Governor Brewer needs to STFU

Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer is injecting herself into a conversation where she has no authority to speak.

At issue – she wants the Tohono O’Odham Nation to back off of its request to the US Department of Interior to take 135 acres near Glendale into trust, effectively making it tribal land. It then would place a casino, hotel, and other sundries on the land.

I’ve written on this at length before, most recently here.

Brewer wants to meet with the Nation (of course), but only if it withdraws its request with the Dept. of Interior. Unsurprisingly, the Nation declined to do so.

“For the past 358 days, we have stood ready to meet and discuss this project with any and all interested parties,” said Chairman Ned Norris Jr.

Now Brewer believes that the Nation has no right to place a casino on the land, assuming that the USDI will approve the request (which it most likely will), because of the 2002 law approving tirbal-gaming was, IN HER MIND, only limited to existing reservation lands.

Myself and countless others disagree with that interpretation. If the voters did not WANT new casinos built, then they should have voted against the law. Alternatively, they should have specified in the law language to prevent new casinos from being built in the way that the Tohono O’Odham Nation is doing.

In other words, THERE’S NOTHING ILLEGAL ABOUT WHAT THE NATION IS DOING. (Brewer gets her first STFU notice.)

Then, Norris reminded Brewer that the Nation signed a gaming compact with the state AFTER the 2002 measure which allows gambling on ANY lands subsequently acquired by the Nation – meaning, either Governor Hull (2002-2003), or Governor Napolitano (2003-2009) signed this compact. That means that Brewer’s hands are tied since her predecessor signed the agreement. (Brewer, that’s notice #2 to STFU.)

Next, Brewer believes that only private lands can only be taken into trust if they lie adjacent to existing reservation lands. But the federal government does not specifically state such, which, given current interpretation by the USDI, means that Brewer is incorrect. (Notice #3 to Brewer to STFU.)

Finally, Brewer believes that only she, as governor, can authorize the taking of non-adjacent land into trust. However, Brewer is an agent for the state, and the Nation is governed under Federal regulations, thus making Brewer’s “blessing” or authorization moot. (STFU #4.)

As it stands, the USDI’s acting director Paula Hart wrote a letter last year to the Nation (Brewer has since received a forwarded copy courtesy of the Nation) confirming that a casino would be permitted on the Glendale location. (Brewer STFU #5.)

The only roadblock left is whether or not the 2001 attempt by Glendale to annex part of the property was actually abandoned or not. If the land is in process of becoming part of Glendale, then the USDI can’t approve the request.

However, as I wrote in the previous post:

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.

So, Brewer, with so much else to worry about, like a $3 billion budget shortfall, needs to STFU. She’s wrong every step of the way, and she’s got no authority in the matter.