January 30, 2009 Tohono O’odham Nation had plans for a ‘Las Vegas-Style’ Resort Hotel, Casino and Convention Center. The location is at 91st Avenue and Northern Avenue, near the West Valley’s sports complexes at West Gate. This is to be a $600 million West Valley Resort, the State’s largest casino yet and the Tohono O’odham Nation’s 4th Casino. The plan was to build it on the 134 acres they purchased. This site only a few miles from University of Phoenix Stadium, Jobing.com Arena and the new spring-training facility for the Los Angeles Dodgers & Chicago White Sox.
The video from the Special Council Meeting on April 7, 2009 clearly states from the words spoken by Mayor Scruggs that she Pledges her support of this Casino if they, the Tohono O’odham Nation receive approval for their Land Acquisition, which they clearly did. A copy of this Land Acquisition will be posted later separately.
However, on that same day at that same special meeting on April 7, 2009, the City Council voted to make a resolution to file suit to stop this casino. It was voted overwhelmingly with a 6-1 vote. The Minutes of that Meeting will be in a separate posting.
The original 134 acres is now dwindled down to 54 acres and the City of Glendale is still fighting the Nation even after 3 court battles later all in favor of the Tohono O’odham Nation.
The following video from the Tohono O’odham Nation describes very well how the land was obtained, and their intent to build a casino, as well as provide an approximate 6000 construction jobs with the permanent job result being around 3,000. A huge positive economic impact to the City of Glendale, the State of Arizona and surrounding cities of the 54 acres.
A study done by Alan Meister, who was hired to assess the economic impact of this huge undertaking projects the resort would draw around 1.2 million visitors a year, generate annual sales around $300 million, and have an annual payroll after the opening of the Resort/Casino of about $140 million. This is to be a two-year building phase.
Note this land was unincorporated land. The Nation purchased this land about 5-6 yrs ago with part of the $30 million it received in federal compensation for 9,880 acres of ruined land, land that was flooded during the construction of the Painted Rock Dam near Gila Bend. A comment by Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett stated that this project would be a huge economic boost to the community.
Allen Anspach, the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Western Regional Director says the decision ultimately goes to the newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Mr. Anspach, however, is totally in favor of this deal. Mr. Anspach, in another article from Jan. 30, 2009 in the Arizona Republic stated that generally, they are supportive of tribes taking land into trust because it promotes, as in this case, economic development. He also stated that because the land was purchased in a land settlement, it should help the process go more smoothly.
This Resort/Casino proposed by the Tohono O’odham Nation would be the Northwest Valley First Casino. Gila River Indian Community now has the only Casino in the West Valley as it promotes it as such on it’s website www.wingilariver.com. It is actually more in the southern area of the West Valley, approximately 20 miles south of the Nation’s proposed Casino.
Let it also be mentioned here that the Gila River Casinos / Gila River Gaming Enterprises, Inc. also has a long list of Enterprises to their name, such as Rawhide, Firebird International Raceway, Sheraton Wildhorse Pass Resort & Spa, Gila river Casinos, Lone Butte Development Corporation, Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, Toka Sticks Golf Club, Whirlwind Golf Club, Kai Restaurant, just to name a few. They have held the distinction of being the only Casino in the West Valley although nowhere near the Northern part of the West Valley. Part of their mission is to be Arizona’s first choice n casino entertainment for both work and play.
It is the Gila River Indian Community that is in conjunction with the City of Glendale in this fight to keep the Tohono O’odham Nation from fulfilling their dream and economic development of their Indian Nation here in the NorthWest Valley. Our own Attorney General Tom Horne, on February 16, 2011 has joined with the Gila River Indian Community to sue and stop the proposed Resort Casino and Convention Center stating the Nation’s plans would break the State’s Tribal Gaming Compact. Tohono O’odham’s officials call these arguments ‘misleading and inaccurate.’
An interesting tactic by the City of Glendale is, the city is claiming the land is not unincorporated. Yet, the City of Glendale has treated it that way for the past eight years, collecting no taxes on it. Glendale also claims this land was annexed to them in 2001 from Maricopa County and then retracted in 2002. The current Glendale lawyer says the refusal of the annexation is improper and therefore, this land belongs to Glendale. Now we see how the State lawmakers come into play. A bill that will allow Glendale to annex the land out from under the Nation passed quicker than the Arizona Budget. The Bill was introduced, voted on, passed, and signed by the Governor in about one to 2 weeks. The bill went through the House of Representatives, then on to the Senate, then straight to Gov. Jan Brewer’s office for her signature which she signed quickly into law. This new law, whether it be the Tohono O’odham Nation, any other Indian Nation, or any land owner, allows Cities to annex land under certain circumstances without the consent of the owner. Just for the record, the people who seem to have their argument against the casino based on moral issues, don’t appear to have a problem with another casino that is already up and running approximately 15-20 miles away which just happens to belong to the Gila River Indian Community.
In November of 2010, 13 State Legislators filed a motion to join the suit, and of course this would be an added expense to the Glendale taxpayers. Thank you Judge David Campbell for letting us keep our money in our pockets by denying these lawmaker’s motion.
Also a fascinating note in all of this is the fact that the City of Glendale felt the need to hire a Law Firm out of Arkansas. Attorney Brian Bergin of the Rose Law Group was retained by the City of Glendale to represent the Arizona lawmakers. There is something interesting about this Law Firm, but that’s for another time. We also have US Senators John Kyl and John McCain sending out letters of concern of this Casino. Glendale is paying a portion of the legal fees for the lawsuits being filed by Arizona Legislators. Glendale uses the Rose Law Firm out of Arkansas apparently for a variety of issues. Has no one asked the question as to why the City of Glendale needs to hire a lawfirm from Arkansas. The Rose Law Group specifically.
Let’s look at all this from a fiscal perspective. In an article in the Arizona Republic on Nov 3, 2010, it was reported that spokeswoman Julie Frisoni stated a portion of the $94,738 being paid in retainer fees is to represent State Lawmakers. Here’s the big one. As of September 2010, five, count them now, five legal firms were paid a sum of $630,000 to challenge the Tohono O’odham’s casino plans. Frisoni states that since the Legislator’s interests line up with those of the city, it is a legal use of these funds. The article also quotes Frisoni as saying ‘The legislators have the right to request that their interests be recognized and their voices heard in support of our efforts to protect the best interest of our citizens.’ This is all well and good, except for the fact the City of Glendale Council Members, not all of them, are the only ones who are not in favor of this Resort/Casino/Convention Center being built. The City of Glendale appears to not really be interested in what the residents want and they want the Casino, they want jobs, they want a better economy.
An ASU Assistant Professor, Luis Plascencia questioned the states-rights argument stated by Gov Brewer and Sen Pearce and the other Az lawmakers. Plascencia is quoted as saying ‘When states joined the unon, they agreed to be a state, political entities authorized by the Federal Government.’ ‘States are given power but it doesn’t make them independent of the United States of America the same way cities are not independent.’
Plascencia goes on to say ‘Glendale is operating and existing because it’s an incorporated entity of the State of Arizona. It does not act independently of the State of Arizona.’
Judge Campbell was scheduled to hear arguments on Jan 18, 2011 in order to issue a ruling within 30 days on whether to uphold the Dept of Interior’s decision to take the land into the reservation system. City of Glendale just doesn’t seem to understand the word ‘no’ you’re wrong, the Nation is correct and the land will be put into the reservation system.
On March 4, 2011 United States District Court Judge David Campbell upheld the decision made by the Dept of the Interior in 2010. It designated 54 acres of land as a reservation, the land purchased by the Tohono O’odham Nation six years ago. Now Glendale tries to bring up the High School down the road on the East side of 91st Avenue saying it’s to close to the High School. When one looks at where the High School is, it’s parking lot, and then look across the street at the now empty lot and follow it up to Northern and look at where the Casino is to be built, which is on the Northern Avenue area further west towards the 101, and see that the area all along 91st Avenue down closer to the High School will be parking lot, trees, water falls, walking areas, etc., one will then see that the Casino is no where close to the High School. The Nation is even more strict than the City is and more cautious so there is no real danger of any type. These High School students walk into Circle K’s, AM/PMs, etc., all the time and some of these have magazines that are of ‘adult’ content; they sell cigarettes, beer and some even have liquor licenses to sell hard liquor. They go into a restaurant where beer, wine and hard liquor is sold and drank; lottery tickets are sold (a form of gambling the State heavily promotes); and if any of these students are of driving age and have cars, they don’t have to drive to far to find ‘Pinks’ a strip club along Northern and Grand Avenue. Does anyone else see the nonsense of wasting more taxpayers money on fighting something the Tohono O’odham Nation has already won in court on 3 different occasions on 3 different instances. Why has this fight been so strong and going on for so long. This should be the real question everyone should be asking themselves.
There is more to come as this battle is not over. The Federal Gov’t is now looking at moving ahead on making the land a reservation as quickly as they can. Due to the Bill signed by Gov. Brewer taking effect 90 days from the date it is signed, to wait for the appeal to go thru which could be August, they are finding themselves being forced to move things up on creating the reservation which is what the Dept of the Interior made the decision on in July of 2010 and Judge Campbell upheld now in March 2011.
We will continue to provide information on this and keep everyone updated as we continue to to find more information.