By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Petaluma City Council Monday night agreed to ask North Bay legislators to vote against ratifying the governor’s gaming compact with the Federated Indians of
Graton Rancheria, arguing the deal doesn’t take into account traffic and water problems the Rohnert Park casino-hotel complex could bring to the area.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the compact March 30, which allows the closest large-scale casino to the Bay Area, a $433 million complex with 3,000 slot machines, 5,500 parking spaces, a 200-room hotel, restaurants and bars.
The 534,000-square-foot project is planned for just west of the Scandia Family Fun Center, behind Home Depot and WalMart adjacent to Rohnert Park city limits.
Councilmen Mike Healy and Gabe Kearney asked the council to send a letter seeking legislators’ help in stopping the casino, which is seen by some as inevitable, particularly now that compact has been signed.
After some initial opposition by Councilwomen Tiffany Renee and Teresa Barrett, the council voted 6-0 to send the letter. Mayor David Glass was absent, but authorized the city manager to sign in his stead.
Renee actually abstained from the vote, saying she thought the city could more effectively negotiate with the tribe directly. But under city rules, because her abstention wasn’t related to a conflict of interest her non-vote was recorded as a yes.
Chip Worthington, a leader of Stop the Casino 101 coalition, urged the council to take action.
“This compact excludes you. You have no legal right to ask for anything,” he said. Sending a letter says: “You must deal with us. You must recognize us.”
The state Legislature and the federal Department of the Interior must ratify the compact for it to take effect, although such actions have been considered routine. The Legislature has only rejected one.
Healy said recent public opposition to the compact by other Indian tribes that operate casinos may mean this deal can be blocked.
“A letter from us is going to be very influential at this time,” he said.
Some tribes have said they will oppose the deal because they believe it relinquishes some tribal sovereignty, allows local governments too much control and gives up more profits to surrounding jurisdictions.
This is the first compact to require that a tribe and local governments reach agreements to address the casino’s impacts in open-ended ways not tied solely to construction of the project and to problem gambling. That gives the county and Rohnert Park room to negotiate substantially greater financial concessions in the future.
The 274-page compact outlines possible earnings of $400 million annually. Under the terms of the compact, millions of dollars a year would flow to local governments, other Indian tribes and the Las Vegas company that is financing and would manage the casino, in addition to the tribe’s 1,300 members.
The tribe in 2003 reached a deal with Rohnert Park that provided $200 million to the city over 20 years. An agreement with the county hasn’t been reached.
No date has been set for when the state legislators are to vote on ratifying the compact.