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From the Editor | Photo-op prez lacks leadership

If President Jonathan Nez coughs, you can see it on social media.

Just kidding, but everywhere Nez goes is dutifully presented with photos on Facebook and Twitter. You can see images of him shaking hands or posing next to a person or couple or group of people at this and that event, at this and that location.

During graduation season, he appeared at two or three locations per day. No doubt the students and their families appreciate the president showing up at their celebrations.

Observers may think, boy, is he busy.

close-up portrait

Duane Beyal

Other may think our photo-op prez is going overboard.

Navajo government workers or people who travel to see him in Window Rock and even delegates may see for themselves where he is at by tapping their phones, or laptops or office computers and – pop! – there he is at another event posing or looking serious at another photo opportunity.

But he isn’t here, waiting for their calls or dealing with a line of people outside his office.

Having a photo-op prez is fine, if that’s what you want in the highest position in the Navajo Nation.

Yes, he is running from one photo-op to the next with his PR staff trailing behind. In today’s cellphone lifestyle, all you need is one person with a small device connected to the webpage or internet and off you go into a world of images.

He is also a candidate for re-election and is doubling down in his effort to be seen by as many people as possible.

The Navajo Times on July 11, 2019, said, “No to a photo-op prez.” Now that the re-election season is underway, it is time to slam on the brakes.

While incumbents have continued to work after declaring their candidacies for re-election, Nez is straining the limits of a government-funded campaigning.

Is this an unfair advantage? Of course, it is.

Is this proper use of tribal funds, staff and equipment? Of course, it isn’t.

Think of the other 14 candidates for president. They are attending events, trying to voice their messages and also reach as many people as possible.

But one candidate – Nez – is doing his campaigning as a part of his job and it is all being paid by the Navajo government.

Well, that’s one result of having a photo-op prez.

Another is framed by the question: Who is doing all the work?

Think of the delegates of the Navajo Nation Council. They have tried and failed to work with Nez on a spending plan for the $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

To be fair, the failure falls on both the executive and legislative branches. They have had long meetings lasting for hours and into the night trying to find common ground. They’ve spent a year talking with no result.

We all know that tough problems are part of the job for elected leaders. They should roll up their sleeves and go to work on this ARPA spending plan and get it done.

That’s why we voted for them and that’s why they sit in the Council chamber or in Nez’s sleek black Blazer.

The bottom line is they are failing at the job we have given them.

Perhaps, like the CARES Act money, they should just send a check to all the Navajo people. That would be easy to do and save them a lot of headaches.

But even that easy solution to the problem requires a leader who will do it.

A stalled effort can be expected from the Council but in our government, this calls for real leadership. This calls for a leader to take control of the issue and take everyone down the road of service to the people.

And to make the situation worse, the Hardship check problem is begging for answers. The problem of no response to calls and questions by Diné citizens is beyond reproach.

Images I’d like to see are Nez working with the controller’s office to fix the problems. He should grab a mop, bucket of water, armful of brushes, his rubber gloves and attack the problem.

Like a real leader.

Unfortunately, with a photo-op prez rushing to one opportunity to another in full campaign mode, we do not have that leader.

About The Author

Duane A. Beyal

Duane Beyal was editor of The Navajo Times until retiring on Sept. 30, 2022.


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