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July 28, 2005
MINIMUM FUSS: Attention, everyone. No, not you, little sparrow,
hopping around on the floor nibbling up muffin crumbs -- you
don't have credit nor, we expect, debit. But all of you others,
the ones with plastic: If it's a Discover card, then a business
does in fact have the go-ahead to require a minimum purchase
charge before you can collect your goodies. That's the latest
crumb to spill from the "Credit card commotion" we
reported on last week. However, some credit card companies --
VISA and MasterCard -- do indeed forbid businesses to require
minimums on purchases. That means you, delicious new pizza joint
down by the ballpark with your "$5 minimum purchase on credit
card" sign still posted at the counter; and you, tasty pit-stop
inside the cheerful market, where an employee was overheard earlier
this week telling a customer she had to spend at least $3 to
use her credit card ("You can require a minimum purchase
price," she told a nosy bystander when called on it, "it
just depends on where you got your [credit] machine." Huh?);
and any others trying to push a minimum onto unsuspecting customers.
American Express doesn't exactly encourage a minimum charge,
either, but leaves it to interpretation -- as in, if a business
takes VISA and MasterCard, and therefore can't demand a minimum
purchase of those cardholders, then the business darned well
better not require an American Express card holder to meet a
minimum. That's discrimination. But if a business only takes
American Express, and maybe the minimum-encouraging Discover
card, why, then, it's O.K., albeit not smiled upon. Confused?
Here's some advice: Go to the ATM before the coffee house/pizza
place/muffin stop, and save yourself a penny-pincher's headache
and local businesses some precious coin (because it costs them
to process your plastic). Also, check out the helpful site www.creditinfocenter.com,
which is where we flew in for a nibble.
THOMPSON BIG DEM DONOR: It's apparently been a busy few weeks for Rep.
Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena). Last week he joined the failed
revolt against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act; on Monday,
he joined an overwhelming majority of his colleagues in scolding
Rockstar Games, maker of the smash hit video game Grand Theft
Auto: San Andreas, for its gleefully pornographic game play.
But it seems Thompson has been busier in the corridors of Capitol
Hill than on the floor. On Tuesday, The Hill, a newspaper
aimed at D.C. insiders, reported that Thompson has raised around
$2 million for an initiative to help defend Democratic congressional
seats in the upcoming 2006 elections, more than any other member
of the Democratic caucus. The intiative, which The Hill reported
was code-named "Frontline," will focus on seats currently
held by Democrats that party leaders deem to be most at risk
of falling to Republican challengers. A related program, "Red-to-Blue,"
will send resources to Democratic challengers that may have a
chance at stealing a seat from the Republicans.
BORDER BLOCK: Andy Lundberg of the Redwood Peace and Justice
Center sent out a distress signal last week from the Hidalgo/Reynosa
border crossing between Texas and Mexico. He said he and the
rest of the Pastors for Peace Caravan, en route to Cuba "to
deliver 150 tons of humanitarian aid to hurricane victims and
people with special needs," were being held at the border
by U.S. Customs officials. "We are calling attention to
this unjust blockade by the U.S. Government of a peaceful country,"
Lundberg wrote in his e-mail. "At this point in time the
Commerce Department, in line with Homeland Security, has threatened
to confiscate ALL of our aid and detain the members of the caravan."
Lundberg urged recipients of his e-mail to "flood"
the commerce department's phone line and to call their local
representatives. On Friday, another e-mail came in, this time
from fellow caravaner Taleigh Smith, who announced "a huge
victory" for the caravan: Customs officials had allowed
"a tired but excited group of 130 U.S. citizens" to
cross into Mexico "just before daybreak" with all of
the "non-contested aid" (which they had consolidated
in several buses). That left one bus, loaded with all of the
computer and technical gear, still hung up at the border. On
Saturday, Smith sent this update: "[T]he gov't has done
it again -- they held the 16th caravan at the border for over
20 hours as they seized computer and technical equipment and
threatened to `storm' the vehicles and remove everything -- even
the caravanista's personal gear." Smith also urged people
to contact their representatives, and to phone up Michael D.
Turner, director of the Office of Export Enforcement in the Commerce
Department (202-482-5036) and "demand that the computers
be allowed to go to Cuba."
HCAR TURNS 50: In 1955 it started as a small, local group of parents
who wanted their developmentally disabled children to have a
chance to go to school, rather than face institutionalization
-- a common fate for the mentally challenged at the time. Fifty
years later, the Humboldt Community Access and Resource Center,
or HCAR, has grown to serve more than 500 disabled people, from
children to seniors. On Saturday, July 30, the nonprofit celebrates
a half-century of work at a banquet and auction at the Samoa
Cookhouse. Humboldt State President Rollin Richmond presents
a keynote address and the Outstanding Bills barbershop quartet
performs. Silent auction at 6 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m. Auction
items include picture frames from Swanlund's Camera, a Carhartt
jacket from Picky Picky Picky, stained glass, quilts and gift
certificates. Call for reservations by Friday. $10. 443-7077.
ADA TURNS 15: The party for people with disabilities got an early
jump this week with the 15th anniversary of the Americans with
Disabilities Act. On Tuesday, July 26, which marks a sort of
Independence Day for disabled Americans, Tri-County Independent
Living sponsored a workshop entitled "Taking the ADA to
the Next Level" to help businesses avoid litigation for
non-compliance with federal rules. Kevin O'Keefe, Outreach and
Resource Development Coordinator for Tri-County Independent Living,
said that the organization's aim is to reach out to businesses
that must make modifications for disabled accessibility so they
never have to face a lawsuit. The ADA was signed by George Bush
Sr. in 1990. Many area businesses still have not met ADA accessibility
standards and a number have been sued in the past.
RUN FOR SCHOOL BOARD:
Aspiring school board members have
until August 12 to turn in their candidacy papers. Since the
filing period opened on July 18, 36 people have submitted applications,
according to the Humboldt County Elections office. More than
100 seats are available for the Nov. 8 election. Historically,
school board races have not been much of a contest. That's why
eyebrows were raised in 2003, when a scuffle over seats on the
Northern Humboldt Unified School District board came to pass
when conservative and liberal contenders clashed over how Arcata
High School should carry out sex ed in the school. Perhaps the
politicized trend will continue in 2005. A resource page for
candidates is available at the Humboldt County Office of Education
website at www.humboldt.k12.ca.us. Also, a Eureka political action
committee Local Solutions is has offered to help progressive
candidates make bids for public office. Visit www.localsolutions.org
WORD NERDS: This weekend, 30 competitors holed up in the Hotel
Arcata for two grueling days will apply special meaning to that
favorite parental advisory: "Use your words, darling."
They're the contestants in Arcata's first-ever open Scrabble® tournament,
hosted by local scrabblers Terry Marlow and Rich Baker, who also
are co-directors of the McKinleyville Scrabble® Club (which meets
every Sunday night at 6 at the McKinleyville Senior Center).
The tournament is sanctioned by the National Scrabble® Association
and will see the likes of Jerry Lerman, of Foster City and second-highest
ranked player in California, getting all smartyboots with folks
like Baker, of Humboldt County, who happens to be one of the
nation's top 30 players. Should be some nasty alphabetizing going
on up in the old hotel. Also to be hoped for is some action among
the novice players, maybe some is-that-a-word tiffs that crumble
into weak fisticuffs or something. Nah, just kidding. Jeez. The
thing is, Scrabble® is not for wimps. You gotta train. Marlow,
no slouch of a player himself, says some people hit the word
lists, starting with memorizing the two- and three-letter words
as novices and then getting all heavy with the four-letter words
(which must come in handy under pressure). "But, I'd say
our local club members just train by playing in the club,"
Marlow says. You also have to keep up your energy, because in
tourneys like this you're pulling some serious tick-tock at the
board -- about eight hours on Saturday and five hours on Sunday
plus some "informal games" afterwards to, uh, wind
down. What's a Scrabble®-battle power food? "I'm a trail mix kinda
guy, myself," says Marlow. Play starts at 9 a.m. both days.
Registration has closed, but you're free to come watch and to
join in the after-tourney games on Sunday afternoon.
NO DESSERT EVER AGAIN:
The Arcata Educational Farm suffered
around $5,000 in damages during a bizarre series of vandalism
incidents last week. Farm Manager Kevin Cunningham said two local
boys -- a 9- and 10-year-old -- broke nearly all of the dishes
in the farm's outdoor kitchen, littered the farm with food, dumped
paints and gasoline from a storage area and overturned every
flat of seedlings in the greenhouse Monday and Tuesday nights.
A shareholder of the farm, which provides members weekly with
fresh, seasonal organic vegetables, herbs and flowers, caught
the boys at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night while picking up a
share, Cunningham said. The boys fled, but police apprehended
them when they returned for their bicycles. While the farm will
not cancel its season, the damage has taken its toll. "It's
going to set us back severely on several of our fall crops,"
Cunningham said. "It's a big setback, but it's not going
to ruin our season." The Arcata Police Department said the
vandals would likely be placed in a juvenile diversion program.
To donate or otherwise help the farm, call 825-1777.
THE CHP'S BITCHIN' CAMARO: Seen from a rear view mirror, the shape of a Ford
Crown Victoria, a typical cop car, has undoubtedly made the knuckles
of countless motorists pale and summoned pulse-quickening attacks
of paranoia. The foreboding familiarity of those rectangular
headlights, the hefty, oblong side mirrors and that humdrum four-door
contour tells us, "Slow down; use your blinker; put on your
seatbelt; stay cool." So naturally, some North Coasters
were a little freaked when they finally realized that the vehicle
creeping behind them wasn't any hooptie, but a California Highway
Patrol car disguised as a Camaro. If you spot this car, don't
bug out -- the officer is probably just on his way to the Humboldt
County Fair to make friends. For the past couple of weeks, the
CHP has been driving a Chevy Camaro, painted like a traditional
cop car, to local parades and auto shows so folks can check out
their ride. "It's something different. It gets people asking
questions," said CHP Public Affairs Officer Paul Dahlen.
"They see how friendly we are so they start asking us law
questions and they get a better feel for the Highway Patrol"
See, they're not so scary. The cruiser is shared by other counties
in Northern California. Earlier this week it was taken to Crescent
City for a festival. It'll come back for most of the month of
August before returning to its permanent home in Redding.
CORRECTIONS: Last week's
cover story, "Divided Land," mistakenly used an
obsolete name to refer to a county-wide coalition of real estate
professionals. In fact, the Humboldt Association of Realtors
stopped calling itself the "Humboldt County Board of Realtors"
a few years ago. [The online
version has been corrected.] Also,
a representative from the Jitter Bean Coffee Co. called to inform
us that contrary to what we reported in last
week's "Credit card commotion" story, the sign
at the front of its Arcata store that reads "Three dollar
minimum, please" is, in fact, a request, not a demand. [The online version has been revised.]
The Journal regrets the errors.
Lagoon Rancheria's casino dream awakens
For 10 years the Big Lagoon
Rancheria has battled with the state of California over the tribe's
plans to build a casino at Big Lagoon. The main sticking point
has been the state's contention that a casino at Big Lagoon would
be an environmentally unsound endeavor, given that the lagoon
is an ecological preserve and home to three species listed under
the federal Endangered Species Act. The tribe disagrees with
the state's assessment, and in 1999 sued the state for "bad
faith" negotiating. Under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory
Act, the state is required to negotiate a compact with a tribe
seeking to build a casino, said rancheria Chairperson Virgil
Moorehead Monday at his office in the Hotel Arcata. [photo below right]
But now it looks as if the lawsuit could
go away and the rancheria might get to build its casino -- 700
miles south, in the desert town of Barstow. But don't cry for
the rancheria. The deal, which would be part of a settlement
agreement in which the tribe agrees to not build anything commercial
on its Big Lagoon tribal lands, could yield profits for the 18
family members of the rancheria that are far above those anticipated
from the original Big Lagoon project. After all, 60 million people
a year drive through Barstow, many already primed for gambling
as they travel I-15 to Las Vegas.
"So we're pleased about
the potential of the market," said Moorehead, whose tribe
also owns the Hotel Arcata. He said the proposed casino at Big
Lagoon would have cost up to $14 million to build. The tribe's
Barstow hotel-casino, if approved and all steps proceed smoothly,
is expected to be nearly four times bigger and cost up to $85
million to construct. "Sure, I'd prefer to stay home. We're
from Humboldt County and we're not leaving Humboldt County. But
it's just a business transaction."
The transaction came about circuitously,
and involves an unprecedented partnership with another tribe,
the Los Coyotes Band of Mission Indians from San Diego County.
They will be the first tribes to build off-reservation casinos
in California. Both tribes are working with the city of Barstow,
which courted the project, and the investment firm BarWest Gaming
LLC (run by Marian Ilitch of Michigan, owner of the Little Caesars
pizza enterprise and the Detroit Redwings hockey team). Tom Shields,
BarWest Gaming spokesperson, said the city of Barstow and BarWest
started talking with the Los Coyotes band in 2002, during Gov.
Gray Davis' administration. Then Davis ended up in a recall and
lost. Enter Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On May 18, 2005, Schwarzenegger
made a proclamation governing off-reservation casinos. Among
the mandates: Off-reservation casinos can't be built in urban
areas, and an off-reservation casino has to be beneficial to
the state, tribe and community in which it's to be built. "Los
Coyotes has virtually no income, and [its] land in San Diego
County is unbuildable," said Shields. The band's reservation
is remote, with no paved roads, he said, and "only got electricity
10 years ago. And there's no traffic. So it was really sort of
a perfect match."
The state also saw a chance
to solve Big Lagoon's casino dilemma with the governor's new
policy. "The Schwarzenegger administration asked us if we
would sit down and talk with BarWest and Los Coyotes," said
On July 18, the tribes and BarWest
presented a plan to the Barstow City Council: The Los Coyotes
Band and Big Lagoon Rancheria will each build a hotel-casino
on 47 acres which they'll split and have placed into trust as
reservation lands. Each hotel-casino will have 100 rooms, a restaurant,
food court, coffee shop, entertainment lounge, pool and spa,
and 50,000 square feet of gambling space each (for a total of
2,546 slot machines, 48 table games and 20 poker tables combined).
On an adjacent 60 acres they'll build an RV park, truck parking
and possibly an entertainment complex. The project will be designed
by Joel Bergman, who designed casino magnate Steve Wynn's Mirage
and Treasure Island resorts in Las Vegas. Shields said BarWest
will bring in casino management experts to get the project rolling,
and after seven years the investment company will turn the operation
over to the tribes. They'll manage their properties separately
but they'll be known collectively in Las Vegas-ese as "The
Barstow Casinos and Resort: one extraordinary resort, two exciting
casinos." The projects are expected to provide 1,500 jobs,
plus about a thousand more "spinoff" jobs in the community,
some related to construction.
"This is truly a one-of-a-kind
proposal," said Shields. "There'll be revenues for
the tribes and revenues for the city, and, from the state's standpoint,
you end up with one location instead of two."
City of Barstow spokesperson
John Rader * said the project is expected to bring in $200 million
a year, and is going to make the 18 Big Lagoon Rancheria members
and the roughly 300* Los Coyotes band members "instant millionaires."
The city of Barstow (pop. 23,000) could get $6.5 million a year
in direct revenues from the two tribes, through municipal services
agreements in which the tribes agree to fund a slew of
programs to alleviate impacts to the community from the gambling
on Aug. 4 from the print edition.]
Rader said the city considers
the project a lifeline thrown to the 33 percent of its residents
who rely on some form of government assistance. He said the potential
for harm to residents caused by having a casino in their backyard
-- gambling addiction, debt, crime, etc. -- pales next to the
potential for good. The casino-hotel complex could generate jobs
that don't require college degrees and with salaries averaging
$30,000 plus health and retirement benefits, he said.
"The basic philosophy is,
Barstow already has a significant number of people on drugs,
or with alcohol addiction, or subject to spousal abuse -- we
already have that," Rader said. "And all that's generated
by poverty. If we can get them back into financial security and
basically feeling good about themselves, the benefits of the
casinos would far outweigh the detriments."
The project isn't a done deal,
though. Los Coyotes has a compact, but the governor still has
to sign Big Lagoon's compact -- Moorehead said that could happen
"any day." The Legislature has to approve it, then
the Department of Interior has to approve the tribes' application
to take the Barstow land into trust as reservation lands. And
then there's the matter of a third tribe, the somewhat dissed
Chemehuevi of San Bernardino County, which actually had this
whole Barstow casino idea long before Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon
entered the picture. Rader said the Chemehuevi -- who can point
to ancestral connections to the Barstow area, unlike the other
two tribes -- "didn't get the investors" and "didn't
make themselves known" to new people on the City Council.
The council has since agreed to work with the Chemehuevi, but
in the meantime Chemehuevi supporters have circulated a petition
to get an initiative on the fall ballot asking voters to support
a casino in Barstow -- but only on land owned by the Chemehuevi
and only run by "a tribe from San Bernardino County."
"So, it's not entirely
honest," Rader said. And if it passes? Wouldn't that throw
a monkey wrench in the Los Coyotes/Big Lagoon plans? Hard to
say, said Rader, although he suspects a state compact and federal
approval for the Los Coyotes/Big Lagoon project might trump a
local vote. Still, the whole deal "could be tied up in courts."
Moorehead said he's not worried
about the Chemehuevi-centric initiative.
"The Chemehuevi don't have
a compact [for Barstow] and they've never negotiated with the
governor," he said. [Corrected on Aug.
4 from the print edition.]
MAY 1996: COVER STORY: "Gamble on Big Lagoon"
[For more history of Big Lagoon
Rancheria's casino plans,
search "Big lagoon" casino
and choose "Find ALL words"]
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