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Chamber of Commerce hosts casino opposition luncheon

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  • Casino luncheon panel

    President Diane Enos of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community speaks out against the Tohono O'odham Nation's plans for a proposed casino at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon Aug. 10.

Kathryn Stafford

Staff Writer

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Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 7:00 pm

The Glendale Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion Aug. 10 at the Renaissance Glendale Hotel and Spa at Westgate City Center in opposition to the proposed Indian reservation and casino by the Tohono O'odham tribe.

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and several others comprised the panel, which featured President Diane Enos of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Glendale City Attorney Craig Tindall, Chief Deputy Arizona Attorney General's Office, Rick Bistrow, and U.S. Representative Trent Franks.

The luncheon was one of a continuing series of business Power luncheons, featuring area newsmakers and offering information on major developments in Glendale.

The panel of invited guests voiced their opposition to the development of a parcel of land at 95th and Northern avenues for a proposed resort and casino. The Tohono O'odham Indian Tribe has expressed their wishes to annex the land, making it an Indian reservation, and therefore a sovereign nation separate from the surrounding city.

"There is much more here than whether or not it would be fun to have a casino nearby," Scruggs said.

The panel claimed the Tribe's application is poor public policy and violates governmental rights, privileges and authority of the city, state and county.

The 45-minute discussion and presentation focused on the opposition to the proposed Indian reservation and casino on the city, state and Indian nation levels and did not feature a planned Q and A session with the mayor because of time restrictions.

Scruggs said that 500 commercial and retail jobs and 5,000 office jobs would be possible if the land was developed and Glendale would realize $10 million in construction tax and $5 million in annual revenue at build out.

"This will only happen if the parcel is developed in the city of Glendale and not as a sovereign nation," Scruggs said.

Mayor Scruggs said Glendale continues to invite the Nation to come to City Hall with their plans and we (the city) will issue the building permits as quickly as possible.

"We respect the right of the Tohono O'odham nation to develop the 134-acres of land they own if done as every other land owner and developer has done and will do in the future," she said.

"The land does not need to be removed from state and local jurisdiction and converted into an Indian reservation for the nation to build the office buildings, hotels and resorts and shopping centers and residents that they speak of."

Enos expressed her feelings toward the Tohono O'odham Nation and the idea of a casino and sovereign nation being erected in Glendale.

"I want to be very clear; our dispute is not with the people of the Tohono O'odham Nation. It is not with the citizens who are relatives or friends with whom we share a lot of cultural similarities and identities. We consider them our people as well because they are also desert people. Our dispute is with the government of the Tohono O'odham Nation," Enos said.

"It is not an easy thing to stand here and talk about what we consider bad faith of another Tribal Nation," Enos said. "In fact, we do so reluctantly, but we do so that in future years, we won't have to look back and say, we should have said something."

Mayor Elaine Scruggs reminded attendees that the city is not in opposition to the Tribe's development of the land, simply their wishes to convert the land into an Indian reservation and casino.

"We welcome and look forward to the sight of construction equipment in Glendale," she said. "We do not have an issue with the development of the land or with the Nation themselves."

The Tohono O'odham Nation recently joined the Glendale Chamber of Commerce last week after paying the required membership fee.

The discussion can be watched in its entirety on Glendale 11 TV titled "Glendale Chamber of Commerce: The Impact of a Proposed Indian Reservation in Glendale" and online at www.glendaelaz.com. To view a viewer's guide list visit www.glendaleaz.com/glendale11.

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