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Carol Kelley explains CERA's viewpoint

Carol Kelly8/9/07 -- (Photo: Carol Kelley at a Middleboro Board of Selectman's meeting, click to enlarge)

After reading many articles in area newspapers, and being fully aware of the negative effects a massive Indian casino has on the host community, as well as the towns within a 50-mile radius, I decided to become involved. I live in Plymouth, which is one of the towns that will be directly affected by the increase in traffic, low-income housing, increased school population, bankruptcy, divorce, suicide, and increased crime.

May I suggest that your website viewers and other interested citizens read the most recent crime study (2006) entitled, "Casinos, Crime and Community Costs." This study looked at all 3,165 counties in the United States from 1977 to 1996. Its conclusion: Five years after a casino opens, serious crime in the area goes up dramatically when compared to neighboring areas, even after adjusting for economic trends and other factors.

According to the study, five years after a casino opens, robbery in the community goes up 136 percent, aggravated assault is up 91 percent, auto theft is up 78 percent, burglary is up 50 percent, larceny is up 38 percent, rape is up 21 percent and murder is up 12 percent, compared to neighboring communities. Crime-lowering effects, like additional police and the new jobs represented by a casino are overwhelmed by rising crime increased by the presence of the casino, according to the study. Professor David B. Mustard of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia conducted the study with Baylor University Professor Earl Grinols. The full text of the study, Casinos, Crime and Community Costs, is available online here and the article is available at:

When I read those statistics I became concerned for the citizens of Plymouth County and most especially the citizens of Middleboro. That along with the statement in the paper calling the casino a "done deal" prompted me to attend the Selectmen's meeting. The "done deal" scenario is one that gambling industry investors and tribes use across the country to intimidate unsuspecting communities that are not familiar with federal Indian law and to minimize public input or opposition.

Citizens Equal Rights Alliance ( Link) is exactly what its name implies: hundreds of groups of grassroots organizations in 25 states, millions of members who are directly affected by failed federal Indian policy. The organization was formed over 25 years ago initially to provide direct resources and assistance to enrolled tribal members who were advocating for civil rights on their reservations. As you may know, the Indian Civil Rights Act utterly lacks any enforcement mechanism available to individual tribal members.

Following passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, however, CERA started receiving requests for assistance from many non-tribal citizens and communities who were responding to aggressive efforts of tribal governments to tax, govern and regulate non-tribal citizens within and around Indian reservations. This caused a second substantial growth spurt in CERA's membership. Since about 2002 a third growth spurt of CERA's organization is under way from opponents of aggressive efforts known as "reservation shopping" wherein gambling investors and tribes are attempting to site Class III tribal casinos far away from their reservations in urban and rural populations.

CERA never directly involves itself in local community struggles unless specifically asked. Such decisions must be entirely the desire and determinations of the local citizenry. We do, however, make our information available to citizens and organizations upon request, and we do not hesitate to provide direct resources when formally asked.

CERA honors and continues its focus of resources for enrolled tribal members because most of the United States general public is completely unaware that federal Indian policy is intended to sustain tribal governments, and not the rights and needs of Individual tribal members. When tribal governments fail to protect their members, the member meets a brick wall in either a state or federal court. The response to individual tribal members in state and federal court is: "We do not interfere with internal matters of a tribal government." So enrolled tribal members who have lost homes, jobs, health benefits, tribal enrollment and/or children (through the Indian Child Welfare Act) have almost no legal recourse, even as full U.S. citizens in every other respect. CERA helps tribal members whenever asked and wherever it is possible to do so.

CERA is by no means "anti-Indian." Its Chair, other board members and within its general membership, include many members of strong American Indian ancestry, including members who are also enrolled tribal members. We are one of the only resources available to "dissidents," an unfortunate term given to any tribal member who is negatively affected by or disagrees with a tribal government decision.

CERA is pro-governmental transparency and is anti-corruption. We confront secretive and blatant corruption wherever it exists within federal, state, county, municipal or tribal governments. Further, we believe that tribal governments are unconstitutional in their formative structures, and in their failure to provide enrolled members with constitutional and civil rights protections within the boundaries of Indian reservations.

Getting back to my specific involvement in Middleboro and Massachusetts discussions about tribal gambling; I am a resident of Plymouth, Massachusetts whose home and neighboring communities will be directly affected by decisions made in the coming months. My Board membership with CERA is not the primary reason for my interest in these matters, but is most definitely an additional resource available to my fellow citizens.

Carol Kelley
Plymouth, MA 02360


Columns by Tony Lawrence









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