The ways of Glendale politicians and bureaucrats are odd and mysterious when it comes to sports, whether it is deciding to spend $180-million (all currency U.S.) on an arena nobody wants to go to or trying to spend hundreds of millions more hanging on to the Phoenix Coyotes.
The latest head-scratcher comes by way of the suburban Phoenix city's fight against something that might actually offer a solution to the tiresome Coyotes mess, a solution that would not involve throwing taxpayers' money away on professional sports.
Tohono O'odham Nation is a native band that is planning to build a casino inside Glendale's city limits. The city spent the last two years and $1.3-million (and counting) fighting Tohono O'odham in court. And losing.
The natives recently received a U.S. District Court ruling that upheld a federal decision moving the land the tribe owns and wants to use for the casino and resort into the native reservation system. That means Glendale cannot collect any taxes on the land and the band can use it just about any way they please. Glendale says it will appeal the decision.
City officials say they are opposed to the casino because they will have to build infrastructure to service it and will not receive any revenue from the land or the casino. Plus, the casino will take business away from local merchants.
But what if the city had worked with Tohono O'odham from the start? Say it negotiated a deal in which Glendale provided the necessary infrastructure in exchange for a healthy share of the casino profits? That seemed to work in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins are enjoying a huge boost in revenue in their new arena, which is being paid for by a slice of the profits from a local casino.
Some of those profits could even have gone to prop up the Coyotes, rather than put another tremendous burden on the taxpayers with a dubious municipal bond deal. Matthew Hulsizer, whose plan to buy the Coyotes rests on that bond deal, wasn't talking Tuesday but it is reasonable to assume he would be just as happy with financing from casino profits.
A few local residents turned up at a recent city council meeting to ask the politicians to stop fighting the casino. Word from Scottsdale, on the opposite side of Phoenix from Glendale, is that a casino built next to that city resulted in more business for local merchants, not less, and lots of jobs.
Yet here Glendale sits, spending all kinds of money fighting something that looks like it will arrive anyway and ignoring the fact it just might help solve some of the city's enormous economic problems.