Glendale resident Nancy Robinette is against the Tohono O’odham’s plans for a casino-resort at 91st and Northern avenues, though she is quick to point out she has no issues with gambling.
“I don’t mind gambling but I feel strongly about this,” she said. “It’s not about what they want to do, it’s about how they’ve gone about doing it.”
Robinette was one of dozens in attendance for Rep. Trent Franks’ press conference Friday morning to formally announce the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Clarification Act. Franks, flanked by local, state and tribal legislators and leaders, said he is pursuing the legislation because he believes the Tohono O’odham are overreaching.
“The bill would not preclude them from creating jobs in other ways,” he said. “But this is not the way to do it. This is a broken faith.”
The Tohono O’odham purchased the 135-acre plot of land in 2003 and announced plans for the West Valley Resort in 2008, which would require placing the land into trust. Franks and local leaders including Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs have said doing so would be problematic. Scruggs said Friday a casino inside Glendale’s municipal planning area would have a “devastating effect” on the city’s future. Franks took Friday’s press conference as another opportunity to chastise the Tohono O’odham leadership for their methods.
“The focus of this bill is on keeping our promises,” he said. “And making sure there is a continuity of integrity in the process.”
The bill would serve to amend a law passed in 1986. The original Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act allowed the Tohono O’odham to purchase land and place it into trust as compensation for part of their land being flooded. Franks’ bill would bar tribal nations from gambling on replacement lands in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties.
Robinette said she is hopeful the legislation will pass.
“Glendale had longterm plans in place that included that land,” she said. “The way to Tohono O’odham went about this was sneaky and I think it was wrong.”
Attorney General Tom Horne spoke about his office’s efforts to fight the casino through the legal system, saying no entity ought to have the right to force a casino onto a populace “against the will of its citizens.”
“The people of Glendale have chosen to live in Glendale,” he said. “They have the right to choose for themselves whether Glendale should become another Las Vegas.”
Horne said he, too, does not appreciate how the Tohono O’odham went about their plans for the West Valley Resort.
“No one was told what they were doing,” he said. “They purchased the land under the name of a foreign corporation. We’ve been arguing this has not been an honest way for them to proceed.”
Franks noted the large contingent behind him, which included mayors from around the Valley, as evidence of the unviersal support behind his bill.
“The Tohono O’odham’s efforts would make every city in Arizona vulnerable to the same kind of duplicitous efforts,” he said.
Diane Enos, president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, said she remains reluctant to speak ill of her fellow Native Americans, but, she added, the Tohono O’odham cannot be allowed to move forward with their plans.
“I am hopeful this legislation will be enacted soon and balance can be maintained.”
Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.