LoRenzo Bates: ‘If Begaye has a road plan, let’s hear it’

By LoRenzo Bates

In last week’s edition of the Navajo Times, a front-page article focused on the approval of funding to hold a referendum that would ask the Navajo people whether or not the Navajo Nation should use $216 million from the Permanent Trust Fund for road projects on the Navajo Nation — also known as the Transportation Stimulus Plan.

In the article, former Chairman and President Peterson Zah and President Russell Begaye say they will urge voters to vote “no” in the upcoming referendum election even before the Navajo public has the opportunity to become educated on the issue. This is troubling.

I don’t think anyone would doubt that our roads need improvement. We are a mobile society — that is a fact.

Talk with anyone who lives on the Navajo Nation and there is a good chance no one has a one-year-old vehicle with less than 12,000 miles. People are proud to proclaim that their 2012 pickup has over 300,000 miles with the original engine.

When we travel we expect our roads to be safe, we expect our children to arrive at school safely and on time, and we expect fewer potholes to keep our vehicles in good condition. How do we meet those expectations?

How many times have you seen or heard of school buses getting stuck in the mud and making students late for school? How many times have you heard your friends or colleagues share their frustrations over having to pay for vehicle repairs due to the conditions of our roads?

Now that the Council has put forth a plan through this referendum, President Begaye states in last week’s article that he has an alternative plan to fund road projects.

If so, the alternative plan should have been brought before the Council prior to final consideration of the funding to hold the referendum. Perhaps it would have produced a more collaborative plan.

This demonstrates a clear need for more effective and clear communication between the president and the Council. My invitation to the president to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and talk remains open.

President Begaye is sending the people mixed messages by approving the money to hold the referendum, then telling the Navajo public to vote “no” on the referendum.

It would have been better if he had approached the Council with his alternative plan rather than to approve the referendum and begin immediately to work against it — it’s a waste of time and resources.

I am not attempting to sway our people to vote “yes” or “no” on the referendum. I am simply asking that you take the time to learn about the issue and to make an informed decision based on your knowledge and experience.

Our people are wise and intelligent, so I ask you to weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourselves.

LoRenzo Bates is speaker of the 23rd Navajo Nation Council and represents Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tsé Dá Kaan and Upper Fruitland.

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Categories: Guest Essay