Keeping the Promise TWISTED

I got an email yesterday from an address called “info [at] keeping the promise”. Inside, it goes on about how dog and horse tracks are trying to add upwards of 10k slot machines, in addition to poker and blackjack tables, to their properties.

That directly contradicts the 2002 vote by Arizonans who killed that measure at the ballot overwhelmingly (80-20 margin).

I’m against this – I voted no in 2002 on this measure, and I would definitely vote in opposition to any horse/dog track attempting to turn itself into a casino, which is exactly what these properties would do if they were allowed to add slot machines and poker/blackjack tables.

However, in that same email, the senders go on to lamblast the Tohono O’Odham tribe for their attempt to place a casino on THEIR OWN PROPERTY in Glendale, which just happens to be north of the Westgate City Center (aka Arena, University of Phoenix Stadium, and all the shops there).

Glendale tried in vain to find a way to oppose the move and has resorted to a last-ditch attempt saying that part of the property is actually not county but was annexed by the city in 2001… EVEN THOUGH THE CITY RETRACTED SAID ANNEXATION IN 2002.

Maricopa County and neighboring Peoria filed letters to the contrary with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) stating that the land is in fact unincorporated. Public documents have also confirmed that for the last eight years, Glendale has treated the land as unincorporated, INCLUDING NOT COLLECTING PROPERTY TAX THERE, which directly contradicts the Glendale City Attorney who claims that the city had no authority to repeal the annexation. Even retired US Senator Dennis DeConcini, an original co-sponsor of the bill that allows tribes to take purchased land into trust, said that Glendale’s position is inaccurate.

Why does Glendale oppose the tribe’s move? Simple, really. For all of Glendale’s huffing and puffing, it boils down to these facts:

  1. Glendale would not have any say on how the property is developed.
  2. Glendale would not capture any tax revenue from the property, including property tax and sales tax.
  3. Glendale is afraid that a casino on the property would take away revenue from the Westgate Center.

The email also claims that “the mayors of 5 nearby cities, at least 7 Indian tribes and U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl” oppose the Tohono O’Odham nation project. The five cities referenced are Buckeye, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Surprise, and Youngtown. (Peoria, Tolleson, the NFL, and the Arizona Cardinals support the tribe, though.) However, I have found that only the Gila River Nation opposes the project – which is ABSOLUTELY no surprise, because they are the only nation near the area (in Laveen) and therefore have monopoly on casinos in the area.

(Also, Glendale’s attorney Tindall originally stated int he Phoenix Business Journal on 12/18/09 that Senator John McCain was also opposed to the tribe’s project, but McCain’s office has no comment on the issue. Add that McCain was one of the original co-sponsors of the bill along with DeConcini and you have a situation where Tindall probably jumped ahead of himself.)

Glendale also cites concerns that the proposed casino has “12,000 homes… located within 2 miles of the site.” I call that total BS. Why? Because the Gila River Nation has its own casino just south of the Chandler city border at Kyrene Rd and Loop 202 (Lone Butte Casino), which also has at least 12,000 homes located within a 2 mile radius, and that doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone. So, for the Gila River Nation to oppose the project is patently hypocritical.

Glendale’s “other” concern is of little importance – they claim that a casino on a county island would run up public safety costs for 911 calls and such without paying city taxes. Nevermind that there are numerous examples of tribes paying cities for police and fire service everywhere, including Palm Springs and … *gasp* Tucson! (Oh, and they also forget that if the casino is on reservation land, then the tribe will most lilkely have its OWN police force in place anyway, just like they do at their other casinos. Oh, but that’s too logical for Glendale to figure out…)

Now, the Peoria Unified School District might have valid concerns – the property is across the street (91st Avenue) from Raymond S. Kellis high school. However, the Tohono O’Odham nation has offered several compromises to this effect, namely that the Nation would place casino and resort entrances facing away from the high school, putting up fences and other barriers to buffer it from the school, and even offering community impact studies and scholarships to Kellis students. Predictably, PUSD has not taken a stance on the issue, but in the long run, it could be very beneficial for them to partner with the Tohono O’Odham Nation.

The City of Peoria, on the other hand, is more than willing to help out. They WANT the casino project. If they could annex the land into Peoria, they would. But for the feds to designate the land as tribal (see my previous post here on why this could happen), the land has to NOT be part of an existing city/town (ie. unincorporated county/state land). Peoria has even offered to provide water, sewer, and other services to the casino as well.

What does Peoria get out of it? Well, they border the northern part of the Nation-owned land on Northern Avenue. That means they could place some hotels, restaurants, and other amenities there and get some sales tax, hotel tax, and other revenue dollars in. Also, the Arizona state law that allows casinos also says that the Tohono O’Odham Nation must share up to 12% of the revenues with “neighboring communities”. It doesn’t state WHICH communities, or communities within X miles distance, only “neighboring”. And Peoria, quite frankly, is being very neighborly, unlike Glendale and any of those other “5 nearby cities.”

As of June 4, 2009, the regional BIA office recommended approval of the land-into-trust application (thus turning the purchased land into a tribal reservation and therefore becoming eligible for placing a casino on it), but the final decision in Washington, DC, still awaits.

Once again, Glendale, you rock.. the boat with your stupidity and inane nonsense. You’re wasting your taxpayers’ money with this fight that YOU WILL LOSE. Just partner with the Tohono O’Odham Nation and you will be all the better for it.

So for those that want to “Keep the Promise” in Arizona, maybe you should think back to when your ancestors TOOK AWAY the land from the Native Americans and then promised to make it up to them – like the 1986 federal law authored by DeConcini and McCain that the Tohono O’Odham Nation is taking advantage of! Because that’s WAY more important than some municipality’s greed masquerading as a zoning issue.

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