Column: Level the playing field with Seneca Nation
"There’s a meeting set for Monday night in downtown Niagara Falls that centers on the future of downtown Niagara Falls.

It’s being organized by One Niagara building owner Frank Parlato and held in that building at the U.S. end of the Rainbow Bridge. Time: 7 p.m. It has to do with Niagara Falls’ and, by extension, New York state’s the United States of America’s relationship with the Seneca Nation of Indians.

Other than whining over the milk that has already been spilt, are there actually steps that could be taken to level the playing field, should the city want to play hardball? Of course there are treaties and legal agreements that govern relationships between the Senecas and the city, state and federal governments. But here are some ideas to throw out:

• Passports. By treaty, Native Americans are allowed to travel freely between the U.S. and Canada and, presumably, the same goes between their sovereign nation and the U.S. But when it comes to the rest of us, we could explore the possibility of requiring passports to reenter the United States from the Seneca nation. That would mean any non-native customers of the casino, or the hotel or any other Seneca enterprise that sprouts up on that land would need a passport to get back home.

• DWI checkpoints. Alcohol is served in the Seneca Niagara Casino. But any problems with drivers who consume too much alcohol there don’t become the headache of the Senecas; they travel on the streets and highways of Niagara Falls and New York state. A case could be made that city and state police have probable cause to conduct breath tests for blood alcohol levels on everyone leaving the casino.

• Vehicle inspections. Much of what passes for increased traffic flow downtown is the result of cars and trucks using city streets to reach and leave the Seneca operations. Do police have a responsibility to make sure each and every vehicle entering the casino has a proper safety inspection and meets all state requirements? Perhaps.

• Utilities. The city has the casino as a water and wastewater customer. But is Niagara Falls required to provide those services to members of a sovereign nation? Just wondering.

Are these measures far-fetched? Sure. Are they even legal? Who knows? In fact, the city of Niagara Falls has a vested interest in the continued prosperity of the Seneca casino and might not be a willing participant in any of this. Public officials and others with their hands out eagerly line up for hunks of slot machine cash like pigs waiting for slop at the trough. And, casino supporters are quick to point out, where would the local unemployment rate be without the Senecas?"

Get the Story:
Dick Lucinski: Co-existence with the Senecas (The Niagara Gazette 9/14)