Pot of Support Growing for Spokane Tribe's Casino

By Paige Browning

Spokane Tribe of Indians leaders announced Thursday what they hope will be the last step to prove the worthiness of their Airway Heights casino proposal.
Spokane Tribe of Indians Chairman Rudy Peone. (Paige Browning photo)At a news conference, Tribal Chairman Rudy Peone presented the assessment report for the Spokane Tribe Economic Project (STEP). Peone read aloud from the report findings, addressing concerns from opponents:
Peone: “The location of STEP at the planned site does not constitute a hazard to flight operations at Fairchild Air Force Base, nor compromise the 92nd air refueling wing's ability to safely and affectively fulfill it's primary mission, training requirements, and support of other users.”
Primary criticism against STEP is over it’s proximity to Fairchild, a base which employs 5,000 people.

Spokane Tribe of Indians Chairman Rudy Peone. (Paige Browning photo)

Spokane County Commissioners filed an objection to the casino plan in January. Commissioners want all cards in favor of Fairchild right now since the Air Force makes final decisions this month on where to base refueling tankers. 
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart supports the project and is stressing the credentials of the assessment report’s authors, from D.C. based Madison Government Affairs Inc.

Authors Paul Hirsch, Madison’s President, and retired Air Force Lieutenant General Carl Franklin have worked on Base Realignment and Closure issues for more than 20 years.
Stuckart: “To any reasonable person these are experts on the subject. With unemployment rates in the region hovernig around 10% or higher, and poverty rates of up to 50% among tribal members, we must support projects that create jobs.”
The first report done on STEP was the Environmental Impact Statement done by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  All comments for the EIS were due before May 1st.

The future of STEP is in the hands of the U.S. Department of Interior.  If the head of the Interior approves it, Governor Jay Inslee has one year to make a final decision of approval or denial.

STEP: http://www.stepspokane.com/
Spokane Tribe of Indians: http://www.spokanetribe.com/
County Commissioner's comments: http://www.spokanecounty.org/News.aspx?dept=0&news=946
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