Alumna sparks casino opposition movement

A long time ago, in the lands now known as Sonoma and Marin Counties, the Coast Miwok and South Pomo Native-American tribes roamed and inhabited their own territorial lands. 

Their descendants are now part of a united tribe called the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Their new casino project, the Graton Resort and Casino, which is reaching its finish date in the coming months, has caused both excitement and controversy in the Rohnert Park community.

Sabrina Hrabe, a former SSU student, has spoken to raise awareness to help put a stop to the casino. This establishment is expected to bring business and entertainment to the area, but it could also affect the city and surrounding communities. 

This is going to be one of the biggest gambling centers in the Sonoma County. It will likely become popular and attract many people from all around the Bay. Concerns over issues such as increased traffic and crime, as well as what effects this business will have on college students, are brought up in the movement to stop the casino.  

Another reason of concern for Hrabe is that the building of this gamble house sets up a risky threat to the water supply and the green legacy of Sonoma. 

Sonoma County has always been known for its small communities, environmental awareness, and all-around friendly faces. With the addition of a casino, one could imagine how much of an impact that could have on the surrounding community. 

“It’s just going to ruin the whole dynamic of Sonoma County,” said Hrabe.

The casino is expected to bring in numerous jobs. Though it seems a large-scale organization that has been several years in the making could eventually become a milestone achievement for the tribe, there is some skepticism to whether or not it is the best idea. If it falls through in an economic downturn, it would need to be bailed out. Taxes could go up, as well as the cost of living. 

Greg Sarris, the chairman for the Graton Rancheria tribe, is a professor at Sonoma State and chair of Native American studies at the university. He has put a lot of work into the project. 

“We have finished negotiating an MoU (memorandum of understanding) with Sonoma County,” said Sarris at a conference held in May. “Sonoma County will get $6.7 million a year for alcoholism, roads, [and] all things associated with the casino.” 

Sarris could not be reached for comment.

 The community benefit fund gives $25 million a year for open park and land space, as well as more funds toward environmental issues. Sarris plans to take responsibility for any worst possible outcomes that may be brought about as a result of the casino.

The Graton Rancheria tribe has donated large sums of money to the city of Rohnert Park. The city council has been pushing budget plans to help raise revenues. Supporters believe this action to incorporate this project is an economically smart move. But could money really be the solution to solve all the rising problems that may come with this new foundation?

Many generations of communities in this land have worked hard to preserve the green fields, blue skies and clean waters. Some see Graton Resort and Casino as a threat to all those long years of caring for the land. Then again, the ancestors of the Graton Rancheria had done exactly the same for these same lands as well. 

Graton Resort Casino is expected to open in the late fall.

People interested in joining the opposition movement can get involved by visiting the webpage at stopgratoncasino.com, submitting letters and petitions, and by participating in volunteer options.