Holding — not folding — on a Lansing casino
|By Andy Balaskovitz|
A ballot proposal that would show support for bringing a gaming facility to downtown Lansing is probably not in the cards for the August primary.Friday, April 29 — A nonbinding referendum on whether to bring an Indian-owned casino to Lansing is “pretty unlikely” to be on the August primary ballot, City Clerk Chris Swope said.
The Lansing Jobs Coalition, headed by Ted O’Dell, originally intended to have the question on the Aug. 2 primary ballot, but getting the necessary 4,178 signatures took a little longer than expected.
While O’Dell claims he has the necessary 4,178 signatures required to get the initiative on local ballots, he’s taking more time to get “cushion” signatures to replace any that may be disqualified. Once O’Dell sends the signatures to the city clerk, Swope’s office vets the list to make sure everyone is a registered voter.
“Personally, I think November might be better because I think voter turnout will be higher,” O’Dell said.
O’Dell wants to bring a tribally run casino downtown. To do that, Lansing voters or the City Council would have to adopt an ordinance that says the city is interested in selling or entrusting land to a Native American tribe, which would then pay taxes and some revenue back to the city.
The vote he seeks is meant to judge popular support.
O’Dell estimates 1,000 jobs could result from a downtown casino. He has said three tribes are interested in coming to the city if voters approve the initiative, but declined to say which tribes.
“We’re focused on bringing jobs to Lansing,” O’Dell said.
The City Charter doesn’t specify a date O’Dell would need the signatures in, but the state does. All required documents for getting an initiative on an August ballot must be filed with the state by May 24, Swope said.
The City Charter states that once Swope receives the petition, Swope has 15 days to vet the signatures. If it turns out the number of signatures is insufficient, O’Dell has 10 days to get the required number. Once it clears Swope’s office, the City Council has up to 30 days to either adopt the ordinance as submitted in the petition or place it on the ballot.
Swope said it’s “possible” his office would canvass the list within 15 days and Council could approve the ordinance language within 30 days, but he added it’s “unlikely.”
That means Lansing voters could have two questions on their Nov.8 ballots that involve bringing a casino to Lansing. A separate statewide campaign seeks to change the state Constitution to allow for seven more non-Indian casinos, including one in Lansing.
The statewide campaign, called Michigan is Yours!, needs 400,000 signatures by Oct. 1 to get it on the Nov. 8 ballot.
O’Dell believes the Michigan is Yours! campaign will benefit his efforts here in Lansing because both initiatives are spreading the message that casinos mean jobs.
“I think it helps our cause. It brings awareness to the economic conditions of the state,” he said.
Eric Bush, administrative manager for the state Gaming Control Board, said the U.S. Interior Department would need to approve an Indian casino since it would be on land acquired after 1988. The plan envisions a tribe buying property in Lansing on which to build a casino.
“The tribal casino would be the easier path” than what Michigan Is Yours! proposes, Bush said.