[Marxism] "Reservation Shopping" - Snake Eyes

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Sun Jan 22 08:44:09 MST 2006

Tribes and developers vie for a chance to roll the dice

Sacramento Bee, January 22, 2006
By Peter Hecht

According to recent polls, more than two-thirds
of Barstow residents favor a casino, believing
gambling will bring jobs, housing and other
benefits. And in a city where 35 percent of residents
live on public assistance, nearly 7 percent are
unemployed and 19 million cars merely pass by
on Interstate 15 each year, the fractious casino
politics is being watched with impatience.


BARSTOW - It started as something of a dream date for two members of  
the lonely hearts club of economic development.
The eager groom was the city of Barstow. A struggling Mojave Desert  
way station, the town of 23,500 residents had been jilted at the  
altar of prosperity as employers such as Yellow Freight Trucking,  
Kmart, Sears, Smart & Final and Big Lots all closed or left town in  
recent years.

The would-be bride was the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno  
Indians, whose 31 families just got electricity and running water six  
years ago. Casino investors deemed its reservation in harsh, rural  
mountains in San Diego County unsuitable for building.

And so Barstow proposed a union to lure the impoverished band from  
another county to build a casino, hotel and "destination resort."  
Together, the city and the tribe hope to attract thousands of  
motorists - many bound for Las Vegas on Interstate 15 - to stay and  
play in the lonely desert town.

But now Barstow's romanticized casino vision is stirring political  
turmoil. Three Indian tribes from far reaches of California and two  
development groups are competing to tie the knot on rival gambling  
projects that promise thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in  
city revenue.

One council member, who changed positions and abruptly announced he  
no longer backed any casino in Barstow, was targeted for recall.

"It's been frustrating to see a proposal that is very good for the  
city to take a turn for the bad," said Barstow Mayor Lawrence E.  
Dale. "But politics got involved and money is what caused the problems."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed to a compact in September to bless  
the union between Barstow and Los Coyotes only after the city  
accepted the 18-member Big Lagoon Rancheria into its casino partnership.

Located 700 miles from Barstow, the Big Lagoon tribe sued the state  
when it was denied a compact to build a casino on its reservation  
near park lands and ecologically sensitive wildlife habitats.

Said tribal council member Kevin Siva of the Los Coyotes tribe: "The  
state said you are going to marry this person. And without the  
marriage, you are not going to be able to negotiate with the state of  

The agreement - which still must be approved by the Legislature -  
promises the state a 16 percent to 25 percent share of casino profits  
that could top $200 million a year.

Barstow officials say the two tribes' plans for side-by-side casinos  
and twin 100-room hotels would create 3,700 permanent or temporary  
jobs. They say a 4.5 percent share of slot machine profits would  
yield up to $9 million yearly for the city.

[T]he San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, operator of a $240 million  
gambling resort in the San Bernardino County community of Highland,  
is protesting intrusion by Indian bands with no ties to the region.

"Barstow is in our ancestral lands," said tribal Chairman Deron  
Marquez. "We have to resist government coming in and trying to create  
reservations in our ancestral land."

Marquez says he supports the development proposal by the Chemehuevi  
tribe because the Chemehuevis also have ancestral ties to the area.  
He said his tribe lent financial support for a small casino the  
Chemehuevis operate near Lake Havasu, but isn't involved in Barstow.

The 800-member Chemehuevi tribe is backed by a development group  
headed by Pasadena investor Steven Yamashiro, whose Yamashiro  
Financial Services recently bought two passenger ships in hopes of  
opening floating casinos off the coast of Florida.

Tribal spokesman Larry Tenney said the Chemehuevis contacted Barstow  
officials about building a casino in town as early as 1994. But he  
said the tribe was later frozen out as the city became enamored with  
the Illitch family and the Los Coyotes tribe.

"The mayor only supports the people from Detroit. He's given them  
exclusive rights to Barstow. It's really kind of offensive," Tenney  

Late last year, the Barstow City Council signed a municipal services  
agreement supporting the Chemehuevi tribe's casino about two miles  
away from the Big Lagoon and Los Coyotes planned development near two  
outlet malls.

The Chemehuevis lack a compact with Schwarzenegger, and the  
governor's agreement with the Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon tribes  
exempts the tribes from sharing any profits with the state if the  
state approves another casino within 40 miles.

In a town where little is spent on local elections, an Orange County  
campaign committee - calling itself Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods  
- raised more than $11,000 in contributions for 2004 City Council  
candidates supporting the Chemehuevis' bid to build a casino, a 300- 
room hotel and a conference center. One council member the group  
targeted for defeat, Paul Luellig, a retired U.S. Army major from  
Barstow's Fort Irwin, dropped his support for any casino, declaring,  
"I don't want a Las Vegas," after Barstow began negotiating with  
multiple tribes. Luellig narrowly won re-election and then faced a  
recall drive. It recently failed when more than half of petition  
signatures turned out not to be Barstow voters.

"It's been nothing but one dispute after another," said Jennifer  
Creek, a lifelong Barstow resident and local real estate agent.  
"Everybody is in agreement: Put a casino in. But they can't agree on  
which one. It goes on and on - and we've got billions of dollars  
running down I-15 every day."

from Brian Shannon

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