentally irresponsible. Maybe they believe there's an alternative, but if so, what is it?"
Levine noted that it was the city that asked Upstream to develop a casino project, beginning in late 2003. Until recently, the proposal enjoyed majority support from a council that repeatedly extended the deadline for negotiations. A big turning point came in July when Butt, once a supporter, grew frustrated with negotiations and brought an advisory measure before the council, which voted unanimously to place Measure U on the ballot.
Upstream erred in its campaign strategy in the ensuing months, some political insiders say; its bevy of ads and mailers focused on the resort's jobs and revenue, but the developer failed to hype pro-casino candidates who could approve the plan.
In contrast, three Bay Area card clubs funding Stop the Mega Casino opened a political action committee to produce campaign material supporting anti-casino candidates. It raised at least $69,000 in support of McLaughlin, Beckles, Booze and losing candidate Eduardo Martinez.
The card clubs gave more than $220,000 to stymie the project, while the United Auburn Indian Community, which owns Thunder Valley casino resort in Lincoln, contributed $185,000. The developers and Guidiville, backed by Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, which owns Cache Creek Casino Resort in Yolo County, spent nearly $500,000 urging voters to approve Measure U, campaign statements show.
The measure would have won far more support "absent the deliberately false propaganda from the card clubs," Guidiville chairwoman Merlene Sanchez said in a statement. Sanchez lamented the focus on a casino when the project also promises hotels, a convention center, a performing arts center, housing, parks, restaurants and retail.
The Guidiville tribe stills need approvals from the secretary of the interior to place the land into trust, and it would then need state approval of a gaming compact to open a Las Vegas-style casino. But Richmond -- with its new political landscape -- now holds the cards.
"I'm not going to vote for a casino," said Booze, the top vote-getter in last week's council race. "The people have spoken and I'm going to follow it."
Killing the casino project would trigger a 120-day window for Upstream to come up with a new proposal, under the terms of their contract.
"Given the lies and misinformation that dominated the No on U campaign, it will be up to the Richmond City Council and federal authorities to wade through the reams of analyses on the project and realistic alternatives, and determine the best course of action," Sanchez said in her statement.
Staff writer John Simerman contributed to this story.

Point Molate Development Still a Crucial Issue

November 5, 2010 Berkeley, Richmond No Comments
By Merlene Sanchez, 
Chairwoman Guidiville 
Band of Indians
A view of Point Molate pier.
For the past 6 years, the Guidiville Tribe has worked with all facets of the Richmond community on a redevelopment strategy for the Point Molate naval depot that provides the financing necessary to achieve the base reuse objectives developed by Richmond’s community-driven process; complete the site cleanup; rehabilitate the site’s historic district including major seismic, lead, and asbestos abatement projects; build the Bay Trail, shoreline, and hillside open space parks; all while providing huge numbers of jobs and revenues for the people of Richmond. 
Beyond a great redevelopment project, this will also be the home for the Guidiville people, a federally recognized tribe whose land and tribal status were illegally taken by the US Government without compensation.
Our efforts have been supported by majorities on the Richmond City Council for the past 6 years, and more recently, by the leading business, labor, and environmental groups in the region. And, when we have had the opportunity to present the facts to community groups throughout Richmond, we have been received with overwhelming support.
During the past year, as our project has proceeded towards the required approvals, greedy gambling competitors from around the area, in an attempt to simply reinforce their own profits, undertook a slanderous campaign of lies and innuendos to scare the Richmond public into turning against our project. The card clubs’ glossy mailers claimed the project would not result in huge numbers of local, good-paying jobs despite independent analyses from the City’s own Environmental Impact Statement tothe contrary. They also alleged the project would create an environmental disaster along the shoreline; statements now contradicted by the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and Citizens for East Shore Parks.
From the beginning, we had said that an Advisory Vote should not be held until all of the facts about the project are on the table, so the people of Richmond could make an informed decision. Instead, Richmond politicians forced Measure U onto the November 2010 ballot ahead of the final Environmental Impact Report and ahead of the City’s own report on possible alternatives to the proposed Guidiville project.
When the Measure U Advisory Vote was scheduled, and given the City’s delay of the EIR and the project alternatives evaluation until later this year, we had implored the City of Richmond to provide an objective analysis of the project, and the agreements already reached between the City, and the Tribe and our development partner Upstream, so the people of Richmond would have a basis of information to rely upon in voting this November. 
Instead, the people of Richmond had to wade through false propaganda from the card clubs which directly contradicted the spirit and language of the enforceable agreements on revenues, jobs and environmental protections already agreed between us and the City. In the end, this proved that in the absence of reliable information, voters will generally vote “no,” and this is what we have seen here today. 
Although more people voted “Yes” on Measure U (6,680) than voted for the now-re-elected Mayor (6,282), today’s vote on the project is not an accurate pulse of the people of Richmond, and such a pulse can only be taken when the facts about the project are made available for professional analysis and public review. Given the lies and misinformation that dominated the No on U campaign, it will be up to the Richmond City Council and federal authorities to wade through the reams of analyses on the project and realistic alternatives, and determine the best course of action.
We are convinced that absent the deliberately false propaganda from the card clubs, public support for the project, which includes hotels, a convention center, performing arts center, housing, shopping and restaurants, public plazas, parks and open space, and ferry service to San Francisco, much more than the “casino” referenced in the advisory ballot and the anti-project propaganda, would be much greater, as will occur when the facts are on the table later this year. 
We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the people of Richmond, and the many business, environmental, church, labor, and community groups to find ways of achieving much needed economic, environmental, and social rehabilitation of the Tribe, Richmond, and Contra Costa County.
We congratulate the newly elected council members and Mayor on their victory. While some campaigned against the “casino,” governing requires a deeper reflection than campaigning, and we know that they will have to now read and debate the specifics of this comprehensive redevelopment proposal and others that may surface.