Thursday, January 8, 2009

Illegal casino rejection robs Wisconsin of jobs and economic boost; Menominee vow to fight

Amazing that on the very morning the President-Elect prepares to address the nation about its most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression comes news that the outgoing Administration has rejected the Kenosha casino plan, which would create thousands of jobs for Wisconsin residents and pump billions into our state’s economy, all without cost to the U.S. Treasury.

Talk about a serious disconnect – and a serious kick in the pants to Wisconsin, Kenosha and one of our state’s poorest tribes.

Fact is, the Department’s rejection is based on illegal and inappropriate changes to federal law, not the law itself. The Menominee have vowed to fight it vigorously. Meanwhile, the Potawatomi – who spent millions of dollars in their attempts to kill potential competition from a Kenosha casino – have been eerily silent on the government’s decision.

Maybe it’s because Potawatomi knows killing jobs and economic opportunity for Wisconsin is a bad idea.

Here’s the Menominee Tribe’s message about the Department’s “arbitrary, capricious and unlawful decision.”

Dear Supporters and Friends:

The Menominee Tribe received word today that, at the direction of outgoing Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the U.S. Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs has rejected our Kenosha casino application.

Today’s decision was not based on the law, but on an illegal guidance memorandum which the Tribe currently is challenging in Federal Court.

There is absolutely no question, given the facts and the law, that the Menominee project should be approved. BIA non-political officials have twice recommended approval based on thorough legal and regulatory analysis, policy applications, economic studies, an overwhelming referendum victory, solid relationships with the local Kenosha and Southeast Wisconsin communities and thousands of pages of documentation. Our Compact with the State of Wisconsin years ago contemplated a Kenosha casino. The environmental clearances are all in hand. The project is designed and ready to build. In this time of economic uncertainty and job losses, federal approval of our project would quickly provide good paying jobs, without cost to the U.S. Treasury. As our Kenosha casino is built, we will hire thousands of taxpayers, purchase tons of supplies, and generate a multiplier effect in our regional economy. All this will boost federal, state and local tax revenues.

The Tribe will not sit back idly and allow Kenosha and Wisconsin to lose 3,000 jobs, a $1 billion construction project and billions of dollars in new revenue. Nor will we allow tolerate losing our lawful opportunity to meet the great needs of our Reservation and its members particularly in these difficult economic times. The Tribe will vigorously pursue its litigation against the Department and will not allow today’s arbitrary, capricious and unlawful decision to stand.

The Menominee Tribe is strongly committed to seeing this project through – for our Tribe, for Kenosha and for the State of Wisconsin, and is confident that the federal courts will force the Department to do the right thing, and withdraw this unlawful rejection.

Thank you for your continued support of our Tribe and our Kenosha efforts.


Lisa Waukau

Tribal Chair

Support the Menominee project by signing the online petition.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

As dismal jobs news continues in Wisconsin, out-of-state casinos hiring hundreds

There’s more dismal employment news in today’s papers:

• The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that new claims for unemployment insurance benefits in Wisconsin are up 15% from the same time last year.

• The Kenosha News reports a closure and layoffs at two more local companies.

In the meantime, two big employers are holding job fairs looking for hundreds of new employees in Indiana and Florida. Coincidentally, both of those opportunity-rich employers are – you guessed it – casinos.

More proof of the positive difference the Menominee casino – with its 3,000-plus good jobs and billion-dollar economic benefits – can make for Wisconsin.

Support more Wisconsin jobs by supporting casino competition and signing the online petition.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kenosha County's bleak unemployment news highlights need for casino jobs

There's alarming unemployment news out of Kenosha County - and it shows just how much the Menominee casino's 3,000-plus good-paying jobs are needed in Southeast Wisconsin.

Today's Kenosha News reports that local jobless claims for the week ending Dec. 6 are up a whopping 84% from last year. That's not all - as job listings have plummeted, the number of unemployed people and Kenosha County residents requiring food stamps and other public assistance has skyrocketed.

Sounds like it's time for some positive economic development and job creation.

You can read the full article here.

Casino competition means more jobs in Southeast Wisconsin. Click here to sign the online petition.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Competition would bring good jobs at a time Wisconsin needs them

With unemployment claims skyrocketing in Wisconsin and nationally, it seems like a good time to point out that the Menominee casino in Kenosha will create 3,000 good jobs – with family-supporting wages and benefits – for Wisconsin residents. That’s in addition to the 1,000-plus good union construction jobs building the facility will create.

Good jobs when Wisconsin needs them. That’s another great reason to support casino competition in our region.

Casino competition will bring good jobs an economic support to Wisconsin – help make it happen by signing the online petition.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kenosha project would help improve Menominee’s dismal health situation

It looks like casino competition would do more than create good jobs and provide multibillion-dollar economic benefits to Wisconsin. It would also help Wisconsin’s least healthy county, and the country’s fourth-poorest Tribe, improve its dismal health picture.

Check out this news release on the topic, or you can read excerpts below:


* * *

Kenosha project would help poor Tribe overcome major health challenges as 2008 Wisconsin County Health Rankings put Menominee Reservation at the bottom – again

KESHENA, Wis. – Just weeks after a UW-La Follette School of Public Affairs study determined that the Menominee Indian Tribe’s proposed Kenosha casino could help the impoverished Tribe improve its dismal health picture, a new report has found Menominee County continues to suffer the worst health conditions in the state.

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s recently released 2008 Wisconsin County Health Rankings ranked Menominee County, which shares its borders with the Menominee Reservation, at the bottom of 72 Wisconsin counties in terms of overall health outcomes and determinants.

Menominee Tribal Chair Lisa Waukau said the new health rankings underscore the benefits of the Kenosha project and the important role it will have in addressing the significant unmet needs of the Menominee, the fourth-poorest tribe in the country.

“Approving the Menominee project will go a long way toward improving the health and well-being of our Tribe,” Waukau said. “Menominee ranks last in the state in terms of mortality, general health status, unemployment, children living in poverty and other factors that have a devastating impact on the health of our community. In addition to creating thousands of good jobs and providing major economic benefits to Kenosha and the State of Wisconsin, the project will generate the revenue our Tribe needs to emerge from this dangerous downward spiral and build a better future for the Menominee people.”

For more, click here.

Help support casino competition in Southeast Wisconsin by signing the online petition.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Menominee Take Quest for Fair and Lawful Kenosha Project Review to Court

Not surprisingly, the Department of Interior – at the direction of Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, a well-known opponent of off-reservation gaming – has denied the Menominee Tribe’s request to temporarily suspend review of the proposed Kenosha casino until a new Administration takes office.

Now the Tribe is taking the next step – in court.

November 7, 2008

Dear Supporters and Friends:

Late last month, we told you that the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin had formally requested that the Department of Interior temporarily suspend its review of our proposed Kenosha casino. We had learned that Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne was looking to reject our long-pending Kenosha application based on his personal opposition to off-Reservation gaming, and we asked that further review be postponed until a fresh Administration takes office.

The Department has denied our request. As a result, we are taking stronger action.

The Menominee Tribe today filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to halt the flawed federal review process for the Kenosha project. The lawsuit alleges that Department officials have improperly changed the rules for approving off-Reservation casinos based on Secretary Kempthorne’s personal views. It asks a judge to declare those changes invalid and prevent the Department from using them to reject our application.

The decision to take legal action against the Department was difficult, but we believe it is the best opportunity to make this job-creation and economic development plan a reality for our Tribe, for Kenosha and for Wisconsin. Our trust application is thorough, well-documented and complete. It has the strong support of the local community and the solid recommendation of the Department’s professional staff who say it meets every point of law required for approval.

The Menominee have worked in good faith with the Department for nearly five years, but the Department is not working in good faith with us. Even after we showed how our project fits Secretary Kempthorne’s new rules, we learned from his people that it didn’t matter, he was going to reject the application anyway. That’s illegal, unfair and unacceptable.

Please know that the Menominee Tribe greatly values the strong support the Kenosha and Southeast Wisconsin community have given our project and our Tribe – that’s one of the reasons we are doing everything we can to make the Kenosha casino happen. We believe the court will agree with our position and ensure a fair and honest review of our proposal based on the law. And we are confident that if our project gets a fair and lawful review, it will be approved.

Lisa Waukau, Chair

Laurie Boivin, Vice Chair

Sign the online petition supporting the Kenosha project and casino competition in Southeast Wisconsin.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change in D.C. means likely change in Potawatomi’s big-money lobbying corps

The presidential campaign was all about “change,” and with a new party set to take the helm, the Potawatomi will likely be looking at change themselves. Changing from GOP to Dem lobbyists, that is.

The latest federal lobbying reports show the Forest County Potawatomi shelled out another $170,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30 to two heavy-hitting DC lobbying firms – Quinn Gillespie & Associates and Barbour Griffith & Rogers.

Combined, the two firms have made more than a half-million dollars from Potawatomi this year alone – lobbying everyone from Congress to the Department of the Interior to the Executive Office of the President of the United States (!) on matters related to gaming reform and land-into-trust issues. The goal is to get the federal government to deny the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s Kenosha casino project, effectively stamping out competition for Potawatomi’s Milwaukee gaming hall and sentencing Menominee, the country’s fourth-poorest tribe, to generations of continued poverty. (You can read more about Menominee’s economic and social struggles in this study by UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs.)

But it looks like Quinn Gillespie and Barbour Griffith may soon be looking for new work. Lobbying firms don’t come any more Republican than these two – we’re talking Bush confidantes and former Bush Cabinet advisors. It’s doubtful that they’ll have the pull to accomplish much of Potawatomi’s monopoly work under a Democratic president, a Democrat-controlled Congress, and a Democrat-appointed Interior Secretary.

So now that we’re past the election predictions, we’ll make a prediction of our own. We predict that in their never-ending bid to kill the Kenosha casino, hold Menominee down and preserve their own monopoly, the Potawatomi will start combing the K street corridor (and opening its checkbook) for D-leaning lobbyists. Look for some new Potawatomi lobbyists to register in January or February and file their first reports in March. And we’ll be sure to tell you when they do.

Frankly, we think the new Administration will see through Potawatomi’s monopoly game. Healthy competition makes businesses stronger – and economic studies prove that’s the case with the Milwaukee and Kenosha casinos.

By the way – Quinn Gillespie and Barbour Griffith aren’t the extent of Potawatomi’s D.C. lobbying army. During the most recent reporting period, the Tribe also spent $15,000 with Malcolm Chester, an Illinois-based pro who lobbied Congress and the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (the law that allows Tribes like Potawatomi and Menominee to establish off-Reservation casinos in the first place.) Less than $5,000 went to another lobbying firm, Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry.

Tell the new Administration that casino competition is good for Southeast Wisconsin - sign our online petition today!