**Who Wants the Freeway?**

MAG-Maricopa Association of Governments

The Maricopa Association of Governments is a policy council made up of elected leaders from cities in Maricopa County, and business leaders in the region. MAG also has representation from the three tribes that are within Maricopa County, which are Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and the Gila River Indian Community.

MAG has a subcommittee called the Transportation Policy Council (TPC), which plans for and sets aside money for transportation projects in the Maricopa County region. This includes projects like road widening, light rail maintenance and adding new light rail routes, maintaining existing roads, and constructing new freeways. The MAG TPC provides the overall plan for all modes of transportation in Maricopa County.

Unfortunately for Gila River, the makeup of the MAG TPC is stacked heavily with business leaders and corporate executives who would stand to gain if either proposed route of the freeway were to be built. On the MAG TPC, there are executives from trucking companies (Swift, Knight), shopping mall owners and operators (Macerich), several realty companies, casino architects (The Killian Companies), and a construction firm that builds freeways (FNF Construction). It is very difficult to believe that with corporations like these in power to decide what happens with the 202 freeway, they will respect our Community’s NO BUILD stance on the Loop 202.

MAG’s meetings are open to the public, and it is crucial that GRIC members, other O’odham and concerned citizens of Maricopa county attend when the Loop 202 is on the agenda. At times in the past, when the Loop 202 was on the agenda at MAG meetings, GRIC leadership chose not to attend the meeting. Former Lieutenant Governor Joe Manuel was a MAG member during his time in office, and he was absent at MAG meetings when the 202 was discussed. It falls to you and to me to attend these meetings, and report back to our Community members what they do there.

ADOT-Arizona Department of Transportation

Similar to MAG, which presents themselves as a committee that has no special interest in building the South Mountain extension to the 202, the Arizona Department of Transportation presents themselves as an agency that does nothing to influence the decision of our Community about the Loop 202.

ADOT already has our Community’s decision, in the form of our two previous NO BUILD resolutions about the 202. ADOT does not need to look farther than those two resolutions to know our stance on the issue.

However, our NO BUILD stance does not suit ADOT’s and MAG’s transportation plans for the Phoenix area, and they have aggressively pressured our Community to put the freeway on our lands. ADOT is not to be believed when they say they are just transportation officials waiting for us to decide on the proposed freeway routes. It is well documented that ADOT hired Sal DiCiccio, a real-estate broker and current Phoenix councilman, to pressure former Governor Bill Rhodes to consider the freeway on our lands. ADOT began paying Councilman DiCiccio thousands of dollars to influence Rhodes in 2006, shortly after GRIC passed a second NO BUILD resolution about the Loop 202. ADOT’s paychecks to DiCiccio paid off for them when in January 2010, former Governor Rhodes sent a letter to Governor Jan Brewer stating that the Gila River Indian Community would consider putting the 202 on our lands.

ADOT is not impartial about the freeway. They want to see it built.

ADOT has announced plans to build a Loop 303, parts of which would go through District Seven of the Gila River Indian Community. MAG and ADOT are also proponents of the Sun Corridor, which is a megaregion economic plan of non-stop development between Phoenix to Tucson.

If we say no to ADOT now, they will know they have another fight coming if they think they can come after any more of our land.

Pangea-

Pangea is a corporation that was founded in 2006 to take government handouts to buy up Native American lands and convert them to commercial use. Pangea has one Community member, Joey Perez, working with them, and so they are able to say on their official website that they are a “Native American inclusive” company.

Off Pangea's website

Pangea refers to themselves as GRIC landowners, but Pangea is actually a corporation that pressures District Six landowners to sign contracts leasing their lands to Pangea for development. Pangea pays D6 landowners $50 for that signature. Pangea’s website, designed by Initial Impressions, an ad agency that specializes in marketing Native American casinos, announces their goals to build a master-planned city in District Six, which Pangea refers to as nothing but “acres of undeveloped land” in a prime location for Pangea’s City Concept.

Regarding the ad agency Initial Impressions, Community member Joey Perez and his wife Christi are double-dipping. Christi Perez is listed as the CEO of Initial Impressions and also is Managing Partner for Pangea. Joey Perez is listed as owner of Initial Impressions. Pangea, the corporation, also shares the same Tempe business address as Initial Impressions. This is another instance of money flowing between two entities, in a matter that affects our Community, while Community members are unaware of the greed targeting us.

Pangea’s partners, similar to MAG, include land grabbers such as real estate brokerages and lawyers for the construction industry. Pangea is also partnered with Jason Rose, a public relations expert who is touted on his firm’s website as “Jason Rose, PR Mastermind: He’s the go-to guy for those looking to avoid a public-relations disaster.” The obvious question is, why does Pangea need to be concerned about avoiding a public relations disaster, since they are a “Native American inclusive” corporation that simply wants to help us out with economic development?

As Gila River Against Loop 202 continues to expose more facts about Pangea, Pangea removes information from their www.pangealand.com website. You will no longer find the information about Jason Rose on their website. Here is one of the tactics they might need a PR mastermind for:

Pangea is under investigation after a family there brought a complaint to D6 representatives that a group of Pangea representatives went to the home of an elder suffering from dementia. The elder owns lands in District Six, and she is at a point in the disease process where she is not capable of handling her own financial affairs. The caretakers for the elder came to her home, and saw $50 in cash on the counter, and they asked her where the money came from. She told her family that some people came and told her to sign the papers to get money. Those papers are Pangea contracts that when signed, authorize Pangea to act on the behalf of the landowner to zone lands for a Loop 202 right-of-way.

Pangea does not draw the line anywhere in what they will do to acquire tribal lands for their City Concept.

Pangea’s City Concept

Pangea is partnered with Ellman Companies (this is also information that has been removed from their website), which is the corporation that developed Westgate City Center, the entertainment complex in Glendale. Pangea has plans to build their City Concept, a master-planned city in the west end of the Gila River Indian Community. This is where the villages of Co-op, Santa Cruz, Komadk, and Gila Crossing have been for thousands of years.

 When considering whether you are for or against building Pangea’s and Ellman Companies’ City Concept in the west end, it is important to note that Ellman Companies lost ownership of Westgate City Center in September 2011. Westgate City Center could not keep office, retail or restaurant tenants and Ellman Companies was unable to pay the balance on loans made during the financing and construction of the City Center. Foreclosure began on Westgate City Center in the summer of 2011, and the property was scheduled for auction in November 2011.

Pecos Landowners Association-

The Pecos Landowners Association is a group of GRIC members who support the on-reservation alignment of the proposed 202, in hopes that by allowing the freeway on our lands, GRIC would retain control of the rights to develop our lands. If we sell our land to the State of Arizona for the Loop 202 right-of-ways, we would lose over 600 acres of allotted and tribal land. All of that land would no longer be ours to develop because the Loop 202 right-of-ways would prevent and restrict the type of land use in areas surrounding the freeway.

The Pecos Landowners Association also points to the 1986 Borderlands study, a GRIC land use planning study, as the basis for the on-reservation alignment. They point out that the Borderlands study says no cultural sites in the Broadacres Canal would be impacted by the on-reservation alignment. However, the firm that wrote the Borderlands study in the 1980s is HDR Engineering, part of the ADOT South Mountain study team. HDR Engineering is a firm that has a multi-million dollar interest in getting the freeway built, which will be explained in the section below.

It is unfortunate that we have Community members within the Pecos Landowners Association who are only concerned about making profits off our land, and do not consider that they are being lied to by the South Mountain study team. HDR Engineering is only interested in profiting off GRIC and say the on-reservation alignment protects our cultural sites, because they don’t want to release any study that agrees with what many of our elders share with us about why the lands around Muhadag Do’ag must be protected from any freeway construction. Instead, HDR Engineering put out the Borderlands study in 1986, which directly contradicts what is taught in our O’odham himdag.

HDR Engineering-

HDR Engineering is a large part of the ADOT South Mountain Freeway study team. HDR is the main firm that the Arizona Department of Transportation contracts to perform impact studies of projects ADOT is considering. Over twenty six factors are evaluated in the Environmental Impact Statement, from air quality to impacts on wildlife to noise pollution and impacts to cultural resources. After ADOT pays HDR to evaluate those impacts, ADOT typically awards HDR the contract to design the same project it just evaluated. So what ends up happening is that HDR tells ADOT their own biased findings about the impact of a project under consideration, HDR gets paid millions of dollars to design the project, and no agency or federal entity checks HDR’s findings except for ADOT. Now HDR holds the power of deciding what environmental devastation plays out in the construction of Loop 202. Does this sound like a company you would entrust your sacred mountain to?

HDR and ADOT have been partners since 1959, and several Community members still remember the lies that were told to us by ADOT when the I-10 was put in across our lands forty years ago. ADOT’s partner in those lies was HDR. We were promised that frontage roads would be designed and built, so that Community members could own and operate small businesses along I-10. HDR and ADOT did not design or build those frontage roads. We were also promised other benefits that we never received, and it is important to remember that ADOT and HDR were leads on the I-10 project.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s