Tribal Government & News
Message from the Chair -- Dec. 1, 2015
I hope this update finds you well and I hope you and your family members are enjoying the holidays. Over the last several months, Tribal Council members and staff have been meeting to discuss the 2016 budget and to work on a number of important issues that are important to the Tribe and our Tribal members.
Willamina Creek Fire
On Aug. 19, the Tribe learned that a fire had started up Willamina Creek in Willamina. With the fire only miles away from the forested Reservation, the Tribe quickly activated its Emergency Operations Team and began working with the local fire department and emergency management to offer assistance and provide enhanced fire protection on our Reservation lands. Tribal staff worked tirelessly to assist our surrounding communities, provide enhanced services, and provided updates to the community and Tribal Council. Our timber is a multi-million dollar asset and as stewards of our Tribal resources, Tribal Council made the protection of our timber lands our number one priority as the Willamina Creek Fire grew from a few acres to more than 200.
Our staff did an outstanding job responding to the emergency and they need to be commended for going above and beyond the call of duty. Many of them worked well into night, through the weekends and were available around the clock while we worked to address the situation. Without their hard work and determination, the Tribe’s resources could have very well been in jeopardy. Thankfully, the fire was eventually contained and didn’t reach our Tribal timber lands. Moving forward, the Tribe will continue to look at ways to take preventive measures to protect our Tribal resources and our Tribal timber lands.
Multnomah Greyhound Park
On Oct. 14, Tribal Council voted to pursue the purchase of the Multnomah Greyhound Park in Wood Village. Since then, Tribal Council has met with the city of Wood Village and the mayors of the surrounding communities and is looking forward to strengthening its relationship with the local municipalities. For more than a decade, economic diversification has been a priority for our Tribe. And while some ventures don’t always reap the benefits one would hope, the Tribe has continued to grow and has built a solid foundation for our future generations. Our investment portfolio and Tribal endowments have helped us become more self-sufficient and we continue to look at ways to improve and expand our holdings on the behalf of our members. We’re looking forward to the project and as we continue to move forward on the property I will keep you updated on our progress. I also encourage you to provide Tribal Council with feedback as we continue to forge a path forward.
After Restoration in 1983, the first Tribal Councils recognized the importance of establishing Tribal endowments to help get the Tribe through difficult times. As most of you know, Tribes are often subject to uncertainty when it comes to federal funding and grant cycles. Our endowments have allowed us some flexibility when it comes to our Tribal budget and have helped us ease some of the burden on our gaming dividend funds. Today, the Tribe has six endowments: Elders, Forest Management, Health, Government Operations, Housing, and Education. Each year, Tribal Council steers a percentage of our gaming dividend funds to our endowments to help grow each of the accounts and to earn interest on the account balances. After years of growth, a few of our endowments have reached a size where Tribal Council can now look at ways to shift a percentage allocated for a particular endowment to another that may need additional growth. In 2016, Tribal Council will be revisiting this issue and plans to keep the membership informed of its decisions.
Tribal Flag Ceremony
On Nov. 16, the Tribe joined the Willamina School District for a Tribal Flag Celebration that not only celebrated the hanging the Tribal flag in the school’s gymnasium, but educated staff and students on the importance of the flag and Tribe’s history. It was an important day for the Tribe, Tribal students, the Willamina School District and Tribal staff as we celebrated this momentous occasion. For decades, the Tribe and the Willamina School District have worked hand-in-hand to address issues facing our youth and our public school system. The Tribe has had several productive discussions with the School District and the School Board and we look forward to strengthening our relationship and working together for years to come.
Spirit Mountain Casino Renovations
On Wednesday, Nov. 4, Tribal Council approved a capital projects construction loan for Spirit Mountain Gaming Inc. at our regular meeting. In approving the construction loan, the Tribe approved a loan amount not to exceed $13 million for a number of renovation projects on the property in 2015 and 2016. The resolution also authorizes our Finance Officer to use the Tribe’s line of credit for the projects. With the economy slowly recovering from the dip in 2008, it’s important for the Tribe to tackle projects at Spirit Mountain Casino that had previously been put on hold. As with any aging facility, regular maintenance and updates need to be completed from time to time. We’re looking forward to the renovations and believe that they’ll give new life to Spirit Mountain Casino, creating a more enjoyable atmosphere for our customers and Tribal members.
2016 Preliminary Budget Comments
As a reminder, if you’d like to comment on the preliminary budget for 2016, please submit your comments in writing to the Finance Department by Wednesday, Dec. 2. At the end of the comment period, Tribal Council, the Finance Officer and General Manager’s Office will review the comments received by the deadline and will provide written feedback to the Tribal members who submitted them.
I look forward to providing you updates as we move through the end of 2015 and into next year. I hope to see as many of you as possible at the upcoming holiday functions throughout the Tribe. It is a privilege to serve you on Tribal Council.
Reynold L. Leno
Tribal Council Chairman