Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Barwest Scam in Barstow

The Barwest Scam in Barstow
Larry D. Halstead,
Political Scientist

Since the idea first surfaced, I have been supportive of Indian gaming in Barstow for several reasons. First and foremost, as many as 80% of our citizens are in favor of one or more casino projects. The hope and promise is that it would bring jobs, entertainment, and economic development to a region that has long suffered with a depressed economy. Resort-style casino projects have the potential to make Barstow a destination city rather than just a pit stop on the way to Vegas or the river.

I also believe that Indian gaming has done much to increase the quality of life for Native Americans. Besides the much needed funding for housing, health care, education, jobs, and basic infrastructure that gaming has provided, it has done much to provide self respect, self determination, and the power to negotiate with strength.

As an individual of European decent, it does my heart good to see the scales of social justice lean in a direction of compensation for the ugly history of atrocities and genocide that my people committed on Native Americans throughout the history of this country.

I was originally project neutral on Indian gaming in Barstow and was eager to network with representatives from all tribes involved. But early on, I had difficulty in understanding the strategy that Barwest had for getting these compacts through a Democratically dominated State legislature in Sacramento by buying Republican influence in Barstow. The more I came to understand the question of "reservation shopping" and how that relates to Indian Souvernty, Prop 1A, Prop 5, the more baffling it was that Barwest could be so confidant that their project would ever get approved.

Barwest sign in Barstow, notice the lack of any tribe names and the
deceptive reference that this is a Community of Barstow backed project
when Barwest and Mayor Dale refuse to take it to a vote of the people.

I quickly retracted my support for Barwest when some simple internet searches exposed Barwest as a right wing developer with ties to former Rep. Pombo and the Jack Abramhoff scandal. It didn't take long for Barwest to demonstrate exactly what their strategy and style is, as they began buying up influence in Barstow and the state capitol in Sacramento. The good people of Barstow have been hood-winked, bamboozled, and led a stray as our leaders have compromised themselves and sold out the institutions they represent.

Two elections bought and paid for by Barwest and millions of dollars in influence later, Barwest now owns the old guard of Barstow. They ownMayor Dale and the two members of the Council that they had elected. Tim Silva was promised a seat on the council if, as president, he could deliver the support of the Chamber of Commerce and against the competing project. Julie Hackbarth was on the Fire Board and active from the beginning with the Barwest formation of their PAC, Barwest Citizens for Real Economic Development as was Tim. Her family was one of the sellers of the land for the Barwest project. Both Tim and Julie have accompanied Mayor Dale on numerous trips to Sacramento to lobby on behalf of Barwest, both before and after their election to the city council.

The campaigns of Tim and Julie were marked by a relative low involvement by the candidates as it was totally orchestrated by Tom Shields and his operatives. The campaign duo were billed as "the turn around team". Barwest utilized, and no doubt subsidized, the local Republican caucus to get out the absentee vote. This effort, along with the slickest color campaign literature ever to hit Barstow, and an advertising budget funded by their PAC, coupled with an all out attack on my integrity, resulted in Barwest now having a solid three vote lock on all city policy.

This means that they control the direction of policy in favor of Barwest and against any other project. Essentially, the Barstow Council has become a public relations/ lobbyist firm for Barwest. The first act of the new council was to ratify their support for Barwest, throwing out all conflict of interest ethics in favor of unconditional support and loyalty to their benefactor.

As all of these realizations have unfolded, I have made an increased pattern of exposing local Barwest influence in Barstow. When the compacts started going through the Senate and Assembly Government Organization Committees, I began contacting members if those committees and sending them relevant documents. I watched the video of those proceedings and have spoken to some of them about Barwest contributions and their influence in Barstow. The feedback they have given me has always been consistent that the compacts will never be ratified.

At the recent August 6, 2007 City Council meeting, Mayor Dale again abused his position as Mayor to orchestrate a political attack on me by Barwest, Los Coyotes, and himself. Tom Shields, chief spin doctor for Barwest, was first on the attack with a pathetic accusation that I had tried to extort him into hiring me or I would "sign on with the other side and attack him." He said that when he refused to hire me, I got hired by "the other side" and have been attacking Barwest as a hired gun ever since. He went on to say that I was "for sale to the highest bidder" and how "negative" I always was.

This "for sale to the highest bidder" and "negativity" charges were repeated by two members of Los Coyotes Shane (?) and Tina Johnson. Tina created her own lie that I had asked her "who cut the checks for the tribe" and that they needed to buy me off. Later on, it was the Mayor's turn to chime in on the "negativity" and added that this negativity was somehow damaging the image of our city and the integrity of the good people of Barstow.

Lies and accusations of extortion aside, the real truth is that none of that ever happened. While I fully expected this from Mr. Shields or even this Mayor, it is a shame that members of the Los Coyotes would bring dishonor to themselves and their tribe by engaging in these lies.

For the record, I have never received a penny from any tribe to represent them in any capacity. I have never been asked by any member of any tribe to say a single word or do anything on their behalf. Never.

Over the past couple of years, I have been networking with various other tribes. I have been doing this because I know, and they know, that the Barwest compacts as currently structured will never be approved by the Democratically dominated state legislature. The Governor has decreed that only when these compacts die their due death, then and only then can we bring a casino project to Barstow. Only then can we proceed with a casino project that will enjoy the support of the CA Nations Indian Gaming Association, the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, and those tribes that have a rightful say in bringing a casino project to Barstow.

Over the same period of time, I have come to know Chairman Wood of the Chemehuevi Tribe and have developed a deep respect for him and the Tribe he represents. He is an honorable man who would never stoop to the sleazy tactics demonstrated regularly by the Barwest Kool-Aid Club or the lies now being told by members of the Los Coyotes.

After over two years of speaking out on the Barwest grip of influence on our city, I met some representatives of San Manuel through my participation with Congressman Joe Baca and the County Democratic Party. After much persuasion on my part and some deliberation on the part of San Manuel Tribal leaders, the tribe made a one time contribution to my campaign. I believe they did so on the basis of my respect for Indian Souvernty and how that relates to Indian gaming. Since then, I have encouraged them to get more involved in the Barstow Indian casino issue but they have been quite reluctant to do so. To date, they have never asked me to do anything, say anything or take any other actions on their behalf.

I have challenged the City Council or anybody to come up with the name of a single individual outside of Barstow and the Barwest Kool-aid club that thinks these compacts stand a snowball chance in hell of succeeding. The fantasy of these compacts succeeding is something one has to wonder if even Barwest still believes. For this hoax, this corruption of influence to be allowed to delay by several years, a real project that would succeed, there needs to be proportional level of accountability we demand of leaders who led us astray for personal gain.

In the meantime, I will not stand idly by and allow Barwest and members of the Los Coyotes to slander my good name. The Barwest operatives will not be allowed to get away of accusing me of extortion in order to continue their hoax on the Barstow people. Furthermore, I will continue to shed light on their lies and corruption. At the same time, I intend to do what ever I can to help bring a casino project to Barstow that has the proper backing need to succeed.

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