**Editor’s Note: This story contains opinions of the author.
The Menominee Tribe is turning up the heat on Gov. Scott Walker about reversing his rejection of a proposed Kenosha casino now that Zion, IL, officials have said they would welcome the project and the thousands of jobs that come with it.
“I can only imagine how disappointing it was to hear that Gov. Scott Walker rejected the project,” reads a letter from Sonolito Bronson from Zion’s economic development office. “Being only 20 minutes away from the potential site, communities in northern Illinois (especially Zion) and SE Wisconsin would have benefitted greatly … With this in mind, I would like to offer an alternative location for your consideration that I believe would suit the project’s needs.”
If that isn’t a wake-up call to Walker, I’m not sure what else will do it. Certainly Kenosha Mayor Keith Bosman isn’t surprised. He told WISN 12 News that unless the governor changes his mind, the casino will be built just 10 miles down the road.
“I’m not surprised by it at all. If Kenosha doesn’t get it, it’s inevitable a casino will end up 10 miles down the road in Illinois,” he told the news station.
Members of the Menominee planned a march to Madison this weekend to try and pressure the governor into sitting down with them to talk about the benefits of the new casino.
For a guy who celebrated each and every job coming across the state line from Illinois, it’s hard to understand why – outside his wish to move to D.C. for at least four years – Walker is so willing to let another state grab this development that has now been proven as a win-win-win for Wisconsin, and residents in Kenosha and Racine counties in particular.
The governor continues to point to potentially huge payments state taxpayers may have to cover if the casino were to go forward, but both the Menominee and the Hard Rock Group have comprehensively addressed each one of them. Still, Walker refuses to reconsider and has staffers instead re-issuing memos from Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch who says the new casino is a bad idea all the way around.
Writer Bruce Murphy of Urban Milwaukee deconstructs Walker’s objections with solid legal opinions from lawyers – which Huebsch is not, Murphy notes.
R. Lance Boldrey from the law firm of Dykema Gossett determined that if the Potawatomi challenged the casino’s approval in court, the tribe would face the very real possibility of losing 2,000 of its slot machines and having to shut down operations entirely by 2019.
“I think there is little litigative risk (to the state),” Penny Coleman, a principal with Coleman Indian Law in Washington, D.C., told Murphy.
More, she said the Department of the Interior would be unlikely to support anything that obstructs other tribes from participating in gaming businesses. “The state’s position is quite strong,” she is quoted as saying, effectively stripping Walker of the convenient – but wrong – excuse that former Gov. Jim Doyle screwed the state forever by signing a compact with the Potawotami in the first place.
Murphy didn’t stop there, though, he also talked to Kathryn R. L. Rand, Dean of the University of North Dakota School of Law, and Co-Director of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law & Policy. She agreed with Coleman and said the 2005 compact between the Potawatomi and Doyle “does not require any refund from the state.”
Imagine that … actual legal opinions from attorneys who practice law that involves Native Americans and gaming. I would ask why the Walker Administration didn’t consult with any of these same folks, but I already know the answer and so do the rest of us living in Kenosha and Racine counties.
As if the situation couldn’t get worse, at the same time Walker was rejecting the Kenosha casino, he was also saying that a $220 million bond to help build the Milwaukee Bucks a new arena was a good idea. According to the governor, the bond would be paid for with increased fees for television rights over the next 30 years, according to a story at WISN 12 News.
So, the Menominee sweetened the deal; they said they’d cover that bill as well if the governor approves the casino, and he still said no. Well, that’s not exactly accurate; Walker had someone else say “no” for him while he did … whatever … in Great Britain that does absolutely nothing of substance for Wisconsin residents.
All told, the Menominee offers total $1.7 billion.
Clearly Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, is not optimistic. He acknowledged the tremendous steps the Menominee have taken to push the casino forward, but after learning about Walker’s continued rejection, seemed resigned.
“It’s appears to be time to move on and look for other ways to bring economic development and jobs to Racine County,” he said in an email to Racine County Eye.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Somers, perhaps put it best when he told Murphy, “(The offer) is a no-brainer. It’s a double bonanza for the taxpayers, who will get two magnificent entertainment venues (a casino and an NBA arena) without having to pay a dime in taxes.”
Isn’t that a politician’s dream? Privately funded development without a cent coming from the pockets of state taxpayers? Walker now has all the tools available to him to support reversing his decision, to be able to say his concerns were addressed and he’s happy that workers in Kenosha and Racine counties will have new opportunities.
You’d think so, but that’s not how the game is played when your governor is more worried about what folks in Iowa say about his POTUS chances than making sure residents here have access to real jobs.
Walker has no real reason at this point to keep rejecting the casino, and it appears he will never come clean about what is really motivating him to keep the project from moving anywhere other than to Illinois. He owes the residents of Southeast Wisconsin more than just talking points and playing a blame game that is no longer relevant.