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It's Time to Build the West Valley Resort

Ned Norris, Jr.
7/25/11

Two and a half years ago, the Tohono O'odham Nation announced plans for a major economic development project adjacent to Peoria and Glendale. The West Valley Resort will create 6,000 construction jobs and more than 3,000 permanent jobs, all without a single penny of taxpayer money.

From day one, support from the business community, political leaders and the public has remained strong. Multiple polls have shown overwhelming public support for the project and thousands of Arizonans are actively supporting its success. Reasonable community interests understand the contributions this project will make to the struggling sports and entertainment venues in the West Valley.

Unfortunately, regardless of how positive a project may be, powerful special interests that desire to protect their control or market share often will say just about anything to create fear, sow division, and slow or stop progress. There is no better example than the actions of the Gila River Indian Community and Glendale.

For the past 30 months, the West Valley Resort has been studied, debated and reviewed, with authorities reaching the same conclusion every time: The Nation has played by the rules and has the right to move forward.

Because the federal government caused the loss of the Nation's lands by constructing the Painted Rock Dam, the U.S. Congress passed a law 25 years ago. This law allows the Nation to purchase replacement lands in Maricopa County and incorporate those lands into its reservation for economic development purposes.

In 2002, Arizona voters spoke clearly when they passed Proposition 202, which reauthorized limited gaming on Indian lands. Despite the contrary claims of project opponents, Proposition 202 expressly authorized gaming on Indian lands acquired in the settlement of a land claim - such as the lands on which the West Valley Resort will be built.

The federal courts, state courts and the Department of the Interior have ruled on multiple challenges to the West Valley Resort - and each time has ruled in the Nation's favor.

Nonetheless, opponents continue their misguided efforts to try to stop the project. As their prospects for victory dim, the opposition now seeks to delay the project and mislead the public. Opponents claim that the carefully crafted gaming compromise is breached by this project. But they cannot offer a shred of evidence to support this claim.

Valuable taxpayer dollars are being wasted on lawyers and court fees to delay a perfectly legal project that will bring thousands of much-needed jobs and $300 million annually to the West Valley and Arizona.

The tragedy here is not just that opponents are squandering limited resources on a losing battle; but they are also depriving Arizona of desperately needed jobs and economic development.

The Nation and many supporters of this project will not be deterred by misinformation campaigns and stall tactics. Throughout this process, the Nation has followed the rules and is working to build positive relations with local communities. The Nation will be a good neighbor in the West Valley, continuing its long track record of positive relationships with nearby communities.

There is always room for reasonable people to disagree on aspects of any economic development project or policy. However, it is well past time for reasonable people to agree to work out any such conflicts and move the West Valley Resort project forward to fruition.

Chairman Ned Norris, Jr., is an enrolled member of the Tohono O’odham Nation from the remote village of Fresnal Canyon, in the Baboquivari District. He was re-elected to a second four-year term as the Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation in May of 2011.

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