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Monday, March 18,2013

Who gets the jobs, if they come?

Casino opposition says non-Sault Tribe, Lansing-area residents shouldn’t expect many of the 2,200 jobs promised as part of the Lansing Kewadin casino. Proponents disagree.

by Andy Balaskovitz

James Nye, a spokesman representing two tribes that oppose Lansing’s casino plan, is suggesting most of the 2,200 jobs — with a Lansing-area hiring preference — promised by the city as part of the Kewadin Lansing casino proposal “would likely never be available” to non-Sault Tribe, Lansing-area residents.

You might chalk it up as just another tactic opponents are taking against the casino (Nye is the same person Mayor Virg Bernero called “Chief Chicken Little” at a political fundraiser earlier this month), but the same issue was discussed at the past two Lansing City Council Committee of the Whole meetings. Some Council members have expressed concern to the administration that the Sault Tribe will have first dibs on the jobs, leaving very few, if any, available for non-Sault Tribe workers.

The Bernero administration projects 2,200 jobs would come from the casino if it ultimately lands federal approval and survives likely court challenges by opponents. Seven hundred would be temporary construction jobs, while 1,500 would be permanent “good paying” jobs. The draft development agreement stipulates a “hiring preference” for Lansing area residents, but a Sault Tribe gaming ordinance says the same thing for its members.

John Wernet, general counsel for the Sault Tribe, addressed the issue at Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting. He said there aren’t enough Sault Tribe members in the region to significantly impact non-tribal residents from getting the jobs. He added that roughly 300 Sault Tribe members live in Ingham County and about 100 in Eaton and Clinton counties. “Our expectation is those two (hiring) preferences can completely co-exist,” Wernet said.

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