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Rohnert Park casino bill tarnishes Boxer's green image

  • PC: Senator Barbara Boxer,D-California,left, met with tribal council members of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, including tribal chairman Greg Sarris,right, at Marin Museum of the American Indian in Novato Tuesday morning,their first meeting since Boxer's bill restored tribal status to the Coast Miwok tribe.

    1/10/2001: B3-B: Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., meets Tuesday morning with tribal council members of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, including tribal Chairman Greg Sarris, right. The meeting was at the Marin Museum of the American Indian in Novato.

    1/14/2001: Q5-B: Boxer

    11/8/2002: B1: Barbara Boxer

    7/13/2003: A15: Greg Sarris meets with Sen. Barbara Boxer at the Marin Museum of the American Indian in Novato more than two years ago. It marked their first meeting since Boxer's bill restored tribal status to the Graton Indians. Boxer's son, Doug Boxer, is an attorney working with the tribe.


In the national battleground that is California's U.S. Senate race, weighty issues dominate, like jobs, economic dislocation and California's future, and rightly so.

But sometimes, a politician's seemingly minor actions taken long ago end up having the biggest impact on our lives.

Often, those are the ones politicians would prefer that we forget, like legislation Sen. Barbara Boxer pushed a decade ago that could bring a casino-resort to her electoral backyard, Sonoma County.

On the stump and in debates, Boxer counters Republican challenger Carly Fiorina's charge that she has been a do-nothing senator by pointing to "a thousand Boxer provisions," laws that bear her stamp.

Boxer, seeking her fourth term, displays more than 100 of them on her campaign website. The list is heavy on environmental legislation, detailing how she helped set aside a million acres as wilderness and secured hundreds of millions of dollars for flood control, water and mass transit projects.

But that list omits the Graton Rancheria Restoration Act. Signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000, Boxer's bill restored sovereign rights to a few hundred Miwok and Pomo Indians in the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

On Oct. 1, the tribe reached a milestone, albeit without public fanfare. The U.S. Department of Interior took 254 acres into trust, essentially creating a new reservation for Federated Indians directly off Highway 101 south of the Sonoma County city of Rohnert Park — prime land for a Las Vegas-style casino.

Boxer prides herself on being a strong environmentalist, having won endorsements from all the environmentalist groups that count. She blasts Fiorina for supporting offshore oil drilling and embracing Proposition 23, which would suspend California's climate change law.

There is an inconsistency in Boxer's otherwise green record. State environmental laws do not apply on Indian reservations. And a casino off Highway 101 abutting Rohnert Park, a city of about 40,000 people, certainly would have an impact. Water supplies are short in Sonoma County, and casino customers would further clog Highway 101, the Redwood Highway.

"This is going to have a profound adverse impact throughout my district," Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, told me.


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