Compact between Graton Rancheria, governor goes far in addressing casino's impacts, but other tribes say they'll fight it

  • The Cache Creek Casino and Resort, Thursday April 12, 2012 part of The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in the heart of the Capay Valley in Yolo County. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The new gaming compact giving the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria the right to open a Las Vegas-style casino resort outside Rohnert Park pushes the relationship between the state's tribes and its local governments into untested territory.

That has roiled the Indian gaming community across California, where some fear it gives local governments too much sway over casino projects.

"This compact is a complete and total abrogation of tribal sovereignty," said Michael Lombardi, chairman of the Augus-tine Band of Cahuilla Indians' gaming commission, in Riverside County.

"The Graton Rancheria people traded their sovereignty for dollars," he said.

Government officials, meanwhile, praise the compact as a hard-won victory. They say it recognizes sovereign Indian rights, but also gives local governments the means to address a casino's impacts on their community.

"It is historic," said Lori Norton, Sonoma County deputy administrator. "We're hoping it is the model that represents where we're moving towards in these compacts."

Most significantly, the compact between Gov. Jerry Brown and the 1,300-member tribe requires the Graton Rancheria to reach additional agreements with Sonoma County and Rohnert Park to alleviate impacts that include increased traffic, the need for added public safety resources and removal of open space.

"It's still being thrust on us," Supervisor David Rabbitt said of the casino. But he considers the compact "historic in the amount of dollars being assigned to local impacts."

Graton Rancheria officials have refused to discuss the compact since it was announced at the end of March, or their plans for the casino and resort, which would be the county's largest employer.

After repeated attempts to reach him by phone and by email since the compact was announced March 30, tribal chairman Greg Sarris last week called a reporter and said the tribe doesn't talk to the press, and then shouted, "You don't talk to any of us, punk," and hung up. A later call to him seeking comment was not returned.

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