distrusts freeway talk
River governor clarifies stance on 202
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 23, 2005
Gila River Indian Community remains opposed to putting the South Mountain
Freeway on its reservation because of the noise and pollution and distrust that
has developed in past relations with non-Indians, Gov. Richard Narcia said
"They give us
something to look at, and in some instances it is already decided," he
Narcia asked for a meeting with The Arizona
board to clarify the community's position on the freeway, saying it has been
skewed in some accounts.
He recited several cases in which Phoenix, the Arizona Department of
Transportation and other entities have broken agreements or treated the
community disrespectfully or not consulted it ahead of time.
A continuation of broken promises is one reason he said the community passed a
resolution in 2001 opposing any freeway on the reservation. In the 1980s, the
community had tried to get a freeway on the reservation.
He cited the fact that Phoenix once told the community it wanted to extend 48th
Street south from Ahwatukee Foothills to the reservation. As a result, the
community had built its Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa on 48th
Street. But Phoenix ended up putting a park at 48th Street, north of Pecos Road,
and the Gila River community now has to move its streets around.
Another issue still bothering the community is that federal officials never
fulfilled some promises to put in certain improvements along Interstate 10, such
as frontage roads.
Also, so far, residents of the Gila River community's western District 6 remain
opposed to the freeway, and as long as they object, the Gila River Community
Council will also object, Narcia said.
"The district objects to it pretty much for the same reasons Ahwatukee
Foothills objects to it. They don't want the noise or the pollution," he
Narcia also said that even though his three terms as governor ends next week,
that decisions are ultimately up to the 17-member council, not the governor or
lieutenant governor. In fact, the governor and lieutenant governor cannot vote
unless there is a tie.
So even though William "Bill" Rhodes will take over as governor in
January, Narcia said any freeway action would be up to the council. Rhodes has
declined to comment, saying he didn't want to interfere in Narcia's term.
When asked if Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano's intervention on the state's behalf
would persuade the community council to change its mind, Narcia said not
"The bottom line is what is good for the community as a whole. That would
be the overriding factor," he said.
Gary Bohnee, community's spokesman, said, "The characterization that the
community is saying 'no' (on the freeway) just to say 'no' is kind of a
mischaracterization. Because I think that if you look back on some of these
projects, the community has always tried to put a good foot forward, at least
when asked to participate.
"It's not as if we're not participating at all. It's just a matter of
getting that respect."