SJB council says no casino

An artist’s rendering of the proposed California Valley Miwok

San Juan Bautista
– The San Juan City Council voted unanimously to oppose a Miwok
casino in San Benito County, backing up the recent decision by the
San Benito County Board of Supervisors with hopes Hollister’s City
Council will follow suit.
San Juan Bautista – The San Juan City Council voted unanimously to oppose a Miwok casino in San Benito County, backing up the recent decision by the San Benito County Board of Supervisors with hopes Hollister’s City Council will follow suit.

“I think we need to show a unified front, and a lot of this was to show support for the county vote and the Board of Supervisors,” San Juan Bautista Mayor Arturo Medina said Monday. “I think what we’re doing is just sending a message here to the government and to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to let the Board of Supervisors know that we’re behind them. And then this is also in anticipation of a Hollister City Council vote.”

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Feb. 22 to send a resolution opposing a proposed Miwok casino near Hollister to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The governor has said he will not negotiate gaming compacts with Indian tribes outside of their indigenous areas without overwhelming support from the locals, and since the five-member California Valley Miwok tribe has not yet proven its ancestral ties to the county, the Board of Supervisors is hoping to show a lack of local support.

Although the county and the City of San Juan Bautista have now officially come out against the project, Hollister City Council members are holding off on any decision. The council announced last week it would be waiting for more project details before taking a stance on the casino, especially considering the 2,000 union jobs with benefits California Valley Miwok Project Manager Gary Ramos has promised if the casino is built.

District 1 Hollister City Councilman Brad Pike said Monday the council was aware that all eyes may now be on Hollister, but that this would not change the council’s wait-and-see approach.

“It’s absolutely going to put pressure on us. I feel, in all due respect, that both the county and the city of San Juan Bautista put all the pressure on Hollister,” Pike said. “We haven’t had a meeting with the county and San Juan to talk about putting up a united front. I am totally committed to getting educated on both sides, to doing what we said we were going to do to begin with, so that each person that comes into our community knows exactly where we’re coming from.”

Hollister Mayor Pauline Valdivia will appoint a committee to research the project at the council’s meeting on March 7.

The tribe has teamed up with investment group Game Won to build a casino/resort off of Highway 156 near the Hollister airport. The casino could be similar in size to Yolo County’s Cache Creek casino, which is more than 74,000 square feet with 2,200 slot machines.

The project was originally proposed at U.S. 101 and Highway 25, and a number of Gilroyans, including Joe Giacalone and Chris Vanni, are investors.

At the Feb. 22 board meeting, Ramos said the tribe and its investors would be going to the Hollister City Council and the San Juan City Council to drum up support after being shot down by the supervisors. But now that San Benito County and San Juan’s City Council have opposed the project, Hollister may be the investors’ last chance to win the community over.

“It would be disappointing if it is true that the San Juan Bautista City Council voted to be included in the San Benito Board of Supervisors’ resolution opposing our project, especially since no specific project exists and no details have been released to oppose at this point,” Ramos wrote in an e-mail Monday.

But Medina said Monday the San Juan council had heard everything it needed to before its unanimous vote Friday.

“There was a lot of public dialogue. We had a packed city council, and not a single person spoke in favor of the casino,” Medina said. “We have gathered information on it, and everybody that I have spoken to in town has put a little pressure on our council (to oppose the casino).”

San Juan City Councilman Dan Reed agreed.

“The more we met, and as well as the public meetings that were held in Hollister … there just did not seem to be redeeming facts coming out of this. So when our Board of Supervisors opposed it unanimously, we felt that it was time for us to take a stand unanimously. During discussion we’ve found that the best thing to do was to move quickly,” Reed said. “Now we have to wait and listen to our friends in Hollister.”

District 2 County Supervisor and San Juan Bautista resident Anthony Botelho said Monday he was glad the council voted to oppose the casino Friday and also hoped the Hollister council would hop on the bandwagon soon.

“I was thrilled that they (the San Juan City Council) showed the leadership to do this, and I think all of our local governments need to take a position early on,” he said. “There’s enough information out there. And you don’t even have to look for it. It’s just there.”

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