Thursday, October 30, 2014

What a YES Vote on Prop. 48 Means To California

Charles Banks-Altekruse is the public affairs director for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California and here is his recent editorial from the Bakersfield Californian.

Voting yes on Proposition 48 provides California voters the opportunity to affirm two tribal gaming compacts that:

* Uphold binding contractual agreements between willing parties (the state of California, Madera County and two tribes).

* Support historical justice and allow the North Fork Tribe to conduct gaming "on Indian lands in California in accordance with federal law," in alignment with what Proposition 1A promised California voters in 2000.

* Allow investment to deliver huge economic benefits -- thousands of jobs, business opportunities, billions of dollars in private investment, shared revenues and new tax revenues -- to some of the poorest regions of the state and nation (Central Valley and North Coast).

* Respect local control for a strongly supported local project.

* Promote tribal rights and self-reliance, allowing the tribe to use its lands without further outside interference.

* Protect our most pristine environmental areas by avoiding construction of gaming facilities in the Sierra foothills near Yosemite (North Fork) or along the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Preserve (Wiyot Tribe) and placing it where existing infrastructure will support development.

Prop. 48 is on the ballot as the latest attempt by two local tribal casinos and Wall Street hedge-fund operators to stop competition from the North Fork project. They are trying to spin Prop. 48 into a referendum about various Indian policy issues unrelated to these compacts -- and punish this tribe for abiding by the laws in place today.

For more than 50 years, the tribe has fought tirelessly, transparently and collaboratively to right historical wrongs and restore its tribal status and lands lost in the 1950s.

North Fork's unique "landless" status was reaffirmed recently by the leader of the "No" effort to overturn the compacts: "The North Fork tribe had no reservation, no land for itself until the federal government allowed them to pick these 305 acres at Madera" (Cheryl Schmit, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 17).

In 2013, the federal government finally restored 305 acres within the tribe's ancestral territory in rural Madera County as official "Indian trust land." The tribe later obtained a state-tribal gaming compact, negotiated by Gov. Jerry Brown and ratified by a bipartisan majority of the state Legislature, for gaming on that land.

The Prop. 48 compacts are nearly identical to others recently ratified and put into effect without great delay or concern, except these are perhaps more generous to local communities and other less well-off, non-gaming tribes.

After decades, the North Fork Tribe had reclaimed a fraction of its former territory for the benefit of its people and local community.

Fear mongering by opponents about "reservation shopping," "off-reservation casinos," "open floodgates," and "broken promises" sounds ominous but is disingenuous. This project has been extensively reviewed and approved by two gubernatorial administrations, two federal administrations and numerous courts.

In 2006, the leader of the "No" side stated: "This [North Fork project] is not reservation shopping ... This is the state exercising its authority to locate gaming where it is wanted" (San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb. 4, 2006).

Gov. Brown called North Fork's approval process "thorough" and "lasting over seven years" when he supported the project. He said, "I expect there will be few requests from other tribes that will present the same kind of exceptional circumstances to support a similar expansion of tribal gaming land."

Prop. 48 is not about "reservations" -- it is about whether local, state and tribal governments will benefit from negotiated, contractual agreements that make up two compacts.

A "yes" vote on 48 preserves a "deal" and $600 million in revenue sharing to local, state and tribal governments from these compacts.

A "no" overturns this mutually agreed upon "deal" without cause or due process and jeopardizes these revenues -- without preventing a casino, altering a single tribal law, regulation, or policy, or providing a viable economic alternative.

The governor has called the "No" effort to overturn these compacts "unfortunate" and about "money and competition."

California voters should reject this cynical abuse of the state initiative process by voting yes on Prop. 48.
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