Sunday, December 16, 2007

Navajo councilmen meet in Las Vegas on power plant during rodeo

Navajo grassroots group catches Navajo councilmen in the act

Saturday, December 15, 2007
Contact: Elouise Brown, Dooda Desert Rock


By Dooda (NO) Desert Rock

LAS VEGAS -- Dooda Desert Rock wants to supplement the news stories on Navajo Nation Council committees meeting in Las Vegas (at the same time as National Finals Rodeo) to make a point about transparency in Navajo Nation government. When we saw that one of the meetings was a session of the Economic Development and Resources committees with the Dine Power Authority, we knew that Dooda Desert Rock President Elouise Brown needed to go to Las Vegas. She was able to find the schedule and it said that the meeting would be in the “Virginia City I” conference room at the Flamingo Casino from 8:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. on Friday, December 14, 2007.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Desert Rock Energy Project. Meeting organizers recognized Brown and she was initially denied entrance to the meeting, with no clear explanation offered regarding the nature of the discussion or the reason she was refused entrance.
They kept her in the hallway while they discussed whether or not to let her in. She was finally admitted, but she was able to pick up on only a little discussion on two issues. The first has to do with gathering chapter resolutions on changing Navajo preference to some other kind of preference for a vote by the Council.
Delegate George Arthur said that although District 13 has four chapter houses, only three are requesting a resolution to change wording about Navajo preference.
Mr. Arthur did not discuss what bribes or false promises were being offered to chapter members for their votes. He did not tell the meeting why there was a mistake in granting Navajo preference in the lease approved by the Council and how and why that is being changed. He did not explain why the Council approved a lease before environmental clearance, as is otherwise required for leases by folks other than large New York energy corporations.
The second issue has to do with the draft environmental impact statement and public comments on it. Sithe Global/Desert Rock Energy Company representative, Nathan Plagens reported that there were 55,000 comments that had been registered; but only 400 were considered to be technical comments. The other 54,600 were “form” email comments.
Mr. Plagens did not indicate how he is getting what appears to be insider information on the EIS process or what insider access his employer has to influence the decision on the 400 “technical” comments.
We are also not told why the public is not being informed about what is going on with the EIS by various federal officials. Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan said something important in the lengthy press release that was published as “Speaker: Official council travel is necessary” in the Thursday, December 13, 2007 issue of the Navajo Times.
We agree that some official travel is “necessary,” but we differ on what that means. Mr. Morgan said something very important that goes to that in his comments. He said, “The speaker’s office strongly encourages and promotes transparency in government.”
So do we. What is it? “Transparency” means that government operates out in the open where we, the Navajo public, can see what is going on.
It means that we have a right to watch our committees in action as they discuss important issues of the day, such as decisions about the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant.
We found out about the meeting by chance.
Does “transparency” mean that Navajos have to wait in a casino hallway while there is discussion of whether they will be allowed into the room to watch the meeting? Does “transparency” mean that apparently harmless issues are discussed and there is a motion to adjourn at 10:30 a.m. when the announced program runs from 8:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m.?Most of all, does “transparency” mean that the public is not told of important legislation and important decision-making to make sure Navajos are locked out of government process, and does it mean that there are careful and cautious ways around recognizing and allowing the valuable “right to petition government for redress of grievances” in our Navajo Nation Bill of Rights?
We believe that Speaker Morgan should build on his announced policy of transparency by making it meaningful.
We need transparency in government legislation to make sure that the public knows what will be discussed; where meetings will be held; requiring that there can be no discussion of proposed decisions outside the Navajo nation; and provisions for members of the public to speak before decisions are made.
We also need legal standards to prevent back room deals. There should be a law that sets standards for when government bodies can go into executive session and when they are prohibited from doing so, and recording of the sessions so that if there is a question about whether an executive session was appropriate, a judge can review that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Prez Shirley should order all travel of this kind to not be reimbursed as a disallowed cost to the Nation. Its time for the executive branch to cut off funds to the council and put them in check.

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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