Editor's Note: The following letter was written by Robert Edwards, chairman of Indians of Enterprise No.1 in Paradise and sent to Assemblyman Norman J. Torres, Committee on Government Organization on April 25, the day after the assembly committee's informational hearing on the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians compact with the state (AB 277).
I attended the April 24 informational hearing on AB 277 at which time you stated you were receptive to hearing comments related to AB 277 and the hearing. I am grateful for the opportunity to have a voice as guaranteed by the Democratic process. I was thoroughly dismayed yesterday by Committee Chairperson Isadore Hall's obvious attempts to squash the voice of the opposition to AB 277.
Those opposed listened patiently for over two hours as Chairperson Hall allowed those in favor of AB 277 to speak their piece at length. Chairperson Hall assumed a totally different posture when the opposition's opportunity to speak arrived. Mr. Hall asked the individuals opposed to state their name and "yay" if in favor of AB 277, or "nay" if not. When numerous other's objected, Mr. Hall relented and stated that the tribal chairpersons opposed to AB 277 could speak for three minutes.
However, many others, including myself, were totally denied the right to speak in opposition.
My tribe and I realize that Assembly Member Hall and Assembly Member Chesbro co-authored AB 277 in order to assist the gaming compact of the North Fork Mono and the Wiyot Tribe through the assembly process. This is a strategic move when at the conclusion of that process, an off-reservation casino project, will be erected totally contrary to the voter's wishes 13 years ago when they passed Proposition 1A limiting gaming to "Indian Lands."
Yesterday's huge turnout related to AB 277 confirms the public interest in the off-reservation gaming issue. Squashing the voice of the opposition in order to manipulate the outcome only confirms the need to return this issue to the ballot where the voters of California can control their quality of life and the neighborhoods they live in. Gaming was the voter's decision and any change related to it need to stay with California's objective voters, not with lawmaker's subject to the input of special interest groups.
On behalf of my tribe, I appreciate the opportunity to share our opinion with you on this very sensitive issue.