By contrast, the city's previous administration complained about the heavy burden the proposed casino would place on area businesses and taxpayers without discussing the issues with the Nation.

"We owe it to the public to get the facts and dispel any myths that have been placed before us in the past," says Councilman Chavira, whose Glendale district is nearest where the Nation owns its land. "It's no secret where I stand. At the end of the day, I'd love to see the city and its employees benefit from this project."

The policy shift hasn't gone unnoticed by casino opponents.

Gila River Indian Community Governor Greg Mendoza
John Aulick
Gila River Indian Community Governor Greg Mendoza
Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris speaks during a recent event in Peoria.
Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris speaks during a recent event in Peoria.

Sherwood says he recently received about 640 anti-casino letters, plus telephone calls from members of Arizona's congressional delegation. He's treading lightly, especially with key opponents who've been fighting alongside Glendale against the Nation.

"This can be something positive for the area," he says of the project. "It would help because when we have major events in Glendale, like the Super Bowl, we don't have anything to hold people in the area."

This benefit that the casino would provide is part of his message to casino opponents.

"We're just having dialogue. Period," he says. "If it gets to a certain point where we feel we want to enter negotiations, then we'll let [opponents] know. And there may be a point [when] we ask them to back off the legislation and pull out of the lawsuits. But this doesn't mean that because we pull out, Gila River or the others will pull out. We're just one player."


Gila River Governor Gregory Mendoza told constituents in January that they "did not pick this fight.

"It was thrust upon us by actions of the Tohono O'odham Nation's political leaders and by the lawyers and lobbyists [who] advise them."

Gila River officials repeatedly refused New Times' requests for interviews.

Ned Norris, chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation, calls the dispute with leaders from Gila River and Salt River "hurtful" and "frustrating."

He says he expected some opposition when the Tohono O'odham first announced their plan, but he didn't expect it to reach such an acrimonious level.

Norris says he understands that the Gila River community, located entirely in the Valley, has the advantage of longstanding relationships with area non-tribal government officials.

Also, he says, "It helps that the governor for Gila River is a Republican. It helps him to get to the Arizona governor and the Republican leadership."

Tribes have spent money on lobbying, elections of friendly non-tribal politicians, and on supporting communities that back them. Since tribes aren't subject to Arizona's Public Record Law, it isn't possible to obtain a comprehensive total. However, federal and state filing requirements regarding political contributions show financial incentives.

In 2010, the Gila River Indian Community donated $50,450 to the Republican Governors Association, IRS records show. Between 2010 and 2014, it donated about $750,000 to both Democratic and Republican candidates and organizations as it touted bipartisan support for its anti-casino lawsuits and legislation.

Throughout 2012, it funneled $165,000 into "Neighbors for a Better Glendale," an independent expenditure supporting anti-casino candidates: Mayor Jerry Weiers, Councilman Sherwood, and two others who lost.

The Nation responded by financing a competing committee, "Residents for Accountability," and feeding it with $70,430 to help pro-casino candidates.

Gila River also donated $26,900 to co-sponsors of Representative Franks' casino-killing bill. Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who signed on to HB 1410, received $10,800 from the tribe. Congressman Ed Pastor, who supports the measure, received $7,400, according to opensecrets.org, a Center for Responsive Politics database.

The federal legislation effectively would block any new casino that a tribe envisions near Phoenix until January 2027, when the gaming compact expires.

Gila River's federal lobbying bill in the two years before the Tohono O'odham Nation announced its casino plan was $1.5 million. In 2009 alone, it was $1.3 million. All told, from 2009 to 2013, Gila River has spent almost $8 million on lobbying. By comparison, the Nation's lobbying tab during the same time was $3.3 million; the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community's was about $1.4 million.

This financial roundup doesn't include tribal legal expenses associated with major lawsuits yoked around the casino project.

Of them, only one has been resolved fully. In 2009, a few weeks after the plan for the West Valley Resort were unveiled, Glendale retroactively annexed the Nation's land. It was an attempt to render the parcel ineligible to be taken into federal trust — meaning the acreage would be blocked from becoming part of the Tohono O'odham Reservation and off-limits for a casino.

The Nation challenged the annexation that same year in a lawsuit against Glendale in Maricopa County Superior Court. The Nation lost in Superior Court, but it prevailed on appeal.

Glendale was ordered to reimburse the Nation more than $85,000 in legal fees.

Gila River, Glendale, and the state then filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior, which approved the Nation's 2009 application to take its West Valley land into trust. The Nation joined the suit as a defendant to represent its interests in court.

The plaintiffs raised various issues in the lawsuit filed in Arizona's U.S. District Court, including that the tribe allegedly had exceeded its allotment of purchased land. They also claimed that the land was "within" Glendale's corporate limits and ineligible to serve as a tribal reservation, that Congress didn't have the authority to approve the law that granted the Nation the right to replace flooded land near Gila Bend, and that the same congressional act infringed on Arizona's sovereignty.

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20 comments
jeanjb
jeanjb

i miss gov mary thomas

kevinklein801
kevinklein801

Isn't it ironic that as the government entities arguments against this project get struck down time after time in court; that they are now falling back on a argument that basically says, "the tribe is breaking its promise"?  Seems broken promises sting both ways.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

The Gila River Indian Community is contractually required to indemnify their Casino Management Company and defend it's profit guarantee they granted it in their contracts.  They HAVE to pursue the Tohono O'odohm to not open that casino in Glendale.  If they didn't they'd have to pay all sorts of premiums to whatever slimeball casino management company they have out in Gila River.


devilsbeatwildcats
devilsbeatwildcats

This is just a delay tactic by the COG, Gila Monsters & Salty's for the Super Bowl revenue. All three tribes are decent descendants of the Hohokam's who were the original settlers in south central Arizona. Both tribes do not need casino revenue to spoil there people with free utilities, housing, etc... They can cash it in by leasing their land for development to European Americans.

FRONTERA
FRONTERA

    Shout out to Santa R0sa >>> "bouncin' on twenty fo's" ....."sippin' on coke and rum , i'm like so what I'm drunk" - R KELLY IGNITION...

FRONTERA
FRONTERA

If I were GILA RIVER , I would try to work out some sort of  deal with TO NATION ...TO has the law ,the money .the lawyers and patience to win...

mrwally373
mrwally373

I think the real reason the casino has not at this point been approved,...is the Gila People who operate in the west valley, they don't want the competition...they opened another hotel on their properties, and with a casino opening in Glendale would take ALOT of the casino customers away.

TaxpayingVoter
TaxpayingVoter

The people who spend REAL money consistently in casinos tend to change it up and move from one to another in a single night.


There is room for another casino up there and the community would benefit.


This whole situation really makes the Gila River community look bad and it saddens me.

serpico1000
serpico1000

Is this another card playing deal from the major government players? for the entire picture here is that since the local governments can not fight then turn the table on these tribal players?? 

Laura Antonuccio
Laura Antonuccio

Are you kidding me with this photo? A red faced slot machine wearing a headdress, covered in arrows, tomahawks and a teepee? No one should have to tell you how offensive this is.

davewk2002
davewk2002

I have worked on  the reservations involved  and have worked at an elementary school near the stadium in Glendale.  This dispute is about greed.  I believe that the casino would be a positive source of jobs for the west valley and would benefit the Tohono O'odham. I had the privilege to attend a Thanksgiving lunch at a school on the Salt River Reservation a few years ago when a tribal leader offered a prayer before the meal.  I was humbled by the words he spoke and it was clear that he held deeper respect for this land and for Arizona than the rest of us whose families might have been here only 100 years.  


To the tribe:  Look to your traditions to settle your dispute. Learn to share; you will all benefit.  There is plenty.  Do not be too quick to adopt attorneys to settle disputes among yourselves.  Use attorneys for disputes with others.  Be very careful of the White men that you are dealing with here.  They have their own interests at heart.


To those in Glendale who are offended by the casino:  Get over it!  These people are more honest in their dealings with others than you are.  Until your families have lived in this valley for 500 or more years you should be considered their guests.  These people were here before the Spanish and lived here long before this was part of Mexico or the United States.  Stop this nonsense; you should be ashamed of your actions.  There is much you could learn from the Tohono O'odham that would enrich your lives if you spend time with these people. 

Pakrat4ever
Pakrat4ever

What the other tribes are saying is the same things the Republicans are saying: We got ours screw the rest of your indians friends.  Once opposing tribes start pumping money into the politicians campaigns and the cities coffers that are opposed to letting the Tohono O'odham open their casino, it's pretty plain, the other tribes don't want their Brothers to reap the rewards of having a casino of their own.  It basically called Greed.  Yes, the O'odham casino will take a bite out of the other casino's profits. I see buses loading up in Sun City heading for the long trip to the other casino's.  But I feel the Tohono O'odham tribes should still have the right that the other tribes have to make a profit and help their people.  What's fair to one tribe, should be fair for all.  Yes, the Indians are still at war with their Brothers and now it's all about the Almighty Dollar, and Yes, they've dropped their bows, arrows and lances; and now the lawyers and politicians are reaping their rewards by fighting for the money; I'll bet they hope the situation goes on forever. I support the Tohono O'odham tribe in their quest for equal Casino representation.

pat029
pat029

This is just a issue that should be done by the indians and not by this rag this a newspaper thats just  yellow news paper every thing the sheriff  found was all correct . and just because you fond a cropt judge and had the board of supervisor that you paid off  you got off but leave the Indians alone and Frank Trent is as bad as flake and just as money hungry  just leave them alone.

jpnightrain
jpnightrain

What?!? The TOs broke their promise to the white eye to not build a casino in the Phoenix area?  I'm shocked, shocked, I say, since the WEs would never break a promise to them. LOL

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

It would be interesting to know just what is Trent Franks' angle in the ongoing controversy about a new casino in Glendale. It is very hard to imagine that he is concerned with the well-being of area residents, much less the plight of the T.O. Nation. Is his involvement all about paybacks from the Gila River Indian Community? That wouldn't surprise me at all.

donnied1
donnied1

Get off the booze and drugs, and try hard to focus! Orherwise, shut the fuck up. You embarrass yourself...

marcy
marcy

@eric.nelson745  

Trent's angle is $$$$ as in the thousands of dollars poured into his campaign coffers by the Gila River community.


Trent likes to talk about free enterprise but when push comes to shove, he'll go with the money every time.

logicman
logicman

@eric.nelson745  a congressman worried about the well-being of area residents?!?!?  HAHAHAHHAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

 
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