With no opposition, advisory vote could affirm City Council?s anti-gaming stance

If you want the Petaluma City Council to do everything it can to say no to any proposal to build a casino south of town, vote yes on Measure H.

If voting ?yes? to say ?no? seems a little backwards, that?s the nature of the advisory-only measure, which asks voters if the council should ?take all lawful steps to oppose gaming? on land owned by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.

That?s the same tribe that owns River Rock Casino near Geyserville. Its land south of Petaluma, purchased last year, is 277 acres between Highway 101 and the Petaluma River, opposite Kastania Road.

The tribe has said repeatedly and re-affirmed last week that it has no plans for the property except continuing the current agricultural use.

But city leaders are concerned about the tribe?s recent application for federal trust status on the property, which if approved could lead to gaming on the site.

The April application states that ?the tribe intends to develop a class III gaming facility? on the property, which could include slot machines and table games. Petaluma officials have scoffed at the tribe?s assertion that the application for trust does not show an intent to build a casino here.

With the City Council united in opposition to any local casino and signing the official ballot argument in favor of Measure H (no counter-argument was submitted), officials hope the result of the advisory vote shows Petalumans are equally opposed.

?The real point is to send a message to Sacramento and Washington that this community does not support a casino on the city?s edge,? Councilmember Mike Healy said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzen-egger has said recently that he would not approve any more gaming compacts unless a vote by the local community showed approval for the project, and Petaluma is joining other cities in pushing for a Congressional bill to curtail Indian casinos.

That bill, sponsored by Arizona Sen. John McCain, would roll back the deadline for new trust applications to March 30, 2006 ? excluding not only the Petaluma property, but land eyed for casinos in Rohnert Park and Cloverdale.

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