“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”
In a heated 4½-hour meeting, the Glendale City Council voted Tuesday to approve a deal with the Tohono O’odham Nation that will bring $26 million to city coffers over 20 years, completing the city’s about-face on the tribe’s planned casino near Westgate Entertainment District.
The council listened to dozens of residents’ comments in a packed council chamber before approving the deal in support of the Southern Arizona tribe’s $400 million casino project on reservation land.
Some residents and council members said the deal will shortchange Glendale.
“What we are being presented with tonight is peanuts compared to what other cities have negotiated,” Councilman Manny Martinez said.
The agreement, approved 4-3, will also bring in $2 million for the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Councilmembers Gary Sherwood, Norma Alvarez, Ian Hugh and Sam Chavira voted for the casino.
Mayor Jerry Weiers and Councilmembers Yvonne Knaack and Martinez voted no.
The nearly two dozen residents who spoke at the meeting were split on the casino development. Some argued it would increase crime and lead to further gambling addiction. They also complained that the decision was being rushed.
Ron Rockwell, pastor of the Harvest Church near the casino site, said he felt “betrayed and disappointed that several council members gave up the good fight” against the casino.
Others said they favored the casino, arguing that it would bring entertainment, jobs and much-needed revenue to Glendale.
The Rev. Jarrett Maupin said Glendale is in no position to ask for a better deal because it has opposed the tribe for the past five years.
“These are peace talks,” Maupin said. “You lost the war.”
One council member pounded the table and insisted that Mayor Jerry Weiers call for the vote on the casino. That was after Martinez tried to pass four amendments to the deal.
Glendale does not have jurisdiction over the casino site. But the city decided last year to begin negotiations with the tribe after opposing the casino development for four years.
The City Council voted last month to end its opposition to the casino.
If the casino isn’t derailed by a court ruling or federal legislation, it could open as early as 2016, based on the agreement and a statement from one of the tribe’s contractors.
Glendale’s deal requires the tribe to pay for its own infrastructure on the site and provide its own police and fire protection. The tribe will pay Glendale for off-site improvements along with water services.
In return, Glendale will drop its legal claims against the tribe and urge Arizona’s congressional delegation to oppose legislation that would prohibit the casino.
The tribe will pay Glendale $500,000 within 10 days of the agreement’s signing. Annual payments will start at $1.4 million and be paid six months after gaming begins. The payments will increase 2 percent annually until 2026.
At that point, the payment will drop to $900,000, increasing 2 percent annually for 10 years.
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