Friday, August 10, 2001/lk
The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs have remained mum on the issue of a casino east of Hood River ever since Tribe spokesman Rudy Clements' salvo last winter that they were coming whether the people of Hood River wanted it or not.
No one from the Tribe responded to any of this newspaper's requests for comment until Greg Leo, the Warm Springs' paid public relations spokesman, met with reporters last month. Then on Wednesday a column by Dennis Karnopp, the Tribe's attorney, appeared on this page.
Leo said the Tribe has refrained from comment because it is still answering "technical questions" and because the Tribal members have yet not been presented with a formal casino proposal.
Yet the Tribe must understand that "big picture" issues already loom large and that as far as Hood River County residents are concerned, the proposal is a real one.
The Tribe deserves credit for wishing to get its information straight and follow a process of consensus. Karnopp brought out valid points; foremost is that the culture and values of the Tribe are more than deserving of respect.
Also, Karnopp is right in noting that the Tribe should be free to pursue economic development, especially given the political and environmental actions over the past century that have greatly affected the Tribe, often negatively so.
And, as a lawyer, Karnopp can correctly say that the Tribe has every right to build a casino on land it can verify is Trust land.
Doubtless the Tribe would build an admirable facility and manage it effectively. It is quite possible that construction and operation could be done with minimal negative effect on the land surrounding it.
But that does not make it an appropriate place for a casino -- or any other development of such scale.
Moreover, despite his eloquence on tribal history and future needs, Karnopp ignored a key issue. He did not comment on the realm of infrastructural and social impacts on the Hood River area that would come with development of a gaming facility.
Environmental effects of any development on the land in question is one of the main concerns of Hood River casino opponents. But it is not the only concern.
The Tribe must acknowledge that the opposition fears are based on the grave social impacts of a casino in our midst, along with the effects on traffic, congestion, noise, and other quality of life degradations that will not be limited to the hilltop east of town.