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Sheldon gives State of the Tribes address
TULALIP — In his State of the Tribes address for 2012, Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. praised the Tribes’ partnerships, both within the Tribes themselves and with the surrounding community and outside agencies, as key to its sustained success in the face of ongoing economic challenges.
“We approached 2011 recognizing that economic recovery represented a huge challenge,” Sheldon said to the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Feb. 24. “Patience is a virtue, and there’s value in pragmatism, so we’re approaching 2012 with that same cautious optimism.”
Although Sheldon acknowledged that his address would be light on numbers, he nonetheless noted that the Tulalip Tribes comprise the third largest employer in Snohomish County, and added that they’re meeting their first quarter projections for this year. He listed plaudits earned by the Tulalip Resort Hotel and Casino, including its recent “Four Diamond” designation by AAA, at the same time that he emphasized that the Tribes still have to work within an achievable, prioritized budget.
To that end, Sheldon said that Tribal Board members have taken several trips to Olympia and Washington, D.C., to lobby for education and police funding. Just as the Tribes are asking for state and federal government support, Sheldon likewise believes that the $120 million a year in wages paid by Quil Ceda Village are contributing to an economic engine for the region, beyond the borders of the reservation.
“Most of that money stays in the local area,” said Sheldon, who expects that Cabela’s will open its currently under construction store between Quil Ceda Village and the Tulalip Resort Hotel and Casino in April. “That’s 250 new jobs right there. At their store in Lacey, they’re having a hard time getting customers to get out,” he laughed.
Not only are the Seattle Premium Outlets north of the Tulalip Resort Hotel and Casino adding more than 90,000 square feet of store space, along with their parking lot expansion, but Sheldon reported that the hotel is meeting, and even exceeding, the occupancy rates for Seattle hotels during the weekdays.
“People aren’t just coming here for gaming,” Sheldon said. “They’re also going shopping. They want to see historic Marysville, and to get to know our area better.”
Sheldon didn’t hesitate to list the benefits of gaming, though, including the funds that it’s raised for area service organizations through the “Tulalip Raising Hands” program, as well as the social services that it’s funded for Tribal members, from health and elder care to infrastructure and emergency responders, that have made their mission of self-governance possible.
“More than 300 organizations received funds from Raising Hands last year,” said Sheldon, who also pointed out that 70 percent of the Tribes’ workforce is made up of non-Tribal members. “This year, we hope to provide $3 million in funds.”
Sheldon singled out the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club for praise, identifying it as a positive influence on Tribal youth who, like many young people elsewhere, are at risk because of drugs.
“We have a drug problem, like many other communities,” said Sheldon, who cited the Tribes’ building of a treatment and recovery center with gaming proceeds as evidence of Tribal members’ commitment to “supporting those who are addicted and changing their lives.”
Sheldon commended Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and his City Council for fostering good government-to-government relations, and credited Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and his City Council for the parts they’ve played in bringing about the water pipeline that Sheldon expects will supply residential and commercial water to the Tribes for at least the next 70 years. He described Marysville School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland as “a true soldier of leadership in tough times,” and expressed pride that Tulalip Tribal member Wendy Fryberg serves on Nyland’s Board of Directors.
“As we look to future economic conditions, our Board is considering whether to add an events center, or additional conference room space,” Sheldon said. “We’re continuing to work to turn what were once our dreams into reality. We’re on this journey together, and there’s room in the canoe for all of us. If we paddle in the right direction, this will be a place where our kids will want to grow up.”