Friday, December 9, 2005

Jamul Casino

For many years, the Jamul Indian Village has been trying to get a casino built on 81 acres adjoining their 6 acre reservation on State 94, just south of the town of Jamul. This project has faced intense local opposition, mainly from non-Indians (including from me!) who do not want their quiet rural lifestyle disturbed. That core argument has spawned many secondary arguments that might actually have a chance in the courts: fire protection problems, environmental problems, water consumption problems, traffic problems, etc. For years the surrounding communities and even higher level opposition has succeeded in preventing the Jamul Indian Village from getting permission to use those 81 acres for a casino.

Recently they tired of the game, and announced a new plan: to build a 30 story casino on the 6 acres that is unarguably their reservation, where they have the legal right to do whatever they want to. This building would become the largest (in volume and square feet of floor space) structure in San Diego County. On the face of it there seems to be little the opposition can do about this, though some local politicians (most notably County Supervisor Dianne Jacobs) publicly refuse to give up, and are still fighting the good fight.

Myself? I am resigned to the casino being built. What I fear the most, as an impact, is (a) the traffic resulting from casino visitors, and (b) the likely change in the ambiance in the town of Jamul. Today Jamul is defined by the Bravo Cafe, the Greek Sombrero, the feed store, the Jamul flower shop, and the 7-11 (I’ve just listed a significant fraction of all businesses in Jamul). It’s a community — we know each other on a personal level, many of us are friends. What will it be like after the casino? I don’t know, but I can’t imagine it will stay the same…

A few weeks ago the Jamul Indian Tribe announced a ground-breaking ceremony on December 10 (tomorrow!). A PR piece they circulated to locals is a second-rate (and far too obvious) hack job, which to me lends credence to the claims of some opposition folks that the ground-breaking ceremony is in fact a sham, designed really to scare the holy s**t out of the locals. To what end? To get them to withdraw their objections to the original 81 acre plan, which would have single-story architecture designed to blend into the surrounding area (or so the claim is). I have no clue who is right on this, but (together with my friend Jim Barnick) I decided to attend the ground-breaking to see if I can figure it out.

Meanwhile, I ran across a fairly level-headed press report (a very rare thing indeed, on this or any other topic!) that’s worth reading. The passage that stood out to me was this one:

From the Voice of San Diego:

In the casinos, Indians are not selling us their culture but our own toxic desires. Gaming adds up to nothing of value, and it can set family and tribal members and neighbors against each other.

The article has a condensed history of the issue, and some perspective from both sides. Go read the whole thing!

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