RDC, NHA need to work together

Aneva Yazzie
Chief Executive Officer
Navajo Housing Authority

June 13,, 2013

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L ast week's Navajo Times story titled, "NHA a no-show at housing hearing" said the Navajo Housing Authority (NHA) failed to show-up at a public hearing on housing on May 31 in Shiprock, New Mexico.

At the time, we issued a news release that said the NHA received very late notice and given the Resources and Development committee's track record on how they handled the publicized Pinon public hearing, we didn't even know if the meeting was going to be held – once again.

RDC had scheduled a public hearing at Pinon Chapter for May 30, according to an April 25 issue of the Navajo Times. Then we found out that not only did no one show up, but Pinon chapter officials and community members never received any information from the committee – even after cancelling.

Then the RDC announced a June 10 public hearing in Pinon and once again Pinon officials were not informed of this meeting. At the last minute, RDC cancelled the meeting after learning a chapter meeting was already scheduled.

It's the same story for the May 31 hearing at Shiprock; no prior arrangements made with the chapter until 24 hours before. Initially, I was told via email by RDC legislative advisor Martha Ellison that it was for May 30, but my attendance was never requested in the email and there was no mention of any specific housing subject or agenda. They never provided any follow-up notice about the date change or any notice of the location.

How can we, or the public, take their attempts to hold an open hearing serious with a disorganized track record. Their actions undermine the nature of a public hearing. And this same group wants to take over the Tribally Designated Housing Entity from NHA? A public hearing is just that – public. It means you make every effort to invite community members by posting signage in advance, perhaps even advertise through the media. They did none of this.




A public hearing should be impartial, fair, and the public should be afforded advance notice – not 24 hours. It also does not mean you invite the media and recruit disgruntled people, including an embittered lawyer, who have various issues and disputes with NHA.

Effective leaders should not generate negative publicity and destruction against their own tribal enterprise. As the RDC chair and member, Katherine Benally and Leonard Tsosie have spent considerable resources and time, working together, to discredit our people whom are their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and/or nieces who work at NHA.

Both Benally and Tsosie are taking advantage of a unique situation that I inherited and faced when I was hired in 2007: an accumulation of $320 million of housing funds from 1998 to 2007 and a very troubled program. In fact, since taking over in 2007, NHA has spent over $335 million plus $34 million from Federal Stimulus dollars – during a three-year HUD imposed construction moratorium on our sub grantee program.

Benally and Tsosie should be helping the Navajo people face our biggest barrier to housing: land availability. We need land withdrawn to build new housing projects. The reason we undertook the massive sustainable community master planning initiative was to identity and free-up land so that we can build more houses throughout the Navajo Nation.

The U.S. Housing & Urban Development office, Congress, and Navajo Nation programs understand our unique situation; yet, RDC is taking advantage of our situation to wrest control of housing funds.

Currently, there are serious movements in the United States Congress targeting public housing funds for Navajo and other tribes. The NHA continues to invest in defending our housing monies, advocating for more funding, and at the same time dealing with Benally and Tsosie's antics. What kind of leadership would compromise our progress and continue efforts that may result in lost federal funding? These actions are contrary to helping our Navajo people.

RDC should be working with NHA for the good of our people, and generations to come.

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