Council concludes day four of winter session, gives more authority to Chief Legislative Counsel, approves land purchase

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Council concluded day four of the 2010 winter session by approving legislation to empower the Chief Legislative Counsel with more authority and purchasing land in Thoreau, N.M., for economic development.

 

Legislation No. 0010-10, sponsored by Katherine Benally (Dennehotso), was approved by a vote of 670in The Council approved amendments to Titles 1 and 2 of the Navajo Nation Code to give more power to the Office of the Legislative Counsel as they exercise litigation and protect the Council, its standing committees and other organizations within the Legislative Branch of the Navajo Nation — instead of utilizing and relying on the Navajo Attorney General for such affairs.   

 

Benally alluded to the Attorney General being an appointed position and stated with probable clause that the current Attorney General Louis Denetsosie is biased toward the Council.   

 

“Our legislative counsel will have a tool to represent our Council,” Benally explained. “Currently, if Council seeks representation we have to go through the Office of the Attorney General.”  

 

Benally further explained that the legislative counsel will have authority to issue legal opinions with this bill – a tool necessary to help the legislative body.

 

In other Council action, Legislation No. 0306-09, sponsored by Edmund Yazzie (Thoreau), was also approved with a vote of 600in This legislation approves a $504,106 land purchase for Thoreau Chapter for development of 352 acres for economic development in Thoreau , NM .  This bill is an opportunity for Thoreau Chapter to grow economically as the local government drafted a resolution for the purchase of the land, which is valued at $504,106.

 

“This property is adjacent from the railroad tracks by the 1-40 corridors and will be an outlet for economic development,” Yazzie said. “There are also water rights attached to the property.”

 

Mike Halona, department manager of the Navajo Land Department, noted the fruitful opportunity this development will offer to the Navajo Nation, and said, “The railroad track venue is ideal for future development. NAPI, for example, will be able export goods to other areas in the country with the direct route from NAPI to Thoreau.”

 

“There is nothing hazardous about the land we are discussing; it has been surveyed by EPA for clearance to purchase and develop. Please approve this legislation my colleagues, so we can add another piece of land to Navajo country,” said Norman John II, Council delegate for Twin Lakes Chapter who enthusiastically supported the bill. 

 

Land status was debated among the Council on whether to make the land purchase trust or restricted fee land. Trust status is said to elongate development process with BIA control.  Though most Council delegates favored restricted fee land status because land will not lose value and development equity as development occurs. The ultimate decision will be based on the appraisal of the Land Administration where in which Council will determine land status.    

 

Legislation No. 0752-09, sponsored by Roy B. Dempsey (Oak Springs/St. Michaels), reemerged by a recall vote after nearly being approved by one vote – it failed Jan. 27 with a vote of 58-0, it needed 59 votes or more to pass. The legislation was passed the second time around with a vote of 710in This particular legislation involves the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI), which now officially can create and enter into a limited liability company or limited partnerships for development. 

 

In other Council action, Legislation No. 0746-09, sponsored by LoRenzo C. Bates ( Upper Fruitland ) was recalled as well after being defeated Jan. 27. The legislation finally passed by a vote of 680in This particular legislation involves a $60 million loan offered by Key Bank to design and construct public safety and judicial complexes. The loan has a 4.9 percent interest rate and will be financed for 20 years. However, there is also the option for the Nation to pay off the loan with a balloon payment after five years given the economic situation.  The loan agreement with Key Bank will also honor Navajo Law and the Navajo Court system, which is significant. This loan is the first of its kind in Indian Country and it is the first loan ever to gain tribal government approval.

 

The final day of the Council’s 2010 winter session will continue tomorrow, Jan. 29. You can download a copy of the full agenda at www.navajonationcouncil.org

Government Services Committee and Navajo Gaming Enterprise work together in releasing $100,000 for relief effort

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Government Services Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council and the Navajo Gaming Enterprise agreed on releasing $100,000 for relief efforts for the Operation 2010 Snowfall.

 

The money issued from the Navajo Gaming Enterprise will go directly to the Navajo Nation Emergency Management based on the Navajo Nation Council’s approval of getting the funding to Emergency Management by 5pm today.   

 

Bob Winters, CEO of Navajo Gaming Enterprise, said the money is specifically for relief efforts. 

 

“The Navajo Casino is financed and owned by Navajo people. The board of directors from Fire Rock Navajo Casino said to find a way to help in the relief efforts. I want to thank the Government Services Committee for ability to move the check swiftly for relief of the people. The $100,000 is specifically to aid those in need,” Winter added.

 

Council Delegate Leonard Teller (Lukachukai/Tsaile/Wheatfields) accepted the check on behalf of the Navajo people, and said, “This check will be given to the emergency management on behalf of the Navajo people. Thank you to Mr. Winter, the Navajo Gaming Enterprise, and the Gaming Commission.    

 

Other relative news included Navajo Shopping Center providing food for the Operation 2010 Snowfall. 

Navajo Council approves legislation to help spur economic development on the Navajo Nation

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Day three of the Navajo Nation Council’s 2010 winter session concluded with the passage of legislation creating the Community Development Financial Institution and the approval of the International Swap Dealers Association between the Navajo Nation and Merrill Lynch Commodities Inc. for performance on investment services.

 

Navajo Council Delegate Roy Dempsey (Oak Springs/St. Michael), sponsor of the legislation for the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), emphasized the importance of providing job opportunities for the Navajo Nation — particularly small business enterprises through the loan plan. Essentially, CDFI will provide funds to create businesses and jobs in rural and urban areas. The CDFI loans will be provided by the U.S. Treasury.   

 

Dempsey highlighted the need for such a financial institution on the Navajo Nation.

 

“CDFI is designed to help communities in need,” Dempsey explained. “On the Navajo Nation we do qualify for such funding. The CDFI offers loans for small business development.”

 

Raymond Nopah, chief financial officer of Navajo Nation Economic Development, spoke of the importance of this legislation and announced the Navajo Nation will be the first tribal government to use the CDFI loan to provide jobs for Navajo communities. 

 

“President Obama is going to announce a tax credit increase for entities utilizing CDFI funds and that is positive news for the Navajo Nation,” said Nopah.  

 

Tax credit programs will be beneficial to the Navajo Nation because the action plan for CDFI loans will come directly from the Nation addressing much-needed business development issues.  Consequently, the tax credits will be used against federal income taxing and will be allocated to the Nation’s very own CDFI. The Council passed this legislation with a 63-7 vote.

 

In other Council action, Council Delegate LoRenzo C. Bates (Upper Fruitland) sponsored legislation approving the International Swap Dealers Association between the Navajo Nation and Merrill Lynch Commodities Inc, and other appropriate counterparties. This particular legislation entails an agreement between the Navajo Nation and Merrill Lynch and offers an insurance plan pertaining to the Nation’s crude oil. The agreement between both parties is a safety system for the Nation’s oil fields. 

 

“The Navajo Nation budget is impacted by the fluctuation of oil. When oil is high were happy, when its low were not,” explained Bates. 

 

“This legislation protects us from a budget deficit like we experienced this past year on oil royalties. For example, if the contract price of oil is at $64 per gallon, and the market value of oil hovers below the contract price of $64, we will still get $64,” Bates said. “If the price of oil exceeds or increases past the contracted price of $64 per barrel, then we have the option of terminating contract to get higher royalty funds.”

 

Controller Mark Grant also reiterated the importance of the insurance agreement and said the insurance agreement will make the Navajo Nation budget more stable and protect the Nation from unpredictable shortfalls in the budget. The Council passed this legislation with a vote of 620in

 

The Council also entertained legislation involving Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI). With the passage of this legislation, NAPI is now allowed the ability to create and enter into a limited liability company or limited partnerships for development. The legislation, sponsored by Roy Dempsey, will further impact development by NAPI, such as the recent potato plant. The legislation also gives NAPI an advantage of borrowing funds from banks for future development. This legislation garnered a 58-0 vote, but it needed 59 votes or more to pass.

 

Day four of the Council’s 2010 winter session will continue tomorrow, Jan. 28. You can download a copy of the full agenda at www.navajonationcouncil.org.

 

Navajo County Delivers Food, Hay, Water By Helicopter

HOLBROOK, AZ – a scheduled air mission for isolated areas around the Kayenta and Black Mesa area was conducted by the National Guard yesterday delivering emergency food and water supplies to residents in the far remote areas in northern Navajo County.  These residents have been severely affected by the stormthat hit Northeastern Arizona nearly one week ago.  “It is amazing to see how hard the people were hit by the storm, because the farther we flew the more snow there was.  The vastness of the land is very apparent,”  Navajo County’s Sheriff, KC Clark stated in reflection.

The National Guard piloted the Blackhawk that Sheriff Clark and Navajo County District I Supervisor Jonathan Nez rode in during the mission.  The mission was successful as supplies were successfully dropped to families in several isolated areas along and around the Black Mesa ridge.  Black Mesa is approximately 30 miles north of Pinon.  Supervisor Nez pointed out the last 18 miles to Black Mesa is dirt road.  They were able to view the impact of the large amount of precipitation along with the snow has saturated the clay infused dirt roads causing worsening roadway conditions.  Nez explained the only way to get supplies and medical help to the residents is by air or in the early morning hours when the clay mud is frozen. 

Both Sheriff Clar and Supervisor Nez were inspired at the people’s ability to be resourceful in spite of the severe snow storm.  “We were flying and then the pilot saw a reflection signal coming from a mirror, as we turned back, we then saw a family with children waving their arms in the universal sign of distress.”  The pilot located a safe place to land the plane so we could inquire about their needs.  The family was housebound from the high levels of snow and had run out of food and water with one adult family member was on home dialysis. 

From the start of Operation Winter Storm, all agencies involved raised concern for dialysis patients since the storm grounds many families from being able to attend their Wednesday appointment.  Failing to receive treatment can cause a person to go into shock and could lead to death.  Sheriff Clark stressed, “Time is of the essence.  They are already nearly a week overdue with their dialysis treatments.  If we do not get supplies and medicine to the people now the mission will be more costly and may have devastating results.”

“I am proud of my people as they are resourceful in finding ways to provide assistance for  themselves and their neighbors,” Supervisor Nez stated when telling of a family they came upon during this air mission who had dug through approximately one mile of snow in an attempt to get help; unfortunately, they still had about three more miles to go before getting to a main road.  Supervisor Nez, along with Board of Supervisors Chairman Jesse Thompson request that any need for assistance as a result of  this storm and the upcoming storm sould be relayed to the Navajo Nation Emergency Management at 928 871-6892 or -6894.

The entire region is thankful for the State assistance, including the incident management team and the National Guard, being provided during this emergency, as a result of the recent State of Emergency declared by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Sheriff Clark said residents can get the latest information about emegency efforts by calling the Emergency Management Hotline at 928 524-4200, Option 3.  Weather and other emergency services information is also available on the Navajo County website at www.navajocountyaz.gov or on the Arizona Emergency Information Network at www.azein.gov.

Navajo Nation Sets Up Central Command To Address Severe Weather Conditions, Sets Priorities

Window Rock, Az, January 26, 2010, 2:00 PM – The Navajo Nation Emergency Operation Center continues to coordinate the work of providing emergency assistance to people on the Navajo Nation and are affected by the recent heavy winter snowfall. Responders began addressing the needs of those persons identified as at risk or medically needy this morning. Supplies are being gathered at central locations in advance of these efforts to reach those persons that have been identified as being most at risk. 

 

As of this morning, the information being provided to the Navajo Nation EOC, has indicated that two of the most adversely affected areas are the Sawmill and Ramah areas. Some roads are still impassable, but crews from NDOT, BIA Roads, and Apache County Roads are working long hours to get assessment teams into these areas.

 

The areas of Grey Mountain, Gap Bodaway, Coppermine, Kaibeto, Inscription House, Navajo Mountain, Shonto, Black Mesa, Blue Gap, Tahchee, Forest Lakes, Pinon, Hard Rock, Whipporwill, Tselani, Steamboat, Jeddito, White Cone, Lukachukai, Tsaile, Wheatfields, Rock Point, Beclabito, Red Valley, Cove, Sheep Springs, Sanostee and Nakaibito have all received heavy snowfall leaving many roads completely impassable. The Navajo Nation EOC relies on the local chapters from these areas to forward their assessments in order to most efficiently deploy resources.

 

The Navajo Nation Emergency Operations Command and the Arizona State Incident Management Team (IMT) have established regional incident command/coordination centers at Window Rock, Chinle, Dilkon, Tuba City, and Kayenta. These sites have been set up to facilitate the efforts of the emergency responders in meeting the needs of the various communities.

 

As the assessments are relayed back to the chapters, the chapter staff will identify and prioritize the needs for their areas. The chapters will attempt to meet the needs locally. If they are unable to meet the need locally, they will relay the request through an established procedure to the organization that can fill the request. The Navajo Nation Emergency Operations Center and its staff coordinate these activities with the state Incident Management Team and other relief organizations to address the needs of the affected areas all across the Navajo Nation.

Shonto Preparatory School Gymnasium Ceiling Collapses, No One Is Hurt

Shonto Gymnasium Ceiling Collapses from Snow Accumulation

SHONTO, AZ – As of Tuesday, January 26, 2010, the Shonto Preparatory School Kindergarten through Eighth Grade building is still closed while the gym ceiling that has collapsed in undergoing assessment and repairs.  Due to an announcement and call for snow shoveling laborers on Monday, the work to repair the school gymnasium has begun.

On Thursday, January 21st, at approximately 10:15 PM, the roof on the K-8 School large gym totally collapsed and fell to the floor. No one was in that space at the time, and no one was injured. The destruction is total. This gymnasium and its beautiful Navajo wall murals and large rug cannot be used again. This is a terrible cultural loss to our community. We have already notified the BIE, and we fully expect that they will authorize and fund the construction of a new and larger gymnasium with their emergency funding reserve.

School will be closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week and will reopen on Thursday, January 28, 2010. No K-8 child will be entering the K-8 School. We are temporarily relocating all K-8 students to the administration building, dorms 3 and 4, and possibly to the board meeting room.

Based on a press release, the School Administration had a meeting on Monday, January 25, 2010 to discuss normal school days.  They issued a statement, “We expect to have a certified structural engineer arrive Friday night to thoroughly examine every facility – K-8 School, High School, Dorms, Cafeteria, Administration Building, Grizzly Den, and others to make certain that these buildings are safe and in no danger of collapse. Once certified as safe, our Maintenance crew will then go on top of the buildings to take care of the snow that has accumulated during this extended stretch of bad weather. Even if the remainder of the K-8 School is determined to be safe, we will not allow our students into the building until we have dealt with that snow accumulation and have 100% assurance that we can at least use parts of that school.”

PARKER MAN SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON FOR ASSAULTING ESTRANGED WIFE

PHOENIX– Francisco Cuadras, 27, of Parker, Ariz., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow to 53 months in federal prison for committing Aggravated Assault causing serious bodily injury to the victim.  The victim was his estranged wife, a member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes.  The defendant and the victim also have a 16-month-old child together.

        On July 19, 2009, Cuadras was intoxicated and angry, and pounded on the door to the victim’s home late at night with his brother.  The defendant demanded to know who was inside.  The victim, who was at her home with a girlfriend and the girlfriend’s young child, let the defendant inside.  The defendant and victim started arguing, and the defendant kicked the victim in the face at least three times.  The defendant’s brother came in and tried to stop the assaults by restraining the defendant.  Cuadras was too strong for his brother, freed himself from his brother’s grasp, and continued assaulting the victim by kicking her anywhere he could.  The victim was screaming “Stop Frankie! Stop Frankie!”  The victim’s girlfriend was afraid of the defendant, and called police.  Police found the victim laying face down covered in blood.  The victim was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Las Vegas, where she had to have surgery for her broken nose.  During an FBI interview of defendant about what happened, Cuadras claimed he only had a few beers and was sober, but answered “I don’t know” to questions about the assault.           

        The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and  the Colorado River Indian Tribes Police Department.  The prosecution was handled by Jennifer E. Green, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.

 

CASE NUMBER:    CR-09-927-PHX-GMS      

RELEASE NUMBER: 2010-012(Cuadras)