JAMUL RESIDENTS PROTEST CASINO AS CONSTRUCTION PROGRESSES

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

East County News Service

March 11, 2015 (Jamul)--Approximately 200 protesters held a “flash mob” demonstration in Jamul Saturday, wearing red as they voiced their continuing opposition to a casino under construction at the Jamul Indian Village.

Excavation is completed at the project, site of a planned Hollywood-themed casino in conjunction with Penn National Gaming.

Projected to open in mid-2016, the casino is expected to include a three-story gaming and entertainment facility of approximately 200,000 square feet with gaming, restaurants, bars, and parking.  The tribe estimates the project will create an estimated 2,500 construction and permanent jobs in the area.

Opponents including Supervisor Dianne Jacob, a Jamul resident, have voiced concerns over traffic on Highway 94, the primary evacuation route during fires, as well as impacts on community character in this rural region.

Glenn Revell, president of the Jamul Action Committee, told the UT San Diego in January, “This is not about an Indian project.” He claimed that his group “would oppose a commercial development of this size, in this location by anyone,” adding, “We do not believe it fits the character of the community and are concerned that the traffic cannot be mitigated to the extent it does not exacerbate the challenges faced by emergency responders serving our community.”

Jamulians Against Casinos and the JAC action committee have filed multiple lawsuits including one against Caltrans over traffic concerns and another in federal court that sought to claim the property was not eligible for gaming.  Thus far, none have been successful.

Protesters also voiced objection to the eviction several years ago of two tribal residents to make way for the casino. Those tribal members, Walter Rosales and Karen Toggery, waged unsuccessful legal efforts over the evictions and razing of their homes. The tribe reportedly offered them replacement homes in an alternate location.

The tribe has made significant efforts to accommodate community concerns, lowering the original height by 58% and height visible from the highway by 76%, also building an underground parking lot, reducing the footprint of the casino building, choosing earth tones and lighting designed to minimize visual impacts. The tribe has also funded a fire station and major roadway upgrades including straightening and widening portions of Highway 94.

In a press release issued by Penn Gaming, Jamul tribal chairman Raymond Hunter stated, ““We have worked tirelessly for well over a decade listening to the voices of the community, addressing concerns, and ultimately developing a project that blends seamlessly into the region, while creating approximately 2,500 much needed construction and permanent jobs in our region. We look forward to continuing to be a good neighbor, as well as becoming a philanthropic leader and an active business partner in San Diego County.”

The late Native American journalist Roy Cook wrote several years ago about the impact the casino would have on lifting one of San Diego’s poorest tribes out of poverty, noting that some residents at the Jamul Indian Village still lived in homes with dirt floors.

Protesters Saturday carried signs reading “No Casino, Not Now, Not Ever” and “Not anti-Indian, anti-Casino” though one lawsuit challenges tribal sovereignty over the land.

Deerhorn Valley Antler’s editor wrote that two motocross bikers attempted to disrupt protesters by repeatedly riding close to them, “spraying rocks, dirt and gravel” on those standing closest to the site. Opponents of the casino have launched a petition drive to collect signatures of casino opponents, though it is unclear what impact signatures could have on a project under construction and reportedly on track to open next year, absent any court action.

Meanwhile in a recent newsletter, the tribe began reaching out to the local business community in East County seeking to form partnerships as the tribe aspires to make what Chairman Hunter has called a “long-awaited dream” become a reality.

 

Comments

What better proof of the

What better proof of the Native American reverence for nature could there be than an umpteen-guhzillion square foot casino. What a sad (and cruel) joke.

Just so you know...

If you don't live in Jamul but do live within the boundaries of San Diego Rural Fire District, you should know that YOUR fire fees have been going to legal expenses to fight this casino. The majority of the SDRF board, and now all of the board, live near Jamul and have filed "friends of the court" briefs, etc. to stop this casino. Whether you agree with it or not, if you live within the SDRF boundaries in southeastern Alpine, Japatul, Descanso, Harbinson Canyon, Lake Moreno, etc. do you think YOUR taxes/fire fees should be spent on an issue that ONLY affects the residents of Jamul?

FATED TO FAIL...

•Eight stories of underground parking? Without permit or inspection? In earthquake country? YIKES! •2/3 of jobs for temporary construction? And the "inside jobs" will likely go to those displaced from Sycuan, Viejas, Barona—casinos more distant and already experiencing lower attendance. •Built atop ancestral (and recent) gravesites? Gamblers are a superstitious lot, aren't they? Not to mention the general distaste of grave desecration. •No taxes... no earnings reports required? Think of the opportunity for cross-border money laundering. Supporting our neighboring cartels, it seems. This is wrong on SO many levels. It is fated to fail. No doubt. Investors beware.

Lifting out of poverty

I personally find it insulting to believe that the only way for tribal members to be lifted out of poverty is at the teat of a casino. Is it believed that tribal members are unable to be self supportive by using their own abilities and skills? Who promoted this insult? The Great White Father?

Not the only way, but the choices are limited.

For people who were raised in poverty with no land of their own, it is very difficult to get a higher education and without education, it is harder still to escape the cycle of poverty. Native Americans once did live entirely self-sufficiently off their own skills and the resources of the land--until the European settlers stole their land and forced some tribes onto land nobody else wanted. The Jamul Indians did not even have that much, and even now, have only a handful of acres, and there are some who would begrudge them utilizing even that for anything more than the shacks they had before. Short of military service, which many Native Americans have done, the options for building one's own future is narrow for tribal members of non-gaming tribes especially when they do not even have sizable reservation land. Ironically, only this morning I was accused by some of being "biased" toward "white friends" in Jamul on this story, while anti-casino people have assailed me for being too "pro-Indian" or even ducking this issue because of some nominal funding we have had from Viejas in the past. Nobody buys our voice, ever. So if you all want to know what I really think? Here goes.

How much difference does gaming make for a tribe? One local gaming tribe now has enough money for every child in the tribe to attend college, if they wish to do so. Before, no child in the tribe ever went to college. Gaming money has brought better housing, schools, and healthcare facilities. There are reservations in East County that had no running water or electricity just a generation ago. Indian gaming is what changed that. The tribes have also been generous, giving off-reservation to donate computers for local schools, as Barona has done, providing firefighter training for all fire agencies in our county (in the case of Viejas), which has also funded our wildfire alerts. Tribal money has supported local charities like St. Madeleine Sophie's, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and much more, because they believe in giving back to the community as a whole. To view this from a Native American perspective, these are the words of the late and highly esteemed Native American journalist Roy Cook, who died earlier this month. When he visited the first groundbreaking of the Jamul casino a few years ago, excited for the potential it held for the small tribe, he was saddened to see protesters and wrote: "It is their First amendment right to voice their opinions. But it causes one to wonder about all those homilies regarding Horatio Alger and America being the land of opportunity. All three past and present Jamul Tribal Chairmen are U. S. Military combat veterans. We served this Nation for the freedom to be what we are. Indian Nations ask for nothing more than the opportunity to succeed but certainly nothing less.” Cook, a decorated warrior, added this impassioned plea, "America, America we are still here. We are American Indian Tribal people. We stand for this land. We bleed for this land. America, too often is like an unruly child unused to its power and under the illusion that it is the parent of this land. This is Indian Land, eons older than redefined governments in the process of determination. America we are still here. We live RESPECT: The tribe has only four acres open to construction. A tribal cemetery and Catholic chapel take up a third of the reservation. America, we have been to your schools and served in your military to defend the ‘American’ way. It is our turn to step up to the economic scooter and take it for a spin. Jamul will have a casino soon and all will benefit economically from this action.”

Perhaps as the descendant of a Cherokee woman, yes the Cherokees who died by the thousands on the Cherokee Trail of Tears, forced off their lands to die, much as my Jewish ancestors were forced from their homes to be murdered by Hitler in concentration camps, my heart goes out to people who have been robbed of their homelands and then denigrated for seeking reparations. When your entire history has been uprooted and torn from beneath you--as happened on two branches of my family tree, three really because another side lost their farm in the great Depression due to the greed of bankers who caused the economic crash in 1929, my own heart bleeds for those who have been victimized, generation after generation, and for others who have no compassion in their hearts, who offer not a single helping hand, not a single positive alternative, who have never offered a word in friendship to this tribe of Kumeyaay Indians who have lived in this region for over 12,000 years. What on earth makes those who came here only recently believe they have more rights to determine the future of the land here than the descendants of its original caretakers from long before the first white man ever came to North America? If the community wasn't anti-Indian perhaps they might say, "If you don't build a casino but you build stores, we will shop there.If you build a golf course, we will golf there. Let us help you help yourselves. Is there any among the Jamul community people protesting who ever made even the slightest effort to hold out a hand in friendship? The community, feeding off itself in this frenzy of hate, has been opposed to ANY use of the land, ANY potential prosperity for the tribe, which Roy Cook has said is one of the poorest tribes in San Diego County, home to more Native American tribes (19) than any other county in America. Even those who rally for the couple whose homes were razed to make way for a casino -- other than protesting have any in Jamul offered them real support? Has the white community offered to help them find a new home, taken them in? Or simply used their situation to advance the cause of opposing a casino that offers the promise of economic security for the future of this small tribe with little other opportunity.

No community is perfect. The tribe's original highrise plan, though done from frustration because they could not get the land expansion they wanted, was out of scale in a rural area by most objective standards. The tribe could have tried to push forward with that but instead, radically changed their plans, got rid of the hotel/spa entirely, went underground for parking, lowered the size and height dramatically. But they could have hidden it behind an invisible shield and the opposition would still be there. It is not their fault that the tiny patch of land they have is on a rural highway. They have spent a lot of money on improvements. The road is actually much better than Wildcat Canyon or even Dehesa Road, where other casinos are. I got to 3 major reservations with casinos regularly on business. Two of the three have not had traffic problems when I've gone. The third does though the tribe hires traffic control guards during busy times. There is a new border crossing being built at Otay. Where are the protests over that, which will no doubt dump a lot of new traffic on 94? I do understand there are legitimate traffic concerns and fire concerns. Those are issues worthy of discussion and the court case against CalTrans will ultimately resolve that from a legal standpoint for better or worse. I am not too familiar with construction on tribal lands but as I recall even tribal projects have to conform to earthquake standards in CA. If I'm wrong on that please fill me in.

I would love to interview someone from the tribe to get the construction specs and see what seismic standards are being used at the casino and underground parking. For what it is worth, I have not heard about any construction quality issues at other local casinos. But that is certainly a legitimate safety concern to check into. What I have so much trouble understanding is the mean-spiritedness of arguing, as some have done, that the Jamul Indians shouldn't be deemed a tribe or should have no land at all, none, not anywhere, solely to prevent this project. Is that any way to treat Native Americans who have had their land and their way of live entirely stolen by the white man? To say they should have nothing--no land, ever? Those opposed to this are mostly people who have homes, they own land, they are comfortable, their children will have good futures. Yet they deny this for your neighbors, neighbors whose ancestors have at least as much claim, if not more, to land in our region than those who came thousands of years later. The arguments put forward above remind me a lot of people who want to step over and denigrate the homeless for not being able to get a home, when they cannot even afford clean clothes or bus fare to look for a job. I know that some on the other side of this argument are friends who I respect in many ways, some of whom have done a lot of good and positive things for your own comunities; i just find the language and tone used against the Jamul Indians unkind and unfortunate.

My choices were limited also.

There are very few people who understand poverty as well as I do and I know that choices do not have to be limited. My parents and only sibling were dead by the time I was 20 yo. I ran from an abusive marriage when I was 27 to save my life and had nothing. No family to assist me, no one that really cared. I lived in some fairly shaky places for a while. No vehicle, no nothing. Gradually I loved me enough to take small steps to be self sufficient. No one was there to cheer me on.I worked and went to school at night. I got a vehicle that I prayed would get me to the places needed to go. I worked with the downtown homeless while working with 3 non profits and the County of San Diego. There is very little anyone can tell me about the homeless population. I sat with them and listen to their stories. I wanted them to understand that there was always hope. They could lift their heads off of the sidewalk one step at a time. I was not going to put them down with pity. I believed that they had abilities and wanted them to recognize that. To tell tribal members that the only way for them to be self sufficient is by the filtered down income of a casino is wrong. It belittles tribal member talents and abilities.That is shameful and wrong. If I crawled out of the hole of poverty most anyone can. Unless you are mentally ill there really is no reason not to explore and use your own talents.

Thank you, Claudia

for sharing your story. I'm glad that you were able to overcome such a difficult and painful past. You're certainly a shining example that some people are fortunate enough to be able to beat the odds and rise out of poverty even when the odds seem stacked against them. Not everyone is as fortunate. No, a casino is not the only way for tribal members to prosper, but it offers the prospect of making that climb out of poverty easier -- no doubt some tribal parents don't want their children to have to go through the kind of ordeal that you went through. Congratulations on your victory over very steep odds.

Blessed

I am blessed by what I dealt with. It showed me my strengths and when I look around at my little house, my garden, and my animals it gives me joy knowing that I brought it all into my life by myself.I do not believe that I would be the strong, independent woman that I am if it was given to me. The dollar has never been my bottom line, however honoring others and myself has been. Namaste Miriam. You do not need to respond.