Casino Referendum Failure In Glendale

Gary Hirsch and Jill Ryan recently teamed up to bring forth two referendum petitions squaring off against recent casino activity from the Glendale City Council. They have apparently hired Petition Partners as paid petition circulators. Click here for that story.

This isn’t the first time this team has been rounded up for similar purposes. The first time was a few short months ago, and their effort failed badly.

R-14-01

Gary and Jill formed a political action committee (PAC) on April 21, 2014 for the purpose of circulating referendum petitions intended to oppose a Glendale City Council vote. Click here for their PAC registration.

Trent Franks

Trent Franks

On March 25, the Glendale Council voted (click here) to oppose the “Keep The Promise Act” proposed Federal legislation (HR 1410) sponsored by Trent Franks.

Resolution 4783 is a statement that the City opposed the Franks bill, and it passed 4-3 with Alvarez, Chavira, Hugh, Sherwood voting “aye” leaving Knaack, Martinez, and Weiers to vote “nay”.

Their verbosely named committee “Respect The Promise; Neighbors for a Better Glendale; Opposing the Resolution Referred in R-14-01” was exclusively funded by one entity. So, the sponsoring organization of their committee is their own Independent Expenditure Committee (IE) “Neighbors For A Better Glendale” (NFBG).

Irony interlude: In 2012, NFBG spent at least $15,000 of Gila River Community money on the unsuccessful campaigns of Gary Hirsch and Joyce Clark and the successful ones of mayor Jerry Weiers and Council member Gary Sherwood.

The text for the referendum is:

The proposed Tohono O’odham casino, targeted for a Glendale neighborhood near homes, schools, daycares and houses of worship, will create severe budget stress for the nearly bankrupt City, overburdening Glendale’s strapped police, fire fighters, streets and infrastructure. This petition seeks to refer the March 25, 2014, Glendale City Council vote opposing H.R. 1410, Congressional legislation to keep the promise struck by Tribes and Arizona voters and prevent new casinos in metro Phoenix. A “non” vote on this referral will overeturn the Council’s pro-casino decision and respect the NO casino promise, protecting the City’s budget and core services.

Lots Of Signatures

The application for R-14-01 states 6,956 signatures would have to be turned in to the Glendale City Clerk’s office by April 24 for the referendum to succeed.

Gathering nearly 7,000 petition signatures in less than a month is a big task, and it’s likely NFBG doesn’t have the necessary volunteer muscle to get the job done. So, they decided to hire local petition company Petition Partners to get the necessary signatures for them.

Based on the campaign finance report (click here) for the “Respect The Promise” committee, filed by Jill Ryan on June 24, states that they received $41,000 from “Neighbors For A Better Glendale”. Yes, they received $41k from themselves.

So, where did NFBG originally receive that $41k? They reported $39,689.62 of it came from the Gila River Indian Community on March 28. Yes, that IS a weird number.

Out of that $41k, they paid Petition Partners $38,623.47.

Did they get their money’s worth?

Count The Signatures

The receipt for signatures from the Glendale City Clerk (click here) states 823 petition sheets were turned in by Gary Hirsch at 6:06PM on April 24.

That timestamp is after the City Clerk 5PM close of business on deadline day. Had the mess gone to court, some lawyer would have brought that up as a reason all of the signatures should be tossed.

The receipt states there were 11,393 signatures on the sheets, usually enough more (4,437) than the required 6,956 for a successful referendum. At 11,393 signatures, the money paid to Petition Partners would mean $3.39 per signature was spent.

Glendale Verifies Enough Signatures Turned In

According to a May 14 letter to “Respect the Promise’ and Gary Hirsch (click here) from Glendale City Clerk Pam Hanna, the City performed their initial review of the petition signatures and determined there were enough eligible signatures for Glendale to forward the petitions on to Maricopa County for them to begin their County review.

Glendale rejected a total of 1,676 signatures for various reasons, refer to the letter for specifics if that interests you. Ms. Hanna states “Respect the Promise” provided 9,717 signatures eligible for verification.

Unfortunately for NFBG, spending $3.39 per signature didn’t guarantee success.

Money Down The Drain

The penultimate paragraph of Ms. Hanna’s letter deflates the NFBG balloon by stating the City would not accept the petition signatures.

Can they do that? Sure.

Ms. Hanna notes:

Under the Arizona Constitution, only the City Council’s legislative acts are subject to referendum.

The letter goes on to offer case law and the section of the Constitution. The bottom line is that the entire effort was directed at an action of the City Council that wasn’t available for objection via the process selected.

The Gila River Indian Community wasted at least $40k on a referendum that was moot in an effort to protect their gambling businesses from the potential loss that would result from a new casino. Again, we have no objection to people for investing in any avenue to defend their livelihood.

You’re Off The Hook… For Now

Mr. Hirsch obviously disagreed with the Glendale’s determination. He wrote a letter the next week (May 21) to Ms. Hanna (click here) detailing his objections to the decision and the determination of the validity of the signatures.

He goes on to discuss litigation, but, in the end, states the committee will not sue:

We recognize that litigation about this referendum would be costly for the Committee and the City of Glendale. As Glendale residents, we remain concerned about the severe budget circumstances that confront our City. The Committee has therefore decided to forego litigation at this point, both to conserve our resources for future actions that will benefit Glendale and to avoid further compounding the City’s budget woes.

INTERACTIVE TIME: Everybody that believes the reason the group didn’t sue Glendale because they were concerned about the budget hit the City would take defending the suit, raise your hand.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

In his letter, Mr. Hirsch characterizes his results as a mandate from the citizens of Glendale objecting to the proposed casino, the fact is professional petition circulators paid for by competing casinos were what got him his results. Many (most?) polls seem to indicate the opposite sentiment in Glendale and neighboring communities.

Please note the signatures never made it past a cursory examination by the City Clerk. Had the petitions been scrubbed by Maricopa County or a private group (that can verify EVERY signature instead of a subset), it’s likely more signatures would have been lost.

Crystal Balls

The same people are now gathering signatures on TWO referendum petitions objecting to the same topic, the proposed Tohono O’odham casino.

While it may appear the effort is a grassroots, mom and pop type operation, the opposite is true. Lots of political muscle including money and politically savvy PR types are backing this anti-casino play.

The money from the Gila River Indian Community that went to NFBG and then to “Respect the Promise” and then to Petition Partners is essentially exhausted. Where will the money come from to pay Petition Partners this time?

We won’t know until finance reports are filed and filtered.