Casino vote comes full circle
August 8, 2005 - It took three years, but Yuba County Supervisor Hal Stocker finally got his way.
In July 2002, when Enterprise Rancheria announced its grand plan for a hotel-casino on Forty Mile Road, Stocker thought the county was going way too fast.
Of course, back then, going fast was the whole idea for the Board of Supervisors.
But Stocker thought otherwise.
"I think we should slow down and educate people. I think we should go back to the people. We voted on the motorplex; we should vote on the casino. I really believe that," Stocker said during the July 9, 2002, Board of Supervisors meeting.
The board chairman at the time, Al Amaro, thought otherwise.
"I don't know that we need to take this to a vote of the people," Amaro observed.
A few years earlier, of course, the board couldn't contain its enthusiasm when it came to getting voter approval for the sports and entertainment zone on Forty Mile Road.
It also allowed the county to move ahead without doing those burdensome environmental reviews.
The Measure R election cleared the way for a raceway - still in limbo - an amphitheater and the proposed casino.
Nothing came of Stocker's suggestion for a casino vote, and the board went merrily on its way, eventually approving a memorandum of understanding with the tribe in December 2002.
In November 2003, Supervisor Don Schrader decided it was time to revive Stocker's proposal. Schrader said he wanted the casino on the ballot as an advisory measure.
What became of that plan? Nothing. It died very quietly.
As things turned out, the third time was the charm, at least for casino opponents.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in no hurry to sign a gaming compact with the tribe, his legal secretary, Peter Siggins, told Yuba County Supervisor Mary Jane Griego earlier this year.
She responded that the county would be willing to put an advisory question on the ballot to demonstrate what county officials have always said is strong public support for the project.
In November, the voters will tell Griego if she and the other casino backers were right all along.
It promises to be a lively exercise in democracy. With all the money that's at stake from a casino, it stands to reason that this will be a big-bucks campaign, at least from the casino developer.
But there may be other forces at play. Tribal casinos in surrounding areas might just see if they can squelch the Yuba County competition. And they, undoubtedly, have plenty of money to throw around.
The mind boggles.
Harold Kruger's column, Off Beat, appears on Sundays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, call him at 530-749-4717; or fax him at 530-741-0140. You can also write him at the Appeal-Democrat, P.O. Box 431, Marysville, CA 95901-0431.