Leadership needed for efficiency, effectiveness

WINDOW ROCK, July 24, 2014

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E very successful nation in the world has as one development indicator at its root -- an efficient and effective bureaucratic operation.

The Navajo Nation, however, is struggling to find efficiency and effectiveness. Until the Navajo Nation can solve this problem, it will continue to not progress well in every governmental division -- law enforcement, social services, education, health, etc.

A prime example is the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. NNDPS is currently operating under "acting" administrators, who were supposed to be assigned temporarily, however, they have been in those positions for years.

This is against Navajo Nation operational policy. Law and order is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of a successful nation and without a stable, consistent, and capable leadership within the various divisions of the Navajo Nation, its people will suffer. This is the case in other areas of the Navajo Nation governmental operation as well.

The Navajo Nation through questionable conduct and decisions by inadequate, inept, and "temporary" operational leadership puts tribal sovereignty in jeopardy. When questionable decisions are made, in particular, regarding its employees, case after case is continuously brought into pointless personnel grievance hearings.

These unnecessary hearings often create distrust, undermine tribal sovereignty, and produce inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. In the long run it cost us, the Navajo people, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and puts an immeasurable price of instability on the community.

As a result, a view from the inside and outside illustrates the Navajo Nation as incompetent. Further, our detractors revel in our bureaucratic disorganization and inability to govern well.

There is a real need for strong leadership to be exhibited by Navajo Nation division directors by replacing the "acting administrators" with qualified permanent staff who can make "real" and needed long-term operational decisions.

Running a government based on "acting administrators" is not only a recipe for bureaucratic and operational disaster, but also creates a nation that does not work.

Navajo Nation operational policies must be revamped or better yet, must be followed and enforced without personal jealousies and vendettas.

There is also a real need for a full-scale organizational audit or investigation of these divisions. Doing this will save us a lot of headaches and resources as we travel down the nation-building road.

Manley A. Begay Jr.
Tucson, Ariz.

Baseball league is a service to community

With summer here and the lull of the lazy days in full effect, along with the dry heat and majestic monsoons, baseball is back.

Kayenta Youth Little League baseball and tee-ball is underway and this small community in northeastern Arizona is glad to welcome it back. Although Kayenta has had a Little League in the past, it has been a number of years that anyone can recall seeing it thrive the way it has.

The league is a summer program derived from the Warrior Run, an organization that promotes running and wellness, and the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project of Kayenta.

For its inaugural season, which spans June 3 through Aug. 2, four baseball teams and four tee-ball teams have been established with youth ages 6-12. In the future, additional teams and age divisions will be implemented. The initial teams consist of the Firebirds, Blackhawks, Blue Jays and the Yellowjackets.

The overall support from the community has been overwhelming and instrumental in the success of the league. From the recruiting process to the volunteer turnout representing the Kayenta School District, the local businesses, the public service departments, and the Kayenta Township, the league will continue to flourish for years to come.

The league shines as a program of service to the community youth. It provides an outlet of healthful activity, keeping fit and staying active during the summer months. It is life training under good leadership with wholesome community participation.

It establishes the values of teamwork, sportsmanship, fair play, achieving goals, and enriches the youth in becoming model citizens. It embodies discipline, it challenges physical skills and brings competitive excitement of tactic and strategy. It mirrors life itself.

By offering this positive means of structure to our youth in this community we can envision less crime, less gang affiliation, less drug and alcohol abuse, and eradicating the negative risks and impact these summer months of inactivity can bring.

Like the thread on the seams of a baseball that hold it together, baseball is the youth activity that sews people and cultures together. More than a million children on six continents in 80 countries from China to Venezuela can attest to that.

So come out and support your local youth Little League today.

Gunnar Jensen
Kayenta, Ariz.

Transparency, ethics, protection for votes

Navajo Nation sovereignty and self-determination rest with and come from the people, but there are those in Window Rock who deny us these fundamental and human rights.

Over the past several elections and administrations we've seen enough of Window Rock leaders, and the lawyers who dominate them, denying these rights to last a lifetime. Also, few care about protecting our views or votes.

On July 10, 2014, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors allowed me to present to them on concerns about transparency for election procedures, ethics, the importance of every valid vote, and guarding against rigged elections or other fraud. They were courteous and respectful as I briefly outlined many issues to consider when protecting votes and the coming primary and general elections: A. The executive director of the election office is running for president, but he is still in charge of day-to-day operations. To avoid even the hint of a conflict of interest the executive director should be on administrative leave, and exercising no control until the outcome is decided (resigning would remove all doubt).

B. The election office's deputy director may be retiring in August, further complicating the issue in A.

C. Voting machines can malfunction or be rigged. Candidates or their representatives, and the interested public, should be allowed to observe voting machine testing.

D. Voting machine locks, which discourage tampering with electronic vote counters, should not be controlled by only election office managers. A second lock controlled, for example, by a representative approved by presidential candidates, should be in place. This is common elsewhere.

E. About actual ballots to be read by the voting machines: Will there be ballot testing to insure they do not cause wrong counts? Are there enough ballots for each chapter? What happens to ballots after the election? Are they discarded, making them unusable to verify elections if challenged?

F. There are always glitches with some voters' registrations, addresses, decriptions, etc. Will there be sufficient provisional or "challenge" ballots so they can go ahead and vote with one of these backup ballots while at the voting place, and then later the validity of their vote can be determined? This is the thing to do, rather than automatically turning voters away at the polling place.

G. Is there a sufficient budget, for both elections, to have enough polling place workers so no unacceptably long lines discourage voting?

H. What are the security procedures for ballot boxes, and are they enough to prohibit tampering? State and national elections often have extra locks on each box, one is controlled by election managers, others by candidates' representatives.

I. What is the protocol for mailed-in and hand-delivered absentee ballots? Is it only election office staff overseeing this, or can candidates have observers to insure all absentee ballots are verified and counted?

Every honest vote counts, is sacred, and should be protected.

Alfred Bennett
Shiprock, N.M.

Small, selfless acts of kindness at fire

There have been a few things on my mind that I felt I needed to share. First, I'd like to thank all the brave and courageous firefighting crews that have come from every part of the country that answered the call to fight this devastating fire and to fearlessly protect this beautiful and sacred mountain of the Navajos.

The gratitude I feel towards each and every firefighter and their continued hard work, determination and effort cannot be expressed enough in words. Ahe'hee!

Secondly, I am writing about my trip to the Chuska Mountain range. I brought what I could in donations for each chapter house affected along this great mountain chain. What I saw wasn't people stealing goods, the tribal officials blocking the way of donations. I didn't even see community members arguing and bickering with one another.

Nope. I saw something more remarkable. I saw the small, selfless acts of kindness from visiting volunteers donating countless hours without complaint to community members graciously greeting donors, happily accepting donations and unloading vehicles.

I saw people eager and determined, smiling and ready to assist in whatever way possible, not whining about how far they drove or perhaps where to be fed, each individual innately taking upon a task and fulfilling it to the best of their ability. This is what I saw.

Goodwill has stepped into every community and hearts across the nation, compassion has begun and relief on every scale has commenced. Too many times, we on a human scale forget the simple acts of kindness that spread more rapidly than any wildfire. This willingness to help at a moment's notice, without any monetary expectation, without any praise is epic. This is what should be posted on our social media sites, newscasts and blogs.

The Assayii Lake Fire was devastating, destructive and disheartening to hear about, witness and experience. In the midst of this fire, a whole other fire of unsung heroes has embarked and that is the one of charity, concern and kindness.

For the unrecognized contributions made by everyday people, whether it come in a box or a truckload. The individual act of selflessness and generosity displayed each day as private citizens on and off the reservation, open up their heart to the people in need. This should be the focus -- the celebration that caring for one another still exists. Love for our Native brothers and sisters didn't die, it's alive and well.

Tsailee Kiro
Albuquerque, N.M.

Partnership is key to forest management

There has been a lot of discussion in the media lately on the national forest treatment activities associated with the management of the San Juan fire on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. I hope to at least set the record straight and dispel some inaccurate information as it relates to vegetation management activities on the local level.

The San Juan Fire started around noon on Thursday, June 26, 2014 on White Mountain Apache Tribal lands near San Juan Lake. The fire was driven by a strong southwest wind and soon crossed over onto the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, about six miles south of Vernon.

Fort Apache Agency of the BIA ordered the Southwest Area Incident Management Team 4 (Matt Reidy's team), who assumed command of the fire at 8 p.m., on Friday, June 27, 2014. The fire was making significant crown fire runs in the mixed conifer, and burning down-slope toward the transition into ponderosa pine.

One of the first pieces of information from the San Juan fire IMT was the account of the fire lying down when it hit areas of treatment in the pine.

É Rocky Mountain Elk Society, Arizona Elk Society, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Habitat Partnership Committee have all stepped up to contribute funds to carry out these additional fire and vegetation management activities.

Some news accounts have stated all these activities in past tense, but during the San Juan Fire active logging was still occurring with log decks immediately adjacent to the fire lines. Additionally, prescribed fire is occurring whenever fire personnel can safely meet the objectives of their burn plans.

Suppression activities on the nearly 7,000 acre San Juan Fire are estimated to cost about $6.5 million (excluding resource values), with $250,000 of that total included as Burned Area Emergency Response. The above-mentioned activity equates to approximately $932/acre.

The goal of treatment, whether by mechanical means or prescribed fire, is to reduce the effects of heat generated by reducing the amount of fuels. That in turn reduces the propensity for fires to reach the crowns of trees, and allows firefighters a safer environment to work.

É However, another cost center that must be addressed is the cost in firefighter safety. It is not enough to say one person or another is to blame for firefighter losses we've experienced over the past few years. Even one is not acceptable, even one is not on the table as a consequence of actions.

Treatments do improve the "odds" of firefighter's successfully managing and/or suppressing wildfires in a safer environment.

But once again, fire suppression and national forest treatment costs are not the total story. Those activities from partnership dollars, along with work being done by the Navajo, Greenlee and Apache counties in partnership with Arizona State Forestry and White Mountain Apache Tribe have contributed greatly to treating both sides of the ownership lines, whether it is federal, state, or private lands.

Those continued partnership activities are what it is going to take to continue to make advancements in protecting communities and resources in the White Mountains.

Jim Zornes
Forest Supervisor Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests
Springerville, Ariz.

Israel condemned for treatment of Palestinians

On July 12, a group of Palestinians in Gaza issued an urgent plea to the globe. Under a steady stream of Israeli military bombings, the authors wrote: "We Palestinians trapped inside the bloodied and besieged Gaza Strip call on conscientious people all over the world to act, protest and intensify boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel until it ends this murderous attack on our people."

The attack on Palestinians in Gaza is only the most recent instance of increased Israeli military assaults on Palestinians over the last month. While Israel says the escalation of military force responds to provocations from Hamas extremists, multiple international news outlets report that Palestinian youth, women and elders make up the overwhelming majority of casualties. This is a trend throughout Israel's 66 years of state-sponsored violence against Palestinians.

Why should this matter for Navajos situated half a world away?

The administration of President Ben Shelly has been collaborating with the state of Israel and Israeli business interests since 2012. Key players in the Shelly administration have pursued relations with private entities to fund Shelly's trip to Israel in December 2012 and subsequent visits from Israeli farmers to Shiprock in the spring of 2013. Although the details are unclear, my understanding is that other negotiations and relations have ensued since then.

Because of these largely private initiatives, Navajo citizens are now associated with a nation whose very existence depends on displacing, removing, and colonizing Palestinians who inhabited the area when it became a state in 1948. With a nation that profits from the ethnic cleansing of an entire people because they simply refuse to relinquish what remains of their home to Israel.

"Diné for Sanctions Against Israel" responds to the plea from Gaza by condemning the state of Israel for its historic and continued treatment of Palestinians. We are not affiliated with any extant position or approach regarding this issue. Rather, we stand next to Palestinians most at risk for exposure to Israeli sponsored violence. This especially includes youth, women, elders and the poor.

To facilitate the complete end to violence against Palestinians, we demand four things: 1. That Israel immediately removes its troops and all other Israeli military infrastructure from Palestinian communities.

2. That Israel immediately implements plans to demolish the massive walls it constructs to displace and separate Palestinian people from each other and their homes.

3. That Israel immediately implements plans to abandon and remove numerous fortified settlements that illegally expand into and fragment Palestinian territory.

4. That Israel abides by all other international laws and common ethics that recognize the essential right of Palestinians to exist without violence so they have the ability to deliberate their own future.

In pursuit of these demands, we also demand that the Shelly administration publically clarify the terms of its partnership with Israel and Israeli businesses. We demand that it immediately halts any progress in this partnership until the Navajo people decide by referendum whether or not we want to invite an egregious human rights violator into our midst.

To learn more about this issue or to voice your perspective, you can also contact us at our Facebook page, "Stop the Attack on Gaza! End Navajo Partnerships with Israel."

The future of our integrity as a sovereign indigenous nation hangs in the balance. Do we want to be defined as a nation that profits from violence?

There is much at stake in how we respond to this issue. The world is watching.

Melanie K. Yazzie
Whitecone, Ariz.

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