Smith: Strange effort to shut down Wind Creek unfair

Published 9:02 am Thursday, March 7, 2013

On Feb. 19, 2013, Luther Strange, the Attorney General of Alabama, filed a lawsuit against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, in an effort to shut down all three gaming facilities they own and operate. I serve on the Escambia County Commission and a large portion of the Creek Indian community is my district.

I am not writing this letter on behalf of the county commission, but feel it is my duty to express the concerns of the thousands of people who could be directly affected by this decision.

This lawsuit, is not only unfair to the only federally recognized tribe in the state, it is extremely detrimental to surrounding communities in all three of the Tribe’s gaming locations. Thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in donations to schools, hospitals, and civic organizations are sure to be negatively impacted, if his effort is successful. In addition, the Tribe conducts business with vendors within our state, bringing in much needed revenue during these stringent times.

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I am asking Mr. Strange, and all of our state leaders, to look closely at the economic ramifications of this decision. It is common knowledge that our state has struggled over the last few years. And I can assure you, our small towns and communities have definitely felt the effects of this weak economy, that we have all been forced to endure.

At the state’s request, the voters allowed our state officials to utilize the Alabama Trust Fund, in an effort to maintain day-to-day operations and to avoid serious cuts throughout the state. I, along with the people of these towns and communities, supported their request.  I supported this because, as a county commissioner, I can appreciate the financial short falls we have faced on the local level, as well. It is extremely insulting to me, for the Attorney General’s office to use our tax dollars in this manner, and potentially cause catastrophic damage to our economy and the well-being of our citizens.

Some have speculated that Mr. Strange has political aspirations driving his decision to file the lawsuit. I, for one, am not certain about his motives at this point.

However, I sincerely hope Mr. Strange would not seek political gain at the expense of families who desperately need the jobs that the Poarch Creek Indians provide, at at time when jobs are few and far between.

I am urging Mr. Strange to consider the delicate circumstances that revolve around such a lawsuit, and to understand the negative impact this would have on the thousands of citizens in our state.

Ladies and gentlemen, at one time, tribal members were not allowed to attend public schools and were treated like outcasts.
Today, they have come to the rescue of those same schools, along with hospitals and numerous other civic organizations, by donating millions of dollars to assist them.

They do this to be good neighbors. Just like you and I, they strive to provide a sound economic environment for generations to come. They are investing in our future!

As this issue unfolds over the coming months, I strongly encourage you to search deep in your hearts and understand the far-reaching implications of the potential consequences of this action.

We live in extremely uncertain economic times. So, placing more people in the unemployment line and potentially damaging the future growth of economic development in the State of Alabama should not be an option.

Brandon Smith, Escambia County Commissioner