Article published Jan 23, 2005
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Casino fight Feinstein's war against urban gaming should move north

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is giving hope to North Bay residents by fighting plans for a mega-casino in San Pablo. Feinstein believes "it's dead wrong" for the Sonoma County-based Lytton Band of Pomo Indians to build a huge casino in an urban area with no community input. In a last-minute attempt to block the project, the senator announced on Thursday that she will introduce legislation reversing a 2000 measure that allowed the San Pablo casino.
Many people would argue that the casino in Rohnert Park planned by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria is also "dead wrong," but Feinstein's bill will affect only the San Pablo proposal. A Feinstein spokesman says that her measure is intended to reverse a bill carried by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, that was specific to the Lytton Band. Separate legislation by Sen. Barbara Boxer allowed the Federated Indians to engage in gaming.
This technicality doesn't matter much to people in Sonoma County who understand that whether it's an urban casino in San Pablo (pop. 31,050) or Rohnert Park (pop. 42,150), it will create the same problems for local residents, including traffic congestion and public safety concerns. For this reason, we encourage Feinstein to broaden the scope of her legislation, while applauding her efforts to make urban casinos a topic of Congressional debate. Unfortunately, the odds that Congress will act on this issue are low (although the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is the chairman of a critical Senate committee, will be scrutinizing some tribal casino deals). In the past, federal politicians haven't been eager to appear unsympathetic to Native Americans.
People in Washington, D.C., need to understand that Californians share those feelings but have legitimate reasons for concern: When state voters approved two Indian gaming measures they envisioned small casinos on rural reservations. If Congress wants to help those Indians who have lost their historic lands - like the Lytton Band and the Federated Indians - it should provide them with economic development assistance instead of passing laws that allow them to build mega-casinos in cities.
People who feel the same way should write Feinstein expressing their support for her effort. Letters can be sent to her at 331 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 or sent by e-mail via her Web site,