Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tribal Tiff?

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On the surface, the West Valley Resort controversy appears to be a tête-à-tête between two West Valley cities: anti-casino Glendale vs. pro-casino Peoria. Glendale mayor Elaine Scruggs has tirelessly fought the casino using every legal implement at her disposal, while Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett has given hearty endorsements of the plan. But are the two warring cities merely surrogates for two opposing tribes, the Tohono O’odham Nation and the Gila River Indian Community? 

Scruggs suggests Barrett’s praise – and the Peoria Unified School District’s official “nonpartisan” stance – was bought by the Tohono O’odham with a “public relations strategy, which includes making financial contributions to individuals and organizations ($235,000 to the city of Peoria and Peoria Unified School District) that support their proposal.” She adds, “Glendale wholeheartedly supports the Tohono O’odham Nation developing its property just as all other developers do – as a private entity.” In other words, so long as they pay taxes and fees, and axe gaming. She also worries about the precedent of a tribe being allowed to put a gaming facility on city land without aboriginal claim. That being said, Glendale is also the recipient of tribal dollars. When Glendale’s community outreach program From The Heart lost funding three years ago, Scruggs made it her personal mission to find a new backer. That eventual partner – and their co-plaintiff in the suits against the Tohono O’odham – was the Gila River Indian Community, which pledged $225,000 over three years last June. Among the Valley’s tribal casinos, the Gila River-owned Vee Quiva – located about 40 miles south in the town of Laveen – stands to lose the most from a new West Valley casino.