If gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix ever had any doubt about whether Cascade Locks wanted a casino, it was quelled during his Sunday visit to the rural city.
“I have rarely seen a community so united on one issue and one development project,” said Mannix in a followup interview on Monday.
The Republican contender was invited to discuss the issue at a barbecue/potluck in Port Marine Park that was hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Cascade Locks city and port officials.
“I learned more from the faces of that community and the almost desperate concern for their future than I would have from reading hundreds of pages of government reports,” Mannix said.
In 1999 Gov. John Kitzhaber vetoed the tribal proposal to build a casino on Government Rock, an island it purchased from the Port of Cascade Locks that same year. He said that allowing the gaming center on newly acquired lands could open the door for other tribes to build outside of areas already protected by passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. He has since refused to weigh in on a tribal proposal this spring to construct the casino in Cascade Locks’ 120-acre industrial park, a sector of which is already zoned for a resort.
Mannix still believes it is premature to take a stand about siting a casino in Cascade Locks. But he said the “odds” have grown increasingly in the community’s favor, especially after hearing the “heartfelt” concerns of about 60 community members and city leaders on July 28.
“The subjective argument over Cascade Locks has the upper hand, it is the hardest hit community economically in this county and this is their life boat,” said Mannix.
He has vowed that no casino will be built on the slope just east of Hood River unless residents approve the idea. However, Mannix said he is also not interested in getting into a “lengthy legal battle” with the tribe and believes a workable solution can be found with “quiet, respectful conversation and diplomacy.”
“I see one community that clearly and strongly supports a casino, I see another that is clearly opposed and I see the tribes perfectly willing to work on a compromise,” said Mannix.
Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, also attended the picnic and gave strong support for Cascade Locks’ desire to house the casino.
“We’ve got to have some jobs in this community and if this is the direction you have decided to go then I will help you in whatever way I can,” she said.
Mannix said that environmental concerns about placement of the casino within the National Scenic Area can be mitigated with careful planning. He said that before he makes a final decision on the issue, he wants to meet with other tribes opposing the project to also learn about their concerns.
Greg Leo, Warm Springs spokesman, said that Mannix’s Democratic opponent, Ted Kulongoski, will also be invited in the near future to visit Cascade Locks in a similar social setting. Kulongoski has stated that he would prefer to have the casino built in Cascade Locks than east of Hood River, but did not necessarily “want to see casinos moving closer to the Portland area.”