The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)
CUOMO DEAL OK’D
Week after it was announced, legislators approve settlement designed to end 220 years of strife
UTICA >> On the heels of a Tuesday night, four- hour special meeting to consider a proposed settlement among Oneida and Madison counties, New York state and the Oneida Indian Nation, the Oneida County Board of Legislators accepted the agreement by a 16- 13 margin.
In part of the plan, the Oneida Nation agrees to give Madison County a one- time payment of $ 11 million to resolve tax and land disputes. The state will give Madison County $ 3.5 million annually from the casino revenues, Oneida County will receive a $ 2.5 million. Because the Casino is located in Oneida County, the state will be giving an additional 25 percent of the state’s yearly share of casino revenues to Oneida County, a sum
“When more land comes off the tax rolls, who will make up the tax difference?” — John Schneider, Verona resident
FROM PAGE 1 that could total around $ 12.5 million.
The proposal, which still needs approval by the U. S. Department of the Interior, the state Legislature, and the Madison County Board of Supervisors, states that the Oneida Indian Nation will pay 25 percent of the Turning Stone’s net gambling machine revenues to the state, amounting now to around $ 50 million. In addition, the tribe will also be required to place sales taxes on cigarettes and gasoline, which will be sold at the state minimum or higher. The taxes will be used to fund tribal government. Also, the state will not allow any full casinos within ten counties of Turning Stone.
Following the public comment portion, legislators shared their own views.
More than 100 people attended the meeting and 37 signed up to speak. Views expressed were predominantly against the deal; however, Oneida Nation employees and the Rome Chamber of Commerce and several others spoke in support.
Rome Chamber President William Guglielmo stated that he supports the deal largely because of revenuesharing opportunities and quality of life improvements the region might enjoy as the result of the deal.
On the flip side, those opposed to the deal said there had not been enough time to answer all the questions and consider all the options.
In one of the more heated comments during the public comment portion of the meeting, Jim Zecca, a Utica councilor at large, said he was “ashamed” to be at the meeting. He urged the county Legislature to reject the plan.
The plan “needs to be further deliberated,” he said. Zecca, who is also the Madison County director of solid waste, said the plan should be subject to a public meeting and public referendum.
Another concern cen- tered on property coming off the tax rolls. Verona resident John Schneider said that since Oneida Nationowned SavOn gas stations have come into the area, he has counted approximately 30 other stations that have gone out of business.
“When more land comes off the tax rolls, who will make up the tax difference?” Schneider questioned.
Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney told the story of Melvin Phillips, and said the other big losers are the rule of law and those it is meant to protect — especially traditional Oneida Indians and upstate landowners.
Melvin Phillips is a fullblooded Oneida Indian, recognized by the Six- Nations Iroquois Confederacy as the representative of one Oneida tribe, the Orchard Hill Band of Oneidas.
Tenney told the crowd that for more than 200 years, Phillips’ family has lived on a plot of land situated on Marble Hill Road in Oneida that has remained in continuous Oneida control since 1788, when the Oneidas signed a treaty deeding all of their land to the state forever in exchange for hunting and fishing rights, so long as they stayed on the land.
Phillips’ possession of the land is recorded in past treaties and bound by state law. However, under the terms of the proposed deal, that land would become part of a federal trust that would hold up to 25,000 acres for the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, Tenney said.
Speaking next was Phillips himself, who said that the proposal was “the worst thing that ever happened in Oneida County.”
“After 200 years, we’ll be thrown off the land,” he added.
Later, among others who spoke in favor of the plan, was Kelli Bradley, a Sherrill resident who has worked for the Oneida Nation for 14 years.
“I know you are thinking that I am here because the Nation expects me to speak in favor of the agreement, but that is not accurate,” she told the room full of people. “I am here to speak for myself, my family who has resided in this county for over a century, a homeowner, a taxpayer and a parent. I am here today to ask you to look at the positive things that can come from this agreement and to end years of disagreements and differences that have held us back.”
Bradley later added that she feels accepting the deal would put an end to millions of dollars being wasted in le- gal actions every year.
Legislator David Wood, R- 28, said when he first started serving in public office 33 years ago, there was a good deal of manufacturing jobs in the region; however, they all left.
“What other industry would have come in and provided 5,000 jobs?” he asked.
The tribal enterprises currently provide 4,500 jobs throughout the area.
Wood also worried that if the proposal were not accepted that county legislators would become adversaries of the governor. He also pointed out that with any legal outcome, there are positives. He said that while it’s not a perfect deal, it is more than what the county currently has.
In remarks to the board and public, Legislator Howard Regner, R- 2, asked his fellow board members to do their due diligence in reviewing the plan and noted that it’s “a hard decision for all of us.”
At the end of all of the discussion, the Legislature voted 16- 13 to accept the proposal.
Next, the resolution can be signed by County Executive Anthony Picente and a copy will be sent to Albany, county legislative staff said.
“I commend the Oneida County Legislature for voting to approve the agreement with the Oneida Indian Nation. This compact treats all parties with fairness and respect, provides the county and the state with a consistent source of revenue for the future and gives the Oneida Nation financial security. By working together, we put to an end the decades of litigation and vitriol that have previously strained relations between the Oneidas, its neighbors and the State of New York, and took a huge step toward shared prosperity,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a released statement following the vote.