Monday, May 23, 2005

Here's to the Power of the People - The Power of You!


C.W. Nevius of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:
Casino train off tracks in East Bay

A funny thing happened on the way to turning the East Bay into a mini-Las Vegas.

A civics lesson broke out. And the result is that the power of the people seems to have prevailed over some of the wealthiest and most influential interests in the state.

Late last year, the Indian casino bulldozer seemed unstoppable. Back in 2000, California voters overwhelmingly (64 percent to 36 percent) approved Proposition 1A, which allowed casino gambling "on tribal lands.'' It sounded like a nice idea. As supporters of the measure put it, this would "preserve the only option most tribes have to get off welfare.''

And that's when everything went off the rails. Suddenly, "tribal lands'' turned out to mean almost anywhere an Indian tribe could declare itself grounded. Berkeley Assemblywoman Loni Hancock said in testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs that the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians' claim toCA was "50 miles from ... the traditional ancestral territory of their tribe. ''

That was just the start of it. Plans for Indian casinos popped up everywhere. Hancock calculated that there were five proposed casinos "within a 15-mile radius'' -- from Vallejo to Oakland.

"All of a sudden,'' Hancock said by phone this week, "it looked like the East Bay was going to be casino central.''

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