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By Tina Gamez, DAILY NEWS-SUN
In a 4 to 3 vote, the Glendale Council now officially supports the Tohono O’odham Nation in their quest to build a resort casino on the land that was taken into trust by the federal government last week.
The move came about during a special meeting that was requested by councilmembers in favor of the project as about 260 people packed the council chambers.
“We the citizens of Glendale, the majority of Glendale, the 70, 80 percent polled citizens of the city of Glendale, we thank you,” said city resident Arthur Tahruston.
In an about-face, the Glendale council passed a resolution Tuesday afternoon repealing a 2009 resolution that opposed the Tohono O’odham Nation’s pursuit to have the 134-acre parcel located at the southwest corner of 91 and Northern avenues, become an Indian Reservation and allow gaming within the city’s planning area.
During council discussion on how to proceed with the resolution, Mayor Jerry Weiers said he was concerned and unhappy with the process and that they were “pushing something through.”
Weiers said he was called “three days ago that this was being pushed forward by some councilmembers. I was on vacation in Canada,” and said he was assured by the city manager’s staff there would be no resolutions. The council wasn’t scheduled to have any meetings during July.
Councilmember Norma Alvarez said the issue has been discussed and the city owes the Nation and the people in attendance a decision, and the council should have an opportunity to vote. “We need to vote, and if you don’t like it, vote nay.” She said the land has been declared a reservation.
Alvarez mentioned the unions in the room who were there in support of jobs the building of the West Valley Resort would bring. She said to Weiers: “You didn’t object as much when we had another group of sports fans; and that, you made up your mind right away. This is people’s lives.” Alvarez continued, “The other was accommodating businesses.”
Weiers wanted to go into executive session, but there was lack of support from councilmembers Ian Hugh, Gary Sherwood, Sam Chavira and Alvarez who voted in favor of the resolution that was drafted by City Attorney Michael Bailey during a recess in the meeting.
But, before the vote, Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack asked Bailey if the action they were taking, “would have any impact on the city’s staff ability to negotiate the best possible deal with the TO’s?”
Bailey said the appropriate answer should be provided in executive session and asked for a couple of minutes in executive session.
Weiers said the council has a “history of making bad decisions” because of “rushed decisions” and asked for executive session to which Sherwood this time voted in favor of it to “get this over with.”
In March 2014, the council had expressed opposition to U.S. House of Rep. Trent Frank’s H.R.1410 “Keep the Promise Act of 2013,” and the newly passed resolution states that opposition. It also directs the city clerk to send a certified copy of the resolution to members of the Arizona Federal delegation setting forth the city’s position.
On July 23 the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee will have a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Indian gaming and Weiers is expected to testify. He brought up “the big fear” of his testifying and noted that any statements that are his views would be made known as such. “In all fairness, I’m not going to go up and misrepresent myself or the city of Glendale or the decision of the council.”
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