Tag Archives: Leonard Tsosie

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Delegates say lawyer went too far with reform bill

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Delegates say lawyer went too far with reform bill by Marlley Shebala: Should the people vote on proposed changes to the Navajo Nation Government Development Commission Act? The Navajo Nation Council’s attorney, Edward McCool, says yes. But the chairman and vice chairman of the Council’s Subcommittee on Government Reform say no. The disagreement between McCool and the subcommittee unfolded when Chairman Leonard Tsosie and Vice Chairperson Jonathan Nez saw that McCool had written the subcommittee’s proposal to change the commission as a voter referendum rather than an amendment to the act. Then he posted the referendum legislation on the Council’s Web site for public comment on Oct. 6.

Tsosie and Nez said in separate interviews this week that they believe McCool overstepped his authority, and that the subcommittee is expected to meet Monday, Oct. 24, at 1 p.m. in the Council chamber to discuss his actions.

Both delegates emphasized that the subcommittee had nothing to do with McCool’s decision to make their bill a request to the Council for a referendum.

“His clients tell him to do one thing and he does the opposite,” Tsosie fumed. “He’s just making our life harder.”

McCool said Tuesday that he was asked to draft legislation and he did that.

On Sept. 20, McCool sent a memo to Nez questioning the subcommittee’s plan to amend the law and reduce the commission from 12 members to five, eliminating representation for several groups in favor of putting more delegates on the panel.

McCool stated in his memo that the Navajo Nation Supreme Court noted the “significance” of the commission and its office in a July 2010 ruling: “Of all the entities established by the Title II Amendments, the Commission on Government Development and the Office of Navajo Government Development are the sole entities established according to the wishes of the people expressed through the coordinator of the Government Reform Project.”

Power to the people

McCool also quoted the ruling’s warning for the Council not to usurp the right of the people to determine their preferred form of government, which the commission was set up to determine.

The high court stated that “the power over the structure of the Navajo government is ultimately in the hands of the people and (the Council) will look to the people to guide it” and “that the power of the people to participate in their democracy and determine their form of government is a reserved, inherent and fundamental right expressed in Title I of our Dine Fundamental Law and the Navajo Bill of Rights,” McCool quoted in his memo.

Tsosie said the subcommittee already had a discussion with McCool about whether the Supreme Court’s decision meant the subcommittee’s amendments to the commission had to go before the people as a ballot referendum.

“We didn’t ask for (referendum) language,” Nez said Tuesday. “The chief legislative counsel has his own interpretation of the Supreme Court decision. We, as delegates, have our own interpretation. We’re following the Supreme Court order.”

9/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Dine´divided on LCR settlement

9/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Dine´ divided on LCR settlement By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly proclaimed support for a Little Colorado River water rights settlement and Navajo Generating Station lease renewal in a meeting Wednesday with U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hayes. But in a separate meeting with Council delegates, Hayes heard a different story. “NGS was initially allowed to use what was considered water from the Navajo Nation free of cost and then renew that after 25 years,” Delegate Dwight Witherspoon told the Washington delegation. “Certainly we would like to say, ‘No fricking way’ to giving that 34,000 acre-feet of water for free to NGS.”

Water from the Upper Basin of the Colorado River is necessary for the continued operation of Navajo Generating Station, which provides power to move Colorado River water through the Central Arizona Project. The NGS lease expires in 2019 but includes the right to a 25-year lease extension and the use of 34,100 acre-feet per year of Upper Basin water.

Interior officials, including Hayes and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Del Laverdure, met with Shelly before discussing a proposed Little Colorado River settlement with the Navajo Nation Council’s Nabiki’yati’ Committee.

“The Navajo Nation needs the Department of the Interior’s support for the delivering of Central Arizona Project water to Window Rock,” Shelly said, adding that the Nation is “continuing its support of the Navajo Generating Station and is currently negotiating the terms of a lease renewal.”

Hayes told delegates that a nearly billion dollar settlement proposed in 2008 and approved last year by Council would have resolved both Little Colorado and Mainstem Colorado River issues. It included a $515 million Western Navajo Pipeline project. However, the price tag precluded it from becoming law. Since then, the Navajo Nation and the United States have regrouped and “there is the potential for a $400 million settlement,” he said.

If Navajo and Hopi can agree, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., is interested in making it happen. They have the potential to get the settlement across the line, Hayes said, “but only if we can close on the final issues in the coming weeks. That’s how critical it is. If we miss this window, I don’t know when it would come again.”

Duane Tsinigine, who represents the western portion of Navajo Nation, said he would like to see everyone work together on a settlement and request funding for the Western Navajo Pipeline, which would bring water to residents of the former Bennett Freeze as well as to Hopi.

“My dad’s side of the family is Hopi and I do support water for the Hopis. We did work diligently with the Hopis on the Intergovernmental Compact to lift the Bennett Freeze. I think we can work with them with due diligence on getting that western pipeline, and your support in this effort will be deeply, greatly appreciated.”

Leonard Tsosie said he was involved in the water discussion in the beginning and noticed Kyl pulled out of discussing the main Colorado River issue. “He blamed the cost of it, but I know the money is a drop in the bucket when it comes to federal finances. I believe it is an excuse for him to raise the NGS issue. I think there are hidden agendas.”

He asked Hayes and Secretary Ken Salazar to examine the Interior’s role as trustee for the Navajo people. “We need settlement of this water. I am not familiar with any dire need for this Council to renew the NGS,” Tsosie said.

“Peabody and NGS were bad deals made by the federal government on behalf of the Navajo people. These bad deals are now hamstringing economic development and community development and are working against us in terms of jurisdiction and authority. We want federal participation to turn this around. We don’t want the federal government, our trustee, on the other side fighting us, and that’s what we have found.”

Witherspoon said another concern in the settlement language is a clause about a waiver of injury to water for past and future water settlements. “I’m not sure this is protecting anybody but a particular entity that’s already on the Nation that’s using water, and we’d like to request that this be addressed and maybe be removed.”

Katherine Benally, chair of the Resources and Development Committee, read off a list of items Navajo would like to see in relation to the settlement.

“We’ve had some discussions regarding whether we could continue to support Navajo Generating Station operations and agreement. We looked at our history with NGS … It does not look very favorable – certainly not favorable for the Navajo Nation. They took our water, they took our land and did not bother to come back and see if we were properly compensated, and you all know that we are not. This remains a concern to us.

“We feel once we sit at the table with them and their stance is that they will continue to take from us free, we will not tolerate that. We are not agreeable to that. So in your meetings with NGS, it might be appropriate to give them that heads up from the Navajo Nation,” she said.

Walter Phelps who represents communities along the Little Colorado River, stressed, “My people need water. Our waters are contaminated with uranium. We have serious issues related to drought.”

Just a few days ago, Phelps attended a meeting in Cameron where his constituents asked his help in getting wells repaired and bringing water to isolated areas. “I was talking to a grandma who was just pleading with me. She says, ‘We have no water and I wish there was some way we could make use of that pipeline that Black Mesa was using for the slurry.’

“I know that’s not being considered, but the point is, the need is there, and it’s great. To me, $400 million – I’m embarrassed to go back and share that with my people,” he said.

Delegate Nelson Begaye told the committee he was aware that Hayes already had met with the president. “I don’t know what’s been said there, what kinds of commitments and questions and answers … I believe we should have gotten together here as a three-branch government and have one voice.

“There are a lot of issues,” he said. “Some of the things I personally don’t like is the conditions – if you don’t do NGS, for example, no water to Window Rock. I have problems with that.”

Hayes said that in Interior’s view, the water rights issue should be resolved on its own merits, and that while NGS issues are “hugely important,” they should be separate deals.

“Other folks are putting these things together and I share the concern. … We’re not excited about the connection that some others are bringing to this thing, but we’re going to live with the reality we’re in, and we need to work together on both issues and see where it leads.”