By David B. Vickers, president
Upstate Citizens for Equality

To The Editor:

Things may be looking up for local property owners and business owners if the Supreme Court of the United States agrees to hear Madison and Oneida counties’ complaint about continued Oneida Indian Nation tax evasion. In a document filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and dated July 9, 2010, the counties are asking the Supreme Court to do two things:

1.) Decide that tribally owned land that is not held in trust can be both taxed and foreclosed upon, and

2.) Declare that the Oneida’s “ancient reservation” has been disestablished.

In a strongly worded petition, the counties have argued that Judge Hurd and the Second Circuit have taken wrong turns when interpreting the Sherrill decision and its aftermath. The result, according to the counties, is an absurd and untenable situation in which previous decisions have been ignored or misunderstood.

According to the counties, if Hurd’s interpretation of the current situation is accurate (and it is not), then the Oneidas could purchase the Empire State Building on the open market and turn around and deprive the City of New York of all real property taxes in perpetuity. Clearly, Judge Hurd’s error needs to be corrected and the counties have made a very strong argument for the Supreme Court to hear the case.

At this point, property and small business owners have to hope that Anthony Picente won’t jump in and make a bad situation all the worse by attempting to “further negotiate” until the Supreme Court decides to hear the case. Any possible negotiations while the case is still pending is not only unwise, but blatantly foolish. We know that this has not stopped Picente in the past.

Also, it would appear that the UCE may have a new supporter in this struggle. In an e-mail that came directly from Rick Bargabos, the candidate for the 111th Assembly District, he stated that the counties’ legal action had his full knowledge and support. It would indeed be good news if candidate Bargabos agreed that the Oneida Indian tribe has no “ancient reservation” in New York apart from the 32 acres off of Route 46 in Oneida city.

SCOTUS has accepted the case