Vancouver mayor speaks out against casino project

Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard spoke out Monday morning against the $510 million Cowlitz casino complex proposed for a 152-acre parcel at the La Center Junction.

At the well-attended press conference, Pollard said all Vancouver city councilors oppose the project and will formalize their stance with a resolution at the May 7 council meeting.

After having reviewed the draft environmental impact statement for the project, Pollard said there was no consideration of a smaller casino at a location closer to historic Cowlitz lands – and out of Clark County.

“Why is that option missing?” Pollard asked. “Because it is simply more profitable to locate a casino as close as possible to a metropolitan area.”

The numerous jobs the project would create are not the kind Clark County needs, Pollard continued. The low-paying jobs would result in increased traffic congestion, competition for available low-income housing, encourage urban sprawl and further social issues such as crime and bankruptcy, he said.

When asked how the jobs are different than any other low-paying jobs at businesses in Clark County like Wal-Mart or the Hilton Vancouver, Pollard asked where the workers will live and what roads they will use.

“This directly impacts the city of Vancouver,” he said, adding that the other employers pay sales and property tax – the “giant casino taking up this massive amount of land will not.”

“I ask other local governments, businesses, community leaders, citizens and anyone who may be impacted to stand up with Vancouver in opposition of this project by contacting the Department of the Interior,” Pollard said.

Pollard said he will contact the Department of the Interior to ask that the land-into-trust application be denied and the National Indian Gaming Commission deny gambling on any future-acquired Cowlitz lands in the county.

The council previously met in several executive sessions to review the city’s legal options, Pollard said, declining to discuss potential options.

It is unclear whether federal agencies must examine the impact on Clark County or Vancouver in approving the project.
While the council respects the process that a project like the casino requires, its concerns have not been adequately addressed by federal agencies after several attempts, Pollard said.

“You just can’t ignore us and expect us to roll over for you.”