By Elise Franco
A pitch by James A. Traficant Jr. for support in his efforts to build a casino in North Jackson stirred a heated debate among residents Tuesday night.
Traficant, who’s running as an independent candidate in the 17th Congressional District, spoke to the Jackson Township trustees and about 150 residents about a proposed Indian casino, hotel, convention center, bank and possibly an indoor amusement park in North Jackson on the corner of Bailey Road and Mahoning Avenue.
He said the people of North Jackson should support the plan, knowing it will bring at least 1,000 new jobs into the community.
“By law, Indians must hire Indians,” Traficant said. “But less than 20 percent of these casinos are employing Indians because they’re not able to find any.”
Residents had varying opinions on the casino plan.
Many said the fact that American Indians don’t pay taxes or fees should raise concern, while others said crime could increase as more people come through the township.
Traficant said details on what would be paid to the township would be worked out contractually through the tribes, the county commissioners and township trustees.
One resident, Betty Byrem, said she favors the proposed casino and the business it would bring to the community.
“I’ve had three children grow up here and go to school here, and they’ve moved out of the area because there’s nothing here. No jobs for them,” she said.
Trustee Chuck Booth said the board is open to more discussion about the potential casino but needs more specific information about how it would benefit North Jackson.
Booth said if a casino is built, the township would have to hire additional police and fire personnel.
“We’re pro-development, but we have a lot of things we need answered,” he said. “Our biggest concern will be where we’ll get revenue for increased safety enforcement.”
One problem keeping the plan from moving forward is an apparent lack of federal recognition in Ohio for the Itana [Indigenous Tribal Affiliates of Native America] Indian Nation in Provo, Utah, and Munsee Delaware Indian Nation USA in Cambridge, Ohio.
Traficant said getting this recognition won’t be a problem because an 1813 treaty between the Munsee tribe and the United States supersedes any current law.
“It’s going to be one big legal fight, and I think we’ll win it,” he said.
Traficant said a meeting Thursday with Mahoning County commissioners should shed more light on the plan.
“I have a trump, folks,” he said. “That trump will be presented [Thursday] to the commissioners.”
Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said he and his fellow commissioners are open to the project but need more information.
“You don’t want to ignore the fact of the jobs it could bring,” he said. “We want to review everything the best we can, but we need to have something written in a formal sense.
“There are still a lot of legalities we have to look at.”