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York urges feds to endorse casino

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

February 25, 2006

Hood River County Commissioner Carol York has been invited by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to share her viewpoint on Tuesday about an off-reservation casino being sited in Cascade Locks.

McCain, chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, has expressed strong concern about the growing number of tribal requests for off-reservation gaming facilities. He wants the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 amended to further restrict that practice.

However, York, who serves District 1 which encompasses Cascade Locks, will ask that the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs’ plan be protected from any IGRA changes.

She said federal review of the 25-acre industrial site is already underway. And, while the property might not have been owned by the tribes prior to the passage of IGRA, it does qualify for the allowable off-reservation exception. She said the community of Cascade Locks welcomes the project, as do tribal members. Meanwhile, the eligible alternative — 40 acres of tribal trust land just east of Hood River — has met with strong opposition.

“I want this committee to know that we are a model for the exception process available under IGRA and it has served the citizens of Hood River County well,” said York.

She joins a host of other government leaders in the belief that the Warm Springs can not be legally stopped from building on its trust land, which lies in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. York said that location might be on a steep hillside but engineering studies have shown that it is buildable. And cities such as Seattle, Wash., and San Francisco, Calif., have developed on even more vertical inclines.

“We need to protect the NSA and place the casino in the blighted industrial park of community that wants and needs the jobs. That just makes good sense,” said York.

Since 1998, she has been immersed in the complex issues surrounding the Warm Springs’ plan to overcome a high poverty rate by opening a casino in the Gorge.

Once the Cascade Locks City Council voted to welcome a casino in 1999, York began lobbying state officials for support. Last year, she was gratified to see Gov. Ted Kulongoski endorse the project after weighing all of the options.

Because of her extensive research into casino issues, York was recommended to join the federal discussion by Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. Her appearance in Washington, D.C., has been authorized by the county board.

“It isn’t every day that you get a letter from a senator asking for your opinion on an issue. So, I’m very pleased to be able to represent our interests,” said York.

She is currently challenging state Sen. Rick Metsger for his 26th District seat.

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