We have covered the odyssey of the Tohono O’odham Nation since the winter of 2009. It does not take a numerologist to calculate the number of years the TO has been battling to open its resort/casino in the West Valley.
During this time, there have been lawsuits filed, countersuits, appeals, decisions in federal court – all have rendered decisions in favor of the TO.
What is so compelling is the overwhelming support for the resort/casino by residents of the West Valley. Even the city closest to the proposed resort/casino project – Glendale – finally reversed its decision to oppose and is now in favor by a 6-1 majority. All six councilmembers have voiced and voted to support the project, while Mayor Jerry Weiers has maintained his opposition.
Cities that border or are nearby have rallied to support it.
It is called economic development; job opportunities. It is also called equal treatment.
For decades, the West Valley has been treated like a stepchild in favor of the East. Transportation projects have typically gone to the East Valley while West Valley residents have had to rely on Grand Avenue or the I-10 to travel to their jobs in central Phoenix, Tempe, or Mesa. Only in the past decade has the West Valley finally received the high-occupancy freeway system it sorely needs to aid in its quest to land high-quality, high-paying jobs for its residents.
And, while the TO has played the loyal servant and maintained a high-quality casino in southern Arizona, it found a way to continue its economic development efforts through a legal purchase of an unincorporated area along the Loop 101 freeway and Northern Avenue. It is a piece of land close to the Westgate Entertainment District, University of Phoenix Stadium and (now) Gila River Arena.
Opponents cite the compact approved in 2002 by Arizona voters as a basis for accusing the TO of fraud. Even so, the courts have consistently sided with the TO and ruled that the tribe did not commit fraud of any kind.
Now, through public statements made by Gov. Doug Ducey and the alleged internal pressure applied by Attorney General Mark Brnovich built on these same baseless claims, the Arizona Department of Gaming has apparently reversed its previous independent position with regard to the approval and certification of the Glendale casino.
Opponents say the TO violated the spirit of the compact. What does that mean? If the TO did not commit fraud, how could it violate the “spirit” of the compact?
By all accounts, the spirit fueling casino opponents is purely personal political gain with a blatant disregard for constituent interests or their collective benefits of any significant economic development opportunities.
There are countless ways to get one’s way in the United States. But the most successful avenue is to get a law passed in your favor. That is how the East Valley tribes are now approaching their untenable situation. Buy the vote. Don’t even try to argue that $14 million plus over five years does not buy votes.
Since casino opponents have been unable to stop the project under current law, their desperation has pushed them to draft new legislation and attempt to ramrod its acceptance at the federal level. If the Keep the Promise Act is so good for Arizona, why not run it on its own merits instead of forcing it through any political nook or cranny you can find for passage.
Even if you are the most conservative voter in the West Valley, and you want conservative legislators to decide your fate, you have to come to terms with what you have elected: people who do not represent your interests. They are not looking toward developing economic opportunities for West Valley residents; they are looking toward developing their relationships with like-thinking, narrow-minded campaign supporters with deep pockets.
The West Valley is a sleeping giant. It is an area rapidly growing and outgrowing its dependence on the likes of its anti-representative, who is the District Two legislator in name only.
The West Valley spoke; Trent Franks is turning a deaf ear and further has refrained from making any public comment on the matter.
As for Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, when was the last time you talked with representatives of the TO or consulted with your constituents of the West Valley? Have you no shame? Have you written off the West Valley populace of 500,000 hard-working citizens?
And McCain, especially, you need to look back on your career and ask yourself how many times have you really sought information about the West Valley and its residents. How many times have you thought about how to help the West Valley in its economic development efforts?
So, all of a sudden, Sen. McCain, you are struck with the morality of the resort/casino issue. Are you taking this position because you are running for re-election? And, shame on the TO for wanting to make its 1986 settlement with the U.S. government, which you originally helped to draft, actually worth something of value.
To all of the other legislators working so quickly to stop progress in the West Valley, take a look at the court decisions. Also, take a good look at the Congressional Budget Office estimate that stopping the TO resort/casino could have a $1 billion impact over the next 12 years.
Have a look at the future and take your pick: the TO opens its resort/casino by the end of the year, or the U.S. government looks at a potential lawsuit that could cost millions, perhaps billions, of taxpayer dollars.