Thursday, June 11, 2009

City Wont Agree To Cowlitz Casino

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For the fourth time in the last four years City Council members of La Center in Washington state, where the Cowlitz Tribe wants to build a casino, rejected negotiating an agreement with the Tribe. Under U.S. Department of the Interior guidelines, "failure to achieve such agreements should weigh heavily against the approval of the (casino) application." The following article in a Washington newspaper, The Columbian, discusses the details of the latest city council meeting rejecting negotiations.

The Mohegan Tribe is backing the project and has spent close to $25 million already on a proposed Cowlitz casino, which amounts to over $20,000 for each Mohegan adult that is already invested in the project.

La Center council again rejects casino talks
By Jeffrey Mize
June 10, 2009

LA CENTER — Despite pressure from Mayor Jim Irish's staff and city residents, three city council members remained firm Wednesday on not wanting to talk about a casino deal with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

Council members Bob Smith, Linda Tracy and Troy Van Dinter voted not to negotiate with the tribe, with council members Bill Birdwell and Mike Nolan favoring talking with the tribe.

Council members also rejected by an identical 3-2 vote holding an advisory vote on the negotiation issue.

Almost 100 people turned out for Wednesday's meeting on what has been the biggest issue in this small city for most of the decade: the tribe's plans to build a $510 million casino complex two miles west of the city limits.

Testimony, including comments offered by the spouses of three council members, initially ran heavily in favor of brokering a deal with the tribe, although it evened out when people who don't live in La Center or own property here were allowed to speak.

Tracy said council members are elected to make decisions for the community.

"You don't even know half of the story," she said. "You don't know half the facts I know, and I have been working at it since 2003, and I still don't know everything."

Tracy said she can't be sure the casino won't be built.

"If it comes, it's going to suck us all up," she said. "And it's going to grow into a massive, huge enterprise that is not going to give the city of La Center anything."

Van Dinter said the Cowlitz casino is far from "a done deal," in light of frozen credit markets and a February U.S. Supreme Court decision that raises questions about the federal government's ability to take the land into trust, a necessary step for operating a casino.

Even the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, the Cowlitz Tribe's high-powered partner, pointed out in its most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the Cowlitz casino might never get built, Van Dinter said.

Smith at one point compared the casino project to a cancer, saying the city couldn't negotiate regarding one piece of the project and ignore the rest.

"I said I would negotiate when the time is right," Smith said. "It's still not right."

Birdwell said he agrees the city doesn't need a large casino nearby, but that might not be the city's choice.

"I think we need to protect our citizens somewhat," Birdwell said. "I don't think there is any shame in asking you what you think."

Nolan said all the experts, as well as people who testified, agree that the casino poses a threat to the community.

"All of you agree there are going to be negative impacts to this city if this monstrosity is built," Nolan said. "And without mitigation, what do we have?"