When the county commissioners were finally allowed to give their opinion the Spokane Tribe Economic Project’s proposed casino that would plot down a mile and a half from Fairchild Air Force Base, County Commissioner Todd Mielke went straight for a gaming metaphor.
“We are literally being asked to gamble the 5,000 current jobs provided by Fairchild on a project that may provide significantly fewer than that,” Commissioner Todd Mielke proclaimed.
But when looking at any gamble, it pays to take a glance at the odds.
The big question the region is facing isn’t yet whether new jobs at the casino are worth closing Fairchild Air Force Base for. For now, we’ll set aside all the other pro and con arguments — the societal impact of gambling, the loss or gain of tax revenue, the impact on the Kalispel and Spokane tribes — and focus on the central issue: Would the Spokane Tribe’s casino genuinely harm the chances of Fairchild Air Force Base staying open?
Greater Spokane Inc., the (current) board of Spokane County Commissioners, and the Mayor of Spokane say it’s a real danger, while the Spokane Tribe and the city of Airway Heights say not to worry. It’s the job of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with the Department of Interior, to be neutral, and take into consideration all these comments, arguments and possibilities.
Ultimately, the BIA and the Washington state governor are the only two groups left who need to give the tribe the OK to start construction. Below we’ll run through BIA’s conclusion and briefly discuss other arguments.
Today, the BIA released their Final Environmental Impact Statement: Their verdict? If there are any shocking developments in the future, we’ll add it to this post.
Some of this gets a little technical, a little boring, and little long, but for those who care about Fairchild and the Spokane Tribe, it’s crucial reading. After the Cold War ended, and America’s vast military force began scaling back, big base closures have happened five times.
The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) has nine commissioners who study which bases should be closed, and in 2005, they shut down 25 bases, and majorly tweaked 24 others.
(Here’s an old Inlander article, worrying about Fairchild during this process.) Recently, however, the recession has stopped that process.
Republicans generally want to cut spending everywhere but the military, and Democrats, typically, believe that cutting spending in a recession just ends up making a recession worse.
So this fiscal year, the Defense Department abandoned a push for base closures in the United States, instead focusing on base closures overseas.