Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 30, 2012

Politician and developers attempt to force Loop 202 on Gila River Indian Communtiy

Politician and Developers Attempt to Force Loop 202 on Gila River Indian Community after Voters Say ‘No'

By No South Mountain Freeway

Pangea Deception in ‘No Build’ Option

PHOENIX, AZ — Developers behind Pangea Corporation and Phoenix District 6 Councilmember Sal DiCiccio have threatened construction of Loop 202 freeway through Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) regardless of a recent vote against the proposed freeway.

Joey Perez, of Tempe based corporation Pangea, recently deceived the public on the status of the proposed Loop 202’s extension.

In a May 20 Arizona Republic article titled Gila River tribe may hold vote on Loop 202 freeway effort, Perez stated, "I've talked to community members and I've talked to landowners, and a vast majority of them ultimately feel very deceived by the no-build group and the community for not communicating correctly that if the 'no build' won, the freeway would still be built."

Perez, a Gila River Indian Community member and partner at private land development corporation Pangea, called the original referendum flawed because an option to vote "no build" was insufficiently explained.

Sal DiCiccio, District 6 councilmember, also provided misinformation in the same article regarding the freeway’s status. According to the Arizona Republic, DiCiccio and “others” have said, “’No Build’ was never a valid option.”

The Arizona Republic article further reported, “Officials from the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) have said planning for the $1.9 billion, 22-mile freeway will continue despite the vote.”

On February 8, 2012 GRIC members voted for the “No Build” option for the proposed202 freeway to prevent desecration of South Mountain, which has been held sacred since time immemorial. South Mountain is an area full of cultural significance to the Akimel O’odham and the Pee Posh, the two tribes that comprise that Gila River Indian Community.

“The fact of the matter is that it is not currently nor has it ever been predetermined for the Loop 202 to be expanded,” said Jezz Putnam. “A vast majority of community members from Ahwatukee, Laveen and GRIC have opposed freeway expansion. Due to widespread opposition, the Loop 202 has yet to be expanded since the nearly 30-year-old plans for expansion originated.”

“The fact that a corporation such as Pangea is now heading the efforts to expand the freeway through GRIC should also raise concerns,” said Putnam. “It has been the tribe’s formal decision through resolutions and voting to oppose the freeway. Why is a corporation leading the discussion on pushing the loop 202 on GRIC residents?”

Perez’s petition also raises many questions.

Where would the promised $2,000 for GRIC members each come from? How can Pangea, a private corporation, guarantee that payoff from the federal government? IfPangea has secured those funds, why couldn’t that money aid the construction of healthier alternatives to freeways that residents in Laveen and Ahwatukee have asked for? Another question regarding Pangea’s statements about their petition is how exactly could Pangea limit truck traffic from using the freeway if it were to be expanded.

In Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT), Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to the Expansion of the Loop 202 ADOT says: “As the process moves forward, ADOT and MAG will continue to coordinate with the Community [GRIC] on remaining concerns and potential methods for mitigating those concerns.”

We ask, why should the process move forward at all? The concerns of the Gila River Indian Community have not been addressed by ADOT.Paloma Allen, a member of the Gila River Indian Community and a volunteer with Gila River against Loop 202 noted, “As 202 stakeholders, ADOT has violated our rights. It’s been about 25 years we’re waiting on that EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] from them. It’s required by law, and we have every right to know how our land would be impacted. I feel no vote, no Pangea petition, no further discussion about the 202 is warranted until we all have the basic facts about what the freeway could do to our clean air, our health, and our heritage.”

Why hasn’t GRIC been respected for not wanting the freeway on their land? And, most importantly, why would anyone be expected to vote on freeway expansion prior to seeing the Environmental Impact Statement?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

From The GRIC Landowners

On February 18th, we (Gila River Indian Community allotted landowners) committed to "Save South Mountain" after the "no build" vote passed. The group that pushed for "no build" does not have a plan to save it, so we decided to exercise our "People’s rights" under the Gila River Constitution and put forth (a first ever) "Peoples Initiative". This Initiative will rescind the election result of February 7th, 2012 and will have a new vote with only a “yes” or “no” on the ballot. 

We have made this initiative very clear, that if the results were a “yes” vote, the State (ADOT/MAG) would have to provide the following if they wanted to run the alignment through our land:
1. $2,000.00 to every enrolled GRIC tribal member. This means a family of 5 that are all members (of any age) you would receive $10,000.00 for the family. This payment would go to everyone who is a GRIC enrolled member. We feel ALL Tribal members should benefit if the freeway goes through any "community" land.
2. The State will give the Tribe valuable replacement land for the land it would use. This way, the amount of land would stay the same or we may even have more Community land afterwards. 
3. The alignment would have to go around South Mountain so it could not be destroyed. 
4. The State will develop a plan and finance all efforts to stop commercial truck traffic down 51st Avenue. This is important for the people who live in the area because this area is residential and the trucks going on it right now are dangerous. 

These items above are not negotiable, so if the vote is "yes", the State will have to do what we ask if they want to put the alignment on our land. If the vote is "no", the State will continue plans to build the freeway down Pecos road anyway and that will destroy the mountain. 

A lot of the community members who voted "no build" thought that if "no build" won, the freeway would not be built. After it did win, we ALL realized that is simply not true. This freeway will be built no matter what!!! If we don't put it on our land, it will go right next to our land and we will not get anything nor will any of the community members or the Tribe. We will have no say in what they do. We want to have a say, we want to save destruction to Ahwatukee and South Mountain if it is going to be built anyways.

We are speaking the truth and exercising our constitutional rights as Gila River Indian Community Tribal Members and as allotted landowners. We are Standing Strong Together for progress!