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Concerned about tax-free tribal land

Contrary to former Mayor Jack Haugen’s assertion that those who oppose more tax free land for the SMSC Tribe are “greedy or jealous”, I am neither. But I am curious and concerned. Mr. Haugen also states that a decision “often comes down to emotion vs. logic.” But he seems to have overlooked right vs. wrong.

Two articles in the 2/21/15 American should have provoked serious questions among readers. One stated that a federal grant of $140,686 was awarded to the SMSC to “primarily benefit low-income families living on Indian reservations”. I was curious about why the wealthiest tribe in our state, and possibly the nation, needed taxpayer subsidy for housing. I was concerned that Tribal leaders who are beneficiaries of a lucrative casino gambling monopoly, granted by the State, still want more from the taxpayers. I was also concerned that the Federal Government is giving away money they don’t have, to those who don’t need it, at the expense of the rest of us.

It now appears based upon a subsequent article in the American, that SMSC Tribal leaders have elected to send the $140,686 grant money they received, to a more needy tribe in northern Minnesota. That’s a wonderful display of generosity. But I’m still curious as to why they applied for this grant in the first place.

The other article was a commentary by Mr. Rudnicki, the SMSC Tribal Administrator, trying to justify why the Tribe should have more tax-free land. I agree that the Tribe should plan for the needs of its members. But should it be at the expense of Prior Lake taxpayers? How much more land will the Tribe buy and forever shield from taxation? It has been reported that they have about 2000 more acres that they own and plan to put into tax-free trust. Regardless of their contributions toward the City and the County, forever is a very, very long time.

I’m concerned that some of our local City and County officials support the interests of the Tribe instead of the residents who elected them. In a letter to the BIA, then Mayor Haugen acknowledged the fact that tax free land for the Tribe drives up our tax bill. I’m curious; what changed? Could it be his logic? He states that the Tribe has “earned and deserves our support.” Does this mean that the taxpayers do not? Yes, I’m very concerned.

I wish I were as confident as Mr. Haugen is that this Council will make the right decision that will positively benefit the people of Prior Lake.

Alexandra Matyja
Prior Lake