To the Editor: Says casino is security threat

Recent review of the Timbisha Homeland Act has revealed an imminent threat to Ridgecrest and NAWCWD. While the current council is 3-2 opposed, heightened developer threats of litigation to the city, and heightened individual councilmember litigation, harassment, threats and political promises or suggestions, that some view as bribes, is now causing severe pressure on councilmembers to switch their votes or suffer the consequences. If one councilmember switches their vote, the casino proposal would be fully revived.

The net result will be that our city will be beholden to casino interests instead of the interests of the city electorate. Our city currently depends on employment at the naval base. The base requires top security clearances. The presence of a tribal casino at this location has the potential to affect security clearances of base employees. A threat to our base is a direct threat to our town and all of its citizens.

The tribe’s Homeland Act provides an exemption to Public Law 280. In short, no DOD or state law enforcement agency will have law enforcement authority of any major crimes. The Kern County district attorney would be powerless to prosecute criminal issues. Response to 9-1-1 calls on the tribal lands would be problematic. All major criminal offenses would require action by the BIA or FBI. Federal funding for the DOJ would have to specifically allocated for this one tribal casino, as any major issue would mandate FBI attention. Research shows that 400+ calls per year would not be uncommon. The Kern County Sheriff’s Office conducted research on casino-related crimes in three counties. All reported significant increases in calls after casinos came in. One county reported 30-40 additional calls per month with a minimum of five additional arrests. Examples of reported increases include alcohol-related crimes, sexual assaults, prostitution, robberies and vehicle burglaries. The Timbisha Shoshone is the only tribe in California exempt from Public Law 280 out of 110 tribes. This sets a terrible precedent for the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Dept. of the Interior and the state of California.

The House Armed Services Committee is growing increasingly concerned about base security as it pertains to real estate immediately surrounding high-security DOD facilities. The casino would be only 3,000 feet from high-security laboratories.

A presidential order blocked purchase of real estate near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in Oregon.

The U.S. military closed a Nevada casino for base security purposes. The U.S. government purchased properties adjacent to Fort Meade because of heightened security concerns regarding possible surveillance.

Placing a casino contiguous to our top-secret military weapons development base is an extremely poor decision that has long-term security and safety effects. Potential closure of this base would have a devastating impact on the city of Ridgecrest.

Several carefully researched documents related to this concern were prepared by the citizens committee opposed to the casino. Simply go to noridgecrestcasino.com.

Mike Neel

Story First Published: 2019-09-27