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Read full statement from Air Force official on casino and Fairchild

Last night's revelation that an assistant secretary of the Air Force believed the proposed casino from the Spokane Tribe of Indians would create "insignificant disruption" to Fairchild puts a major damper on the efforts of the project's opponents to label the casino a threat to Fairchild.

Below is the full email from former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Terry Yonkers that Council President Ben Stuckart read at last night's meeting:

 

Mr. Stuckart,

In the essence of timeliness, I’ve decided to respond to your gracious request by email.  I’m disappointed I will be unable to make these remarks, in person, during your Council meeting 24 Feb. 2014.

Main reasons the BIA sees proposed casino not harming Fairchild

The key section of the recently released Bureau of Indian Affairs environmental impact statement summarizes why the proposed Spokane Tribe casino and project doesn't impede or endanger the operation of Fairchild Air Force Base, west of town.  A major argument cited by critics was the fear that future Base Relocation and Closure reviews would lead to a reduction in operations at Fairchild.

The proposed casino would be about 1.5 miles away from the main gate of Fairchild.

The attached document (linked below) is the third chapter which is the BIA comments and responses.

The pages worth looking at are 3-13 through 3-18.

Here's the summarized response:

"For the reasons described above and in Section 4.9 of the Final EIS, the Proposed Project would have no impact on Fairchild AFB’s military value based on the evaluation criteria historically used by past BRAC committees to develop recommendations for base realignment and closure.

 As described in Section 4.9 of the Final EIS, implementation of the Proposed Project would not encroach upon Fairchild AFB’s available air space or impede its ability to implement the operational and training mission of the installation because:

1) with the implementation of mitigation recommended in Section 5.0 of the Final EIS the Proposed Project would not create an air navigation hazard or otherwise impede Fairchild AFB operations;

2) the Tribe has agreed to accept any inconveniences associated with AFB operations during operation of the Proposed Project; and 3) the Fairchild AFB has confirmed that it will not alter its flight patterns in response to complaints from the Tribe related to nuisances on the project site.  Therefore, with identified mitigation measures contained in Section 5.0, the Proposed Project is not considered an “encroachment” that would make Fairchild AFB vulnerable to closure" 


Documents:

Condon condemns casino

Spokane Mayor David Condon has added his name to the list of local leaders opposed to the Spokane Tribe of Indians’ proposal for a casino on the West Plains.

Condon joins Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and state Senate Democratic Majority Leader Lisa Brown among those who have formally opposed the casino.

The Spokane City Council will debate tonight if it also will condemn the proposal.

Condon said he’s concerned that its proximity to Fairchild Air Force Base could hurt the future of the base and force the military officials to move training operations away from Fairchild because of noise and other issues.

“If you can do the same training out your back door, it’s much better,” Condon said.

Condon wrote a letter last month to the Bureau of Indian Affairs expressing his opposition. In an interview last week, he said he has asked city staff members to examine the plan to determine if the city should officially oppose the casino, as well.

The mayor said he’s concerned that a second West Plains casino could divert business from within city limits, which would result in lost tax revenue.

“In an environment where the city already is required to trim its budget an expenditures on essential functions, a futher hit would have significant negative impacts on the city,” Condon said.


Documents:

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.

How close would the Spokane Tribe’s casino be to the Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights?


View Proposed Spokanes' casino in a larger map

A lot of talk has been generated as business folks and residents are sounding off on a proposed Spokane Tribe casino on land they expect will be annexed by the City of Airway Heights.

Critics have said it's too close to Fairchild Air Force Base. And others say a second county casino will harm the character of the community.  The tribe argues that the casino, as proposed, would not deter or interfere with Fairchild's mission.  And they contend they have every right to seek economic development on lands that were once their ancestral site.

For a view of how close the proposed casino is to the Kalispel Northern Quest Casino, this map lays it out. The pin on the left half is the Spokanes' proposed site; the other is Northern Quest.

Council will wait a week to consider casino

The Spokane City Council will wait until next week to consider opposing a Spokane Tribe of Indians casino project proposed for the West Plains.

Councilman Mike Fagan is sponsoring a resolution opposing the casino. He requested last week that the council suspend normal public notice requirements to allow a vote on Monday instead of giving the public more than a week’s notice before a vote. He said at the meeting Monday, however, that he had changed his mind after hearing from constituents who opposed to moving forward without following the usual public notice procedure. Council President Ben Stuckart said the wasn’t enough support on the council to suspend the rules. At least five of seven members would have had to agree.

The council also opted not to vote on a $4.1 million contract to build a sewage overflow tank that city administrators had requested the council also suspend public notice requirements to approve on Monday.

Both issues will be considered at the council’s March 26 meeting, which will be held at the East Central Community Center, 500 S. Stone St.

Fagan said he has the support from three other council members and expects his resolution to be approved 4-3.

Council considers rushing votes

The Spokane City Council on Monday will consider rushing its normal voting procedure to condemn the proposed Spokane Tribe of Indians casino on the West Plains.

Councilman Mike Fagan is sponsoring the resolution to put the city on record as opposing the casino and has asked that the council to suspend its rules so it can vote on the matter on Monday instead of giving the public more than a week’s notice before a vote.

“I feel that there’s a sense of urgency,” Fagan said.

The public usually gets well over a week’s notice about any issue on which the City Council conducts a vote. Notice for the resolution, however, wasn’t released until Thursday when Monday’s agenda was distributed.

Fagan said that the council’s schedule wouldn’t allow a vote on the matter until April 9 unless a vote is taken on Monday because the March 26 meeting is focused on neighborhoods and the April 2 meeting has been cancelled.

In order to suspend the rules, five of the seven council members would have to approve voting on the matter on Monday.

City Council President Ben Stuckart, who supports the tribe’s casino project, said there’s no reason to rush the resolution.

“If it’s an important enough issue, you should give the public time to know about it, be knowledgeable and prepare testimony,” he said.

UW minority award goes to Spokane Tribe members who started Sister Sky

Sister Sky, a retail business selling natural bath and body care products inspired by Native American herbal wisdom, was honored Thursday as a winner in the University of Washington’s minority business awards.

Sister Sky was started by sisters Monica Simeon and Marina TurningRobe, members of the Spokane Tribe and who operate the business on the Spokane Reservation.

With 2010 revenues of $500,000 the company announced a new distribution partnership that will help deliver its lotions and products to major national hotel chains beginning in 2012.

The awards are presented by the UW’s Business and Economic Development Center and Foster School of Business.

Six other Washington businesses also received awards, including Indian Eyes LLC of the Tri-Cities; Macnac Construction of Lakewood; Revel Consulting of King County; Hughes Group LLC of Tacoma; Sam and Jenny, Inc., of Bellevue; and Del Sol Auto Sales of Everett.

Spokane Tribe leaders predict it could open West Plains casino in 2013


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Two officials with the Spokane Tribe of Indians Thursday predicted their proposed West Plains casino-hotel could be ready for business sometime in 2013.

Tribe Chairman Greg Abrahamson and Vice Chair Mike Spencer told a West Plains Chamber of Commerce group they hoped the doors would open in “2 to 2 ½ years.”

But they also noted it’s not a done deal. The tribe first has to obtain federal approval and then get the OK from Washington state.

Tribal leaders have submitted a request to the Department of Interior to build a casino and resort on 145 acres of trust land the tribe acquired near Airway Heights in 1998.

The Kalispel Tribe, which operates the nearby Northern Quest casino, has said it opposes allowing the Spokanes to build a casino on non-reservation land. The Kalispels were able to build their casino-resort on land it bought and then later was designated tribal reservation land by the federal government.

Abrahamson said the proposed project, called STEP, for Spokane Tribe Economic Project, would generate 1,200 jobs when completed. Only one-fourth of those jobs would go to tribal workers, he noted.

He also said the first phase of the job would be completing the casino. The remaining components of the multiuse project would be phased in over a few years.

On the map, the proposed site sits north and west of Craig Road along Highway 2, on land adjacent to Airway Heights.

Dueling Casinos

Plans by the Spokane Tribe of Indians to build a casino in Airway Heights ignited criticism from another area tribe during a closed-door Thursday meeting held by a federal agency that oversees Indian gaming.

The Thursday afternoon “consultation” was organized by the Office of Indian Gaming, a division of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The group is hosting six meetings between now and Nov. 18 to review rules that decide when tribes can build casinos on nonreservation land.

The Spokane Tribe hopes to build a 2.2-million-square-foot casino complex in Airway Heights on land that’s not part of its reservation. A change by the Office of Indian Gaming on its current rules would simplify that process.

If approved, the Spokane Tribe casino would be several miles from the Northern Quest Resort and Casino, opened by the Kalispel Tribe in 2000. Tom Sowa, SR Full Story. 

The only casino I’ve been to is Northern Quest. I loved the resort aspect, and the spa is divine, but the casino? Row after row of elderly folks staring at machines. Frankly, it creeped me out. Do you enjoy casinos? Why? And what do you think about this effort to build another casino a few miles away from an existing one?