Agran on the Warpath

Indians are the new bogeyman in the war against an already defeated airport

Photo by Matt CokerWith all the cultural sensitivity of a John Ford western, Irvine City Council members Larry Agran and Beth Krom appear intent on resurrecting the 19th century doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

It began with a Sept. 27 council agenda item titled, "Citywide Restrictions on Commercial Gambling." Mayor Krom declared her intent to "create an anti-gambling ordinance for the City of Irvine," apparently clueless that such an ordinance has existed since 1972. After Councilwoman Christina Shea read it aloud, a bewildered Krom asked, "Is this in our existing code?!"

Indeed it is, and it already prohibits any gaming interest from operating a casino or card club within Irvine.

With Krom flailing on the hook of a 33-year old law, Councilman Agran came to the rescue by invoking the specter of a Redskin Menace.
Agran creates red menace.
Photo by Jack Gould

"The Indian gaming interests, which started in the remote areas of the state, are salivating at the opportunity to bring large-scale, commercial gambling into the highly populated areas," Agran claimed. "We have to have a strategy to deal with tribal claims in Washington, D.C. We have to have a strategy to deal with claims and negotiations for compacts that may be coming by way of Sacramento. The Indian gaming interests are hard at work in Sacramento all the time."

Agran directed city staff to report "whether it's advisable for us, in the next 30 to 60 days, to be in Washington with representation opposing any Indian tribal claims that could give rise to commercial gambling here in Irvine. If there's a pending claim, we need to get on top of it right away."

Call it the Agran Doctrine.

The Agran Doctrine hinges on the word "could." There's no way of knowing what the land use "could" be one day, so Agran apparently intends to avoid the whole problem by simply opposing any tribal claims for land.

Agran's gambling bogeyman first appeared in the 2004 municipal election. The Agran slate falsely charged that Mike Ward, Krom's opponent for mayor, supported bringing racetrack gambling to Irvine. Agran repeated the baseless charge at the Sept. 27 council meeting.

This was just one of many facts they got wrong.

Agran and Krom cited the City of Garden Grove as the target of Indian gambling interests, but that also turned out to be untrue. According to a Garden Grove city official, in April 2003 a representative from the Southern California Indian Center, Dr. Jane Gentry, approached the city seeking land for an Indian cultural center. The city declined, but included Gentry months later as part of a city-inspired idea to build a resort-casino. Gentry introduced city leaders to the San Diego-based Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians, but they didn't have the resources to build or operate a resort. So Garden Grove sought out Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn as an investor for their project. Neither Gentry nor the Indians had any connection with Wynn. The discussions ended in August 2004 when county supervisor Chris Norby exposed the negotiations, which were conducted under a confidentiality agreement between Wynn and Garden Grove.

Krom rests her forked tongue.
Photo by Jack Gould

Krom claimed that the Garden Grove City Council then enacted an anti-gambling ordinance. Wrong again. The council simply directed staff to cease discussions with any casino interest. They lifted that restriction last Aug. 30, voting 3-2 to permit staff to "hold meetings pertaining to a world class destination resort and gaming complex in Garden Grove."

Agran alleged, "There are Indian tribes seeking to establish certain claims to tribal lands in the City of Irvine and throughout Orange County. We see what's going on in Garden Grove. This is a relentless effort on the part of gaming interests to prevail."

But no one has contacted Garden Grove since the restriction was lifted, either "salivating" Indian tribes or "relentless" gaming interests.

Shawn Pensoneau, the director of Congressional and Public Affairs for the National Indian Gaming Commission, said they're not aware of any such claims in Orange County. Further, the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act makes it very difficult for tribes to establish a claim for casino gambling in an urban area. The Act requires the Secretary of the Interior take into consideration the impact of any such proposal on local communities. The federal government would have to accept the land in trust. The tribe would also have to negotiate a compact with the State of California.

The 1988 act requires any net revenues from Indian gaming be used to fund essential tribal services such as education, health care, law enforcement and fire protection, water and sewer services, and elderly and child care, according to a NIGC press release.

Krom claimed that, "There are precedents for lands being dedicated for one use by the Indians and then made available for other uses," implying that a forked-tongue Indian tribe might obtain the land under false pretenses and convert it to casino use. Pensoneau said that while Indian lands in federal trust have been converted to other uses, this could not happen with a casino unless the tribe went through the same difficult approval process that requires consideration of local communities and a State compact.

Next Page »