Thursday, April 28, 2005

BREAKING NEWS! - McCain is Moving Forward to Block the San Pablo Casino...

WASHINGTON — John McCain, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, indicated support Wednesday for committee passage of a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would block an Indian tribe from building a Nevada-style casino in San Pablo.

McCain, R-Ariz., said he would poll fellow committee members on their views on the legislation, and if a majority wanted a committee vote he would schedule one.

But he added his own preference would be to move the bill out of his committee and get it a vote in the full Senate.

"I'd just as soon move it forward and let the full Senate decide on an issue such as this," McCain said

Read the rest of the story...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Let’s encourage woman to run for elected office!

From a Contra Costa Times article:

"It's a matter of real concern to think about the possible loss of 16 women next year," said Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who will term out in 2008. "We already know there tends to be fewer women as you go up the political ladder and without the experience, confidence and contacts you gain at the state level, there will be even fewer women to run."

Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

California's Attorney General is Taking a Stand Against Unwarranted Casino Development

It looks like our Attorney General has joined in our fight to ensure that the widespread destructive effects of rapid casino development comes to a halt. We applaud the action.
It is precisely this kind short-cutting, rule-ignoring methodology that created the San Pablo problem. We won that battle, but there are more to fight. Thank you for your help!

In a rare move, the state Attorney General's Office has joined two East Bay groups in suing Richmond, which they say flouted state law in selling Point Molate to a casino developer without first conducting an environmental review.

Citizens for East Shore Parks, which had lobbied the state office for its support, cheered the news.

"They clearly saw this as an instance where the process was flawed," said chairman Robert Cheasty.

"It's a rare event when an attorney general intervenes in an existing lawsuit to confirm the position of petitioners," said Stephan Volker, lawyer for the citizens group. "It does assure we won't run out of legal fire power."

The other group suing is the East Bay Regional Park District.

Read the rest of the article here...

Friday, April 22, 2005

East Bay cities, agencies unite to oppose casino plan

Tribe wants to build 230,000-square-foot facility near airport

An article by Jim Herron Zamora, Chronicle Staff Writer
Several East Bay jurisdictions announced Thursday that they would present a unified front in their legal and political fight to prevent a proposed Indian casino near the Oakland International Airport.
The five public agencies -- Oakland, San Leandro, the East Bay Regional Park District and both the city and county of Alameda -- signed an agreement that allows them to pool resources and develop a joint legal strategy to fight a proposal by the Lower Lake Rancheria-Koi Nation on a 35-acre site adjacent to the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park.
"Individually, many of us have been working to stop the casino from being imposed upon our city," said Oakland City Attorney John Russo, who attended a news conference along with elected representatives from each agency. "However, there is often a limit to what an individual can do. Collectively, we have a lot more power."
The Koi Nation, a band of Pomo Indians based in Santa Rosa, announced plans in October for a 230,000-square-foot hotel and casino. Unlike similar urban casinos proposed in Richmond and San Pablo, there is no local jurisdiction supporting the Koi Nation's plan. The decision on the casino will ultimately be made by the federal government.
Koi Nation Chairman Daniel Beltran said in a statement that the public officials who agreed to oppose the casino plan do not have a "clear understanding of the many benefits that Indian gaming has brought to many communities throughout California."
The tribe also offered Oakland an annual payment of $30 million a year that was spurned by the City Council in January.
"Oakland is not for sale," said Council President Ignacio De La Fuente. "The reality is that the benefits do not outweigh the problems." Both Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson and San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young emphasized that traffic and crime from the proposed casino would spill into their cities without any accompanying benefit. "It's a regional problem," Johnson said.
The opponents held their news conference with a vista of nearby Arrowhead Marsh as a backdrop. In addition to the reasons many people oppose urban casinos, Koi Nation's site is bordered on three sides by the marsh -- a wildlife refuge that is a nesting ground for several endangered bird species, including the California clapper rail and brown pelican.
"We're standing on an international highway" for birds, said Doug Siden, who represents the surrounding area on the East Bay Regional Park Board. "This is an urban oasis."
Arrowhead Marsh, which was once an unused industrial space and illegal dumping ground, was gradually transformed and restored over the past 15 years through the efforts of hundred of students and other volunteers as well as public and private grants. The marsh serves as an environmental education center for students from all over the East Bay.
Park Supervisor Joan Suzio said that the proposed casino would "totally dominate the entrance to the park."
"I'm not sure parents would want to send their kids here with a casino so close," she said.
Russo said his office intended to challenge the process by which the Bureau of Indian Affairs approves the land for trust and warned that a drawn-out legal battle to stop the casino could cost millions.
"This alliance is a smart use of taxpayer dollars," said Russo. "Only by cooperating and sharing resources will we be able to defeat this casino."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Sweep out the special interests!

Here is a great article on AB 583 the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act of 2005. This bill would provide clear and innovative alternative to the special interest driven system in Sacramento. We can no longer afford to not to look at the corrosive influence the amounts of special interest money has on public policy. Even more so the perception of influence by campaign contributors erodes the trust in our government and our democratic process. The only solution is to publicly finance elections. Ultimately, if we want government for the people campaigns have to be paid by the people.

Read about it in the Sacramento Bee

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Explosion of gambling has come at a high cost

Published in the SF Chronicle on Sunday, April 17, 2005. Written by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va) who is the author of the legislation creating the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.
Only 30 years ago, gambling was illegal in most states and was generally considered to be a vice contrary to the American work ethic. Serious gamblers had to travel to Nevada to visit a casino and the states had not yet plunged into lottery mania.
Today, more than 800 casinos operate in 28 states. The lottery is played in 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, and all but two states -- Hawaii and Utah -- have legalized some form of gambling. Gambling expansion has swept the nation, with revenues jumping from about $1 billion in 1980 to well over $70 billion today, according the National Council on Problem Gambling. That means Americans lose on average more than $191 million every day of the year from gambling.
What has the spread of gambling meant for this country? According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, some 15.4 million Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling. The National Academies of Science found that pathological gamblers engage in destructive behaviors: They commit crimes; run up large debts; damage relationships with family and friends; and commit suicide.
Youths introduced to gambling are particularly at high risk, and the percentages of young people who are pathological and problem gamblers are double the adult rates. The earlier children start to gamble, the more likely they are to develop a gambling problem. More than 70 percent of kids between ages 10 and 17 have gambled -- on bingo, lotto tickets or poker with friends -- in the past year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. That's up from 45 percent in 1988.
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission, which I pushed Congress to establish, estimated that direct gambling costs (bankruptcy, drain on social services, etc.) borne by the government are about $5 billion per year. That does not count the indirect costs of compulsive gamblers, such as divorce and the breakup of families. Then add the human-misery quotient derived from the explosion of various forms of gambling across America, and you get a vicious cycle as the need for social services dramatically increases.
Small businesses are also losers as consumer spending shifts away from goods and services. The political process also can be tainted. The National Gambling Commission concluded that local and state governments tend to become "dependent" partners with the gambling industry, relying on its vast funds and influenced by campaign contributions and program support. In state after state, the gambling industry bankrolls local politicians from both parties in hopes of advancing its interests, leaving opponents out-financed, out-gunned and out- manned.
Gambling often leads to corruption. The Washington Post last month reported that less than six months from the date Pennsylvania legalized the expansion of slot-machine gambling, the mayor of Erie was charged with criminal conspiracy, conflict of interest and other corruption-related counts for allegedly trying to enrich himself through a land deal at a proposed gambling site.
The fact that gambling has not spread further is a tribute to the tireless efforts of a few grassroots activists. These citizen advocacy efforts -- regularly outspent -- have held the levy against further encroachment by the gambling industry into every community in America.
But over the last decade, the gambling industry has often played another card. Instead of going through the normal legislative channels, it has enlisted our nation's Native Americans, who, because of their sovereignty, can operate casinos on their land. Indian casinos are the fastest growing form of gambling today.
Our federal policy toward Native Americans is troubling. While a few tribes have become enriched, nearly 80 percent of all Native Americans receive nothing from gambling. The vast majority of Native Americans live in areas where casinos are simply not viable. What kind of federal policy rewards a few people living in population centers while the rest languish? One casino in Calaveras County actually has only one adult member of the tribe. Thousands of Native Americans live in the Great Plain states and receive nothing.
Defenders of Indian gambling never seem to talk about this disparity. It is time to face the evidence that gambling is bad for families, bad for business and bad for communities. More important, it is time for America's leaders to step forward and seriously address the proliferation of gambling, as laid out in the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Hancock Waste Site Bill Set for Assembly Hearing

An article by Richard Brenneman

At least two East Bay residents will testify later this month on two bills that would transform regulation of toxic waste sites.
Inspired by ongoing events at Campus Bay, a hazardous waste site in Richmond proposed as the grounds for a 1,330-unit housing development, the measures were written by Assemblymember Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley-Richmond.
The measures, designated Assembly Bills 1360 and 1546, go before the Assembly’s Committee of Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials on April 23.
Sherry Padgett, an outspoken critic of events at Campus Bay and the adjacent UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station, said she has been invited to testify, along with Contra Costa County Public Health Director Wendel Brunner.
Brunner has expressed concerns about the way demolitions were handled on the site under the aegis of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and plans to build housing atop 350,000 cubic yards of buried industrial waste at Campus Bay.
A hearing on the site conducted by Hancock and Assembly Rules Committee Chair Cindy Montanez last year ended with the water board surrendering jurisdiction over most of the site to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The handover came after the water board’s top official acknowledged his agency didn’t have a toxicologist on its staff. DTSC is a statewide agency well-staffed with toxicologists and other experts.
“I am trying to end the practice of agency-shopping,” Hancock said.

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Mural Depicting Peace Unveiled In Richmond

(ABC 7) --In Richmond on Sunday afternoon, a new mural promoting peace and an end to gun violence was unveiled.
The mural is the second one placed on the walls outside the Nevin Community Center in the heart of Richmond's so-called Iron Triangle. That's an area often plagued by gun violence.
The mural depicts an end to that violence and the impact the change would have on the community.
Teenagers from the area worked with a professional artist to create the mural.

Diversity is our strength...

We need no other weapon to succeed.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

People speaking out against Urban Gambling!

Support fight to end Casino chaos in area

It's a tragedy that there are officials who believe gambling is the "holy grail" for solving the economic woes of their communities.
Generating tax revenues by preying on the pockets of their citizenry through gambling is truly a form of legal extortion. Too bad these officials are "running on empty" in the creativity department.
What does it say about our society when training future card dealers is applauded as a noble effort toward reducing unemployment? Is that the best we can come up with?
The reality is, urban casinos are nothing more than a big box of false promises and chaotic problems; open it at your own risk. Don't be deceived by this "wolf in sheep's clothing." Support Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Assemblywoman Loni Hancock in their efforts to restore order out of chaos.
Say no to urban casinos and make a stand for your community.

Dean Marshall
San Pablo

Well said Dean.
See Dean's actual letter here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

An Article From the Berkeley Daily Planet

Contra Costa County, Orinda Say No to Urban Casinos; Senate May Act
By Richard Brenneman

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Contra Costa County and the City of Orinda joined the ranks of East Bay casino foes last week, while a Washington D.C. hearing targeted Casino San Pablo.
Meeting in Martinez on Tuesday, Contra Costa Supervisors voted 4-0 to oppose new or expanded casinos anywhere in the county. The Orinda City Council voted their own opposition that evening, joining the Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito and San Leandro city councils.
But the biggest action that day was in Washington, where East Bay Assemblymember Loni Hancock was one of the four witnesses to testify before Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his fellow members of his Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The Senate panel is considering legislation by Sen. Diane Feinstein of California that would strip the Lytton Rancheria of Pomos of the special status granted when they acquired the Casino San Pablo card room.
Rep. George Miller (D-East Bay) wrote special legislation that backdated the tribe’s acquisition of the card room, exempting it from the review required of other tribes with newly acquired land which must undergo extensive public review before gaming is approved.
“It was a fascinating experience,” said Hancock, an ardent opponent of urban gambling. “Senator McCain seemed very interested in the legislation.”
Marjorie Mejia, the Lytton tribal chair, defended her band’s right to gambling and the legitimacy of the Miller measure.
However, Mark Maccoro, a Native American who appeared in advertisements supporting Proposition 1A, an unsuccessful measure defeated by California voters last November, testified in support of Feinstein’s bill. Maccoro’s opposition was based on the unfair disadvantages faced by other tribes in comparison with the Lytton’s, Hancock said.
Joining Mejia in supporting Miller’s measure was San Pablo Councilmember Sharon Brow, who praised the tribe. Miller has stated that he never intended that his amendment would give rise to plans for the 5,000-slot-machine gaming operation jointly proposed by the tribe and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
That plan was later reduced to 2,500 machines when legislators and the public came down solidly against the original plan. Mejia later abandoned that plan too in the face of ongoing opposition. The tribe now plans to offer a 1,000 coin-operated bingo machines, which can be installed under the current law.
Sen. Feinstein told the panel that if her law is enacted, it “would simply return the Lytton tribe to the same status as all other tribes seeking to game on newly acquired lands.”

Friday, April 08, 2005

It is time for an investigation...

Friends, the bridge fiasco is heating up again. The potential risk to the safety of our citizens and the continuous claims of mis-management of such and important project are unacceptable. Therefore, I am calling the establishment of an investigative committee to investigate these claims. Read more about it in the Chronicle article quoted below.

THE PEOPLE AT Caltrans responsible for the multibillion-dollar Bay Bridge-rebuilding fiasco probably thought the news couldn't get any worse. Then, this week, it did.

Just as the cost of the bridge redesign project has shot up to a mind- numbing $6.2 billion, officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation now say they are looking into allegations that the span is riddled with defective welds, the result of shortcuts reportedly taken by one of the contractors.

Read the rest of the article...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

We're back....


We just returned from DC where we had the unique opportunity to testify on Casino San Pablo. What follows is one of the many articles that are resulting from these hearings.

San Francisco Chronicle

We will be posting additional articles in the days to come.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Contra Costa County shows a winning hand opposing urban casinos

Contra Costa County, led by Supervisors John Gioia and Gayle Ulkema will be joining other impacted municipalities in opposing urban gambling in the Bay Area. The County, like other communities, shares the same concerns about the impact urban casinos will have on congestion, crime, local businesses, not to mention the social impacts for the community at large.

Read all about these efforts...
San Francisco Chronicle

Contra Costa Times