Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Vancouver opposes Cowlitz casino

Things heated up a little more regarding a proposed Cowlitz tribe project that would include a casino in Clark County:
The Vancouver City Council approved a resolution Monday night opposing a proposed tribal casino near La Center, Wash.

The council, following nearly two hours of public testimony and nearly an hour of its own public deliberation, voted 7-0 for the resolution.

In addition to formally stating its opposition to the project located 10 miles north of the city, the resolution says the city would sue if the U.S. Department of the Interior approves the casino project in its present form.
There's plenty to consider, and frankly I've rather doggedly not made up my mind about the issue.

Gambling has always seemed to me a very lousy way to develop an area. While "social problems" can be overstated, they are nonetheless real, and problem gambling does cause heartache for families. While many folks can enjoy casinos for entertainment, it's not the kind of people who donate money to Mitt Romney that are going to be closing the place down every night.

I'm troubled a bit, however, that Vancouver would come out quite so strongly against a project that is not in nor adjacent to their city (the site is about 16 miles north of the Columbia River, near La Center.) Tribal members rightly offered some strong objections to the idea that the Vancouver City Council could tell the Cowlitz government how to care for tribal members or where its historic homeland lies. On the latter point, as one council member noted, federal officials will have to sort it out.

Vancouver, and other jurisdictions in the area, like other cities and school districts, do have legitimate concerns about traffic, housing and education. By some accounts the casino would be very large -- as big as the third or fourth casino in Las Vegas -- and that would be a significant addition to Clark County.

I'm also a bit troubled by the rather ham-handed statements made by some labor representatives at the meeting, which was aired on the local government access cable station. Yes, jobs are good, but showing up and repeating that a hundred times, with a few clear implications that political retaliation might be in the offing, is crass and counter-productive. The comments of city council members after the public comment period made that pretty clear. High paying union jobs are something we should all support, but not at the expense of all other considerations.

So far this controversial proposal has not erupted into a full-blown partisan issue, although it has that potential. Casino proponents have in the past donated heavily (both directly and indirectly) to some Democrats, and the unions have made it clear they support the project, while one of the most forceful speakers against the casino last night is a well known local GOP activist. Combined with the opposition to the casino from The Columbian and other downtown real-estate interests, it's pretty clear this could become even hotter.

One city council member, Jeanne Harris, held out hope that since the process is still on-going, with federal reviews and approval still in the works, that the proposal could be still be shaped so that it fits both the needs of the Cowlitz and the community. It became a running joke during the city council meeting yesterday, as someone made a quip, but everyone likes a good buffet, so if there's a way to have some entertainment and food, it might not be all bad.

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