In yet another attempt to stop the construction and operation of a West Valley casino on the borders of Glendale and Peoria, Congressman Trent Franks’ end-around strategy of bypassing the rules and calling for a quick count backfired, failing to gain the votes required for passage of his bill in the House of Representatives. Though it appeared he had won the battle, Franks lost the war again.
In his previous effort just a year ago, similar legislation was passed by a House majority, but was never heard in the Senate. Ironically, Franks’ accusations towards the Tohono O’odham Nation and their local casino project routinely reflect the violation of rules and laws alike. Yet, House rules are exactly what Franks was hoping to skirt with a well-oiled bill that could be swiftly shipped to the Senate and a subsequent approval that would outlaw the Nation’s gaming endeavor set to open next month. But no such luck.
Touted as a bipartisan resolution, the actual votes proved quite the opposite. It was no surprise that Republicans strongly favored approval, while Democrats predominately represented the opposition. In the end, the yeas exceeded nays, but the final tally felt short of the two-thirds super majority required for the suspension of rules and ultimate passage.
In its defeat, Franks expressed disappointment in his House colleagues for allowing the Nation to disregard the state’s tribes and dishonor Arizonans. However, Congressman Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, shared an entirely different view of the legislation he described as a liability to American taxpayers for a “taking of the Tohono O’odham Nation.” His colleague, Congressman Ruben Gallegos, told the House he stood with thousands of voices and jobs in full support of the project.
Not to be outnumbered, Congressman Paul Gosar charged the Nation’s actions were “shameful, deceitful and criminal,” and that it had acted “covertly and immorally.” That’s pretty big talk, especially for a Washington bureaucrat. But then again, Gosar has been described as a Capitol Hill bully.
Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have their own version of the Keep the Promise Act, but little has been heard or seen of their bill as of late. With the House’s failure to suspend rules and a disputed score from the Congressional Budget office which equates to the potential price tag of the legislation, it’s likely both delegations have returned to the drawing board with their high-stakes supporters.
What everyone seems to miss or may choose to overlook is the fact that the Tohono O’odham Nation has something no other Tribe in the state possesses: The Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act.
Courtesy of the United States Congress, Public Law 99-503 allowed the Nation to purchase replacement land and further mandated the Secretary of Interior to take land meeting the law’s requirements into trust for damages incurred to the Nation’s San Lucy District in the early 1980s. The 1986 congressional make good was a direct result of flooding created by the federal government’s construction of the Painted Rock Dam.
Call it a wild card, but no other tribe has this in their hand nor do they have the right to redeem it. It is an exclusive and unique opportunity, as well as an irrevocable obligation to replace the Nation’s assets irreparably damaged by our own government.
With that, Franks’ allegation of “reservation shopping” is completely bogus and has no basis in compact, law or treaty. And according to Grijalva, the only precedent set would be selective sovereignty and the blatant denial of the Nation’s economic development abilities.
Say what you want, express your opinion or state your preference. The fact is the Tohono O’odham Nation has prevailed in every court challenge it has faced and has been found to be in complete compliance and full conformance with the laws of our land. Further and in good faith, the Nation has promised to share their gaming revenues equal to a class 3 license with both the City of Glendale, as well as the state of Arizona, even before being issued such. As a class 2 operator, no compact, law or treaty requires the tribe to do so.
It’s time for the federal government to fulfill its commitment to the Nation and allow the neighboring communities of the West Valley to benefit from the amenities, employment and economic development opportunities the Desert Diamond Casino-West Valley is sure to deliver.