Opponents of a proposed Las Vegas-style Indian casino adjacent to Rohnert Park, in what may be a last-ditch effort, are pressing state legislators to take note of public opinion and turn the project back.
The gambling agreement, or compact, between the state and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria goes before a state Senate committee today. It is set to go Wednesday to an Assembly committee.
The Stop the Casino 101 coalition of opponents on Monday touted the results of a weekend poll to make the case to Sacramento that sentiment against the casino is "overwhelming."
The automated phone poll of 5,400 Sonoma County residents found 68 percent opposed the casino, Stop the Casino 101 leaders said.
"The casino supporters are trying to convince the legislators that the casino has great public support, which is just nonsense. This was a reality check on that," said Petaluma Councilman Mike Healy, who recorded the poll call.
Meanwhile, union supporters of the $433 million project, which includes a 200-room hotel, are arguing for the project based on its economic boost. The tribe says it would create more than 750 construction jobs.
Lawmakers need to ratify the compact, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed March 30, before the project can go forward. The federal Interior Department also needs to sign off on it, considered a routine step.
The compact needs a two-thirds majority vote of the full Legislature to move forward.
Neither legislative committee is to vote on the compact, but theirs are the first public hearings before it goes to either floor for a vote.
Casino opponents hope the poll results will register with lawmakers.
"It's simple. Local opposition is vast," said Rohnert Park Pastor Chip Worthington. "We need the Legislature to put the brakes on this."
Labor leaders, who have for years been among the project's most significant supporters, also are pressing legislators and are planning to make their case today that the casino will provide much-needed jobs.
"People have been devastated. This is a really good opportunity to put people to work locally," said Chris Snyder, district representative for Operating Engineers, Local No. 3, which has about 2,000 North Bay members.
"It's going to be local residents working on the project, we've got that commitment from the tribe," he said. "Hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits are going to be coming into the community."
Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federated Indians, did not return a call seeking comment. Tribal vice chairwoman Lorelle Ross declined comment.
You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.