Just as soon as the Glendale City Council voted to support the Tohono O'odham Nation's efforts to build a casino near the city limits, an effort got under way to collect signatures to try to stop it.
The group calls itself Glendale Citizens for Voice and Choice and has embarked on an effort to overturn the council's support. It's expected to announce later today that it's gathered thousands of signatures of residents who oppose the casino.
New Times, which has written numerous articles about the Nation's fight to open its casino doors, received various complaints from Glendale residents that individuals collecting signatures to thwart the casino are misleading potential signers.
See also: -FranksProposes Narrow Special-Interest Measure to Block TON's WV Casino -Tohono O'odham Nation Breaks Ground at Site of West Valley Resort and Casino --Wanna Bet? The Tohono O'odham Want to Build a Casino in the West Valley
"I like the casino, and I support it," says June Jarosz, a 40-year resident of Glendale. She encountered her first petition-gatherer in front of a PetSmart near Northern and 55th avenues. "He was totally not telling the truth. He told me the petition was to get more money from the casino to support the schools."
Jarosz explains that the man with the clipboard was "acting really funny" and tucked it under his arm as he tried to convince her that her signature meant she "wanted the casino to support the school system with more money."
She told him she wanted to read it for herself, and he eventually gave up the clipboard.
"After I insisted, he handed me the clipboard, I read it, and just handed it back to him and walked away," she says. "That's when I called the city of Glendale. I was outraged because some people just sign those things blindly. I told them those signatures shouldn't even count because he lied."
Jarosz is glad she wasn't duped, but says she "was stunned" and "couldn't believe that he was bold enough to stand there and lie to me."
She encountered another petition-gatherer in front of the WalMart in the same shopping center but on a different day, pitching the same story.
She didn't stop for that one.
Another woman provided New Times a recording of an encounter she had with a petition-gatherer collecting signatures in front of the Ross store on August 30 at that shopping center.
It's almost comical, listening to the petition-gatherer feign ignorance (or perhaps it was real ignorance) of what she's peddling on the street.
The petition gatherer (we'll call her Jane) says she's holding a petition "for" the casino. She asked whether the woman approaching lives in Glendale.
"I do," the woman is heard saying on the audio recording.
"Help me out with your signature ..."
"For what?" the woman asks.
"You know that casino they're trying to build?" Jane says.
"This is to get it on the ballot ... the casino, are you for it or against it?"
"I'm for it. So this is 'for it'?"
"This right here, this is to get it on the ballot," Jane says, with an enthusiastic voice.
When the passerby tries to get clarification of what she's asked to sign, Jane changes the subject, playfully, telling the woman she doesn't look like someone who would go to a casino or who would spend money at one.
They both chuckle, but when the conversation returns to the petitions, the Glendale resident again tries to clarify with Jane that the petition she's holding is "against" the casino.
Jane says, "I'm so confused."
Then, Jane starts reading the petition, partially out loud, then she says to the woman, "See, that doesn't make any sense, does it?"
The passerby explains to her that the Glendale council already has voted to approve the casino and that these petitions seek to overturn that decision.
"That's against it, not for it," the woman says, again as more people approach.
Jane then switches her own stance and says she's gathered a lot of signatures of people who are against it because it's being built right across the street from a school.
"That's why I don't like it," Jane explains. "They're building it right across the street from a school .... on Northern and 91st."
"No. It's going to be on Northern and the [Loop] 101. Closer to the 101 than 91st," the woman continues, educating Jane, the clueless petition-gatherer.
"Are you sure?" Jane asks. "I thought it was across the street from the school."
"It's not," the woman says. "It's not going to be built across the street."
The tape ends.
It's unclear whether the Glendale council's decision can be referred to the ballot -- as these signatures intend to put the decision to a public vote. The casino's staunchest opponent, Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, has said publicly that the council's decision was administrative and isn't subject to a referendum. We left a message for City Attorney Michael Bailey seeking clarification.
Curious, isn't it? Makes you wonder why the signatures would be gathered at all? After all, the casino already has broken ground.
Despite a long list of victories in federal court, some Arizona lawmakers with political allegiances to the Gila River Indian Community -- the Arizona tribe that stands to lose gaming market share if the Nation opens its casino -- are pushing forward a federal legislative measure to kill the project.
The U.S. Senate's Indian Affairs Committee is holding a nearing Wednesday on a bill introduced by Senator John McCain that aims to kill the Nation's casino. We're sure the crazy petition effort will be brought up then.
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