Faced with outrage and threats of recall, the Oxnard City Council early Wednesday killed a plan to bring Indian gambling to the city.
Opponents said the council's vote sends a message across California that residents will rebel when landless tribes try to stretch the intent of last year's Proposition 1A Indian gaming initiative and create new urban reservations for casinos.
"They were trying to create a little nation within our city, and the problems would be the same anywhere in the state," Mayor Manuel Lopez said after the council's 5-0 vote ended a raucous five-hour hearing Tuesday night that drew 400 people to City Hall.
"We were plowing new ground," Lopez said. "And the people have spoken very clearly and very loudly against it."
Shortly before the vote, the 163-member Greenville Rancheria of Maidu Indians withdrew its casino application. Its Las Vegas partner, Paragon Gaming Corp., acknowledged defeat.
"We said all along we'd come here only if the people of Oxnard wanted us," said Paragon President Diana Bennett, daughter of Circus-Circus founder Bill Bennett. "This is democracy in action. The opposition was very passionate. They spoke from the heart. So we just have to move on."
Paragon also is working with tribes in Eureka and near Palm Springs to develop casinos on existing reservations. And it will continue to work with the Maidu to find a city outside Ventura County for its casino, Bennett said.
At the hearing, labor unions supportive of the proposal squared off against religious groups; neighborhood councils assailed Las Vegas gambling promoters; and local Chumash leaders said the Maidu tribe of Northern California was invading their ancestral lands.
"I didn't expect the Chumash to turn out like this," said Lopez, who has opposed the casino project since it was introduced two months ago. "The fact that they so vehemently opposed it would send a very strong message to the governor and the Secretary of Interior."
If the Oxnard council had approved the Maidu casino, the agreement would have been forwarded to federal and state officials for approval. Experts say only a handful of landless tribes have been allowed to set up new reservations nationwide. Two are proposed for blighted areas of Oakland and San Francisco.
Before the hearing, most council members had said they might delay a decision by putting the question to voters.
But opponents, who feared a $1-million campaign by Paragon, were having none of that.
"This is a perversion of the ballot initiative you and I voted for," resident Mark Guagliardo shouted to the council. "Protect our city! End this now!"
Proposition 1A amended the state constitution to allow Indian tribes to operate slot machines and blackjack tables at reservation casinos. Tribes that have lost their land maintain that that allows them to operate casinos on new urban reservations.