By TONI VAKOS
Special to the News
Chuck Daughtry’s Another Voice piece on Dec. 4 regarding a casino was full of misinformation beginning with the first sentence. A casino in the Gorge is far, far, far from being a given or a done deal.
The question is not either/or (either Hood River or Cascade Locks.) Mr. Daughtry is correct when he states, “there is another alternative,” and that alternative is NEITHER Hood River or Cascade Locks. That very viable alternative is gaining momentum statewide from rumblings from the new governor, to other tribes’ dissent, to Oregon opinion polls (watch the news in the next few weeks).
The Warm Springs Tribe does not have the inalienable right to build a casino on their 40-acre trust parcel east of Hood River. Yes, the land is in trust; however, simply having trust land does not guarantee the right to build a casino according to the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Trust status is only ONE of several criteria that must be met before a casino can be built, and the tribe’s parcel does not meet the other criteria (as argued in a legal brief the City of Hood River filed with the BIA.) Access to that parcel is still a huge and unresolved issue.
The Cascade Locks industrial site is not trust land, and a casino at that site would be the only off-reservation casino in Oregon and could have significant precedent-setting consequences.
Mr. Daughtry’s facts are misleading, erroneous, and sensational, creating a sense of urgency and predetermination when none exist (“chicken-little the sky is falling” syndrome). Hood River County’s unemployment rate is not the highest in the state (nor our average wages the lowest) according to the U.S. Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yes, it is painfully high, but 10 other counties are higher (Crook, Grant, Hamey, Lake, Klamath, Morrow, Sherman, Wallowa, Wasco, and Wheeler.)
La Clinica is not a health insurance provider. According to the OHSU/Hood River Community Health Outreach Project, they are “a non-profit community and migrant health center offering medical and dental services with emphasis on serving low income patients and farm workers from a five county area in Oregon and Washington.” Hood River County’s uninsurance rate is NOT double the state average. The state average is 12.2 percent: Wasco County is the highest at 17.65 percent. The combined Hood River/Gilliam/Sherman/Wheeler percentage is 13.6 (Oregon’s Uninsured: Summary of Findings from the 2000 Oregon Population Survey.)
ECONorthwest did an economic impact study on the proposed Hood River westside casino back in 1999 that was woefully inadequate and skewed. Seems like every time an article appears about a Cascade Locks casino, the job estimates go up. First they were 500, then 800, now 1,000, and the average income goes way up — $31,500 per year is nowhere near the national average for tribal casinos.
Thomas Henderson, CEO of Warm Springs Ventures, was recently quoted in Oregon Business magazine as saying “Kah-Nee-Ta is expanding to host more meetings, and there’s a new casino proposed for the Gorge, but these new jobs will be in the low-paid service sector.”
Perhaps these are small points of correction, but if Mr. Daughtry can’t get these simple facts straight, what else is he not getting straight in regards to a Gorge casino?
Toni Vakos of Hood River is coordinator of the No Casino group.