The Glendale City Council meeting of March 25, 2014 was reminiscent of many meetings I attended. It was one of those marathon sessions, lasting well over 4 hours, attracting many public speakers. The council approved a contingency fund transfer of over $6 million for the arena management fee and accepted staff’s recommendation that retirees will now pay the full liability for their medical insurance. Curiously current city personnel will remain heavily subsided by the city (read, you, the taxpayer).

However, the two big issues were billboards along the Loop 101 and Bell Road and the resolution to officially rescind city support for U.S. Representative Trent Franks’ legislation, HR 1410.

One could see a sea of yellow t-shirts in support of allowing billboards adjacent to the Loop 101 and Bell Road. Jordan Rose of the Rose Law Group delivered a strong, and very, very long presentation on behalf of Becker Boards. Yet speakers against the proposal outnumbered those supporting 2 to 1. It was assumed by many that it was a done deal and would win approval. After all, Councilmember Sherwood had publicly announced that he had the four votes needed for its passage. Can you say, “blind-sided?” The ultimate vote was 5 to 2 against. Only Councilmembers Sherwood and Alvarez voted in favor of Becker Billboards.

Sherwood’s advocacy for the billboards may be more easily understood as one of the speakers questioned his support in terms of the campaign contributions he had received from the stakeholders. A quick pass of his campaign finance reports reveals at least $1,960 received from members of the Rose Law Group and another $1,720 received from members of the Becker family. Approximately 1/5 of his total campaign contributions came from these two entities.  

As a side note, seeing the large campaign contributions from fire unions, fire PACs and union firefighters in Sherwood’s campaign filings has piqued my interest. Look for a future blog that details how much money these fire union entities poured into Glendale’s last election cycle in 2012 and to whom. I suspect it will surprise us all except for the fire unions who probably know to the penny.

Councilmember Alvarez, on the other hand, cast a spite vote in favor of the billboards. After all, if her district must suffer their blight, why shouldn’t North Glendale suffer too?

The other hot issue was a vote by a majority of council to reject Representative Trent Franks legislation (HB 1410) to prohibit casino construction in the Phoenix Metro area after August of 2013. Council’s vote on this issue was much closer this time, 4 to 3, with Councilmembers Alvarez, Hugh, Chavira and Sherwood (perhaps as payback to Chavira) voting in the affirmative. The result of this congressional bill would be to stop the Tohono O’odham in their tracks. You can be sure it will result in another court battle. In the meantime court decisions are not yet settled in the 9th Circuit Court and in the Supreme Court.

Plain and simple, the Glendale City Council should not have done this. It is a slap in the face of a supportive bipartisan congressional coalition made up of the likes of Franks (R), McCain (R), Pastor (D) and others—virtually the entire Arizona Congressional delegation is in support of Franks’ legislation. The State of Arizona has a law on the books—the voter approved Gaming Compact of 2002. Since when can a city council pick and choose which laws it will uphold? It is a premature action that can result in futility should the court cases be resolved against the Tohono O’odham or Franks’ bill become law.

Mayor Weiers read a letter from Representative Franks expressing his disappointment with this council’s action and his pledge to continue to move this legislation forward. The Mayor also expressed concern that should the Tohono O’odham prevail the State Legislature will move to allow gambling state-wide, no holds barred. Many neighborhoods, state-wide, not just in the Phoenix Metro area, may become victims of new casino construction, not just by state tribes but by gaming interests throughout the country.

I, the former Yucca district councilmember, along with many, many Glendale residents, especially in the district affected, the Yucca district, urge the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River-Pima-Maricopa Indian Communities to stay the course. Continue to fight this deception perpetrated by the Tohono O’odham on you, its sister tribes.

I urge Representative Franks to also stay the course. The 4 current councilmembers who voted to pass this resolution do not represent the majority — Glendale residents opposed to this intrusion. They are misguided–swayed by the promises made to them by the Tohono O’odham. Yet how can we trust a tribe that used deception to buy the land and keep it a secret for 7 years? How can other tribes trust the tribe that used deception and secretly was planning to build a casino while advocating for a state compact that promised no new casinos in the Phoenix Metro area? Anyone who relies upon the Tohono O’odham’s word after having seen their deceptions is a fool. It looks like we’ve got at least 4 fools on the Glendale City Council. Sigh…

© Joyce Clark, 2014


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