Paying the way

The Rose Institute survey showed that residents are not necessarily opposed to paying more taxes. Asked whether they supported increasing taxes to address important problems, 72 percent backed that notion when it comes to adding police. For improving roads, 67 percent said they would support higher taxes.

Fifty-six percent supported tax hikes for reducing air pollution as well as improving drinking water.

“In a sense, people are willing to put their money where their mouth is,” said Ralph Rossum, director of the Rose Institute.

Public financial support in the form of taxes may be needed to address issues such as education and public safety, said panelists, especially as state and federal money becomes harder to get.

“If it means having to put out a message that’s unpopular, we need to do so,” said Neil Lingle, an assistant Riverside County sheriff.

The survey showed that residents are happy with several government services: 85 percent rated fire service as excellent or good, 84 percent gave the same positive marks to trash collection, 75 percent approved of local law enforcement and 61 percent gave high marks to the College of the Desert. Local public schools fared more poorly, with only 45 percent giving schools a good or excellent rating, compared to 26 percent who said the schools were fair or poor. The remaining respondents said they didn’t know the condition of local schools.

Dissent on gaming

During a panel devoted to the role of local Indian tribes in alleviating the impacts of growth, Cabazon Band of Mission Indians CEO Mark Nichols said local tribes are moving beyond an isolated existence, and integrating their views on development with those of neighboring communities.

Nichols said the Cabazons and other tribes are thriving and adding jobs to the community, but are cognizant of the need to boost educational programs and create good-quality local jobs. “It’s meaningless unless the community invests in the skills that will be needed by future generations,” he said.

Cheryl Schmit, co-director of Stand Up for California, which is backing a ballot measure that would allow more legal gambling operations outside of Indian reservation land, said her organization is looking to have tribes foot the bill for some of the impacts their operations have in their communities.

But Gary Kovall, tribal attorney for the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, said tribes contribute significantly to the local economy, and are already subject to state labor, food service and other operational regulations.

Boosting state infringements on tribes’ sovereignty, by taxing their operations, would go against more than 100 years of sovereignty policy in the United States, he said.

“To start trampling this is going to raise the hackles of a lot of Indian tribes in this country,” Kovall said.