Recently the Arizona Republic started a new item, West Valley Sound Off. They are contacting West Valley elected to get their positions on issues of the day. Their first foray question was, “Do you support the development of this proposed casino? Why or why not?” Those from Avondale, Buckeye, Goodyear, El Mirage, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Surprise, Tolleson and Youngtown declined to answer. Not so with our brave, intrepid leaders in Glendale. Three of them did respond.

Councilmember Manny Martinez has consistently opposed the casino since it was first proposed in 2009. He gets it. He said, “I do not support the proposed Tohono O’odham reservation and casino. I am very concerned for Westgate’s well-being if the casino is opened. How do casinos attract customers? Cheap booze, cheap food, and the cost of rooms are minimal. At Westgate, we have hotels and restaurants that pay taxes and help us pay off our debts. If the reservation and casino come in, as a sovereign nation, they would pay no federal, state, county or city taxes. Governor William R. Rhodes of the Gila River Indian Community said, ‘We believe the Tohono O’odham Nation, with the assistance of the federal government, has disrespected the rule of law, the balance so carefully struck among Indian gaming tribes, our community, Glendale and every Arizonan.”

Then we have words, signifying nothing, from Councilmember Chavira. He doesn’t get it and he is not representing the majority sentiment of the residents of West Glendale and the Yucca district, who will feel the direct impacts of the proposed casino. He mimics the same, old, tired rhetoric that the Tohono O’odham have used ad nausea, “Yes, I do support the development of the proposed West Valley casino and resort. The benefits of the development will be significant not only for Glendale, but for the entire West Valley. Positive economic impacts such as job creation and an additional tourist attraction in our sports and entertainment district are among the benefits.” I’m sure he knows, uhmmm, well, perhaps he knows…that 25% of the jobs must be filled with Native Americans.

Lastly, Councilmember Sherwood responded. This is a guy who, less than two years ago, ran on a platform of opposition to the casino. Now, not so much. He did a flip-flop at a very recent council meeting voting with Councilmembers Hugh, Alvarez and Chavira to reject U.S. Representative Franks’ HB 1410 and to begin negotiations with the Tohono O’odham (TO). Many suspect his affirmative vote was pay back to Chavira for Chavira’s vote in support of the arena management deal. “Neither – I will support the project if the Tohono O’odham Nation can be treated as close to a private entity as possible and having some form of revenue stream into the city’s general fund. Additionally, infrastructure including any street improvements, public-safety agreements, et al. would have to be included and enforceable in federal courts. Thus far, in fact-finding sessions, the Nation appears to be very amenable to this. Businesses such as Westgate, Renaissance Hotel, Coyotes and Tanger Outlets, to name a few, are also in support of proposed project. The sports and entertainment district could very well capitalize on a project of this size if it meets the city’s criteria.” He appears to be back-pedaling as he straddles a very narrow  fence, by adding his list of caveats. His declaration that,” Westgate, Renaissance Hotel, Coyotes and Tanger Outlets…are also in support” is downright laughable. There has never been a declaration of public support for the proposed casino from these entities. Have you seen it? I haven’t. Remember when the possibility of losing the Coyotes as an anchor tenant at the arena loomed? Bar and restaurant owners were beside themselves and declared without 40 nights of hockey games they couldn’t make it. They are not going to support a casino that will draw customers away from them knowing that potential consumers will spend disposable income on gambling, subsidized meals and booze and cheap room rates. If they are so willing to commit financial suicide, let’s see them do it publicly. Not one representative of these entities went to the last council meeting when TO negotiations was on the agenda and expressed public support of the project. Sherwood had no public letters of support from these entities that he could read into the record that evening. It’s time for Sherwood to cease making declarations that may not be accurate. Just because he said it, doesn’t make it true.

© Joyce Clark, 2014


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