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Advisory vote on casino will be on ballot

Voters will be asked if city should oppose casino south of town

Published: Wednesday, July 19, 2006 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 18, 2006 at 2:53 p.m.

Petaluma voters will get to have their say about the possibility of a casino south of the city when the Nov. 7 election rolls around.

The City Council on Monday unanimously approved an advisory measure for the fall ballot that would ask voters if the city should do everything in its power to oppose any plan for a casino on 277 acres of property between Highway 101 and the Petaluma River.

The site, east of the Kastania Road exit, is owned by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, which operates River Rock Casino in Geyserville.

The tribe has applied for federal trust status, which would permit a casino there, but said it has no plans for the property other than farming.

The council’s decision to ask voters to weigh in on the casino issue follows a previous decision to send a letter opposing any action by the federal government to take the land into trust. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors took similar action.

Council members said they were eager to give residents a chance to voice an opinion on a possible casino, though they noted the wording of the ballot measure asks voters to vote “yes” if they want the council to oppose any gaming project.

“It’s unfortunate it’s a ‘yes’ to oppose, but I don’t think there’s any way around this,” Councilmember Pamela Torliatt said.

Councilmember Mike Healy said a campaign to oppose the casino would help make it clear to voters that “yes means no.”

“I think the voters are smart enough to figure it out,” Healy said.

Although the result of the measure would be non-binding, city officials hope community opposition to a casino will help convince state and federal authorities to halt any move by the tribe to open such a facility.

The language of the ballot measure reads as follows:

“Shall the City Council of the city of Petaluma take all lawful steps within its authority, including, but not limited to, the following steps, to oppose gaming on 277 acres, more or less, of land generally located south of Petaluma city limits between Highway 101 and the Petaluma River and opposite Kastania Road?”

The “following steps” also listed on the ballot are:

- Opposing all acts necessary for the United States to place the property into trust status on behalf of the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.

- Opposing all other required acts for federal and/or state authorities to approve any use of the property for gaming.

- Communicating to all local, state and federal officials with authority concerning gaming on the property the opposition of the qualified electors (voters) of the city of Petaluma to gaming on the property.

- Urging all local, state and federal officials with authority concerning gaming on the property to take all lawful steps within their authority to oppose gaming on the property consistent with the will of the voters.

If voters want the council to take those steps, they would vote “yes” on the measure. If they don’t, they would vote “no.”

(Contact Corey Young at cyoung@arguscourier.com)

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