In the May 13, 2013 edition of the Arizona Republic there is an Opinion piece written by Doug Maceachern. He doesn’t pull any punches in characterizing Ned Norris Jr.’s actions regarding putting a casino in Glendale. I find it fascinating that the Arizona Republic, whose bias is clearly in favor of the Tohono O’odham, allowed his opinion piece to see the printed light-of day.
Chairman Ned Norris Jr.
Chairperson Salt River Pima
Maceachern states what many have thought or said quietly among themselves and that is Ned Norris Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, deceived and cheated his sister Tribes. Only recently have the Gila River Community and the Salt River-Maricopa-Pima Community been willing to state the very same thing publicly.
No matter what way this is sliced, Norris, as the spokesperson for the TO, spoke publicly and often in favor of the Gaming Compact proposition approved by voters in 2002. All the while, he and a select few TO were secretly planning to acquire land in the Phoenix area. In fact, their secret notes from 2002 indicate that their consultant advised them a site in Buckeye was too far away (Buckeye dodged the bullet). Norris and crew must have been rejoicing (secretly).
There’s an old saying that goes something like, “white man speak with fork-ed tongue.” This time the tables are turned. Norris and the Tohono O’odham spoke with fork-ed tongue—not only to the white men but even worse, to their brothers and sisters of all of the Arizona Tribes. Before the proposed compact ever was presented to the voters all of the tribes negotiated among themselves for several years. Not once did Norris or the TO reps bring this issue forward to the sister Tribes. Not once when Norris spoke publicly did he disagree with the proposed compact or clarify what this proposal meant to the TO. Not once did Norris say we reserve the right to buy land, place it in trust and build a casino on it in the Phoenix metro area.
Never, ever again will the Tribes trust what Norris and the TO say. Their bond of trust is broken irrevocably. Why should Glendale or any other Valley community trust them? They shouldn’t. What happens when the TO buys more land in the Valley – in Phoenix, or Gilbert, or Paradise Valley – and turns it into more trust land for the purposes of putting a casino in their communities??? It could happen.
Here is the article in its entirety:
Arizona Republic, May 19, 2013
Tohono leader’s victim act bit much by Doug Maceachern
Like egoists throughout eternity, Ned Norris Jr., chairman of southern Arizona’s Tohono O’odham Nation, wants things both ways.
In fact, if there were three ways to have it, Norris would want it three ways. Or four.
It looks likely that Norris will get his casino near Glendale, And Norris is gloating. And playing victim.
It’s a real juggling act. And Norris is an adept juggler, especially of words. That fellow who gave us “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” has nothing on Ned Norris.
On May 7, U.S. District Judge David Campbell became the latest in a long line of federal judges to rule in the Tohono O’odham’s favor.
The gaming compacts signed in 2002 and 2003 – the ones promoted prior to the November 2002 elections as line-in-the-sand assurances that gaming in the Phoenix area would be limited to existing casinos on existing tribal lands — simply do not say anything about forbidding the constructions of an eighth tribal casino. Or a ninth. Or more.
It has been observed many times since Norris’ astonishing announcement a few years ago of his well-laid plans to build a casino palace in Glendale. Who knew?
Who knew in 2002 that the tribal compacts said zip about limiting the number of casinos in the Valley?
As Campbell wrote: “Written agreements matter.”
“Parties who reach an accord, particularly on a matter as important and complicated as tribal gaming, carefully document their agreement in writing.”
If that sounded like an insult to the compact authors, it shouldn’t be. As noted, who knew?
Who knew tribal leaders whose land extends to the Mexican border would suddenly announce that (A) they secretly owned land near Glendale; (B) they were in negotiations with the Interior Department to have the land magically transformed into trust land; and (C) there wasn’t a damned thing anyone could do to stop them from building a compact-approved new Tohono O’odham casino on their own trust land.
It comes down to this. The writers of the compacts simply did not anticipate new tribal trust land popping up out of thin air in the middle of the urban metropolis.
State compact negotiators focused on limiting the number of casinos by limiting the number of casinos allocated to each tribe. It seemed rational. The Phoenix-area tribes already had maxed out on the number of casinos they could operate. Ipso facto, no new casinos, at least for the 20-year life span of the compacts. Right?
Wrong. The Tohono O’odhams had not maxed out on their allocation. They will be able to put at least one casino, and possibly more, wherever the tribe has trust land. And recent history tells us that can be anywhere.
It’s a clever thing Ned Norris has pulled off. Even his most bitter opponents in their intertribal struggle over gambling-market share have acknowledged the infuriating cleverness of it all.
But now, Norris is pouring salt in the wounds of his opponents, playing the sensitive, unfairly attacked, wounded soul. It’s a bit much.
Norris is bent out of shape over the name of a bill sponsored in Congress by U.S. Rep. Trent Franks that is designed to block construction of his new casino. It’s called the “Keep the Promise Act of 2013,” a clear reference to the “no-new-casinos promise” made repeatedly during the 2002 campaign to give then-Gov. Jane Dee Hull authority to negotiate compacts.
“The title of this legislation suggests that I and my people are liars and cheats,” said Norris, who added that he found it “deeply offensive.”
Cheeky, first and foremost, to drag his people into the debate. Notes unearthed during the course of a lawsuit filed by Phoenix-area tribes against Ned’s Gambit clearly depict tribal leaders going to great lengths to keep the scheme hush-hush from all but a small circle.
But cheeky, too, to pretend to be “deeply offended.”
Norris is acting in the role of a predatory CEO out to take market share from his competitors. He is Gordon Gekko made real.
In the process, Norris has stigmatized the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community — his chief competitors in the market-share fight – as “wealthy interest in the Phoenix area.”
In olden days, before the lure of Sun City West matrons running slots in a Norris-built casino, those “wealthy interests” would be his brothers and sisters. How money does change it all.