The City Council workshop meeting of October 15, 2013 had a little something for everyone. Since Mayor Weiers has been at the helm all of their meetings have been extraordinarily brief. Not so this time.
The first item was an informational presentation on light rail in Glendale by Steve Banta, CEO of Valley Metro. Keep in mind that even if all the stars aligned, Glendale still wouldn’t see light rail for a minimum of ten years. The corridors under study remain the same: Northern Avenue to Bethany Home Road; Camelback Road; and the Loop 101. The only strong sentiment was expressed by Vice Mayor Knaack whose business is located in downtown Glendale. She remains adamantly opposed to light rail being sited along Glendale Avenue. Ummm…I guess she didn’t get the memo about Mesa. They deliberately sited their light rail on their Main Street to spur redevelopment. Their experiment with light rail has been so successful that Mesa is paying for an additional 2 miles from a city fund dedicated to street improvements.
Council moved on to the next item, Councilmember Chavira’s plea to get more amenities in the Western Regional Park (now called Heroes Park) at 83rd and Bethany Home Road. He proposed as temporary, soccer fields; or the addition of sod to green the park; or an archery range. He needs to bring something home to his constituents before he runs for reelection. Poor Sammy, it won’t be park improvements. He ran into the same brick wall as I. Keep in mind that a majority of the former council diverted $6M earmarked for the park to the construction of the Public Safety Training Facility. It was a spite move orchestrated by the former Mayor because I refused to become a member of her team. Council has an obligation to restore that $6M deliberately and willfully taken from the park. Chavira heard a resounding “No” from his fellow councilmembers to his requests. Even Alvarez said “No” and called for prioritization of needs. They fell back on the council policy directive that mandates maintaining and improving the parks already in place. They grudgingly agreed to move forward on the concept of an archery range provided it “was at no cost to the city.” I have never seen a project come forward that didn’t involve some cost to the city. In addition when residents of the area publicly participated in the planning of the park there was not one request for an archery range. In all my years on Council I received one call from a father who wanted to establish an archery range in a nearby retention area for his son so that he could conveniently practice. As the Director of Parks and Recreation Erik Strunk stated, “There will be no available funds in the Parks and Recreation Capital Improvement Program until Fiscal Year 2018-19.” At that time all seven councilmembers will be vying for the use of those funds.
The Sister Cities Program was next on the agenda. This item was Councilmember Sherwood’s request. His motive was to partner with Canadian cities that host hockey and perhaps to boost Canadian attendance at Coyotes hockey games. It was a subject that didn’t engender a lot of comment. However, Alvarez and Chavira broadened the concept to include Mexican cities. Council directed this initiative be shifted to the private sector for further exploration and called on the Civic Pride Ambassadors, the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to lead the effort.
Now we get to the meat and potatoes…er…steak and potatoes of the workshop…the Tohono O’odham and its proposed casino. The new City Attorney, Michael Bailey, presented information first. He said for 5 years the city’s position has been in opposition as expressed by various city council approved resolutions. Until council passes a new resolution expressing a new direction, the city will remain opposed to the proposed casino. He went on to say the city is no longer involved in any active litigation against the TO’s plan. Everyone is waiting for the results of two actions: U.S. Representative Trent Franks bill currently enjoying bipartisan support which has passed the House and moved on to the Senate; and the 9th Circuit’s Court mandate that the U.S. Department of Interior further clarify its justification for provisionally placing the land within Glendale in reservation status. He also expected that no matter what the Department of Interior’s decision, we can expect further litigation. The City Attorney advised waiting until these issues were resolved before moving in any direction. He likened the current situation to council’s ordering and paying for a steak dinner and then just before it arrives, getting up and walking out of the restaurant. He alluded to the fact that entering into a dialogue with the TO could send the wrong signal to our friends and supporters – the other Tribes, the State Legislature and our Congressional delegation.
Despite his sage advice, here’s how the council lined up on the issue. Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Martinez remain firmly opposed and counseled waiting until the issues resolve. As expected Councilmembers Alvarez and Hugh are in the TO camp, breathlessly awaiting the casino’s arrival as if it is the cure for all of Glendale’s financial woes. Councilmember Chavira, in whose district the proposed casino would be located, has never been one to take a strong position on anything, maintained a fence sitting posture (painful to say the least). If he had a brain, he’d listen to and represent his constituents who will be dramatically affected and simply do not want the casino. Councilmember Sherwood after proclaiming that he was still opposed to the casino then trotted out a litany of reasons in its support. Vice Mayor Knaack, ever ready to appease everyone and anyone, listed the reasons why a casino was not in anyone’s best interest then flopped to supporting dialogue with the TO. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. What happened when the European nations practiced appeasement?
The result of the long and sometimes contentious discussion was 5 of 7 councilmembers supported directing staff to fact find (including dialogue with the TO) to produce an assessment of the impacts of the proposed casino on Glendale. I find it amazing that 5 of them believe they will get specific facts from the TO. This is the same Tribe that hid its ownership of the land in question for years. This is the same Tribe, when asked by Glendale staff, for specifics regarding their proposed casino, offered only conceptual ideas, nothing concrete. This is the same Tribe that publicly stumped for the State Gaming Compact in 2002, knowing that they already had plans to violate the spirit of the compact. There is and should not be, justifiably, any trust regarding assertions that they make. What’s the old saying? Trust but verify?
Council’s reasons in support of dialogue were superficial and may have been motivated by the people who spoke at their last council meeting (by the way, many were not from Glendale). This council left their steak dinner on the table having already paid for it, unwilling to wait and to let the issues play out and knowing that possible further litigation will not see an end to this situation for several years.
© Joyce Clark, 2013
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