The president of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce said he hopes a panel discussion next week will clear up confusion about why his organization and the city oppose a casino being located on the outskirts of the community.
The discussion will take place Wednesday during the Glendale Chamber of Commerce’s Power Lunch.
Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Mayor Diane Enos, Deputy Chief Rick Bistow of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Glendale City Attorney Craig Tindall will present a panel discussion called “The Impacts of a Proposed Indian Reservation in Glendale.” Each participant on the panel is against the Tohono O’odham Nation’s plans for a reservation, and Rinehart said that is by design.
“Our board of directors has taken an official position in support of the city,” he said. “We’re opposed to the casino. The panel was never meant to be a debate on the pros and cons of the issue. We wanted to give the groups who are against this thing an opportunity to get together and all explain their reasoning.”
The conflict between the Tohono O’odham and the city of Glendale first began in January 2009, when the tribe announced the proposal to build a 1.2 million-square-foot casino resort on 135 acres of unincorporated land purchased in 2003. The Tohono O’odham acquired the land as part of the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act, a settlement reached with the federal government after a dam in the Gila Bend area destroyed 10,000 acres of tribal farmland.
Rinehart said he believes the explanation provided at the meeting will be valuable.
“I think there is still a lot of confusion out there about why there is opposition to the tribe’s plans,” he said. “This should be a good chance to clear that up.”
Rinehart said he has heard some criticism about the lack of representation from the pro-casino side of the argument, which he said he has dismissed.
“It wouldn’t make sense for us to do that,” he said. “What I’ve said is, people in favor of it have every right to put together their own forum explaining why. But ours was never structured to be a debate.”
Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Rinehart also said the chamber has not yet decided if time will be set aside for attendees to ask questions. But with an estimated attendance well over 100, he said he expects the day to be an enlightening one.
“I think a lot of people will walk away from this surprised at some of the reasons why there is opposition to the reservation,” he said. “It should be very interesting. And it’s definitely going to be controversial.”
Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.