Header image alt text

Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

In the November 9, 2017 edition of the Glendale Star Councilmember Bart Turner offered a guest commentary entitled the “Top 10 reasons to proceed with light rail.” While he is a fierce advocate for light rail his position does not comport with a majority of city council. Those who gave direction to abandon moving forward with light rail were Mayor Weiers, Vice Mayor Hugh, Councilmember Malnar and I. There were only two councilmembers definitively in support of light rail and they were Councilmembers Turner and Aldama. Councilmember Tolmachoff never really responded in any clear cut fashion. Aldama’s position in an election year may not bode well for him as he seemed to ignore a great many downtown business owners opposed to the concept.

Before I launch into a rebuttal of Councilmember Turner’s commentary I want to recommend two articles written by Randal O’Toole that I found while researching this issue. The first, “The coming transit apocalypse” was published as a policy paper by the Cato Institute on October 24, 2017. Here is the link:
https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/coming-transit-apocalypse .

The second, also by O’Toole was published in the Wall Street Journal on November 10, 2017. It is entitled “It’s the Last Stop on the Light-Rail Gravy Train: Mayors want new lines that won’t be ready for a decade. Commuters will be in driverless cars by then.” Here is the link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/its-the-last-stop-on-the-light-rail-gravy-train-1510354782 . Both are well worth reading.

Turner’s top reason for supporting light rail is that it was a component of Proposition 402 approved by voters on November 6, 2001, 16 years ago. I bet if light rail were on a ballot today it would go down in flaming defeat.

The specific ballot language said, “That all revenues from the 0.5% increase in the privilege and use tax authorized by this ordinance shall be deposited in a separate transportation fund that shall be used only for transportation purposes in accordance with Proposition Number 402 , including the following:

  • Intersection improvements
  • Street projects
  • Expansion of existing bus services
  • Increased Dial-A-Ride services
  • Express bus service
  • Regional light rail connection
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvement Projects
  • Airport projects
  • Safety improvements”

 At that time the proposition was deliberately crafted to offer a potpourri of 9 items. The working assumption was that a menu of items was sure to appeal to various stakeholders. Light rail was included and its insertion onto the ballot measure was as contentious as its possible location. It was assumed at that time that this inclusion was the surest way to insure its passage by its advocates at that time.

And yes, Proposition 402 did pass on a vote of 8,313 yes votes (64%) and 4,664 no votes (36%). The ballot proposition was very general in its wording. It did not mandate that any of the above action items take precedence over any other. It also did not present a time line under which these items were to be completed.

It is fair to say that many of the voters wanted improved bus services as well as intersection improvements and street maintenance and repair. They were willing to accept all elements of the ballot in order to get the options that were important to them – streets, intersections and better bus service.  That was the voters’ agenda then and it remains the voters’ agenda now.

Turner goes on to state that there is enough city funding to get light rail to 51st Avenue and Glendale Avenue but that is not accurate as the estimated costs show a deficit of $400,00. See the chart below:

When we consider capital construction and operations & maintenance (O&M) costs — beware. Fares generate only one-quarter to one-third of operating expenses. There will be significant annual operational costs causing a redistribution of income from all taxpayers to subsidize light rail riders. Historically ridership fluctuates with the condition of the national economy. When gas prices are high or we are in the midst of a recession ridership increases. When gas is cheap or times are good, we climb right back into our cars. Soon we will see driverless cars whose cost of operation will compete very favorably with transit fares.

Light rail is very, very expensive. Typically it is 20 times the construction cost of all other forms of mass transit. Generally, construction delays and cost overruns are endemic. Federal and state subsidies are needed to construct the rail line and to maintain and operate the system. All federal grants require assurances. In other words, there are strings attached. One of those required federal assurances is that the light rail system will never be shut down.

What about the disruption to traffic and local businesses during construction? Most of the downtown businesses that would be affected by 2 to 3 years of light rail construction will end up closing or moving to another location. They are concerned and they have every right to be. Many are small businesses that cannot afford the kind of disruption that occurs with light rail construction. Many may end up being replaced by multi-family…most likely not high-end multi-family either.

What about Turner’s contention that light rail provides a “catalyst” for high-quality redevelopment? According to an Excel presentation provided to me by Valley Metro current development to-date along the existent light rail lines (Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe) show that anywhere from an estimated 3% to 30% of the investment in new development that occurs along a light rail route is public money (municipal funding). In addition it is quite likely that the incentive funding provided by the city to attract private development will have to compete with other General Fund priorities. In essence, taxpayer subsidies boost development along transit lines and around stations. Do you want to divert your taxpayer dollars to incentivize development along a light rail line? The catalyst will be city investment and city incentives offered to developers.

What kind of investment is typical along a light rail line? Again, based on information provided by Valley Metro, the new development tends to be a double digit percentage increase in the addition of multi-family (apartments) and the decrease of retail (percentage is variable from single digit decline to double digit decline).  Are you willing to trade downtown retail locations for apartments? Do you think the disappearance of existent stores and restaurants and the addition of more apartments in their stead is high-quality development? Did you know that properties near light rail stations in low income areas experience negative benefits?

Councilmember Turner suggests that, “a rubber-tired trolley can ferry light rail passengers throughout downtown.” Why would that be necessary? Light rail lines cannot be rerouted. They are fixed.  They create a certain inflexibility. Consider a rail breakdown or the permanent elimination of a temporary street closure caused by a special event (Glendale Glitters? Chocolate Affaire?) or a parade (Christmas parade?). There can be a permanent inconvenience to motorists when a street lane is lost or if they are required to wait behind a rail car while passengers get on or off. Motorists often react to light rail location by choosing alternate nearby streets. Suddenly the vehicular congestion migrates but still remains.

Turner suggests, “If Glendale abandons its light rail plan, $72 million paid by Glendale and other West Valley residents into the regional light rail fund will be transferred” to other light rail projects in the Valley. That is true. While Glendale chooses to opt out of light rail right that doesn’t mean that in future years Valley Metro may create other priorities in which Glendale may participate . At that time it will have access to those regional dollars.

Councilmember Turner does not mention the benefit of not establishing light rail now. Angel Rodriguez, in a Letter to the Editor in the November 2, 2017 Glendale Star asks, “The Oct. 23 article regarding the Glendale City Council killing plans for downtown light rail referred to a ‘decision 16 years after Glendale voters approved a sales tax increase, in part for light rail,’ raises the question of that part of the sales tax increase for light rail. How much of the sales tax increase starting 16 years ago was and has been set aside for that light rail that won’t happen? By now, it must be in the millions …” Approximately 40% of the sales tax collected was set aside and reserved for light rail. With the council decision not to proceed with light rail that money can be reprogrammed for other more immediate transportation needs. It can be used to enhance and increase bus service. A majority of our bus shelters are without shade. Just adding shade to these bus stops will increase ridership. The bus route along 83rd Avenue now goes from McDowell Road in Phoenix up to Bell Road in Peoria. Other routes may be able to be expanded or created.

 It can be used for intersection and street improvements. There are at least 5 intersections in Glendale in need of remediation right now. Some of those dollars could be reprogrammed to mitigate them. As another example, it can be used to connect Camelback Ranch to Westgate. Once that occurs, just as in the case of completing 95th Avenue south from Bethany Home Road to Camelback, it creates a catalyst for more businesses to locate and with it comes more jobs for Glendale’s residents. When the extension of 95th Avenue was planned and announced who came to town? IKEA with its hundreds of jobs. Those light rail transportation dollars can be reprogrammed to create enhanced connectivity between locations. With that activity comes more jobs to Glendale. City council, in a future workshop, will decide how to make the best use of the light rail dollars for other transportation needs.

Lastly, Councilmember Turner says, “Our image as the progressive future-looking city that Glendale is working hard to develop will be significantly harmed if we willingly choose to forgo this opportunity.” According to his perception, the same must be said for the other “dale” – Scottsdale. For it, too, has made the decision not to pursue light rail in its community. The four councilmembers, including me, that gave direction not to proceed with light rail at this time, in this location, do not accept his statement.

Glendale continues to be the location of choice for many businesses. Just this week, we celebrated the ground breaking for a BMW automotive franchise. BMW does extensive market research in making a decision as to where to locate another franchise. They, just as any other business looking for another location, cannot afford to make the wrong choice. They chose Glendale because of the positives Glendale offers to all new business locates. Glendale is on the move and the council decision to not move forward with light rail does not harm the amazing prospects for our future in any way, shape or form.

I understand Councilmember Turner’s frustration because the light rail decision was not the one he wanted. I’ve been there and done that. But council has made its decision and will reaffirm that decision in the form of a future Resolution to that effect. His continued advocacy for a position not supported by a majority of the city council will not change the outcome. Just as we agree to disagree, we respect his position on this issue; it’s time for him to respect our positions as well. Calling councilmembers “un-American” because of opposition to light rail does nothing to advance the issue and, in fact, is a violation of the City Council Guidelines for Conduct.

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

I belong to an online site called nextdoor.com . This site connects neighbors to neighbors within their neighborhood as well as connecting nearby neighborhoods to one another. You can post general messages, want ads, items for sale, event notices, etc. It’s a great site and I urge you to check it out.

The other day this question was posted, “Does anyone know any updates on casino? It seems like it is in a standstill with moving forward with construction.”  It was posted to 41 neighborhoods in my general area on April 26, 2017. It was as if a bomb had gone off. It generated more replies than any other issue I have seen lately. There was not only a great deal of misinformation posted but there were replies like, “Which casino sorry Glendale?”

It’s time to offer an update on the TO casino. As of today, May 6, 2017 the last Arizona District Court minute entry was posted on February 10, 2017, 3 months ago, “MINUTE ENTRY for proceedings held before Judge David G Campbell: Telephone Conference held on 2/8/2017. Plaintiff State of Arizona request a 45 day extension of the response to 263 MOTION for Attorney Fees . Discussion held. Request granted. Response due 3/31/2017 .”

As you can see from this minute entry there are procedures and pre-trial motions that must be adjudicated (settled) before a bench trial before Judge Campbell may begin. It could be months before the case is argued before the judge. In other words, it’s at a standstill.

This case revolves around the Tohono O’odham’s (TO) attempt to get a Class III license from the State of Arizona. Until this case is settled there will be nothing but bingo (and no liquor) at the Desert Diamond Casino located on a county island in the midst of Glendale, just north of the Westgate area. The temporary casino located in the Tohono O’odham’s warehouse facility will continue as the only operation on the site. Those who have visited this casino are quick to point out that it’s not on a par with Talking Stick Casino and Resort. Factually, it will never be a Class A facility unless the TO get their Class III license. Will that occur? Only Judge Campbell will have the answer when he rules on the current case before him.

Here is the comment from a local resident who used to work at this casino, “They also want to build another one up here somewhere (on the Glendale site). I don’t remember exactly but…on the east side (of the site). I think… they are fighting for both now. When it opened they told us one year to the day we would be walking into the new one. Well that passed Dec 20th.”

This resident’s comment sparked a new round of replies, “For me it was just a crappy sneaky deal all around. As I know the facts, it was a Federal land swap. The feds didn’t ask or didn’t want to ask or didn’t care to ask what their plan was for the property and didn’t put casino restrictions on it, right across the street from the high school, and didn’t inform the local government. Everybody dropped the ball letting the tribe do whatever. I don’t know what the Grand plan and or timeframe, but if they turned the entire property into a family friendly resort with pool, water park, rides, par 3 golf, hotel, etc……. I don’t have an issue with the casino.”

Or this comment, “I’m wondering if the City of Glendale was notified. Isn’t that property within the city limits? If so??? I also wonder what land did the Fed’s swap? The issue for me is if all the tribes signed an agreement not to develop a casino in an urban area and this tribe somehow managed to have the land swapped and designated as tribal land they should not be granted a full gambling license. Just my opinion.”

I must offer a little history in answer to these comments. In 2001 the state began negotiations with all Arizona tribes to craft a gaming compact. At the same time (2001-02) the Tohono O’odham were already land shopping in urban areas of Maricopa County. They formed a shell company, Reiner, which purchased the land in Glendale. This purchase was kept secretly while the TO participated in the negotiations and paid for publicity pamphlets asking voters to approve the Gaming Act of 2002. It wasn’t until the TO publicly announced their intention in 2009 (7 years later…7 years a secret closely guarded) to build a casino on a county island within Glendale that the public or Glendale knew of their plans.

It was not a federal land swap per se. The Gila River Act of 1985 allowed the TO to purchase land in Maricopa County because the federal government had flooded their land when it built a new dam. It made the TO’s land unsustainable for agriculture. No one, except the TO, believe that it was legal to purchase land for a casino in an urban area rather than adhering to the intent of this law which was to acquire useable agricultural land to replace lands that were lost to flooding.

Glendale joined in lawsuits with virtually every Tribe in the state to fight the TO casino…until August of 2014. The city sold its soul for 30 pieces of silver. It entered into an agreement with the TO agreeing to withdraw all official opposition to the project, and would adopt a new resolution expressing support for the Tohono O’odhams’ acquisition of the property and for the casino. 

The Tohono O’odhams, in exchange, would pay for any infrastructure improvements needed in the area to accommodate the additional traffic the casino would generate. It would also give Glendale a one-time payment of $500,000, and annual payments of $1.4 million, which would increase by two percent a year.

As a Glendale city councilmember it is my obligation and duty to uphold Glendale policy. If the TO were to come to the city I have a duly sworn obligation to give them a full and fair hearing without bias. This, I would endeavor to do. On a personal level that doesn’t mean I agree with or even like this agreement.  For I do not.

Another resident comment expressed, “They won’t start building until they get a class 3 license. It is supposed to go back to court in May. The state is still fighting the casino. The state needs to give it up and let them build. They are wasting taxpayers money by fighting it.” Many feel this way but they are willing to overlook the deception and extreme breach of ethics by the TO in dealing with the state and its sister Tribes during the gambling compact negotiations and during the effort to gain voter approval for the compact in 2002. These stakeholders believe the TO lied to them by having secretly already purchased land for a casino in an urban area and that is a very difficult bridge to repair. It’s an action that is precedent setting and puts every Valley city in peril for who is to say which city will become the next host to a tribal casino?

One resident offered this link to a study on the economic impact of tribal casinos. It’s a good read:

http://www.uwyo.edu/shogren/gaming%20and%20casino%20economics.htm . Finally, I end with this resident’s comment on casinos, “Casinos are, in my opinion, a tax on people bad at math. You know who you will never see in a casino? Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Charles Koch, Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerburg… or any of the other richest people in the USA. Because they understand math better than most of us.” Maybe it would help if we all got better at math.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

On January 17, 2017, Jessica Boehm of the Arizona Republic did a story entitled “What is the wealthiest city in the West Valley?”  She said, “The West Valley is home to some of the fastest-growing cities in the country, according to U. S. Census data…But despite the booming population, the region lacks significant high-wage employment opportunities, often putting West Valley cities behind East Valley counterparts – like Chandler and Gilbert – with wealth indicators like household income and employment.” Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/southwest-valley/2017/01/17/wealthiest-city-goodyear-west-valley-census-household-income/96449470/ .

The major factor hampering the West Valley is the lack of adequate transportation corridors with enough capacity to meet not only overburdened current needs but those of the future. Just try to use I-10 from 83rd Avenue to 35th Avenue during morning or evening drive times...absolute gridlock.

 State and regional leaders have always succumbed to the political pressure applied by East Valley cities while considering the West Valley cities as the ugly stepchild. West Valley cities are outperforming all of the East Valley cities in terms of growth and it is projected to continue well into the future. It is time for state leaders to allocate resources to develop the kind of transportation system that already exists in the East Valley cities. Instead of allocating money to add yet another lane to a healthy East Valley system, the West Valley doesn’t need a token but a real resource commitment to build a transportation grid equal to that of its sister East Valley cities.

 I remember attending a meeting where Elliot Pollack, a preeminent and well respected economic data analyst in the state, said Glendale will become the geographic center of the Valley. I have never forgotten that assertion.

And yes, based upon 2014 and 2015 U. S. Census data, Goodyear with a median household income of $70,003 is the wealthiest West Valley city…for now. It is a snapshot in time and the character of any snapshot depends upon factors that change and rearrange constantly.

I did some research based upon available U.S. Census data on the 10 largest cities in Arizona. For comparison purposes I did not gather data on #2 Tucson, because it obviously, is not in Maricopa County. I also did not gather data for #7 Scottsdale or #8 Tempe because I believe these cities are unique in character.

Please note that in terms of median income #1 Phoenix; #3 Mesa and #6 Glendale all share the same general range of median household income ($46,000 to $48,000). Six cities have poverty rates of 10% or higher: Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Glendale, Avondale and Buckeye. With the exception of Litchfield Park all of these cities share unemployment rates from 4.2% to 6.2%.

This is not to belittle Goodyear’s success having identified and worked to attract aerospace manufacturing and health care as its job core priorities. What will be determinate of Goodyear’s ultimate economic future is that it is currently 191.52 square miles with much of its land still waiting for development. Its current population density rate is very low, at an average of 412 persons per square mile. This is in stark contrast to Phoenix, Mesa and Glendale all having an average of 3,000 to 4,000 persons per square mile. Density of population has a way of leveling the playing field.

Glendale has its job cut out for it to make some of these numbers better than they were in 2014-15. It has been working hard and these numbers don’t reflect the growth in West Glendale of its medical/health facilities.

The numbers also do not reveal that, unlike some Valley cities, Glendale is not land-locked. Those Valley cities that are not land-locked have already, in some cases, annexed all of the land possible within their annexable borders. Glendale has another estimated 50 square miles that it can annex.

The current city council’s focus is on job creation of high-paying jobs and there is still plenty of opportunity to do exactly that. The statistics for Glendale create a road map that can be used to develop strategies to address them. While this snapshot in time was not pretty for Glendale, it has so much potential to create a brighter future. The next federal census in 2020 will, I bet, paint a picture of a much improved Glendale.

© Joyce Clark, 2017        

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

This first story is in keeping with the spirit of the Christmas season. Right after Thanksgiving a Phoenix hiking group erected a 15-foot Christmas tree at the summit of Camelback Mountain. Within a day someone had cut the tree’s top half down and stole it. Park rangers removed the bottom half instantly. Phoenix (the Grinch of this story) has a “leave no trace” policy in its parks and refused to allow the group to replace the tree. After discussions with the group, Phoenix relented and will allow the Christmas tree to be up for a month. Here is the link to the story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2016/12/02/camelback-mountain-new-christmas-tree/94826794/ hootPostID=e6b4bacfb975fca570a98e83f2a0f9f3 . A win win solution for everyone showing that even a Grinch can have a heart. Good for you, Phoenix.

Not so with Glendale. Tony Escamillo erected a United States flag at the summit of Thunderbird Mountain Park symbolic of our national pride and out of his love of country. It keeps getting removed. By whom? None other than the City of Glendale. Another Grinch identified. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken and this could be one of those ‘sometimes’. Come on, Glendale, make this an exception. Perhaps there is a reader out there who will start a Go Fund Me account for permanent placement of our country’s flag on Glendale’s one and only mountain top. Here is a link to this story: https://www.facebook.com/FOX10Phoenix/videos/1188934381155107/?pnref=story .

The next story is a cautionary tale for Glendale’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Experience Scottsdale (previously known as the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau) was audited this year. Here is a link to that story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2016/12/01/city-tourism-audit-ciritical-experience-scottsdales-high-pay-lack-focus-city/94353844/ . The major thrust of the audit was on Experience Scottsdale’s executive salaries. At the present time that is not an issue for the Glendale CVB and is irrelevant but some of its other findings are worth paying attention to.

This group receives half of Scottsdale’s hotel-sales-tax collections each year, amounting to about $9.4 million in fiscal year 2016. Glendale also allocates a portion of its bed-hotel-sales tax collections to its CVB. Currently, $30,000 of its total hotel-bed-sales tax will be used to promote the Civic Center. While Glendale’s hotel bed-sales-tax numbers are not as grand as those of Scottsdale with its bounty of hotels, especially high-end ones as more hotels come on line in Glendale, that bed-sales-tax number will become more significant.

Scottsdale’s audit report discovered that of the 536 convention bookings, only 297 were actually on Scottsdale properties. In another instance, the Scottsdale CVB reported 167,000 room nights as a result of the conventions booked. Actual room nights in Scottsdale proper were about half that number, 84,000.

The Scottsdale CVB has 411 members but 180 of its members, or a little less than half, are outside of Scottsdale so the benefits to its members do not translate as exclusive benefits for Scottsdale businesses. The Scottsdale CVB reported 2.6 million visitors to its website but failed to account for repeat visitors in that reported number. The audit revealed the economic impact related to visitor inquiries at Experience Scottsdale around $262 million, about 16 percent less than the figure reported by the CVB.

The Scottsdale audit recommended that its CVB set annual goals based on the previous year’s results; that it prioritizes Scottsdale-based businesses; and that it annually submits documentation that verifies its performance claims. That sure does sound like a strategy the Glendale city council should adopt.

The last story is about Buckeye and is in the ‘what in the world?’ category. In April of 2015, about a year and half ago, Buckeye purchased Global Water Resources for $55 million dollars. The deal was touted as being more efficient. Residents were assured that current customer water rates were sufficient to cover the expense of the acquisition over a 20 year period. The city said that opening up the areas previously served by Global would generate new development. It said there would be new sales tax, property tax and employment as a result of the enhanced water system. Here is the link to the original 2015 story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/southwest-valley/2015/04/06/buckeye-adds-new-water-customers-promises-benefits/25269607/ .

Obviously something went terribly wrong. Over the past few months suddenly Buckeye water customers have had bills that spiked – upwards of $400, and some as high as $1,400. There is nothing that makes a resident sit up and take notice more than an issue that hits the pocket book and this surely did just that. Residents made noise and filed complaints with the city. Nothing has happened except for the sound of crickets chirping.  On November 22, 2016 residents had had enough of the city’s inaction and so filed a recall petition against Mayor Jackie Meck. Here is a link to the story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/southwest-valley/2016/11/30/high-water-bills-prompt-recall-effort-buckeye-mayor/94634980/ .

Meck, in response, acknowledged “some growing pains” as a result of the city’s purchase of Global. What might they be, Mayor Meck and why haven’t you shared them with your residents? More crickets chirping. It has been my experience that a city’s mayor knows exactly what’s going on with everything even remotely city-related. Meck says he’s “working on it” but it’s a little late for Meck to suddenly play dumb.

Jackie Meck has been around for a long time and seems to represent the good ole boys of Buckeye. His response has been to say, “I have lived in Buckeye all of my life. Through it all we have never gone through a recall. It is not how we have settled our differences.” It appears that Meck is ignoring his residents at his peril. Didn’t we all just experience something similar on a national level as the Democrats ignored their core constituency of the working class resulting in their election losses? It would seem that anyone running against Meck this time around has a good chance of unseating him (despite his recent August reelection victory) for it’s obvious that there are a lot of angry Buckeye water customers out there and they, too, are being ignored. They just may express their anger and frustration through the ballot box as well.

© Joyce Clark, 2016        

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Apparently Governor Doug Ducey has no problem throwing the City of Glendale under the bus. Recently he offered a settlement to the Tohono O’odham. Here is a link to Howard Fischer’s Capitol Times story: http://tucson.com/news/local/tohono-o-odham-say-proposed-casino-deal-not-likely-acceptable/article_da14a03a-e2b5-5fde-aa95-87519314c89c.html . In return for the state’s recognition of the Glendale casino as well as the state’s allowance of full Class III gaming at the Glendale casino the Governor wants the tribe in essence to promise not to build any other casinos in the metropolitan areas of  Phoenix and to limit gaming to the TO tribal land that existed in 2003. Gee, as a Glendale resident, I want to say, “Thank you, Governor.” The deal, in order to obtain buy-in from the other tribes, gives the tribes an increase gaming operations which means increased revenue for them.

The Tohono O’odham (TO) is reluctant to agree. They are betting that Judge Campbell, who is scheduled to hear arguments in mid-December on the TO’s lawsuit to compel the state to grant it Class III gaming, will rule in their favor. The TO assumes it will win this lawsuit and get Class III gaming in Glendale. The TO’s anticipated win of this current law suit allows them to retain the legal option to open casinos elsewhere in the Phoenix metro area.

A little refresher on history is needed. In 2002, the voters of the state approved a Gaming Compact between all tribes and the state for the purpose of gaming regulation at tribal casinos. The 2002 deal gave the tribes the exclusive right to conduct casino gaming in Arizona and was sold to voters on the promise that gambling would be restricted to existing reservations and that there would be no new casinos in the Phoenix area.

In the meantime, the TO, while actively encouraging voters to support the 2002 gaming compact, were already planning on breaching it. Prior to 2002 they were secretly and actively seeking land for the purpose of planting a casino in Maricopa County. Their original consideration was to purchase land in or around Buckeye. Buckeye dodged the bullet when the TO’s consultant opined that the site was too distant from the major urban centers of Phoenix. They settled on a county island in Glendale, close to city’s newly announced (in 2002) Westgate site as an entertainment district. They bought the land under a shell company and for seven years they kept it secret while Glendale invested millions of dollars into the development of Westgate. On the day in 2009, when they made their public announcement of their intent to build a casino in Glendale, they marched into city hall and in essence told the city they were coming and there was not a darned thing it could do about it.

For years, Glendale and the Salt River-Pima-Maricopa tribe and the Gila River tribe brought lawsuits against the Tohono O’odham. It has only been lately that Glendale’s city council dropped its opposition to the TO casino in return for 30 pieces of silver.

Here is the Arizona Republic’s latest editorial on the issue: http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/editorial/2016/11/30/tribal-gaming-settlement/94698276/ .

Everyone , to this day, believes the TO’s West Valley casino was a breach of the spirit of the 2002 agreement with voters that created the plan for limited tribal gaming. The tribes believe the TO breached their trust. Over the past 8 years the TO has created controversy, innumerable legal battles, enormous cost and a great deal of distrust regarding its word to its sister tribes and the voters of the state.

The TO’s response has been to say that it wants to consider all proposals using the Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA). Here’s the rub. The Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River-Pima-Maricopa Indian Community resigned from the AIGA in May, 2016, saying, “actions of the Tohono O’odham Nation to secretly develop a casino in direct opposition to the promises made by AIGA and other tribes has destroyed AIGA’s unity and undermined the principles of the organization.” Obviously the TO’s suggestion is not going to happen but it certainly provides the TO with convenient cover.

What to make of this latest volley? It is clear that no one on this planet trusts the Tohono O’odham’s word.  The only reason the state is willing to grant the long-coveted Class III gambling license is because Governor Ducey wants a signed, legal document  (promise) from the TO that they will not build any more casinos in the greater Phoenix metro area. The TO’s word is worth nothing and their signature on a contract may not be worth much more (do you see future law suits?).

In the meantime the TO wants its cake and to eat it too. They are cocky. They’ve won nearly every law suit. They have convinced themselves they will win this latest one. If they do, they will get their Class III gaming without having to promise anyone that they will not build more casinos in Maricopa County. Uh, oh, watch out Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, et. al. A Tohono O’odham casino planted in your town may be in your future! Can anyone say, “Las Vegas?”

© Joyce Clark, 2016        

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

It has been 18 years and 42 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

In reviewing documents related to the casino I came across an issue about which I had previously not paid much attention. In the transcript of the December 7, 2015 oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of State of Arizona vs. Tohono O’odham Nation the judge asked both sides a series of questions. Here is the link:  http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/media/2015/12/07/13-16517 .

At issue is the ability of the Tohono O’odham Nation (TON) to place all of its permitted casinos on unincorporated land (county islands) in Maricopa County. Pratik Shah, attorney for the Gila River Indian Community, said on page 4, “under their (TON) reading, they could simply move all four casinos to Phoenix because Phoenix is 50 miles outside of Tucson.”

On page 8 of the transcript Seth Waxman, attorney for the Tohono O’odham Nation (TON) stated, “Mr. Shah is quite correct that in general what the compact says is, the nation may game on any of its Indian lands including lands covered by Section 2719.”

Further evidence of the TO’s very likely intent to locate all of its casinos in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area can be found in the March 16, 2012 deposition of Daniel Quigley, a TON attorney who has represented either the TON or its entity, the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, almost continuously since 1993. His deposition was taken with regard to one of the numerous lawsuits. In this case, it was the State of Arizona vs. Tohono O’odham Nation.

A small tutorial on lawsuits is in order. Attorneys for either side can file motions asking that something be included or excluded or for a continuance. Prior to the actual trial there is a discovery phase. Each side can request documents and take preliminary testimony from potential witnesses in the form of a deposition. The attorney representing the side that requested the deposition does the questioning.

Mr. Quigley negotiated the state gaming compact on behalf of the TO. Since 2003 he has been general counsel of their gaming enterprise entity. When he joined the law firm of Rushing Lopez & Lizardi, PLLC., the TON followed him and is currently a client of this firm. He is also the attorney for Rainer Resources, a wholly owned TO entity. It was Rainer Resources which bought the land in Glendale in 2002 and held it until the TO made their 2009 public announcement of their plans to develop a casino in Glendale.

Mr. Quigley grudgingly gave up information and often claimed attorney-client privilege. However, some of his answers were very telling. On page 19 he is asked if the TON owns other properties. Based upon the following line of questions it appears that the TON already does own additional properties. The 64 dollar questions are where? On county islands? How many? That is information the TON did not and will not give up.

  1. Q. “Other than what I’ve already asked you about,  are there any other fee lands that the Nation has an interest in?”
  2. A. “Yes.”
  3. Q. “What are those?”
  4. A. “I am aware of the property that we’ve been referring to as the West Valley Resort property in this litigation.”
  5. Q. “Anything else?”
  6. A. “I’m sure there are, but I’m not familiar with them.”
  7. Q. “How can you be sure there are if you don’t know specifically what properties they are?”
  8. A. “My best guess is that the Nation owns additional real estate beyond those.”
  9. Q. “And what do you base that on?”
  10. A. “I believe in the past, I’ve seen records of fee ownership of land.”
  11. Q. “How many additional pieces of real estate, approximately, do you believe the Nation owns?”
  12. A. “I don’t know.”
  13. Q. “How many have you seen records of?”
  14. A. “I don’t know.”
  15. Q. “Can you give me an approximate number?”
  16. A. “A couple.”

Another line of questioning on page 65 deals with the Tohono O’odham never specifically mentioning the possibility of acquiring additional land in the Phoenix metro area to be put into trust for the purpose of gaming during the time that voter approval was sought for the state compact.

  1. Q. “Because everybody knew that casinos had to be located on the Indian lands of the tribe, and the tribe had specific Indian lands in the vicinity of Case Grande, Florence, and Gila Bend. And I’m asking you, when you referred to each of those three areas, did you mean to be referring specifically to Indian lands that the tribe already had in trust?”
  2. A. “No.”
  3. Q. “How would somebody involved in those conversations have known that you were referring to something more broadly than those specific lands that the Nation already had in trust?”
  4. A. “Because the vast majority of the people who were involved in those conversations would have understood the ability to acquire additional Indian lands.”
  5. Q. “And how would they have understood about the ability to acquire additional Indian lands?”
  6. A. “Most of them would have read the IGRA (federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act).”
  7. Q. “But that doesn’t—the IGRA doesn’t give anybody any specific right to acquire additional Indian lands. Right?”
  8. A. “No, it does not.”

On pages 87-89 the line of questioning corroborates the TON’s belief that it can locate additional casinos in the Phoenix metro area. Mr. Quigley asserts the same belief that can be found in the above reference to the judge’s questioning of the TON’s attorney Seth Waxman in December of 2015.

  1. Q. “Is it correct that under the Nation’s interpretation of the Gila Bend Act (IGRA) and the compact, it could, if it so chose, and if this made economic sense, close all of its existing facilities and locate four casinos in the Phoenix market?”
  2. A. “With the exception of the limitation on a fourth facility, if the Nation operates four facilities, the compact has no limitations on where the Nation’s Indian lands it can place its facilities other than the mile-and-a-half restriction.”
  3. Q. “So if – if, for example, the Nation were to acquire under the Gila Bend Act (IGRA) and have taken into trust parcels of land that were – it’s understood if they were taken into trust, they would be on unincorporated land on county islands or directly across the municipal limits of Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, and Scottsdale, that would be acceptable under the Nation’s view of what the compact limitation are with respect to the location of facilities?”
  4. A. “What do you mean when you say ‘that would be acceptable’?”
  5. Q. That would be legally permissible. It’s the Nation’s position that that would be allowed by the compact?”
  6. A. “If the Nation acquired lands under the Gila Bend Act (IGRA) in the locations that you specified, and if those lands were taken into trust, and if those lands were eligible for gaming, then the compact, I believe would allow the Nation to conduct gaming on those lands, assuming they met the requirements of the mile and a half between facilities and the met the requirements for the fourth facility.”

Clearly both attorneys representing the Tohono O’odham Nation, Waxman and Quigley, hold the legal opinion and have counseled their client such that the TO can establish additional casinos in the Phoenix metro area. We know that the TO owns additional land in the area. We don’t know how much or where. It may just be a matter of time. If the TO prevail against the state in court and is granted a liquor license at the Glendale casino, katy bar the door…more casinos will come.

Did you know that there are approximately 200 parcels of unincorporated land (county islands) in the Phoenix metro area? The TO used a shell company to buy the land in Glendale and they could do the same to acquire additional parcels. Are you ready to have a casino near your neighborhood in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert or Mesa? It may happen.

The consequences of such action would be catastrophic. It would provide incentive needed by the state legislature to open gaming to non-Tribal entities. If they were to do so the state would receive sales tax, property tax, etc. from non-Tribal casinos. It makes the prospect very attractive at a time when revenues often times do not cover all of the state’s needs. Currently there is no tax per se paid by the Tribal casinos. Under the existent compact there is what is defined as “tribal contributions.” They are distributed as follows:

  • 12% distributed by the Tribes to the cities, towns and counties of their choosing for community services and public safety programs for local governments
  • The remaining 88% of the Tribes’ total annual contribution goes to the Arizona Benefits Fund on a quarterly basis and provides funding for the Arizona Department of Gaming and the Office of Problem Gambling. The remaining funds are distributed as follows:
  • 56% to instructional improvement for schools
  • 8% to trauma and emergency care
  • 8% to Arizona tourism
  • 8% to wildlife conservation

It would blow up the existent voter approved state Gaming Compact of 2002 and would make it very difficult to negotiate and to seek voter approval on a new compact as voters would be reluctant to rely on any public statements about its provisions. After all, it was sold to the voters with the promise that “there would be no new casinos in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area.” As Mr. Quigley stated on page 177 of his deposition, “I do not think it would be a fair statement to say that one could rely on any statements in there (referring to the 2002 voter information guide) as necessarily being correct.” If the TO has a bridge to sell, would you buy it?

© Joyce Clark, 2016

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

%d bloggers like this: