Governor opens door for CL casino talks

Kitzhaber says he would like facilitate talks with successor

Wednesday, November 6

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has opened his office for discussion of a tribal gambling casino in Cascade Locks.

And that news released by Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, on Monday has Hood River, Cascade Locks and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs officials “hopeful” about reaching a settlement over the controversial project.

“I think the unified voice of the Warm Springs and communities in the Gorge has been very helpful and should continue to be heard until this issue is decided,” said Rudy Clements, chairman of the Kah-Nee-Tah High Desert Resort and Casino board of directors.

“We’re prepared to move forward as soon as it can happen and the sooner the better from our perspective,” said Cascade Locks City Manager Robert Willoughby.

Hood River County Commissioner Carol York said, “I know that the new governor will have Oregon’s budget at the top of his priority list in the immediate future but, hopefully, he will find time to address the casino issue because it needs to go into a community that is receptive to having it there.”

In a letter dated Oct. 18, 2002, Kitzhaber notified Sen. Metsger that, while he was still personally opposed to an off-reservation casino, he would respect the “wishes” of his successor and help negotiate that plan if requested.

“Should the governor-elect indicate to me that he intends to authorize the Warm Springs casino in Cascade Locks, then I will facilitate the process during the remaining two months of my term,” wrote Kitzhaber.

As of press time on Tuesday, it was not yet known whether the gubernatorial race would be taken by Democrat Ted Kulongoski or Republican Kevin Mannix. Both candidates have indicated that they would favor Cascade Locks for the facility primarily because the community was open to the development. (Metsger is himself challenged in the election by Republican Bob Montgomery of Cascade Locks.)

Mannix and Kulongoski both were adamant that the casino should not be built on the 40-acre trust parcel east of Hood River that had drawn strong opposition from citizen activists and local government leaders.

Although Metsger was excited to pass on Kitzhaber’s new stand, he waited to publicize the letter until hours before the election to avoid criticism that he was using it for political gain in his re-election bid.

“I would hope that sometime within the next week these discussions can begin and that will foreclose concerns over having the casino in Hood River,” said Metsger.

During the past year, Metsger has personally met with Kitzhaber several times to persuade him that Cascade Locks was the better choice for a casino. He was joined by other local lobby efforts in the belief there were two central arguments to support the case for Cascade Locks:

The 40-acre trust parcel on the steep slope east of Hood River lies within the Scenic Area and protection of the “national treasure” would justify an exception. Building within the industrial park, already partly zoned for a resort, would uphold the federal law to encourage development in urban centers that are exempt from special protection guidelines.

The Warm Springs holds the “unique” position of being one of two treaty tribes in Oregon and owned the Cascade Locks parcel for thousands of years, making it a tribal cultural and spiritual heritage site.

“As a development that caters to tourism, a casino embraces the environment of natural wonders in the Gorge and doesn’t deplete them,” said Greg Leo, tribal spokesman.

Metsger said he understands Kitzhaber’s reluctance to set a precedent for other tribes to build on lands acquired after passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. However, he believes that the two listed arguments are strong enough to allow an exception to the rule.

“That the trust land lies within a National Scenic Area is in itself a compelling reason to allow for a mitigation that is a trade off,” said Metsger.

Cascade Locks officials are “excited” about the possibility of drawing more family wage jobs into the economically-distressed city — and tribal help to save the high school from closing due to school district budget cuts.

“The casino gives both the Warm Springs and Cascade Locks communities what they need in terms of economic development and creates an anchor for other tourism-related opportunities,” Leo said.

He said the construction phase will provide about 200 jobs and the employee base when the operation is up and running will be about 1,000 workers. That influx of people, said Leo, will raise valuations in the rural city and increase the size of the student body, drawing more tax revenue from both the county and state.

Clement said tribal members will also enter into community discussions about how to retain upper level classes so all children in Cascade Locks are guaranteed an “excellent” hometown education. In fact, Clements said the tribe wants to build a strong “partnership” with Hood River County by working with local farmers to create value-added products that could be marketed either directly at the casino or under the federally-protected tribal rights.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



Log in to comment

Columbia Gorge news and businesses