JUSTICE DEPARTMENT UNVEILS PLAN OF ACTION FOR CONSULTATION AND COORDINATION WITH TRIBES

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today made public its plan of action, submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to improve consultation and coordination between the Justice Department and tribal nations, as directed by President Barack Obama’s Memorandum on Tribal Consultation.  The Presidential Memorandum, signed on Nov. 5, 2009, at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, directed each federal agency to submit to OMB within 90 days a plan of action to implement President Clinton’s Executive Order 13175 on Consultation and Coordination with Tribal Governments.  The Justice Department’s plan was submitted to OMB on January 27, 2010.

The Justice Department’s plan, which is available at: http://justice.gov/opa/documents/exec13175-consultation-policy.pdf, identifies the steps it will take to develop a comprehensive consultation and coordination policy with tribal nations, after robust tribal input.  In addition, the department’s submission makes a commitment to: 

  • expand the role of the Office of Tribal Justice;
  • create a Tribal Nations Leadership Council to ensure ongoing communication and collaboration with tribal governments;
  • convene consultations between tribal leadership and U.S. Attorneys whose jurisdictions include federally-recognized Indian tribes;
  • mandate annual meetings between the department’s grants offices and tribal leadership to discuss grants policies, concerns or funding priorities;
  • create a new federal-tribal taskforce to develop strategies and guidance for federal and tribal prosecutions of crimes of violence against women in tribal communities; and
  • publish a progress report within 270 days of the Presidential Memorandum evaluating the implementation of these reforms.

The Justice Department’s plan of action was driven largely by input gathered from the department’s own Tribal Nations Listening Session in late October 2009 and from the department’s annual tribal consultation on violence against women, as well as from written comments submitted by tribal governments, groups and organizations to the Justice Department and tribal consultation conference calls conducted by the Office of Tribal Justice.

The department’s plan to improve consultation and coordination with tribal governments comes a month after Attorney General Eric Holder announced sweeping reforms within the department to improve safety on tribal land.  The Attorney General also announced that the Justice Department’s FY 2010 appropriation included an additional $6 million for Indian Country prosecution efforts, enabling the department to bring the federal justice system closer to Indian Country.  For more information, go to: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/January/10-ag-019.html.

ADOT continues to work with communities statewide to find solutions to MVD office closures

Eight offices to close today due to budget cuts; four working through solutions

 

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation continues to work with communities statewide to keep Motor Vehicle Division services available to residents in areas where offices were originally scheduled for closure.

 

ADOT is working with the cities of St. Johns, Williams and Willcox and the town of Clifton to try to establish an alternate MVD office location or provide a third-party service that conducts MVD business. These four MVD offices, along with eight others, were scheduled for closure as ADOT manages a $100 million budget shortfall that requires a reduction in operations and services.

 

By the end of business today, ADOT will have closed eight of its 61 MVD offices due to ongoing budget constraints. These include both full-time and part-time offices. The offices are located in Ajo, Benson, Bisbee, central Phoenix, east Mesa, Fredonia, Kearny, and Superior.

 

Although the eight offices will now be closed, ADOT has been working with communities statewide for the past few months to provide options for those affected by the closures. ADOT encourages MVD customers to conduct a range of online transactions through www.ServiceArizona.com or by visiting one of more than 140 third party locations statewide. A complete listing of third party office locations is available at www.azmvdservices.com. Customers can also conduct MVD business by phone or by mail.

 

ADOT planned the closure of 12 MVD offices since last fall as part of a plan to balance the $100 million agency-wide budget shortfall tied to the state’s fiscal crisis. Declining funding for transportation and the legislature’s transfer of several hundred million dollars in transportation funds to work on the state’s overall budget deficit created the need for ADOT to map out agency service reductions.

 

The other four MVD offices, St. John’s, Clifton, Williams and Willcox, that had been slated to close this week will remain open for now. ADOT is actively working with these four communities to continue providing MVD services to local residents.

 

Employees at the closed offices are being transferred to other MVD offices to help bolster customer service at the agency’s remaining branches.

 

This week’s closures follow other budget-balancing moves by ADOT, including last year’s layoff of more than 100 MVD employees, the closure of 13 rest areas statewide, and reductions to construction and maintenance efforts.

Office of the Speaker, Navajo Council partner with Local Census Office to develop accuracy of Census 2010 operation

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Office of the Speaker and the 21st Navajo Nation Council has partnered with the Window Rock Local Census Office to complete the decennial census count on the Navajo Nation, including the satellite lands of Ramah, Tohajiilee and Alamo, N.M. The partnership is aimed to develop accuracy in all parts of the Census 2010 operation.

 

Caroletta Manuelito, assistant manager for recruiting for the Window Rock Local Census Office, said the partnership with the Navajo Nation Council and the Office of the Speaker will help to inform chapters of the hiring process of the census jobs and the awareness of enumerator presence in communities across the Navajo Nation.

 

“We want the Council delegates and Office of the Speaker to promote census jobs at all chapters,” Manuelito said. “We will be hiring at all chapters. We also would like for the delegates to inform their chapters of enumeration beginning on March 22.”

 

On the Navajo Nation, the local census office is hiring for 1,275 enumerators, 110 crew leaders and 12 field operation officers. In Tuba City, Ariz. — the central point of the Western Navajo Agency — 200 jobs will be available to canvas the area, which will help spur the local economy. The census jobs on the Navajo Nation generally employ individuals from eight weeks or more depending on the area of operation. 

 

“There is a proclamation from the Navajo Nation recommending participation in the 2010 Census, and there is a resolution sent out to the chapters and passed by each chapter, but there are some chapters not cooperating and asking for payment on facilities,” said Local Census Manager Sheryl K. Smith.

 

“Some chapters have charged our recruitment assistants for using chapter space, so we need delegates to inform their respective chapters of recruitment of jobs in the communities and the enumeration presence,” said Manuelito. 

 

All citizens on the Navajo Nation are highly encouraged to tie up their dogs and other pets once the enumeration process begins on March 22 as some enumerators have been bitten by dogs in the past. 

 

There is also opportunity for community members to seek more information from the Tribal Road Tours program, which will provide census information regarding jobs and awareness to interested individuals.

 

On Feb. 22, the Tribal Road Tours program will be at the Bashas’ parking lot in Tuba City; at the Window Rock Veterans’ Park on Feb. 23; and in Shiprock, N.M., on Feb. 26. The national census office will be present at the Navajo Nation Veterans’ Park in Window Rock on March 28 and they are encouraging participation from Navajo Nation leaders.

 

Applicants interested in any positions with the Census should contact the Window Rock Local Census Office located at the Navajo Nation Shopping Centers–Pad B near Highway 264 and Navajo Route 12. Their mailing address is: Post Office Box 2927, Window Rock, AZ 86515 or call 1-866-861-2010.

Resources Committee passes legislation to accept $4.5 million for clean-up of uranium tailings site near Tuba City, Ariz.

“The passing of this legislation will help to restore land for the Tuba City community such as providing more grazing pastures and opportunities for other community development projects.”

– Madeline Roanhorse, department manager for the Office of Abandoned Mines 

 

 

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Resources Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council met today and passed Legislation No. 0065-10 pertaining to the clean-up of the uranium tailings site located northeast of Tuba City, Ariz.

 

The legislation, sponsored by Council Delegate George Arthur (T’iistoh Sikaad/San Juan/Nenanezad), passed the committee with a 6-1 vote. With the bill’s passage, $4.5 million will be utilized to clean the uranium site near Tuba City, which is located north of the former uranium processing facility known as Rare Metals Uranium. The site is also known as the Highway 160 site because of its northerly location off of U.S. Highway 160.

 

The legislation also includes extending the cooperative agreement dates between the Navajo Uranium Mill Trailing Remedial Action Program and the U.S. Department of Energy to carry out the ground water remedial action pursuant to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ground water protection standards.

 

Council Delegate Arthur said the Highway 160 site tailings were left by the former uranium processing facility.

 

“In past years, there have been attempts to stabilize the site but it has failed various times,” Arthur explained. “The Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency has been very instrumental in identifying the stabilization and clean-up initiatives, as well as lobbying for this site.”

 

The $4.5 million will be controlled by the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (NNEPA), the agency responsible for the investigation of the contaminated area since 2003.  

 

Cassandra Bloedel, environmental program supervisor with NNEPA, explained, “In 2003, information was received by local families who knew of the contaminated site. They were witnesses to those uranium activities in the late 1950s and in the early 1960s.”

 

“In February 2004, the site was reported to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Emergency Response in which they came to the site for an investigation in May of 2004,” Bloedel said. “The site was shown to have radioactive waste located within the area. The U.S. EPA did not find the mill balls that would later be discovered by Navajo EPA contractor Dr. William Walker.”

 

“In January of 2006, Navajo EPA hired contractor Dr. William Walker to further investigate the site. Dr. Walker worked from 2006 into 2007 and identified further mill related waste, and finding of the mill balls used in uranium processing, and showed the site had high areas of radioactivity,” added Bloedel. 

 

“In April 2007, the late Arlene Luther, then-department manager with NNEPA, was the one who approached the U.S. Department of Energy to have them respond to the Highway 160 Site since they were the later operators of the former Rare Metals Uranium Mill. The company did their own investigation of the site and determined that the site did possess waste from the former Rare Metals Site, and they were the ones who fenced in approximately 7.6-acres to protect humans and livestock that graze within this area,” Bloedel said. “To further ensure stability of the site, a palliative cover that hardens like a crust was placed on top to prevent any contamination from leaving the site since there are very high winds such as 50 miles per hour that frequent the area.”

 

“In March 2009, U. S. President Barack Obama passed the Omnibus Appropriation Bill — Public Law 111-8 — for $5 million for the Highway 160 Site,” Bloedel added. “Since there was no direct mechanism to pass the funds to Navajo EPA, they were redirected to the Navajo UMTRA Program since an existing MOA was in place.”

 

Bloedel also mentioned the site is secure with fencing and is monitored on a monthly basis by the Navajo EPA with El Paso Natural Gas contractors.

 

Department Manager Madeline Roanhorse of the Office of Abandoned Mines, an agent to Arthur’s legislation, also informed the committee the $4.5 million will be utilized to hire technical staff at the site for project management on environmental clearance, site characterization and developing a design for remedial action and monitoring.

 

“The passing of this legislation will help to restore land for the Tuba City community such as providing more grazing pastures and opportunities for other community development projects,” said Roanhorse.

 

The Resources Committee passed the legislation and it will now be considered by the Intergovernmental Relations Committee for its final adoption.

$4 million loan from Navajo Nation Insurance Commission to be considered by Budget and Finance Committee

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -The Budget and Finance Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council is scheduled to hear Legislation No. 0069-10, sponsored by Council Delegate Young Jeff Tom (Mariano Lake/Smith Lake) during a regular scheduled meeting on Feb.16.

 

The legislation seeks approval to borrow up to $4 million from the Navajo Nation Insurance Commission (NNIC) to supplement the Emergency Management Budget.

 

A similar version of this legislation was considered by the Budget and Finance Committee and included short-term borrowing of up to $5 million. The bill, however, was denied passage Feb. 2 by the Budget and Finance Committee with a 2-5 vote.

 

At the request of Tom, Legislation No. 0069-10 is being introduced to the Budget and Finance Committee with a $4 million short-term loan price tag this time.

 

This legislation includes a promissory note executed by the Navajo Nation and paid back to the NNIC based on the terms and conditions negotiated by the Controller of the Navajo Nation and the Navajo Attorney General.

 

The borrowing of the NNIC loan will be repaid indirectly or directly with the proceeds of a draw on a loan made by Key Bank to the Navajo Nation according to the bill’s language.     

 

If the bill passes the Budget and Finance Committee, it will provide funding for costs associated with the state of emergency.

Health and Social Services Committee disappointed with IHS efforts regarding proposed Thoreau Clinic

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Health and Social Services Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council met during a regular meeting on Feb. 9 and accepted a report on the status of the Indian Health Services Thoreau Clinic in Thoreau, N.M.

 

The committee accepted the report from Bennie Yazzie of the Gallup Indian Medical Center with a 4-0 vote. However, Bennie Yazzie and the Navajo Area Indian Health Services (NAIHS) Director John Hubbard, the agents responsible for funding the construction of the Thoreau Clinic, were not present to address the exact status of the proposed project.

 

Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie (Thoreau) appeared before the committee expressing frustration and disappointment due to the lack of presence of key members from the NAIHS.

 

Council Delegate Yazzie informed committee members of the need to continually pressure IHS because if pressure is relieved, money for this project could possibly be utilized for other projects. He requested a directive by the committee to help speed up the process.

 

“This is an on-going project that took almost four years now to plan,” Yazzie said. “Our community members as well as those from surrounding areas are anxiously waiting for health care services. I addressed the Indian Health Services administration last year in September and a date was given by IHS that construction would start in November. We were excited about the news. However, there is no construction at the moment.”

 

Martha Ellison, legislative advisor for the Health and Social Services Committee, had to contact NAIHS Director John Hubbard by phone to learn of the status of the project and said there was a mix up of projects between the proposed Thoreau Clinic and Tohatchi Clinic.

 

“The Thoreau Clinic is fully funded,” said Ellison on behalf of Hubbard. “IHS is at the stage of negotiating with the contractor and that process should be done by Feb.18. Thereafter, construction should begin. On Feb. 23, a report will be given to the committee. I just spoke with Hubbard; there is a mix up between Thoreau and Tohatchi.”

 

Council Delegate Yazzie has been working on this project since he was elected into office by his constituents and said he is willing to come back to every HSSC meeting until he sees cooperation with NAIHS and heavy equipment in Thoreau.

 

“I am willing to come back during the next meeting. I’m willing to attend every meeting until we see heavy equipment in Thoreau. I ask for your support and appreciate the time you have given me,” said Yazzie.

  

Council Delegate Davis Filfred (Mexican Water/Aneth/Red Mesa) made a directive to visit the proposed site and meet with other parties of the project.

 

“The party — Indian Health Services — is not here. So the questions we have can’t be answered,” said Filfred.

 

“We need to hear from IHS and defer this meeting at the site. It would be great to hear from chapter officials too,” said Council Delegate Alice Benally (Crownpoint/Nahodishgish). “I think that is the direction we can take.”

 

“I see this whole process as a vehicle,” said Edmund Yazzie. “IHS is stuck in the mud. As a committee, we are trying to help by pushing IHS out of the mud.”

 

The committee scheduled a regular meeting on Feb. 23 at the Thoreau Chapter to hear updates from NAIHS, Thoreau Chapter and other parties involved in the construction process of the Thoreau Clinic.

Government Services Committee hears public testimony regarding Navajo Housing Authority

Dilkon, Ariz.–The Government Services Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council conducted its last public hearing this morning at the Dilkon Community School regarding numerous issues involving public rental and homeownership policies set forth by the Navajo Housing Authority.

 

Council Delegate Ervin M. Keeswood (Tse Daa Kaan), chairman of the Government Services Committee (GSC), as well as other committee members collected data and heard testimony from the public to address their issues.

 

Keeswood said the hearing provided a chance for the public to speak to the GSC directly and said, “You can tell us anything and everything you want.”

 

Although the issues were serious at hand, the atmosphere remained civil and open with many from Dilkon and the surrounding areas voicing their concerns.    

 

Susie Wauneka, chapter president at T’iistoh, was thankful for the houses provided by Navajo Housing Authority (NHA) and said, “Just 10 years after I purchased my home, I am having problems with the foundation, floor and insulation. Mr. Keeswood said I could request anything, I would like to request that my house to be paid off.”

 

Jean Cody and Eugene Cody of Leupp, Ariz., also expressed their concerns, “Within the first year of purchasing our home we experienced very serious problems: faulty wiring, foundation instability, insulation and vent problems, loose floor tiles, squeaky floor boards and lots of beer cans and bottles within the walls and the roof. The people who build our homes need to be better supervised.”

 

Louise Walker also of Leupp said, “I am a home owner. My home was one of the first to be built. I am a single parent, putting my children through school. My budget does not include home repairs. I would like to second the comment earlier about the beer cans and beer bottles within our structures.”

 

Rueben Nells from T’iistoh, Ariz., expressed gratitude to being a homeowner of NHA’s scattered homes project. 

 

“I am proud of my home,” Nells said. “It is one of the first scattered houses. T’iitsoh took the lead and I am thankful for my home. I left the reservation after high school, but it was my home that brought me back. I returned home in 2001 to help my community.”

 

“Although it took four to five years just to apply and go through the entire bureaucratic process, I was patient.  For nine years I have been paying, taking care of poor material and poor craftsmanship out of my own pocket,” Nells explained. “So, I would like to suggest that the GSC revise and review the warranty department. They have been to my home several times taking notes and pictures and when the repair men showed up, none of that information was available to them.”

 

Another point of concern was the increase in vandalism and intimidation by possible gangs throughout the entire Navajo Nation.

 

Tommy Lewis Jr. of Dilkon, president of Dilkon Community School, expressed his theory on cluttered housing.

 

“The youth are restricted by suburban housing. Gangs, drugs and alcohol are plaguing our youth, but more than that, they have nothing to do,” Lewis said. “They are becoming too dependent on the government. More education and training is what is needed.”

 

Police Lt. Clifton Smith of Tuba City, who is assigned to the Toyei Police District, gave some insight into public safety issues in the area.

 

“I believe it is a combination of many factors that have contributed to the increase in graffiti, burglaries and other criminal activities such as the influence of alcohol, drugs and boredom intensifies in such clustered communities,” explained Smith. 

 

The Dilkon hearing completed the year long process of public testimony regarding NHA policies. Previous hearings were held in Fort Defiance, Ariz., and in Crownpoint, N.M. 

 

The information gathered from these hearings will be compiled, recorded and filtered through the GSC, and will be later presented to the Navajo Housing Authority. The intention of the hearings is to make significant changes for the Navajo people to help increase their standard and quality of living.