Sunday, October 28, 2007
As Nov. 6 quickly approaches and the vote in the non-binding referendum on the Choctaw casino in Jackson County, it has become abundantly clear just how low the Choctaws will stoop in their media campaign to con the citizens into voting for the casino.
I have noticed that in the latest commercials that have aired that they show areas of "hurricane" devastation in the county that their casino would help rebuild. Apparently, whoever shot the commercial for the tribe did not do any research on some of the locations that were used. The one location that really stuck out was the images of Belair shopping center in Pascagoula. The commercial showed boarded up and heavily damaged buildings, implying that Katrina did the damage and that the economic impact of the Choctaw casino would rebuild it.
I believe the record needs to be set straight on this misrepresentation. Belair shopping center has been an eyesore for Pascagoula for close to 20 years. The owner has defied the city on every attempt to clean up or tear down the buildings.
Another point I would like to bring up is that the Choctaws' claim that their casino would put $7 million a year in the county coffers from now on. They have yet to explain just exactly how that is true. They are exempt from paying taxes and they cannot pay impact fees because those have already been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as being unconstitutional. Plus there is nothing that says the Choctaws have to continue paying anything to Jackson County if they choose not to.
The Choctaws also claim that the casino would bring 3,000 new jobs to the county. While there may be that many jobs brought in, just exactly how many of those jobs will be in mid and upper level management? If they are like most of the Indian casinos in the country, those positions will go to only members of the tribe.
I suggest that if the Choctaws really want to make their case for a casino in Jackson County that they be totally truthful. If the residents of Jackson County really want casino gambling here, then let us vote on allowing any casino to operate and therefore have a real benefit from them being in the community. Otherwise we need to send a resounding "NO" to the tribal leaders.
In addition to the book, taxpayers are also footing the bill for an epic party; an extravaganza to mark the opening Thursday of the Biloxi Bay Bridge, a federally funded building project overseen by the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Some, including Larry Benefield, Brown's opponent in the election for Southern District transportation commissioner, question the timing of the party. They wonder whether the bridge could have been open to traffic earlier, had re-election politics not been a factor.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Jackson County already voted 'no' on gambling
I know we are going to vote again on the issue of gambling in Jackson County, what I don't understand is why. We have already voted on the issue and the answer was, "No, we don't want or need gambling in Jackson County."
Are we just going to have to vote gambling down over and over to please special-interest groups? Why is the issue even being broached? The Choctaws' land off Mississippi 57 isn't historical tribal land but land they purchased, if I understand correctly. Does that mean if they purchased land in downtown Ocean Springs, they could just request permits and variances to open a casino there? Why not a brothel since we don't have any of those operating openly (that I know of)?
We have a fairly quiet, charming little town that appeals for just that reason. Why mess with success? Vote "no" again and let's keep the traffic, crime, and 24-hour rat race out of our area.
DEE WICHMAN Ocean Springs
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Television commercials promoting the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians' effort to put a casino in Jackson County are offensive.
As opponents of the Choctaw casino, we would hardly be expected to agree with the tribe's methods to sway voters in a non-binding referendum to be held on Nov. 6. But the televised ads we have seen this week are not just disagreeable, they are insulting to South Mississippians in general, and Jackson Countians in particular.
Opening with scenes of devastation supposedly caused by Hurricane Katrina, the ads go on to suggest that unless Jackson Countians vote in favor of a monopoly casino franchise for the Choctaws, such scenes of ruin will remain in the county.
What utter nonsense.
Jackson County is no miserable disaster area.
We haven't been for a very long time, maybe they have us confused with New Orleans.
For the Choctaws to employ such painful images in pursuit of profit undermines the efforts by the tourism and hospitality industries to showcase the area's comeback. It exemplifies the tribal leadership's conspicuously bad judgment, and raises serious questions about their understanding of this region, its people and their attitudes.
In inexcusably poor taste is the Choctaws' commercial use of children as cheerleaders for their proposed casino. At one point the Choctaws show kids giving a boisterous "thumbs up" to gambling.
Read the rest of the editorial here.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
We would not reap the same tax benefits that Harrison and Hancock counties do as the Choctaw Indians WILL NOT HAVE TO PAY TAXES.
Apparently Mr. French doesn’t pay attention. We would not reap the same tax benefits that Harrison and Hancock counties do as the Choctaw Indians WILL NOT HAVE TO PAY TAXES. The Choctaw casino will also be unregulated, unlike the casinos in Harrison and Hancock counties, which are regulated. Any person injured or harmed while on a reservation cannot call or rely upon local law enforcement. No local, State or Federal Law Enforcement is allowed on tribal land. Also the Choctaws will not have to obey our zoning laws, so they will be able to build whatever monstrosity they please, no matter how much of an eyesore it is to the surrounding communities.
Chief Denson has also publicly stated that he thinks more Choctaws should hold the high paying jobs in a Choctaw casino. Therefore many non-Indian Jackson County residents may be out of work if they lose their jobs in Harrison and Hancock counties due to an unregulated, untaxed, Choctaw Casino in Jackson County.
Jackson County residents are already complaining about the lack of affordable housing, the Choctaw Casino will further exacerbate the problem, we will also see an increase in traffic, an increase in drunk driving and our taxes (in a county that already leads the state in high taxes) will go up.
There is also the Environmental Impact on the MISSISSIPPI SANDHILL CRANE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, THE PASCAGOULA RIVER AND OUR WETLANDS, to consider.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
I applaud your editorial about the trustworthiness of Chief Beasley Denson. If he was serious about contributing 4 percent of gross gaming revenue to local governments, he could have come with a signed, written promissory agreement to that effect.
Even so, I wonder what happens in a few years when there is a new chief. Would that agreement still hold? And who determines how much the gross gaming revenue amount is? Is it someone hired by the Choctaws? How about an audit and someone from the local government also having a hand in determining that figure?
I also wonder if the Jackson County law enforcement agencies would have any jurisdiction on the Indian resort property. For sure the state Gaming Commission would not be allowed, and I wonder if the state Highway Patrol would have jurisdiction.
Chief Denson speaks of competition, yet he places himself above the competitors by locating right off the interstate, not paying state taxes, and not abiding by the regulations of the state Gaming Commission. If he wants to compete with other casinos, he could buy the former Broadwater or President site... or a site near the port of Gulfport or one in Hancock County. He seems to want a competitive economic advantage at the expense of the citizens of Jackson County, who do not even want a casino there.
BILL ESTERLY Biloxi
Saturday, October 06, 2007
- 50 million a year in Federal Aid and grants is given to the Choctaw tribe annually (there are less than 5,000 tribal members in Mississippi) They do not pay taxes.
- It has been established in our courts (case law) that the tribe can not pay taxes or a percentage of revenue, which is considered a tax. A pledge by Chief Denson to pay Jackson County a per cent of revenues is unlawful and he knows it. (This will not happen, It is another false promise).
- There is no possible way to force the tribe to abide by any promise or pledge that they may make. Once they are here we will be helpless to enforce any laws or promises.
- The impact upon Jackson County will be negative. Resulting in higher taxes (for non-Indian residents of Jackson County, Indians will not pay taxes, not even property taxes) in a county that already leads the state in high taxes. (you can also forget about affordable housing for the residents of Jackson County).
- Any person injured or harmed while on a reservation can not call or rely upon local law enforcement. No local, State or Federal Law Enforcement is allowed on tribal land.
- Tribal casinos are not regulated by the state gaming commission. Casino winnings, jackpots, etc. are also not regulated. Any dispute goes to Choctaw Tribal Courts.
- A Choctaw Casino could bring a bad element into our county as the tribal casinos are not subject to any State Regulated Scrutiny.
- Roads, schools and the county infrastructure will be strained and overburdened with no tax benefit to off-set this burden except the non-Indian tax payers of Jackson County (Indians do not pay taxes not even property taxes).
- Tribal casinos are not required to report their 'gifts' to elected officials nor to report campaign contributions. This can lead to corruption and fraud (Panel Says Abramoff Laundered Tribal Funds).
- The tribe has proposed establishment of retail business, hotels & restaurants on the casino site which will compete with local business ( while the INDIANS WILL NOT HAVE TO PAY TAXES, the local business will making the competition unfair and unequal).
- More the 7,00 Jackson County Residents currently work in the casino industry in Harrison and Hancock Counties.........The impact of the proposed Choctaw Casino could force some of these residents out of work. (Denson has publicly stated that he thinks INDIANS should hold the high paying jobs in a Choctaw Casino).
- The Environmental Impact on the MISSISSIPPI SANDHILL CRANE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, THE PASCAGOULA RIVER AND OUR WETLANDS.
I will attempt to do a follow up on the environmental impact within the next few days.
Friday, October 05, 2007
So unlike the rest of us, they can do whatever they want.
The letter also states the tribe has purchased 61 acres in the area in addition to its current land holdings of 40 acres.
And there is nothing to prevent them from gobbling up more of our land.
Once the land is acquired in trust, the tribe would have jurisdiction to determine land use, and the local zoning ordinances would not apply," Denson wrote.
While the proposed casino would fall within the zoning uses of the land, a hotel tower proposed as part of the $375 million project would not. The tower, which would contain about 1,100 rooms, would be about 20 stories high.
Jackson County zoning regulations limit buildings to 50 feet in height.
So Jackson County residents will have a 20 story eyesore to view, rather they want it or not.
"If the four properties are acquired in trust, payment of annual taxes on the 61 acres of about $4,400 will cease," Denson writes.
So now they pay taxes like everyone else, but once it is acquired in trust payment of the annual taxes will cease.
"But this small reduction in sales taxes would be more than made up for by increased gross receipt (sales) taxes based on increased off-reservation economic activity in the surrounding communities and increased property taxes on any non-Indian tenants."
So our community will be flooded with Indians who will not have to pay property taxes like the rest of us. Only non-Indian tenants will have to pay property taxes.
Denson writes that the tribe will have its own police force at the casino.
Police who will be free to treat non-Indians anyway they please.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
The Choctaw tribal leaders are discussing and implementing plans to construct a casino on Miss. 57.
Many local companies are currently undermanned in professional and lay workers with more personnel necessary for pending contracts. Our current local economy is already struggling to keep its existing workforce against other honest industries along the Gulf Coast who are maintaining a balanced spirit of competition. Future local contracts already in place will require more people to accomplish these requirements to fulfill each obligation. As our Mississippi Gulf Coast grows to maturity in the following days, the rest of the nation will keep a watchful eye to monitor the results of their investments.
In the early 1990s, Mississippi voted to allow the casino industry to invade some of our Coast counties after their repeated attempts. Many of us still welcome their presence and hiss at those of us who oppose such things as the "land based recovery effort." That is the effort to move the casino building requirement from water to land that passed so easily while hard working individuals were still misplaced and rebuilding their homes after Katrina.
Jackson County has a history of being a home of honest companies with real compassion and integrity. Jackson County is home to the kind of honest companies that invest in families and community. Not just on the surface, such as on billboards, newspapers and community events for everyone to praise, but in quiet corners where no monetary gain or publicity is sought.
Can you truly say that the gambling industry is one that portrays these qualities? Can you truly say that a company that profits from a person's weaknesses really is concerned for those who darken its doors?
We are smarter than this! Not only will jobs be at stake, but even more disruptive are the problems associated with the gambling industry that never catch the public eye. Ask any pastor of any local denomination for a rough percentage of the people they counsel for related problems and you will very likely be surprised. But be aware, these are just the people that will speak to a pastor.
The gambling supporters will advertise each public vote as, "once and for all." They do this to imply that this issue will not come up again. But, buyer beware! If you believe that, I have some swamp land to sell you with spotted owl inhabitants ripe for a new vacation destination investment! The truth is, this works similar to a school bond issue. It can be brought up every year until it passes. When it passes, there's no going back. This helps explain why the Gulf Coast communities rallied so quickly to get the land based legislation passed. Many employees were displaced with little or no trade skills other than taking money.
The drug addict normally will not quit until one of two things happen. Either he dies or someone extends a hand when he hits rock bottom. The gambling industry is not like this you say. Tell that to the father who sold everything, resorted to theft and eventually lost his family, friends and job. Won't happen to me you say tell that to your children and grandchildren who may have a problem with it later. The ones who look up to you and say, "Daddy (or Mama), I love you with all my heart." The ones who see Paw Paw or Gramps as a hero who taught them wonderful life lessons that will last their lifetime. There's more at stake here than we can imagine. Our children deserve a responsible, thoughtful and caring community. The kind of community that believes compassion, integrity and honest wages are important. This community needs to stand up and continue to do the right thing. Please put your voting hat on this November. On Dec 4, 1990, Jackson County voted 9,508 (38 percent) for and 15,351 (62 percent) against dockside gambling. Let's send an even stronger message against the gambling industry this time!
The Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to reaffirm its resolution opposing casino gaming in Ocean Springs and Jackson County. The motion was made by board member Matt McDonnell and seconded by board member James Hagan.
Board members held a lengthy discussion about the proposed Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians casino project on Mississippi 57 in Ocean Springs.
At least someone is listening to the residents of Jackson County who do not want casino gaming. The residents of Jackson County have consistently voted AGAINST gaming in their County. The Choctaws have no right to try to ram it down our throats. If they want a casino on the Mississippi Gulf Coast they are free to put a casino in Harrison or Hancock County. Counties that voted FOR legalized gaming.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
But not Denson.
One of the first things he said after defeating Martin was that he would not abide by the results of the referendum. Of course, that should not have come as a surprise, since he said before being elected that his decisions as chief would not be based on the opinions of non-Indians.
So why would we be naive enough to belive that Denson would keep his word about paying 'impact fees' (The Mississippi Supreme Court in June 2006 upheld a lower-court ruling saying the city of Ocean Springs has no legal authority to assess impact fees on developers, essentially calling them an illegal tax.) to non-Indians. It's apparent from his statements that he doesn't respect the Jackson County residents right to decide if they want gambling in their County.
Denson has made it clear that the opinions expressed at the polls in Jackson County next month do not matter to him. Jackson Countians - especially their elected officials - should make it clear how little Denson's opinions matter to them.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
A proposed Indian casino is ruffling the feathers of some people in Jackson County, Miss. The Choctaw Indians want to built a casino resort south of I-10 near Ocean Springs, Miss. As NBC15's Andrea Ramey tells us, their plans for economic development has not exactly hit the jackpot.
The sound of slots machines dinging and pouring out quarters can't be heard now, but the bright twinkling casino lights could be catching your eye in the near future. Choctaw Indian leaders say that equates to thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for Jackson County. "We are an economic engine. You know, their families might be working there," Choctaw Chief Beasley Denson said.
The proposal includes 1,100 hotel rooms, 2,300 slot machines, a large show theater, and a convention center, but when Choctaw Chief Denson layed it out on the table, the plan was met with some heated questions.
Opposition to the casino goes beyond the board room. A grassroots group in Jackson County is spreading messages that say, "How do you say not in my country in Choctaw," and "You pay taxes, they wont."
"It's like having a foreign country in your midst. They're not going to pay taxes, even though they say they're going to pay impact fees," grassroots organizer Cissy Jordan said.
Federal law said local and state governments can not tax Indian developments. Yet Choctaw leaders promise to pay a portion of their revenue, which would equate to $7 million a year. A jackpot many in Jackson County don't want to win. "We don't need them here," Jordan said.
"We've always had obstacles to do anything," Chief Denson said.
This obstacle is taking their fight to stickers on car bumpers and signs in front yards across the county in hopes of blocking the bright casino lights from ever coming to town.
The people of Jackson County will vote on the casino proposal in November. It will not decide anything. It's strictly a way to gage public opinion. It will be up to Governor Haley Barbour to make the final decision.
Cheif Denson has already reneged on promises made by his predecessor whose to say when the Choctaws elect a new chief he won't simply decide not to honor the impact fees Denson promised to pay.