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— The Old Town Chamber of Commerce testified strongly against the Delaware North proposal at the Sacramento hearing. Most retailers I talked with want Bazaar del Mundo and Diane Powers to stay. "If a big company comes in, we will lose the décor and atmosphere -- it will be another shopping mall," says Portia Clayton, assistant manager of Miranda's Courtyard.

If Delaware North puts less emphasis on Mexican food, "We would generate more business," says Matt Lizalde, manager of the Old Town Mexican Café. But he is wary of "a Wal-Mart kind of feel."

Such fears reflect the Squibob Square disaster, which began in 1990. "For 20 years, there were 17 mom-and-pops," says Spring. Then the state put the contract up for bid, and Host International, a subsidiary of Marriott Services, promising fatter returns and more capital spending, got the contract. "They came in with airport fare, souvenir stuff -- it fell flat on its face," as did an Arizona company that came later and changed the name to Dodson's Corner. Now there are only two retailers there. And the state doesn't have the money it was promised.

But the old mentality remains: "It's easier for the state to collect money from just one company, rather than deal with a number of concessionaires," says Eve Ewing, another cofounder of Friends of Old Town.

Powers does have problems with some in the Mexican community. Silvas says he would prefer Delaware North if it would restore a Mexican adobe and stress Mexican history. The editor of La Prensa supports Delaware North, complaining, like Silva, that Powers has not been very supportive of the Hispanic community.

Spring says that to get its feet wet, Delaware North should take over the old Squibob Square and set up its Western town. If it succeeds, it could then compete with Powers for the whole enchilada. But that would make too much sense for a bureaucracy.

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