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Fight for Naskila Gaming continues

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AlabamaCoushattaTribalCouncil graphicBy Ricky Sylestine
Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council Chairman

The past year has been full of promise and opportunity for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ effort to keep our Naskila Gaming electronic bingo facility open. We have seen positive movement in the courts and in the halls of the United States Congress, but our fight is far from over.

All of these moving pieces can be difficult to follow. Given the many questions we have received, I want to explain where we are in this quest and what needs to happen next.

For many years, the State of Texas has been fighting in court to close Naskila Gaming. If the state succeeds, our tribe will have to close Naskila, 700 jobs will go away, and Polk County will lose its second-largest employer. Furthermore, our tribe will lose our clearest path to long-term sustainability and self-determination. This is why we and our supporters have fought so hard for our right to operate this facility. We believe that we have the right to operate Naskila Gaming under federal law and prior court rulings, and we know the benefits of this facility reverberate throughout our region.

Last year, a federal judge in Beaumont ruled that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas may legally operate Naskila Gaming, saying that the electronic bingo operated at the facility is permissible under the federal Restoration Act passed in 1987. Many supporters heard about this decision and assumed that the future of Naskila was secure.

However, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office has appealed that decision from last year. Further, that appeal is subject to a ruling in a separate court case: a case that another Texas tribe, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, has filed against the state. The Pueblo, like our tribe, is fighting for the right to operate electronic bingo under federal law. That case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and a decision could come within weeks. If the court sides with the Pueblo, it could finally clear the way for both of our tribes to operate our electronic bingo facilities without any further state interference.

Of course, a court ruling can take many different shapes. A partially favorable ruling, for instance, may not end this case. That’s why the best way to save 700 jobs at Naskila Gaming and secure the future of our tribe is for the U.S. Congress to act.

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2208 with overwhelming bipartisan support. This legislation would clarify the federal law under which our tribe’s gaming is regulated, which would secure our right to operate Naskila Gaming and end the state’s efforts to shut it down. However, the Senate has not acted on this bill. Senators have until the end of this year to pass H.R. 2208 and save 700 Texas jobs, but it would be better for them to act sooner rather than later.

More than 80 business and civic groups have voiced formal support for Naskila’s continued existence and more than 30,000 visitors to Naskila have sent our senators letters urging them to save the facility. We need more Texans to call on Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to preserve these Texas jobs. If they hear from enough of their Texas constituents, perhaps our senators will step in and save this major engine of economic activity in East Texas.

That’s where our supporters come in. We thank you for all that you’ve done to get us to this point and we ask you to keep going by contacting our senators and urging them to save Naskila Gaming. We may ultimately win the court cases that are now pending, but we know the clearest path to a resolution is for the U.S. Senate to act. Until then, our push to save Naskila Gaming continues.

Or, to put it in a language that all of us speak in East Texas, we’ve picked up a couple of first downs, but the winning touchdown has not yet been scored.

Ricky Sylestine is the Chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Tribal Council.

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Playing for state title

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Livingston golf shows off their new hardware after claiming a district championship. Members of the team are (left to right) Drew Davidson, Brandon Munson, Jackson New, Coach Frank Brister, Breckett Long and Tucker Cherry.  COURTESY PHOTOLivingston golf shows off their new hardware after claiming a district championship. Members of the team are (left to right) Drew Davidson, Brandon Munson, Jackson New, Coach Frank Brister, Breckett Long and Tucker Cherry. COURTESY PHOTO

By Brian Besch
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For the first time in school history, Livingston golf has advanced to the state tournament. The team has worked tirelessly on the links to better their game, showing marked improvement. 

Livingston golf coach Frank Brister said the accomplishments of this year were unexpected when judging by last season’s scores. 

“We were fair last year and the first tournament that we went to (in 2022) was over in Huntsville,” Brister said. “The kids played pretty good and I knew after that they were going to be real competitive. We ended up winning five of the six tournaments that we entered. We got second in the other one. We weren’t terrible in that one, Diboll beat us by a few strokes.”

The team of Tucker Cherry, Drew Davidson, Brandon Munson, Jackson New and Breckett Long have taken five tournaments and the district title, while placing second at regionals to advance to the ultimate competition in Class 4A.

“In district, you can look at the numbers and I thought we had a pretty good chance,” Brister said. “Anytime you have kids shooting all in the 80s, you are going to be competitive in 90% of the tournaments that you go to. The only tournament you may not be competitive is the one that we are going to. I looked at the numbers there and we are in the bottom part of those. If we shoot some of our previous numbers, we will be very competitive. We’re not going to be there, probably, with the top three teams if they shoot the same. But I don’t know what kind of golf course they’ve played on. You never know what it is going to be. I know Argyle won state last year, and next year they are going to 5A. They are very competitive, and they shot in the 70s.”

The coach said the difference between his group last year and this year is the work put in over the offseason.

“In the summertime, it was just 18 or 36 holes; they were playing, playing, playing golf. Once the kids started playing a lot, the parents started putting in too. They just kept putting in more time with the kids. Our parents are golfers too and that helps. They’re going to spend so much more time with their parents than they will with me. I don’t even see them until after football is over.

“My main goal was that I thought if we played decent, we might have a chance to win district. I knew Hardin-Jefferson was pretty good, and last year Hamshire-Fannett won the district. We were right there with them until the second day (in last year’s district tournament) and got beat out by about 30 points. We had a fair team last year too, but these kids that are sophomores were shooting about 100, now they are shooting in the 80s.”

Each district takes the top two teams, but the top two individuals that are not a part of those teams can also advance. Last year, Tucker Cherry advanced as an individual medalist. 

This season, Livingston had so many players that shot well, the top five of the Lion golf team advanced, as well as an individual. Of the 12 that advanced beyond the district invitational, half were Livingston golfers. Teams with four players that can register solid scores have a good chance of advancing. Having five helps even more, because the top four scorers are recorded, and the fifth — whichever lowest — is dropped.

At regionals, Lake Belton won the tournament, while Livingston finished second, and Sealy in third place also advanced to Austin.

“Lake Belton won, they are a school out of Temple. They are going to go to 5A next year. They played with our kids both days and they have one kid that is really good. He is leading the state (in Class 4A) and is right there within two or three strokes of anybody in the state of Texas.”

Understandably, golf at Livingston has become a little more popular these days. The competition has made the team better and there are a few additional athletes who have decided to give golf a try.

“We’ve always had a lot of kids, we just haven’t always had the quality at a competitive level. Breckett it is the only one graduating, so when you look at it like that, the kids underneath are saying, ‘I’ve got to get good.’ The thing about it was, the three sophomores that are in the top five this year, two of them weren’t in the top five (on the team) last year. They were shooting in the 100s. 

“All of these kids started playing golf like two years ago, except for Tucker. He is the only kid that played junior golf. There are probably more kids playing junior golf, but I don’t know. I don’t see them until they get into the ninth grade. 

“My goal whenever I came up to be a golf coach was I want them to have as much passion and want to play as much as I want to play. I told them if they get like that, they are going to do the stuff they want to do. My big thing on their swing is that I want them to have good posture and balanced throughout the swing. It is the fundamentals that are going to help them out. The kids that play softball or baseball, the ball is moving, so they are going to move with it more. But, the initial hit is going to be the same, with that weight transfer.”

The coach said having a course like Livingston Municipal nearby has been an advantage to the program. At a previous stop, he has had teams drive as far as 30 or 40 miles just to find a tee box.

The future of Livingston golf looks extremely bright. With only one senior graduating, most of the team returns. Brister said there is also an eighth grader that has shown plenty of promise and could make a difference on the varsity as soon as next year.

On Thursday, the team traveled to Austin to play a practice round and become familiar with the state tournament course. The event begins May 9 at Legends Golf Course, located on Lake Lyndon B. Johnson.

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Globe-trotting photographer opening exhibit

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Greg DavisGreg DavisBy Emily Banks Wooten
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“Oaxacan Gold – Illuminating Mystical Mexico,” an art exhibit curated by Livingston High School Graduate Greg Davis, an esteemed National Geographic contributing photographer, will be exhibited from May 10 through August 13 at the new Art Center Waco. The series features 35 limited edition photographs accompanied by five mediums of folk art by master Mexican artists.

“Cortes came to the new world looking for gold, but he found something way more valuable … the people, its culture and its traditions,” Davis said.

The May 7 opening night celebration sold out in three days. It is a ticketed multimedia art and cultural experience featuring Davis’ photography, a 20-person dance performance by Ballet Folklorico de Austin and the folk art of grand master folk artists Jacobo and Maria Angeles (alebrije which are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures), Carlomagno Pedro Martinez (barro negro, or “black clay,” which is a style of pottery distinguished by its color, sheen and unique designs), Alejandro Vera (masks), Jose and Teresita Garcia Antonio (ceramics), Magdalena Pedro Martinez (black potter) and the Mendoza family (textiles). Opening night participants will also experience “The Taste of Oaxaca” by El Alebrije and ChefATX complimented by “The Spirit of Oaxaca” tastings of Mezcal Vago and Wahaka Mezcal.

The purpose of “Oaxacan Gold” is to illuminate the mystical southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Davis began photographing and producing the multimedia cultural experience in 2018.

This was his sophomore large-scale, multimedia project–the first being, “India’s Kumbh Mela,” which premiered at the Museum of the Southwest and followed the stories of individual pilgrims to the 2013 Kumbh Mela, the largest religious pilgrimage in history. It was accompanied by Davis’ first short documentary film, “Cloth Paper Dreams,” and shared with eight museums, art centers and cultural centers in Texas.

“The purpose of my work is to serve as a reminder to us that we are all part of something greater than ourselves. At a faster rate than ever before, our world is shrinking, and traditional cultures are at risk. It is imperative that we be aware of and respect the diversity of our planet as well as our unprecedented need to preserve it,” Davis said.

He is the recipient of the 2017 Ambassador of the Year award for the Austin non-profit Well Aware, which provides innovative and sustainable solutions to the problems of water scarcity and contamination in Africa.

After quitting his job in 2004 and selling most of his possessions, Davis went on a yearlong global soul-searching expedition. Nine months in, fate intervened to put him face to face with a Black Hmong blanket weaver in the highlands of Northern Vietnam. It was then that he captured an image that, unbeknownst to him, would weave their fates together and fill him with a new sense of purpose—to weave the world a little closer through his photography.

Currently a contributing photographer for National Geographic/Disney, Davis was represented by the National Geographic Image Collection for over a decade. A fourth-generation Baylor University alum, he said he credits an Art Center Waco gallery talk for inspiring his current artistic journey. He has worked his way from local festivals to international exhibitions and his works now hang in private and institutional collections worldwide.

All pieces from Davis’ collections are printed on archival museum rag paper using 12-color archival pigment inks, then treated with a protective UV coating to further protect and maximize the archivability of the works. Each piece is hand-signed, numbered in a limited edition of 50, titled, embossed and comes with a certificate of authenticity.

He is currently offering his latest traveling exhibit, “Oaxacan Gold,” to art centers and museums around the nation.

“The purpose of this exhibition is to bring awareness to the stunning beauty, cultural depth and mystical nature of the great Mexican state of Oaxaca through an educational multimedia cultural experience of photography, folk art, textiles, dance and music,” Davis said.

Art Center Waco is located at 701 S. 8th St. in Waco. The phone number is (254)752-4371 and the website is artcenterwaco.org. More of Davis’ work may be seen at gregdavisphotography.com

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Beto coming to Livingston

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Beto Headshot 2

From Enterprise Staff

Beto O’Rourke will be in town Sunday with his People of Texas Town Hall to ask East Texas to support his bid to be the next Governor of Texas. The Beto campaign will host the town hall at 1 p.m. at the Across the Tracks Live Music Venue at 309 N. Jackson in Livingston.

“The club is excited that the Beto campaign is putting a focus on the voters of rural East Texas,” Willie White, president of the Democratic Club of Polk County, said. “We have a lot of voters who have felt that many past statewide campaigns ignored the rural voters. But Beto, now and during his senate race, has shown a real interest in the needs of rural East Texas.”

Polk County Democratic Party Chair-elect Ann Turney said the Beto O’Rouke campaign knows the importance of the older Democratic Party voters.

“But Beto is also addressing the needs and interest of younger voters, students and non-students alike, to bring them into the political life of Texas. Beto wants to tap the full potential of Texas, and we are joining him to make that happen,” Turney said, adding, “We also invite and encourage Republicans and Independents to take a look at what Beto has to offer Texas.”

O’Rourke is a fourth-generation Texan from El Paso and served in the U.S. Congress from the 16th Congressional District before becoming a candidate for higher office. He has directed his campaign message toward the Texas power grid problems, COVID-19, jobs, schools and education, health care, gun safety, voting rights and immigration.

“Beto is aware of the many problems facing Texans and the great potential we Texans have as we address them,” White said.

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PCSO smokes out jail scheme

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CigarettesA Polk County Correctional Officer found herself on the other side of the bars Thursday, as she was arrested after an extensive investigation. 

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested Correctional Officer Carly Viola Noack, 30, of Votaw, and charged Polk County Jail inmate Mark Anthony Jacobs, 19, of Goodrich, for introducing prohibited substances into the Polk County Jail. 

The sheriff’s office investigated and charged both with prohibited substance/item in a correctional facility, a felony 3 offense. 

The corrections officer was immediately placed on administrative suspension, pending the investigation. Noack has been employed as a correctional officer in the Polk County Jail since December 2021.   

Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives received information in reference to Noack for bringing tobacco products into the Polk County Jail. 

Detectives discovered through their investigation that Noack purchased and delivered tobacco products to an inmate, receiving cash payments for doing so. Once delivered, Jacobs provided tobacco to other inmates for profit. 

After conducting interviews with the parties involved, detectives were provided with evidence and information as to how all transactions were made.   

Arrest warrants were obtained, and Officer Noack turned herself in to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, where she was terminated and booked into the Polk County Jail on a $5,000 bond. 

Jacobs was also charged and given a $5,000 bond. He is currently in jail for capital murder, aggravated kidnapping and several drug possession charges.

Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons would like for all to know that he will continue to investigate and prosecute any misconduct or violation of the law by any employee of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, if an investigation finds that they have violated the law.

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