‘Fine game of chess’

We were as surprised as the Chico City Council at Butte County’s forceful reaction to a city proposal to open talks with the Mechoopda Indians (see “Council caught in the middle".) Yes, we expected someone would care to debate Chico’s providing services to the proposed casino south of town. The fact that vocal—and vehement—opposition came from the Board of Supervisors before negotiations could start is the eye-opening development.

Mayor Scott Gruendl got it right when he called the situation “a fine game of chess.” The city, seen by the tribe as a knight, got cast by the county as a pawn. What does that make the county? A queen, personified by Supervisor Mary Anne Houx, moving in a direct line to knock over pieces in its way.

Supervisors don’t want a casino where highways 99 and 149 meet. They cite environmental and traffic concerns—both of which will be considered by the National Indian Gaming Commission when ruling whether to take land in trust on behalf of the Mechoopda and allow the casino to go forward.

As long as the tribe wants that site, the county is unwilling to provide police, fire and emergency services. The supervisors don’t want Chico to, either, for fear that such a contract would strengthen the project in federal eyes. They presume much, extrapolating thought processes of officials thousands of miles away.

Council members owe it to their constituents—Mechoopda included—to at least examine whether dedicating resources 15 miles beyond city limits makes sense financially and logistically. The county’s gambit has worked for now, leading to an unforeseen delay. We hope the council won’t prematurely concede Aug. 1.