By P. Joseph Potocki
Stop the Casino 101, an organization opposed to Vegas-style gaming development here in the North Bay, claims Sen. Dianne Feinstein recently brokered a deal between Sonoma and Marin counties and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR) to pave the way for a proposed casino-hotel complex just outside Rohnert Park in Sonoma County.
Casino opponent Frank Egger, former Fairfax mayor and progressive activist, attended a July 22 meeting of the Marin County Board of Supervisors at which Egger alleges Marin County counsel Patrick Faulkner was videotaped admitting the senior senator's role in the deal.
Frank Egger belongs to Stop the Casino 101 Coalition. "I was in the audience at the time," Egger says. "What he [Faulkner] said, in effect, was that this agreement was brokered through Sen. Feinstein's office."
But Feinstein's director of communications, Scott Gerber, disputes the claim, telling the Bohemian that Egger's accusation "is simply false." Gerber says the senator "had no role in brokering the agreement, nor has she agreed to introduce any legislation on the subject."
Jeff Brax, the deputy counsel for Sonoma County concurs with Gerber, insisting Feinstein played no role, then adding, "There's no quid quo pro with this particular agreement. And that agreement provides for no second casino anywhere in Sonoma [County], and in exchange the county will not contest the decision to put the Rohnert Park site into trust, although the county can still challenge development of the casino itself."
And yet, "by statute," says Egger, "each tribe is allowed two casinos in California. The Graton Rancheria has said they'll only build one. Apparently the Graton Rancheria has claimed they've given up their sovereign immunity. I don't think you can give away your rights."
A July 24 press release from Stop the Casino 101 Coalition contends that this is the second deal Feinstein has struck with the tribe. The first, in 2003 with Greg Sarris, chairman of the Graton Rancheria, "was that if the FIGR moved its casino site from the original Highway 37 site near the Marin/Sonoma border, she [Feinstein] would not obstruct the acquisition of any future site, a promise she apparently continues to keep."
But the Rohnert Park casino issue is by no means the whole story. "No one's looking at the cumulative impact of these casinos on our communities between the Golden Gate Bridge and Laytonville," Frank Egger insists, addressing the five tribal casinos presently proposed along the 101 corridor. "It's going to be another Vegas strip if, in fact, they all come to pass."
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