On Saturday January 14th, the first of three tribal forums about the 202 was held for GRIC voters.
As was expected, at the forum, ADOT portrayed themselves as an agency that has no ability or interest to persuade GRIC to allow the on-reservation alignment to be built. It was pointed out by the NO BUILD group that ADOT paid thousands of dollars to Sal DiCiccio, a Phoenix city councilman, to pressure former Governor Bill Rhodes to allow the 202 to be built on tribal lands. ADOT did not address that point, and ADOT left the forum shortly after their presentation to the people.
The Pecos Landowners Association spoke next, and they gave a detailed history of how they were founded in Gila River. The PLA focused on economic development and job growth for Gila River, but when it came time for Community questions, the PLA did not offer any evidence of what jobs that would come with the building of the 202.
The NO BUILD portion of the forum was represented by Serena Padilla, an O’odham elder from Salt River, who shared what the 101 Freeway has done to their Community. Lori Riddle, from Bapchule, also presented for the NO BUILD option on the ballot and spoke about the ways breathing in freeway pollutants will invite disease, birth defects, and respiratory failures to our Community. Linda Paloma Allen, also from Bapchule, uncovered the ways that corporate interests and Phoenix officials have pushed for this 202 extension, while keeping GRIC out of the decision-making process.
Several Community members questioned the wisdom of building another in the middle of the desert hoping that it would stimulate job growth or more housing developments in Phoenix. Another Community member pointed out that we can have job growth and economic development without destroying our culture, and pointed out ways other reservations have been able to create jobs while protecting natural and cultural resources, such as wind power and solar energy projects.
The forum was blessed with traditional songs and dance from Community members.