I have written about the proposed Tohono O’odham (TO) casino and its impact on Glendale too many times to count. The other day a thought occurred to me. We all know that Glendale is in a financial mess. Its debt burden has prevented the construction of so many much needed facilities such as a western branch library and has caused the cuts in service to residents’ quality of life.

We often hear Councilmember Alvarez complain about service cuts and the on-going lessening of basic infrastructure maintenance. Yet she is all too willing to support the construction of the proposed casino in the name of jobs. Realistically the job numbers touted by the TO are highly inflated and everyone seems to ignore the stipulation that 25% of them must go to Native Americans.

Has anyone considered the financial impacts to a city already struggling financially? I think not.

Several years ago senior Glendale staff presented a cursory assessment of the financial effects of the casino. It was made clear that a new water treatment facility would be required to service the intense demand for water that would be created by the casino and its ancillary uses.  The construction of such a water facility is upwards of $70 million. Who would pay for it? Certainly not the Tohono O’odham. The persons paying the construction bill would be water ratepayers through an increase in water rates.

Then there is the issue of public safety. While a TO reservation would have its own tribal police to handle issues within the reservation it would be Glendale’s police and fire that would respond outside the reservation boundaries. At the very least, Glendale taxpayers would have to bear the costs of an increase in personnel and could experience delayed response times.

Lastly there are transportation costs. Streets adjacent to the reservation may need improvement to handle the increased traffic that will occur 24/7. There may be a need for upgraded traffic signals, signage and upgrades to the city’s Intelligent Traffic System.

For all of those who support the coming of the TO casino, do you still want the casino if it means that you have to pay more for your water provided by the city?  For all of those who support the coming of the TO casino, do you still want the casino if it means that public safety response times get longer as Glendale’s public safety personnel deal with a major traffic accident on adjacent streets or respond to a heart attack victim on the reservation? For all of those who support the coming of the TO casino, do you still want the casino if it means that instead of resurfacing or improving your street the money is used to improve or maintain streets to accommodate the increased traffic adjacent to the reservation?

You know, of course, that because of reservation status, the TO pay no taxes of any kind – no federal taxes, no state taxes, no county taxes and no Glendale taxes. If you were counting on increased sales tax revenue from the casino to offset these new financial burdens to the city’s General Fund, you can forget it. It’s not going to happen.

There are those like Councilmember Sherwood that believe Glendale can negotiate reimbursement for its added financial burden to support the casino from the TO. Do you really think the TO will shell out $70 million for a new water treatment facility or pay the ongoing costs of an increase in public safety personnel or pay millions for new or upgraded street improvements?

Even if a deal is struck, how can you trust people who violated agreements and the trust of their sister Tribes or kept secret its purchase of land for 7 years? If they renege on any kind of agreement with Glendale how will those who have complained about the costs of law suits feel about yet another law suit to get the TO to honor an agreement with Glendale?  

Please don’t regurgitate that the TO are required to give a small portion (8%) of their revenue to non-profits throughout the state. That presupposes that the TO will give their entire portion to non-profits in Glendale and ignore those in the Tucson area (site of their real reservation). Not going to happen. None of that money can go to Glendale’s General Fund to offset the new financial demands created by the proposed casino.

For every action there is an equal reaction. It’s the age old law of unintended consequences. While you may support the proposed casino because it will “create jobs,” are you willing to place further financial burdens on a city already under financial stress? Are you willing “to put your money where your mouth is” and to pay more for your water, deal with longer public safety response times and watch your streets deteriorate even further? I’m not.

© Joyce Clark, 2014


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