Rancheria blasts ho­tel crit­ics

Madrone says he's al­ways sup­ported smaller ho­tel con­cept

Times Standard (Eureka) - - FRONT PAGE - By Shomik Mukherjee smukher­jee@times-stan­dard.com @ShomikMukh­er­jee on Twit­ter

The Trinidad Rancheria is fir­ing back at crit­ics of the tribe’s pro­posed five-story ho­tel project, say­ing that some of the pro­posal’s crit­ics have un­fairly ma­ligned the project and em­ployed racist rhetoric to do so.

In an open let­ter at­trib­uted to tribal chair­man Garth Sund­berg, the rancheria ad­dressed what it called “the op­po­si­tion and racism sur­round­ing our in­her­ent right to self-gov­ern and to de­velop our trust lands.”

The let­ter, ti­tled “His­tory Re­peats It­self,” calls out Hum­boldt

County Su­per­vi­sor Steve Madrone — whose 5th Dis­trict in­cludes Trinidad — say­ing the of­fi­cial has “made it his mis­sion to dis­credit the Rancheria.”

The tribe also blasts a lo­cal group, the Hum­boldt Al­liance for Re­spon­si­ble Plan­ning (or HARP), say­ing the group’s at­tor­ney has

sin­gled out the tribe’s ef­forts to ex­pand eco­nom­i­cally.

“While we do not have the space in this let­ter to doc­u­ment all of the neg­a­tive and dis­crim­i­na­tory at­tempts to stop the project, we do want to call out a re­cent at­tempt to pre­vent the Tribe from re­ceiv­ing State En­vi­ron­men­tal Fund­ing to move into the next phase of our project,” the tribe states in the let­ter.

Specif­i­cally, the tribe al­leges that Madrone and HARP have in­di­vid­u­ally sent let­ters to state agen­cies, opposing any state fund­ing for a high­way in­ter­change that would fa­cil­i­tate traf­fic go­ing to­ward the pro­posed ho­tel.

On Thurs­day, Madrone sent the Times-Stan­dard a state­ment say­ing he sup­ports “re­spon­si­ble de­vel­op­ment” on the rancheria’s prop­erty, but that the tribe’s rights to de­velop are not open-ended. A pub­licly funded in­ter­change would end up ben­e­fit­ing only a pri­vate en­tity, Madrone ar­gues in the state­ment

“I do not sup­port fund­ing this project with pub­lic funds as is cur­rently hap­pen­ing,” Madrone said. “The pub­lic funds should be go­ing into main­tain­ing Scenic Drive. That would ben­e­fit the en­tire com­mu­nity.”

HARP at­tor­ney Bryce Kenny could not be reached for com­ment. Since the ho­tel was first an­nounced, the group has raised alarm about the project’s en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts, in­clud­ing its vis­ual im­po­si­tion on Trinidad’s scenic bay.

In an in­ter­view ear­lier this year, Kenny told the Times-Stan­dard that the group “is to­tally com­mit­ted to do­ing what­ever we can to see that the ho­tel does not come to ex­is­tence.”

The rancheria’s let­ter sug­gests that crit­i­cisms of the ho­tel are racially mo­ti­vated, since they have sin­gled out the rancheria.

“We find this to be an un­set­tling deja-vu,” the let­ter states. “In­dian Peo­ple have ex­pe­ri­enced this over and over again. It is an over­whelm­ing sense of some­thing that should not be fa­mil­iar at all — dis­crim­i­na­tion, prej­u­dice, sys­temic racism, and a lack of so­cial jus­tice.”

The ho­tel is planned to be fin­ished with con­struc­tion in the next year, but the rancheria has said that the on­go­ing coro­n­avirus pan­demic could de­lay those ef­forts.

A num­ber of Trinidad res­i­dents have op­posed the project, speak­ing vo­cally at City Coun­cil and state Coastal Com­mis­sion meet­ings about the ho­tel’s po­ten­tial im­pacts.

Madrone has been among the ho­tel’s more prom­i­nent crit­ics. But the of­fi­cial said Thurs­day he and other Trinidad res­i­dents had al­ways sup­ported a two-to-three-story, rus­tic­style ho­tel, not the rancheria’s cur­rent five-story project, which has strug­gled to se­cure a per­ma­nent wa­ter source.

“This is about sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and work­ing to­gether as a com­mu­nity to help make that hap­pen,” Madrone said. “I have spent the last 47 years vol­un­teer­ing in this com­mu­nity to help us de­velop sus­tain­able wa­ter sup­plies and to cre­ate sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. I will con­tinue to do just that.”


A ren­der­ing of the Trinidad Rancheria Ho­tel, which Garth Sund­berg, chair­per­son of the Cher-Ae Heights In­dian Com­mu­nity of the Trinidad Rancheria, is be­ing op­posed by lo­cal of­fi­cials be­cause of racism around the tribe’s right to self­gov­ern.

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