Council passes bill to oversee housing board

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Oct. 24, 2013

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I f President Ben Shelly signs the Navajo Nation Housing Authority Reform Act of 2013 into law, he will have the power to recommend to the Council's Naabik'iyati' Committee to confirm commissioners for Navajo Housing Authority, the tribe's designated housing entity.

And if the president fails to recommend a commissioner for appointment within 60 days, then it will be up to the Naabik'iyati' Committee to recommend and appoint prospective board members.

"This legislation is to address the ambiguity in the law," said Leonard Tsosie (Baca/Prewitt/Casamero Lake/Counselor/Littlewater/Ojo Encino/Pueblo Pintado/Torreon/Whitehorse Lake), sponsor of the bill.

He added that the intent of the legislation is to have the Naabik'iyati Committee oversee and confirm NHA's board of commissioners, given that they're currently serving on expired terms.

Tsosie's legislation also comes after an ongoing dispute between the Council's Resources and Development Committee and NHA CEO Aneva Yazzie and her board of commissioners.

The amendments Council unanimously passed on Wednesday also do away with the oath of office NHA requires its board members to take.

It is the only tribal entity that requires such an oath.

Tsosie declared the oath "an odd thing."

Before voting to pass the bill, Council delegate Danny Simpson (Becenti/Crownpoint/Huerfano/Lake Valley/Nageezi/Nahodishgish/Tsé'ii'Ahi/Whiterock) motioned for 12 amendments to be added to strengthen the bill, a compromise reached among the tribal legislators earlier in the day at their caucus meetings.

The add-ons amended Title 6 of the Navajo Nation Code.




Two of the amendments require that a commissioner serve 90 days after his or her expired term or until he or she is replaced, and the other amendment provides that each member of the board seated as of October 2013 "shall hold office until his/her successor has been duly appointed" in accordance with the amendments of the legislation.

Though most of the Council talked favorably about the legislation, Council delegate Edmund Yazzie (Churchrock/Iyanbito/Mariano Lake/Pinedale/Smith Lake/Thoreau) was the one to point out how it would directly benefit Navajo communities.

"This would give us a chance to speak on behalf our communities," Yazzie said, referring to how the Naabik'iyati' Committee would allow Council to debate and concentrate on the housing needs of the delegates' respective communities.

"This is not a shameless legislation," he added. "We want to be on the same page and sing the same song."

The only concern Council delegate LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad/Newcomb/San Juan/Tiis Tsoh Sikaad/Tsé Daa' Kaan/Upper Fruitland) had is the conflict of interest of potential board members.

According to the legislation, an NHA tenant or homeowner could serve as an NHA commissioner.

In response to the passage of the bill, Christian Bigwater, NHA's spokesman, sent an emailed statement to the Navajo Times that stated he and Aneva Yazzie will evaluate how the 12 amendments and bill affect the NHA organization.

"We will continue to work towards our goals and objectives in providing much-needed housing services to our Navajo families," the email states.

As of press time Wednesday, the Council was also considering a bill cosponsored by Simpson and Speaker Johnny Naize to amend resolution CAP-20-13, the resolution that allowed the tribe to create the Navajo Transitional Energy Company to acquire Navajo Mine from BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal.

According to the Facebook page of Council Delegate Russell Begaye (Shiprock), representatives of BHP New Mexico Coal are asking the Navajo Nation Council to "waive all past, present and future liabilities in its selling the Mine to NN."

Begaye's Facebook page blew up with hundreds of comments from concerned Navajo citizens, primarily from Lori Goodman, of nonprofit Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, asking the delegate and other members to oppose the legislation.

For a complete story of amendments to CAP-20-13, go to www.navajotimes.com.

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