You can feel the passion, the deeply held belief from property owners who reside within the Oneida Nation's land claim area. Those homeowners turned out tonight at the Oneida County legislature to make sure politicians knew they were not happy with a deal being struck by Governor Cuomo and Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter.
Many of the ardent opposition does not see any reason to strike a deal with the Oneidas. They feel the courts have ruled against the land claim concept and therefore the Nation no leverage for negotiation. That is a deep miscalculation. That is the equivalent to standing on Route 365 in front of the Turning Stone Resort and Casino entrance and putting on a blindfold to convince yourself the Oneidas are not a force in New York State.
Yet, these property owners are playing their part in this unfolding drama precisely as they should. This negotiated settlement should not pass without vigorous debate. This political solution to a legal problem should not slip through without the politicians hearing that passion.
Oneida County narrowly approved the deal tonight. Madison County gets a crack at it on Thursday. That vote could be just as tight or perhaps become a voice of disapproval. Each piece of this land claim and gaming settlement is critical to it moving forward. The state legislature and the Bureau of Indian Affairs also must sign off.
Even if all parties named thus far offer approval, the Cayuga Indian Nation has already criticized the deal for attempting to claim their stake to gaming in Cayuga County and offer it to the Oneidas. They fired the first legal salvo that could bring this agreement to the courts.
As with all issues related to land claims this is complex and not over yet. Each party must have its say and do its diligence. A reasonable resolution to the long simmering issues could end the fighting and create productive cooperation.
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