Spokane tribal leaders warned the Spokane City Council on Monday that taking a stance against their proposed West Plains casino could poison their relationship with the city that sits on part of the tribe’s ancestral home.
Even so, the council voted 4-3 to condemn the tribe’s casino plan.
Spokane Tribal Council Vice Chairman Mike Spencer told the council that the tribe has worked with the city for decades on Spokane River clean-up and other issues. He told the council that if it approved the resolution, “I will oppose any cooperative working relationships with the city of Spokane.”
Spencer said in an interview after the meeting that he was speaking only for himself.
City Council President Ben Stuckart defended Spencer and agreed with tribal leaders that the resolution was rushed and disrespectful. “Good partners do not pass resolutions like this,” Stuckart said.
Councilman Mike Fagan, who sponsored the resolution, was joined by council members Mike Allen, Nancy McLaughlin and Steve Salvatori in supporting it. They argued that the proposed casino would be so close to Fairchild Air Force Base that it would threaten the base’s future in the face of military budget cuts.
Salvatori said he once supported the casino but became opposed because the region would be gambling that a casino will enhance the economy while putting the base at risk.
But representatives of the tribes, trade unions and a few others, including former County Commissioner Bonnie Mager, said the proposal will improve the economy and won’t endanger Fairchild. They said most Air Force bases face far worse encroachment issues and aren’t in danger of closing.
Mager said a base commander once told her that he had no concerns about the casino proposal.
“They’re capable of speaking for themselves and they don’t need people worried for them when they’re not worried,” she said.
The council joins Spokane Mayor David Condon in opposition to the casino.