The Calexico casino has movement now, finally, after a long lull in which the Bush administration upheld its unwritten edict to not process off-reservation casino projects that came across the Department of Interior’s desk.
When President Obama all but promised Native American tribes across this nation that he would work with them, those various applications languishing at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in D.C. got moving.
That’s why, after what seemed to be a six-year nap in the process, the Manzanita tribe’s work toward an Imperial Valley gaming center has awakened.
That’s why we’re seeing this issue come back before the Calexico City Council and the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, where there is an urgent need to finalize the 2006 memorandum between the tribe and local parties of interest so that the BIA can get the Manzanita’s off-reservation paperwork on the desk of Gov. Brown by the end of the year.
And that’s why former Imperial County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber, who after being defeated a few years ago by Ray Castillo, is back making the public rounds to rail against the Calexico casino project.
It’s hard not to admire his conviction, even if you might not agree with his stances. Truth be told, he lost to Castillo a couple of years back, not because of anything spectacular that Castillo brought to the table, rather, people were tired of seeing Leimgruber make his moral agenda the county’s agenda, with his ultra-religious anti-casino posturing eventually becoming overshadowed by his defense of the constitutionality of the state’s gay marriage ban.
Leimgruber believes in what he says, even when his information is rife with holes and his logic is backward at best. His recent re-emergence as a force against the casino has been introduced to the public with a 1,750-word thesis titled “Do the Math,” in which he dissects the numbers behind the casino project and its promises.
The piece, which he acknowledges was composed with the help of anti-gaming organization Stand Up California, has run in various weeklies and online. We’ll likely run it its entirety on our Web site sometime in the next week.
I really wanted to know Leimgruber’s beef, from a reasoned point of view, so I called him to talk. I’m not convinced I ever got that.
Even after reading all 1,750 words, after speaking with him for nearly an hour, I’m not certain there is an argument here that is anything other than a thinly veiled sermon with numbers on the evils of gambling.
Well, that’s not entirely true. During our discussion, I got the overwhelming sense again and again that there was a larger Native American bias going on here. As I asked him who his supporters were, he kept referring me to people who had bad experiences with other tribes, like the Torres-Martinez and the Quechan.
What I gleaned from that is, if one red man will burn you, then all will. Ridiculous, and a little scary, frankly.
He also talked on the inherent unfairness of Native Americans not being expected to pay sales taxes or property taxes, issues the Manzanita are negotiating locally as lump-sum payments. There’s nothing foolproof about that remedy, nothing that is going to make anyone happy who has ever dealt with a Native American tribe, but to rail against it is pointless.
These are tenets of the federal government’s reparations toward Native Americans for displacement and institutional murder; a small price to pay for a bloody conscience and the ultimate American disrespect.
Leimgruber has a silent community supporting everything he does. The opposition to the casino — and other sins of the chaste mind — are out there, but do they have commonsense, practical reasons for their opposition? It doesn’t seem like it, at least not in any way being articulated publically. The evangelical underpinnings cloud the argument.
It’s like a Jedi mind trick. “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” “This is not the casino you’re waiting for.” No thanks, Obi-Wally.