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.

At the Tuesday, February 9, 2021 city council voting meeting Resolution R21-11 was passed by a majority of the city council. It is an agreement between the Tohono O’odham and the City of Glendale in which the city relinquishes its right to annex a parcel of land within its annexation boundaries.

I wish to explain my vote. I do not speak for the entire city council in expressing my reasoning for my vote and it should be noted that Mayor Weiers was absent due to recent surgery and did not vote on the matter.

The agreement helps to pave the way for the Tohono O’odham (TO), in the process of acquiring a parcel of land in the area of Northern Avenue and the Loop 303 freeway, to pursue building another casino, approximately ten miles to the west of the existent Desert Diamond Casino at Westgate. The property is currently owned by Saguaro Land Properties, LLC an entity of the Nation.  The next step for them is to put the land into trust.

All land within Glendale’s strip annexation borders can be annexed into Glendale, including this parcel. The TO asked that Glendale not exercise its right to annex this parcel into Glendale and a majority of the city council agreed. Glendale has the ability to annex, but not a legal right to force annexation.  Based on state statute, it would be impossible to annex them into the city, unless they agreed to do so. Here is a link to the agreement in its entirety: Contract # _ C21-0119 – TOHONO O’ODHAM NATION – Execution Date_ 2_9_2021

In the agreement the TO agrees to pay Glendale $400,000 and $1,000,000 with a 2% increase annually for 20 years:

8. Payments to the City and Other Considerations Provided by the Nation.

  1. Before the Nation Commences Gaming.  Within ten (10) days after the resolution provided in Section 4(A) of this Agreement become effective and the Memorandum of Agreement is fully executed and recorded, the Nation will make a one-time payment to the City in the amount of $400,000 to help fund the operations of the City.
  2. After the Nation Commences Gaming. Commencing in the year in which the Nation first offers Class III Gaming to the public on the Property (the ‘Base Year’) and continuing in each subsequent year for a period of twenty (20) years, the Nation will make the payments described below:
  3. Commencing in the Base Year, the Nation will make annual payments to the City to help fund its operations. The Nation will commence making payments to the City within six (6) months of the date on which the Nation first offers Class III Gaming to the public on the Property and annually thereafter within sixty (60) days of the anniversary date of the original payment made under this subsection.
  4. The Nation’s payment in the Base Year will be $1,000,000.00 in each subsequent year of this Agreement, the Nations will make a payment to the City in an amount that is two percent (2%) greater than its payment in the previous year, for the same purposes.”

In return for which the city will not only announce its support for this new casino but actively support its development:

4. Termination of the PADA; Announcement Regarding the Project; No Opposition; No Annexation; Covenant Not To Sue.

  1.   As soon as practicable following the adoption by the City of a resolution approving this Agreement, the City will adopt a resolution in the form attached hereto as Exhibit C approving and authorizing the execution on behalf of the City and recording a Memorandum of Agreement and Partial Termination of Prior Agreement releasing the Property from the PADA, in the forms attached as Exhibit 1 to such resolution, which will then be executed on behalf of the City and the Nation and recorded, at the cost and expense of the Nation, in the Official Records (the ‘Memorandum of Agreement’).
  2. Press Release. Within ten (10) days after the Effective Date, the City and the Nation will issue a joint press release, approved in substance and form by each of the Parties, stating that:
  3. The City and Nation have entered into a mutually beneficial intergovernmental agreement relation to the Property and the Project;
  4. The City supports the United States’ acquisition of the entirety of the Property in trust for the benefit of the Nation under the Lands Replacement Act;
  5. The City supports the Project (including the Nation’s proposed casino gaming operation on the Property);
  6. The City wants the Nation to construct and commence operating the Project as expeditiously as possible for the mutual benefit of the City and the Nation; and
  7. The City supports the Nation’s efforts to enter into a Compact authorizing the Nation’s Class III Gaming on the Property.
  8. No Opposition.
  9. The City will not, directly or indirectly, oppose, challenge, or appeal any decision by the Secretary of the Interior to acquire the Property in trust for the benefit of the Nation under the Lands Replacement Act, including any current or future fee to trust applications concerning the Property.
  10. If the Nation asks the National Indian Gaming Commission or the United States Department of the Interior to issue any decisions or opinions relating to whether the Property meets the requirements of 25 S.C.&2719(b)(1)(B), the City will not, directly or indirectly, oppose the request.
  11. No Annexation. The City will not, after the Effective Date, annex, or take any action to annex, all or any portion of the Property.
  12. Covenant Not To Sue. The City will not commence any future action or make any claims against the Nation or Gaming Enterprise to hinder the Nation or the Gaming Enterprise in developing the Project, except that the City may seek to enforce the terms of the Settlement Agreement and this Agreement.”

One reason to vote ‘yes’ would have been because I do not oppose the city’s agreement to not pursue annexation of this land in question. Let it remain in the county. When it is taken into Trust it becomes a reservation and part of a sovereign nation. This means the new TO casino when built will be on reservation land and not subject to local, county or tax taxation and it is not subject to local or state building codes. That is because it will be a sovereign nation and not under local, county or state jurisdiction. The issue of agreeing to not annex the land was never the issue for me. There were other reasons that compelled me to vote ‘no’ on this issue that I believe outweighed the issue of annexation or non-annexation.

I should disclaim that I have had a long history of opposition to the first casino, now a reservation, a sovereign nation, surrounded by Glendale. I will not bore you with the long history of that fight but suffice it to say, some of the actions taken by the TO appeared to some as being underhanded. Were they? That’s for you to decide but several local tribes claimed such. Here is the link to the testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives in May, 2013, of Diane Enos, President of the Salt River-Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. It does a good job of summarizing many of Arizona’s Indian tribes view of the Tohono O’odham’s actions historically: HHRG-113-II24-Wstate-EnosD-20130516

My ‘no’ vote was based upon the following questions and assumptions. My first thought was, why is the TO paying the City of Glendale when the casino will not be on city annexed land? It will remain part of the county until it is designated a reservation. With the passage of Resolution R 21-11 it will never be annexed by Glendale or be a part of Glendale. There may be several reasons:

One could be in the 1986 Gila Bend Act Congress authorized the Tohono O’odham to purchase and to become reservation up to 9,880 acres of land in Maricopa, Pima or Pinal counties. The land was supposed to replace agricultural land that had been flooded by the federal government. There was the expectation that the new land purchases would be agricultural. Under the Act, it also states the purchased land may not be within the corporate limits of any city.

Another reason may be the TO’s intense desire in securing Glendale’s full-throated support as the city agrees to publicly support the new casino. Why is this important to the TO? My guess it is to neutralize any opposition there may be from other tribes such as Gila River or Salt River-Pima-Maricopa. The TO can point out that it has the support of Glendale to move forward with this new casino.

It also secures Glendale’s support of a new Indian Gaming Compact that will go before the state’s voters in 2022 as well as ensuring Glendale’s support in its requests of the federal government to designate the land as a reservation.

Under the existent Compact the TO are allowed a total of 4 casinos. They have those now – one in Tucson, Ajo, Sahuarita, and Glendale. To construct a 5th casino will require the agreement of the signatory Tribes to the newly crafted Compact soon to be presented to the state’s voters, as well as voter approval.

That raises a question about the new Compact, as yet unveiled to the public. If the TO anticipates getting a 5th casino, does that mean all of the other signatory tribes are anticipating getting authority to plant even more casinos in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area?

Yet another reason may be because the seller of the land to the TO was a member of the PADA (Pre Annexation Development Agreement) which required land owners who are party to this agreement to annex into Glendale. When the land was sold to the TO this legal proscription remained with the sale of the land.

Although it is not specifically spelled out, the agreement seems to be a “quid pro quo.” In return for certain payments to the city, the city will support the TO’s plans. It is often acknowledged that “perception is reality.” The perception of some, after reading the Agreement, may be that the Tohono O’odham bought the city council’s support. I don’t disagree.

There may be “more to this story” than the TO have shared. Perhaps they do not enjoy the support of some of the other Tribes. Perhaps if the city had decided to keep their land in the PADA it might have clouded a federal decision as to whether the land should be taken into trust for a reservation. I honestly don’t know.

Other considerations that formed my decision to vote ‘no’ were the new casino may draw customers from those traveling along the Loop 303 but I suspect it will also draw Sun City, Sun City Grand and Sun City West patrons of the current casino to patronize the new casino as it is closer to them. It may end up cannibalizing its customer base; and although the site is not within the noise contours of Luke Air Force Base, it is in close proximity to them. The TO will be constructing a casino with intense usage just outside of those noise contours.  There could be cause for concern should there ever be an aircraft accident.

In summary, it wasn’t the actual issue of agreeing that the city would not annex the land that drove my decision but rather other, less tangible considerations and perceptions. Does this mean that I cannot work with the TO on issues regarding its current casino in Glendale? No. I promised fair consideration of any request they may make and I will abide by that pledge. The Agreement just passed by city council raises questions that remain unanswered and are likely to remain unanswered. Those questions prompted my ‘no’ vote.

© Joyce Clark, 2021       


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