I am a 43-year-old mother of two. I have a family, a job, a home, I vote and I pay my taxes.
In the year 2000, a 260,000 square foot casino gets built in the heart of our rural community in Santa Ynez Valley (Population 22,000) less than a mile from four elementary schools and our high school with little to no input from the public. In fact, the mere questioning of the size and scope of the project brought immediate and brutal allegations of racism among other epithets from tribal Chairman, Vincent Armenta and tribal spokeswoman Frances Snyder.
Fast forward 7 years. Not much has changed. Screaming racism or “hate” as Chairman Armenta did in his November 1 “Gonzo journalism gone wild” commentary in Capitol Weekly is far easier than to address the real issues of land use, regulatory paralysis, the loss of representative government and the outright abuse of federal law.
Slowly our rights as a community have disappeared as elected officials continue to turn their backs on the people that elected them to office and open their pocket books to big gambling interests. Unlike much of the legalized gambling spreading like a cancer across this country, our casino along with 390 other tribal casinos nationwide are non-transparent, government sponsored, cash printing machines. Casino tribes are allowed to rely on services and infrastructure provided by the hosting community, but the community in turn cannot impose its regulatory system or property taxes for reimbursement because it is perceived as impeding on their sovereignty.
Let’s just be very clear. Casino tribes are not subject to the same laws or taxes as any other business in this country, are not accountable to host communities, not accountable to their own tribal members and if four casino tribes have their way come February, not accountable to the California taxpayer either. Yet, taxpayers are expected to subsidize a $27 billion and growing industry. Shall we dump the tea in the harbor one more time?
These issues are serious enough but just the tip of the iceberg. The more global issues are still submerged under the surface and considering the exhaustive list of related cases before our federal courts, is about to erupt.
Bottom Line: The American taxpayer and the growing number of disenrolled tribal members have become collateral damage to our government in a disastrous experiment that began with a train called the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) and given “run away status” when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was passed in 1988. Promoting inequality and separatism through granting gambling monopolies and allowing tens of thousands of acres to be placed into federal trust status to expand “sovereign” tribal territories within our borders because of past persecution is misguided at best and at worst will undue the constitutional protections secured to all people, tribal and non-tribal.
All we have requested from the press is to report the facts without bowing down to intimidation methods or multi-millions of dollars of casino advertising revenue. Nancy Crawford-Hall of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal has done both for our community. Giving Chairman Armenta space to spew such hateful and divisive remarks without having to address the real issues illustrates the kind of intimidation host communities have put up with for years.
Since when did taxpaying, law-abiding citizens exercising their constitutional right to question what our government is doing become the enemy and labeled “hate groups” for challenging flawed federal laws that are weakening a democratic form of government?
Worldwide, casinos are being shut down by the thousands due to the economic and social strain they produce. So why is it considered “hate” when we challenge tribes and our government in their partnered effort to promote gambling as “easy money” when taxpayers are going to be the ones footing a very expensive bill when the party is over and the hangover begins? Why can we not question the Governor for signing every taxpaying citizen on to this lie of free money when he can privately negotiate deals excluding the host communities that are affected the most?
We challenge the Governor and the legislators on the false promise of growing revenue for the state. Where is the close to $1 billion Governor Schwarzenegger promised from his renegotiated 2004 compacts? He has collected an anemic $27 million with costs to the state continuing to grow. Just one example: Governor Schwarzenegger recently took away $1.3 million our community was suppose to receive from the Special Distribution Fund (SDF) intended to minimally mitigate the impacts of the casino. Who is going to pay for this?
The myriad of constitutional issues along with the fallacy that gambling revenue with solve budgetary shortfalls and stimulate economic vitality in our state must be questioned. Hate isn’t the issue.