Ted Simons: State lawmakers are considering a bill that's designed to block a proposed Tohono O'oodham casino in Glendale. The bill would change the way cities annex neighboring land. Here to discuss the bill are representatives Chad Campbell and Rick Murphy. Thank you both, for joining us here on "horizon."
Ted Simons: Let’s get the idea of a the state being involved in a tribe’s casino plans. Why should a state get involved?
Rick Murphy: First of all the state has been involved with the casinos from get go with the compacts in place and everything else. It's important to note that this is something that has come up out of the blue that was never anticipated as part of those compacts and it really doesn't fit in with the design of those compacts. So I think it's important for the state lawmakers to weigh in and for the local communities to be able to weigh in as well.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, why shouldn't the state get involved?
Chad Campbell: The big question here is what kind of precedent we may be setting with legislation such as this? We're talking about very serious private property issues out here and also the way we do annexations in this state. Prior to this legislation, annexations have always been a process where the city government works with the property owner to annex the land. This'll say to tribal nations, we're going to take your land whenever we want to basically.
Ted Simons: Talk about that if you would. Are there unintended consequences with changing this law?
Rick Murray: Well, Ted there’s always unintended consequences when the governemtn gets involved. But that’s almost exactly what happened with the federal law that started this whole process. The intent of that law was to allow the tribes to replace land they had lost use of with other land outside of metropolitan areas. That was the intent. The simple fact that we happen to have county islands in the Maricopa county area in particular but also around Tucson, um, is a flaw that people didn't really anticipate being part of the problem and the strip annexation that was done decades ago is really what caused that.
Ted Simons: And yet, the tribes are saying that the state and the city that they're not playing fair here, that the department of interior held this land in trust. They bought the land, the tribes did. It's all on the up-and-up. I's doted and t's crossed. How do you respond?
Rick Murray: It may be legally on the up-and-up, but it was really done with kind of a wink and a nod and it really wasn't done with a transparent fashion. By what I mean by that is the gaming compacts and the gaming related propositions were back on the ballot back in, I believe, 2002. And the voters clearly, clearly said they didn't want casino-style gaming in the metro areas expanded off of the traditional reservations. Less than one year later, this particular tribe went out under the name of a straw purchase type of an entity, a corporate name, unbeknownst to anyone went out and acquired this land for the specific purpose of undermining that particular vote and locating a casino right in the middle of a metro area.
Ted Simons: What was the deal with this corporate name here. That doesn't sound -- I mean -- I know what the other side is saying. They're saying it doesn't sound all that transparent. What was going on with that?
Chad Campbell: Again I think, I don't want to speculate on the intent. This land was taken by the tribes or purchased by the tribes legally as part of the Gila bend land replacement act. That was an act passed by congress and signed by President Reagan. There was nothing illegal with the way the land was purchased by the tribes or maintained by the tribes up until this point. The biggest concern is what kind of precedent we would be setting if we tell private property owners, whoever that may be, in this case tribal nations; we’re going to take your land if we feel like. And we'll subvert federal law and subvert the traditional annexation process to do that.
Ted Simons: What about the idea a city or municipality builds a mall, builds a stadium, builds roads, infrastructures and sewers and then out of the blue comes an area that’s right for picking. How is that fair?
Chad Campbell: I’m not sure if it’s a question of fairness or more legality in this case It’s a difficult question to answer, no doubt about that. There's a federal process being played out right now. We as legislatures and we as good citizens of the state working with our tribal partners should let that process play out as well before we jump into the fray with legislation that probably has a lot of unintended consequences.
Ted Simons: What about that? Is the state reacting too quickly here?
Rick Murphy: Well no, I think the state is acting in about the right amount of time, in other words, there was effort made to try to work with the tribe to try to get the tribe to work with the city of Glendale to try to prevent the unintended kinds of consequences that you're talking about. Glendale has a conference center that they have put into place only recently with taxpayer paid bonding that if this casino and the associated conference areas come into play, they will not be able to attract the kinds of business that they were expecting to be able to pay those bonds back and Glendale taxpayers will be on the hook.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, why didn't the city which apparently has been eying this land and some argue was or wasn't in the process of annexing, certainly at one time they were doing it. Why didn't they annex this thing? Why were they waiting? Why is it a big deal now when it could have been done so long ago?
Rick Murphy: I don't have the answer of that because I’m not in the city of Glendale but the reality was there was no development contemplated for that the tribe came in under a fictitious name and bought the land on the q.t. without being transparent or letting the city know what they were planning on doing and without working with the city at all and basically tried to surprise them. I don't think that's a good way to do business. That's not a good way to start a relationship.
Chad Campbell: I think -- let's talk about what the city is doing now, too. The city is now enacting special legislation -- and I think there's no doubt in many people's minds this is special legislation which is illegal to do in this state. It's targeted that the very one property in the west valley in Glendale and we have asked attorneys from the city of Glendale and others what other property might this affect if this isn't special legislation and I’ve yet to see an example. So I think your question, ted, is a very good one because the city has now come in at the last minute and trying to get a very targeted piece of legislation into one specific instance and target it towards the tribal nations.
Ted Simons: We should also mention that the city is doing this because the city has and businesses in that general area, they have a lot to lose, they say, if this casino comes into play. Again, is it right? We'll take fair out of it. Is it right that businesses that surround this area will now be impacted by a big operation?
Chad Campbell: Not advocating for the city's position but if you talk about economic impact of this development, we're talking about a development that will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy and bring in directly or indirectly 6,000 jobs during the construction phase and ongoing 3,000 jobs per year. That's a significant impact for the west valley and the entire region.
Ted Simons:What do you think about that?
Rick Murphy: I think the positive impacts are being overblown and the negative impacts are being downplayed. The permanent jobs that'll be created will be mostly low and moderate wage jobs. They're not the kind of jobs that a typical person will want to raise a family on. Besides which, all the profits generated by this casino are going to be -- it'll be like a big black hole in the west valley. All the profits of it will get sucked down and teleported 200 or 300 miles south and that money won't stay in that local economy will and circulate around to the degree that it would if that was a normal property on city property that was really a part of the community.
Ted Simons: Does that make sense to you? Because it seems like at the bottom of all of this is that people on one side are watching the program and listening to this debate saying, hey, this is a casino. If they want to put it there, they should be able to put it there. The other side is saying if you’re not doing it the right way; it'll impact a lot of other businesses and a lot of other activity out there.
Chad Campbell: That’s true. But let's not forget the fact that right down the street is the Cardinals' stadium and coyotes' arena. You have the Westgate development out there. This is not just a residential area without a massive retail and entertainment development already right down the street so it fits into that character right there I think, but more importantly, I mean to Rick’s point, you know, casino money doesn't generate money for the state. We get a portion of that money from the compact that rick talked about earlier so it's not going into some black hole. This is money that will come into the state regardless of the merits of the casino or not casino in this location.
Rick Murphy: Well and kind of to that point, yes, the state gets a cut but it gets a cut of whatever the tribe says the take is. It's not -- we don't get to audit the books. We don't get to look at the numbers. If they say it generates a certain amount and whatever the applicable percentage is, that's what we get. But we don't have any track records that show that transparency is really at play here and how do we know if that revenue amount is even accurate?
Chad Campbell: I will say this. The Tohono O’oodham Nation has a casino in southern Arizona and they operated it in good faith. There are many letters of support from partners down in that part of the state as well as letters of support from mayor of Tolleson and the mayor of Peoria. I think many People who dealt with the Tribal nation have had a very good relation and a positive experience with them.
Ted Simons: Last question; is it the right thing to let them develop?
Chad Campbell: I don't want to answer that question. That is a process that needs to be played out. My biggest concern about this is we're getting ahead of the game. Let's let the federal process play discount and preempt property rights with vast consequences down the road.
Ted Simons: Is it the right thing for the state to get involved with something that heretofore has gone the way it's supposed to go?
Rick Murphy: Not sure it's gone the way it's supposed to go. The tribes were supposed to be able to replace their reservation land on their reservation it wasn't intended for them to pluck a choice parcel in the middle of the city and put a development in that doesn't fit with what is going on there and suck a bunch of revenue away from that city and transport it half way across the state.
Ted Simons: Great conversation, thank you for joining us.