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Posts tagged: Spokane Tribe

If STEP moves forward, let’s hope the tribe chooses a stunning design

We can't go two days without another mention of the proposed STEP project, which would begin with a proposed Spokane Tribe casino and resort. It would be built on 45 acres inside the City of Airway Heights.

The controversy over whether this is needed or a bad idea has only gotten more heated over time. At this point, the two sides are awaiting the next key decision, a ruling by the Department of the Interior on whether the Spokanes get the green light. If Interior says yes, then would come a decision by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Still, though it's premature we wonder what would a new casino-resort eventually look like?

We know from documents already filed that the tribe has signed a tentative deal to work with Warner Gaming, a large company that helps tribes set up gaming operations.

Warner has posted the Spokane Tribe's provided architectural rendering that shows a generic design. OK, it's actually not bad but not that great visually. (Top Photo)

We hope the Tribe, if it gets to the point of moving forward, will choose a design for a new casino that's both smart and visually unique. We found an example of unique casino design in the incredibly stylish Mohegan Sun resort and casino in Uncasville, Conn. (photo below)

This casino includes a 34-story tower that architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox styled after an arrowhead.

It's not cheap and this style of building has no place on the West Plains. But we think it's stunning visually and should help inspire efforts to find a suitable and special design for the STEP project, if it moves forward.

Photo of the Mohegan Sun courtesy of

Huffington Post hosts a discussion on the impact of casinos on city economies

Continuing the thread on the possible approval by the BIA of the Spokane Tribe's proposed casino in Airway Heights, here's a little online discussion covering the debate over how gambling helps or hurts city economies.

It's on Huffington Post.  It's not long, it's a bit scattershot, and it totally avoids the local issues involved in this community, the tribal history of gambling and the need for economic diversity among tribal governments.

The BIA hasn't said when it will make the formal “record of decision” on the request. If approved by the Interior Department, the request then needs the approval of Gov. Jay Inslee.

Here’s the debated ‘spaghetti-flight’ photo that tribe’s consultant says is misleading

One SR story with a major business component is today's piece on a private study looking at the question of encroachment on Fairchild Air Force Base by a proposed Spokane Tribe casino.

The casino still faces two rounds of government review.

But the study, paid for by the tribe, not suprisingly found no conflict or negative impact on the base. It also averred that the tribe is totally committed to working with the Air Force in resolving any flight path issues.

Flight paths have become one of the issues raised by critics of the proposed casino. They have used a widely seen image, showing a week's worth of flight paths in and out of Fairchild, showing that the proposed casino is directly below. The implication is clear: this is a very bad spot for a new casino.

However Paul Hirsch, president of consulting group Madison Government Affairs, in Washington, D.C., looked at that aerial image and map, and concluded it misrepresents the threat. 

Read the story at to get the gist of Hirsch's concerns, included in the study.

At the bottom of this story is a link to the PDF copy of the study called the STEP Assessment Report. (STEP stands for Spokane Tribe Economic Project.)

Comments on Spokane Tribe casino will still be allowed after EIS is released

A Friday regional story noted that Spokane County Commissioners will unwind a 2010 agreement that would have kept them from taking a stance on a proposed Spokane Tribe casino and resort. It won't surprise me if comments posted online suggest the newspaper is working against the Tribe.

For the record, the only opposition to this proposal voiced by The Spokesman Review has been on the editorial page. Which is the page that reflects only the opinion of the publisher, Stacey Cowles.

The reporters/editors/photographers by common agreement don't try to influence the opinions expressed on the editiorial page. We expect readers to know the difference between news stories and editorials.

Here's the update on what's next in the process facing this casino proposal. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is expected to release a final environmental impact statement within the next 45 days.

Once that's finished, 30 days must pass before the BIA can issue its final decision. That decision is the ultimate yes or no that can move the casino plan forward.

According to BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling, parties are able to make comments before the final decision is made.Those will have to be made to the BIA website in writing or submitted by mail.

Council President Stuckart backs Spokane Tribe’s casino project

UPDATED, with comments from Ben Stuckart.

Though much has been said about the proposed Spokane Tribe's casino and development project in Airway Heights, most of it has been heated opposition.

We caught notice of a strong vote of support by Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, who published an op-ed piece in support of the development in yesterday's Seattle Times.

One of his key points is the value of the project for the community and the tribe:

This $400 million investment in private dollars will result in much-needed new employment for the Spokane region — 3,000 permanent and 2,000 construction jobs, according to an independent environmental and economic analysis conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It will help temper a serious unemployment rate the tribe and overall region are both dealing with.

We asked Stuckart why he offered this piece to the Times. His answer was that he wanted to counter an earlier Times op-ed piece written by former Gov. Mike Lowry. That piece argued that the Spokanes' proposal would set a risky precedent of allowing tribes to establish casinos off their reservation land.

Stuckart said he'll consider offering a Spokane commentary for The Spokesman-Review on the topic.

The question worth asking: Why did Stuckart take this piece to the paper in Seattle? Did he offer it to the SR first? Stay tuned.

To take sides in tribal casino debate, French uses a legal distinction on duties

Today's regional story about a vote at the Airway Heights City Council had a legalistic issue tucked away and not easily elaborated on. The story noted that two Spokane County commissioners — Al French and Todd Mielke — argue that a 2010 county agreement with Airway Heights should not be allowed to stop them from commenting or taking sides on a proposed Spokane Tribe casino on the West Plains.

French is using a distinction that we were not clear about before. He said, based on a Washington attorney general's office review, that one elected body cannot preclude or prevent a later elected body from exercising its legislative duties.

In this case, the county board in 2010 seems to have tied the legislative hands of the current board, according to French.

He draws a distinction between administrative and legislative duties of elected officials. If for instance the 2010 board signed a contract with some other body to pay money for hauling off refuse, that's an administrative action. And such acts can continue for as long as the terms allow.

But legislative options are not subject to that pre-emptive control, French said, citing the AG's opinion.

We've linked a PDF of the letter sent by the AG's office to Spokane County. It's at the bottom of this post.


Airway Heights formally approves annexation of Spokane Tribe’s STEP land

News from our SR West Plains bureau: the City of Airway Heights announced on Friday it's formally annexed the 145 acres the Spokane Tribe hopes to use to develop its  Spokane Tribe of Indians Economic Project (STEP).

Which would be a casino and eventual resort, if the Department of Interior approves the request to use trust land for a gaming business.
Airway Heights Mayor Patrick Rushing said the annexation, which received unanimous support from the Airway Heights City Council, marks a major milestone in the city’s vision for future growth and economic sustainability.
He said: “The Spokane Tribe’s STEP Project is a smart development that is compatible with land-use regulations in Airway Heights and does not encroach on Fairchild Air Force Base.”

Critics have seen otherwise. Many have said the proposal would potentially create encroachment that would cause the Air Force to alter flight paths, and possibly even reduce the Fairchild Air Force Base mission.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is continuing to review the proposal.

Hearing on Spokane Tribe’s casino proposal is certain to generate a lot of heat

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In case you didn't know, tonight is the public hearing hosted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the Spokane Tribe's impact statement for a proposed casino and resort on the edge of Airway Heights.

The hearing starts at Sunset Elementary School in Airway Heights. The map shows the location. It starts at 6 p.m.

If you go expect plenty of back and forth on how and why this is either a good jobs-producing proposal or a dangerous precedent and a likely encroachment on Fairchild Air Force Base. Officially and completely honestly, OfficeHours is taking no sides on this issue. We wish both sides stick the facts and avoid overblown rhetoric.

For a summary of the proposal and the EIS, it's at this link.

BIA will release Spokane Tribe’s casino impact statement on Friday

The Spokane Tribe is holding a press conference Friday at its SpoKo store in Airway Heights on Friday to talk about the release of the environmental impact statement for its proposed casino in Airway Heights.

Releasing the EIS is the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Copies of the statement, which offers detailed statements on what the tribe said will be the impacts of a casino, will be available at the Spokane Public Library and on the Federal Register (

An overview of the project can be found at this link.

What needs to happen next:  the Tribe needs formal approval of its casino proposal from the Department of the Interior. It's seeking the unusual option of starting a casino on non-reservation land, an issue that tribal opponents have said will create a precedent leading to many more tribal casinos across the country.

The tribe would also need to negotiate a compact with the state of Washington before it can proceed.

Spokane Tribe helping host a job fair this week to fill jobs at its new Arby’s

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Preparing to open a new Arby's restaurant near Airway Heights, the Spokane Tribe is hosting a Job Fair Tuesday and Wednesday at the Spokane downtown WorkSource office, 130 S. Arthur.

The tribe plans to open the new restaurant in March. It will be next to the tribe's Spoko Fuel station off Highway 2.
A press release said the tribe intends to hire 35 to 40 new workers in the next few weeks.  For information about the Job Fair, contact Spokane WorkSource at 509 532-3038.

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

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Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on and its social networking accounts.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

Addy Hatch is the city editor, and formerly was business editor.

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