Shelly's legacy: a streamlined government

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, Dec. 26, 2013

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As he gets ready for an election battle in 2014, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has been spending the past year putting the finishing touches on a number of projects.

"It's been an exciting year," said Deswood Tome, a special adviser to Shelly. Since Shelly was unavailable for the year-end interview, Tome sat down on Tuesday in his office to talk about the accomplishments of the Shelly-Rex Lee Jim administration for the past year and some of of the things on the agenda for next year as well as touching on some of the plans for the 2014 campaign.

"When Shelly-Jim took office in January, 2011," said Tome, "the Navajo government was $22 million in the red."

Through the use of his line-item veto power this past year, Shelly was able to get the tribal reserves back into the back, he said.

"What people don't realize," Tome said, "is that President Shelly is a fiscal conservative and he has been very frugal in tribal spending."

Another major accomplishment, he said, has to do with his efforts to take away from the Bureau of Indian Affairs its power to approve homesite leases, grazing permits, industrial site leases, commercial tracks and leases, and tower site leases. This now rests solely with the tribe and this transfer of power has meant a sharp reduction in the time it takes to get these matters approved.

"The only thing the BIA still has approval over is mineral leases," Tome said.

Not as noticeable are a couple of changes this past year that have done a lot to increase the efficiency of tribal programs.

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