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Jamul Indian Village Breaks Ground On Casino Amid Opposition, Legal Challenges

February 6, 2014 1:28 p.m.


Michael Casinelli, a member of the Jamul/Dulzura Community Planning Group

Related Story: Jamul Indian Village Breaks Ground On Casino Amid Opposition, Legal Challenges


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, did you go to these home to another just number of Indian reservations of any county in the United States. That means we have a lot of hating gaming continues and now it looks it will get one more contract construction on the Hollywood Casino and the Jamul Indian Village nearest Highway 94 has already begun, and this is no surprise. This casino has been in planning for more than two decades but local residents and county officials are still fighting it. A local group is suing playing that the 6 acres in question don't qualify as Indian Indian gaming land containing the given how the time originally taken over. The county's suing Caltrans for cooperative with the tribe. Joining me to talk but this is Michael Cassinelli. We invited a representative from the indeed village to join us, but declined. They did send statements that I will read later. Media outlets have reported about 700 committee members showed up to the committee planning group meeting just last night where this came up, but was numbered of the crowd? What was the mood of the crowd?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: The big was held by the organization the meeting was held by the organization and your question was?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Paint us a picture, last night what was the mood of the crowd?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: It was a large one of the largest crowds that I have witnessed, we had a previous similar meeting in June of last year, a little over 400 people came, but is just an indication of how many people are concerned in the community. When you read the rule of thumb that every person that shows up or speaks represents eighty-five her don't, it gives ñ these people were standing out in the cold and to get information that was from and to the at the meeting.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This was in works for about two decades and their broken ground in construction January this year, place of putting this?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: There are seven with several reasons, one of the impacts that this would bring to the community, it would devastate the community. It would clog the roads and we arty have one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the state with fatalities and accidents and you talk about adding 15,000 more cards a day without the proper mitigation, things will be much worse in addition, we have to be worried about effectuating and wildfires, and medical and fire response emergency response would be greatly inhibited because the first vision is directly across the street for the village property, for the get out of the highway to respond and when they do it is clogged, it means loss of life.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You have said 15,000 more car trips a day and as a result of this casino and Caltrans says it will be less at about 9000.

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: No, JIV says it is 9000.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I believe it is Caltrans.

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: They're using the JIT number and Caltrans is not in any calculations or verified any the information and they are obviously even if it's in this range but to give the bottom of it, and you look at the other casinos in one of the closer ones you're talking 15,000.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This casino is going to be 200,000 ft.≤ and 7000 slot machines based on the plan, fifteen large table games and a large parking lot The scope of things the scope of this is must be what bothers you.

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: Any type of commercial building of that size comes in and the opposition will be great. 200,000 ft.≤ does not include ñ they said that they are going to take eight stories and come above ground three, there is about 1,000,000 ft.≤ and this is 4 acres, the largest Walmart in the United States is 225,000 ft.≤ sitting on twenty to thirty acres.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Isn't the tribe with its rights? I Will have to represent their point of view a little bit, it says here that they are a federally acknowledged sovereign nation that the immunities available to any other federally acknowledged Indian tribe. The tribe entered into a tribal state compact with the state of California on October 5, 1999. It was approved by the government clearly the laws on our side and we look forward to opening our gaming facility next year. What is your response to that?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: First of all, in 1934 village was not recognized until 1981, there been several court cases already thought of going all the way to the US Supreme Court which was in a to one decision that if a tribe was not recognized in the Indian organization act of June 1934 their land was not qualified to beach put into trust, which is a prerequisite in order to have gaming, so while they say they are recognized they do not give you the total story, and in addition to the Supreme Court decision in 2009, two weeks ago there was a case where the Big Lagoon sued the state of California and they wanted gaming of the property California, decision in that case was that they were not recognized in 1934, they do not have the right to have gaming.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is the basis of a lawsuit?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: There are three lawsuits, the federal one whether we're talking about and it has another promise you would, besides not being recognized in 1934, and that is that the land is originally dated two individuals that lived on the property that were half blood or greater, some of those have been kicked out and the deed just like on your house or my house was never transferred or put into the village, in their name, it was the village and never had any authority over the property, therefore does not really their property, those of the two aspects of the federal lawsuit, and the group that I am on is not part of that. We're not a page of the case.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Set aside about traffic on Highway 94 because that's of the deal here and maybe the most significant one. Is it sometimes going to take steps to try to mitigate this traffic that is coming to the casino?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: That effectively mitigate, for example the construction phase of this which would go a year and half of 225 trucks an hour, eleven hours a day, which would choke it, they're saying that can be handled by two flatbed ñ two flagmen one electronic sign and in some additional signs and we'll notified the CHP to be more aware of and I will be the traffic mitigation. They're talking about the mitigation for the actual operation is that in about a one-mile stretch and add to term lines in a stoplight, that will not mitigate them for you traffic.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are they going to widen ninety-four?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: They're going to widen in front of the village property and the search of where that would be impacted is a least 10 miles on Highway 94, not counting the feeder roads the conference up a withered planning and pulling a lot of their patrons from Innotek Lakes Road and Parker Valley Road, if not even addressed the impacts on those.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We haven't talked about the village itself, for people who have not been there tell us about the community.

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: See to it is the best kept secret around, people were out there and is one of the closest we're all communities next to a city in the interface. Where about 25 miles from downtown but is one lane instructions on a whiny road with fine curves, and people have larger pieces of property and there are no street lights or sidewalks. School kids are walking alongside the road and those are the things that we're concerned about. The majority of those were there had been an accident.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The county and some community members are actually suing Caltrans, what is the basis of that?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: Caltrans is not obeying California law, California law says that they must conduct a CEQA and the land directly across the street a private developer had proposed putting in some homes on larger lots and a fire station, and Caltrans when through the CEQA and took years and made them paid the enough dollars millions of dollars and committed OF things from them they could not access Highway 94 directly they had to cut a road to aside road to enter ninety-four, because of line of sight of what you're entering and how dangerous it is and they have totally done away with that for the indents, it's like an equal protection of the law.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Statement from Caltrans says that the losses by the county and citizens group can come as nothing more than overturning a sensible plan for taxes traffic safety and if they are successful and that we will have no option but to use access roads for hauling operations which will result in our trucks traveling straight through downtown Jamul.

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: I don't think that came from Caltrans, I think it came from Jamul. It is part of a technique that we've seen going on in our area it if you Google the financial backer on your computer you will find out that they use these bullying tactics frequently, so they're basically saying give us what we want or we will do something worse you, and I don't think he will be lifted up.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This quote was not from Caltrans, I have to correct myself it was from the tribe. This casino will create 2500 jobs, isn't that a good thing?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: Who is against jobs? But if you Google the people who will be managing it, they are notorious for being nonlabor friendly and they pay below minimum wage and the previous financial backer which was Lakes entertainment they announced the grand opening and they had billboards up and they held a job fair and that job fair was held in Tecate, Tom.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So you're saying you will not be employing Americans, you're saying that they will be employing Mexicans?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: Yes, a great part of it my understanding is Sequanda is the same thing, every day there are three busloads there, from Tecate and people living for there is to say employment) they would love it, but that do not know that if they are available for those jobs that will be making low and wage. I'm sure that Americans we working in construction but I doubt this is going to be the majority.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is been in the works for so long and I am sure that they have the license or their agreement with the state to do this casino, back in 1999, why haven't the issues that you are raising come up before?

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: Opposition has always been there, however the lawsuits again I am not part of that but you cannot just sue someone say you don't have a right, those hosts sued those who sued and to wait for the federal government to make a declaration saying that these Indians have the right to a casino this property. That was the Bureau of Indian affairs and the national Indian gaming of commission members of the children as being sued because their decision was arbitrary and capricious, they said that the Indians must have the right to the said they did, and they did not check. The lawsuit is challenging them saying that they said that they have the right because they said to have the right but by law they do not. And it will be set out in the court.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We will have to leave it at that. Thank you very much.

MICHAEL CASSINELLI: Thank you for having me here.