Soapbox

February 16, 2017 2:06 PM

The facts about Wilton Rancheria’s casino project

After 58 years of struggle, Wilton Rancheria is no longer a landless tribe. The placing of 36 acres of land in Elk Grove into federal trust is a testament to the persistence and courage of our members.

Yes, we have a legal right to build our resort and casino project. But such a narrow view crassly devalues the larger point of long-denied justice for the once-flourishing Miwok people in the Central Valley.

And it obscures the fact that this project not only means self-sufficiency and opportunity for the tribe, but jobs, growth and lasting benefits for Elk Grove and the Sacramento region. We care about the community because we are part of it. The vast majority of our 700 members live in Sacramento County; many of them are longtime Elk Grove residents.

The resort and casino will create sustainable jobs in a community that badly needs them – 1,700 to 2,000 full-time positions and 3,000 direct and indirect jobs as spending ripples through the economy.

It will not be a magnet for crime. Don’t take my word for it. Elk Grove police Chief Bryan Noblett recently told residents that his department studied other communities with casinos and found no “significant uptick in crime.”

Many national studies have reached similar conclusions.

A vocal minority of Elk Grove residents opposes the project, but most see the obvious benefits, including the transformation of an abandoned mall – a true blight – into a shopping and entertainment area that Elk Grove residents very much want.

That is why the Elk Grove City Council and the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support us. And why support has come from across the community – the Police Officers Association, United Pastors of Sacramento, Region Business, the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce, among others.

The tribe signed a memorandum of understanding with Elk Grove to provide $132 million over 20 years for services and community investment – from police to schools to roads. This is not a vague promise; it’s a binding agreement. And there’s a separate MOU that will bring additional benefits to Sacramento County.

For our tribe, the project means we can address the hardships our members face – in education, housing, health care and other areas. For the city of Elk Grove and the Sacramento region, it means jobs and economic growth, and more and better public services for years to come.

Raymond C. Hitchcock is chairman of Wilton Rancheria. He can be contacted at rhitchcock@wiltonrancheria-nsn.gov

 
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