The North County Times editorial staff sees something rotten at Pechanga. Something we know TOO WELL.
For most of the 15 years the Pechanga tribe has operated a casino in southern Temecula, it could be counted on to be a good neighbor. OP: Yes, they only hurt their OWN tribal people and allowed a few people to be beaten at the casino by security guards.
It has given generously to local charities, contributed millions to area roads (not entirely altruistically, of course), and hired thousands of local residents for relatively good-paying jobs. OP: So what if they've cheated tribal members out of millions, destroyed the heritage of true Pechanga Temecula Indians?
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the tribe is effectively reneging on a deal it struck just last year to contribute $2 million a year to Temecula to help compensate for the impacts it has on its neighbor. OP: Surprise to WHOM? Those that turn a blind eye to the civil rights violations? Those that support a tribal enterprise when it's well known they cheat their OWN?
We say "effectively," because the tribe may have a legal leg to stand on ---- just not a moral one.
At the center of the dispute is a ballot measure that voters approved in 2008: It allowed tribes to expand their casinos beyond the limits set in 2000 if they struck deals with the surrounding communities to help alleviate the impact of those larger casinos.
In Pechanga's case, those deals are with Temecula and Riverside County. The deal was struck with Temecula in March, but the county and the tribe have reached a stalemate in their talks over an undisclosed issue or issues.
The Temecula deal called for the tribe to pay the city $2 million a year for 21 years to help compensate for necessary traffic control, road maintenance and law enforcement resulting from casino activity. The first payment was due June 30, but the day came and went without a check arriving.
Subsequent talks gave the tribe until July 30 to deliver the money ---- but that day, too, came and went.
The tribe is falling back on language in the agreement that says the deals become effective when all parties agree. And since Riverside County hasn't come to the party yet, the tribe says it isn't obligated to pay Temecula.
Of course, that technicality didn't stop the tribe from more than doubling the number of slot machines in its casino, as allowed in the ballot measure. It has simply decided to be selective in which parts of the agreement it thinks apply.
At this point, Temecula may be forced to go to court to press the issue. It is unfortunate that what has been a good relationship may be turned sour over what to the tribe is a relatively small amount of money.
We acknowledge that there is more than a bit of irony in local governments being victimized by Indians over treaties ---- or contracts, in this case ---- but we urge the Pechanga to stop hiding behind the letter of the law and to abide by its spirit.