Valley Voice: City official appears to have devolved into casino spokesman

I gather from Greg Pettis’ article on Nov. 9 (“Tell it like it is — we need gaming”) that he is now a spokesperson for the casinos. His misrepresentation of the goals of the Coachella Valley Coalition for Responsible Sovereignty is especially insidious, because he, like all local officials, was invited to those forums in which he claims “those with opposing opinions” were not invited.

He, in fact, attended at least two of these forums, so he knows that very little of what he claims is true. He also knows that those meetings were not held in secret, but were advertised in The Desert Sun. He knows that we agree with him that casinos are probable the future of this valley. He knows that where we disagree is in the fact that we think that all this good will between neighbors needs to be reduced to written, enforceable agreements whereas he seems to be content to rely on trust alone. He knows that all of the existing agreements between the Agua Caliente tribe and the City of Palm Springs can be unilaterally canceled by the tribe.

He also knows that we live under a Republican form of government in which we elect officials to represent us. It is entirely proper in our form of government that we would appeal to our elected officials, whose duty it is to represent us in this matter, and not to the tribes. It is appalling that he, an elected official, would chastise citizens for exercising their democratic responsibility in voicing their concern over this serious situation.

If gaming were the panacea that Mr. Pettis claims, then there would simply be no need for any discussion. But it is not. The growth of this industry will have major impacts on the valley. These impacts have to be dealt with. These impacts are significant, costly and too important to be left to whim or charity.

For example, the Palm Springs Police estimates that the new casino will cost its department $435,433 in additional law enforcement costs in the first year of operation alone. The city asked the tribe to pay this amount for police services. The tribe responded that “it may be willing to pay 2.3 percent or $9,936.59, of the $435,433 cost” estimated by the city.

Why wouldn’t we be concerned that our tax dollars are subsidizing the casino? Why shouldn’t we have a voice in matters that directly affect us? Why don’t our representatives appreciate input from their constituents? Who represents whom in these matters of critical importance to all of us? It is not a good sign when an elected official attacks citizens for speaking up and tells everybody else, “don’t worry, trust us.”

So let’s get some facts on the table and clear the air. Don’t tell us “they give.” Tell us how much they give and tell us how much they would be giving if they were not exempt from taxes. Don’t tout their charitable contributions without noting that other businesses and individuals also give generous charitable contributions in addition to paying their fair share of taxes. Don’t tell us about the 37,200 jobs the casinos provide without also telling us that taxpayers are footing the bill for the medical care, subsidized housing, school construction and lunches for the dependents of about 90 percent of those fortunate employees of wealthy casinos who earn so little that they cannot afford to even rent a modest apartment without government assistance.

The tribes did not invent this political game, but with more than $5 billion a year in income, they have become the No. 1 political player in the state. I don’t think anyone can blame them for that. We can, however, blame our politicians who sell us out in exchange for (or in the hope of) campaign contributions — and fear of political retribution if they don’t fall in line. More than we need gaming, we need responsible local officials.

Shame on you Greg.

Jim Jones is a former member of the Palm Springs City Council and a member of the Coachella Valley Coalition for Responsible Sovereignty.