West Valley Casino Opponents Fail in Attempt to Force Election to Reverse Glendale's Support

Another victory of sorts for the Tohono O'odham Nation and its plans to open a casino in the West Valley.

Glendale officials rejected boxes of petitions gathered by an anti-casino group upset that the City Council formally reversed its opposition to the Nation's gaming project called the West Valley Resort.

And, the group wasn't happy that the Council voted to formally oppose a measure introduced by Arizona Congressman Trent Franks to effectively kill the casino project. Or, that Glendale entered into an agreement with the Nation that exchanges financial support for political support.

See also: -Glendale Group Says it Submitted More Than 13K Signatures Against the Casino -Exposed: Anti-Casino Signature Gathering Campaign Misleading Some In Glendale -Tohono O'odham Nation Breaks Ground at Site of West Valley Resort and Casino The two committees, calling themselves "No More Bad Deals For Glendale" and "Respect The Promise," say they turned in more than 13,000 signatures last Friday. Organizers wanted Glendale voters to decide whether the collective city was in favor or against the casino.

The groups are funded by the Gila River Indian Community, a sister tribe to the Tohono O'odham Nation which has been desperately trying to block the West Valley casino because it will cut into it market share. The Gila, joined later by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in opposing the Nation's gaming facility, is the only tribe with a casino in the west side.

But the $40,000 the Gila poured into collecting the signatures has proved futile.

The Glendale City Clerk sent a letter this week to Gary Hirsch, the resident spearheading the casino opposition, informing him that he couldn't refer to matter to the ballot.

"Under the Arizona Constitution, the power of referendum is limited to those action that are legislative acts of the City Council," wrote City Clerk Pam Hanna in her September 16 letter to Hirsch. "The city has determined that the subject matter of [your referendum] is administrative, rather than legislative and, therefore, not subject to referendum."

A referendum is a process by which residents who are unhappy with certain decisions made by the city council can collect signatures to forced a citywide election. Then, voters get to decide whether that decision stands or is overturned.

Hanna told Hirsch that the signatures would not be reviewed, but would be preserved in case he wanted to pursue any legal appeals against the city.

Hirsch tells New Times that his group is weighing its legal options.

"We do not think it's appropriate that the city council would approve a facility of this type, with such long lasting ramifications, without allowing the citizens to have a say in it," Hirsch says.

He says that the terms of the agreement between Glendale and the Tohono O'odham Nation "are so weak and so egregious that no one would favor this thing." That agreement involves Glendale confirming its full support of the Nation's project, concedes that the Nation's project has never been within its city limits and supports the feds taking the entirety of the Nation's West Valley property into federal trust as reservation. The city, per the agreement, also also agrees to withdraw from any litigation against the project.

The Nation, in return, agrees to provide Glendale with annual funding of more than $26 million during a 20-year agreement, including a one-time payment of $500,000.

Read the agreement here.

Hirsch has previously attempted to refer council decisions that have reversed Glendale's one-time vehement opposition to the gaming project. The tide turned once new representatives were elected to the council -- Councilmen Sammy Chavira and Ian Hugh and Councilwoman Norma Alvarez -- and when Councilman Gary Sherwood reversed his own opposition.

On a side note, Hirsch talked to New Times about a previous blog posted on this topic, Glendale Group Says it Submitted More Than 13K Signatures Against the Casino.

He says that Timothy Schwartz, who identified himself as a spokesman for the signature-collecting group, had nothing to do with the efforts.

Schwartz put out a press release announcing the press conference related to the signatures being turned in, and listed himself as the spokesman and contact person of the group, "Glendale Citizens For Voice and Choice."

"I have no idea why he would call himself a spokesman," Hirsch says. "We appreciate his opposition to the Tohono O'odham Nation's plans to put an Indian reservation in our community, but he didn't have anything to do with gathering those signatures. He did help carry two boxes of petitions into the City Clerk's Office, as did other people. But he's not affiliated with our group in any way."

Got a tip? Send it to: Monica Alonzo.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Monica Alonzo on Twitter at @MAD_Blogger.

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