This week at the Legislature, Hopi and Navajo Elders rallied in support of bills to build new senior service centers and to help keep the transmitters turned on at new Hopi FM station KUYI.
Thursday, March 1, was Senior Action Day at the Arizona Capitol. Seniors from across the state came to eat ice cream, drink coffee and rub shoulders with Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull, state legislators, and policy leaders. Agencies and firms that deal with elder issues set up information booths, and entertainment was provided at Wesley Bolin Plaza.
Members of the Hopi Elders Committee performed the Corn Maiden dance before a large audience, and talked afterward with Capitol Watch about their needs. Clark Tenakhongva, KUYI sportscaster, and representative of the Hopi Vice-Chairman, said that he and other Hopis planned to meet with Rep. Karen Johnson, Jim Sedillo and Tom O’Halleran to promote HB 2533 and HB 2567. The first bill would provide funds for senior centers in Navajo and Hopi lands, while the second would make a one-time grant to KUYI for operating expenses.
Todd Honyaoma, Sr., Hopi tribal councilman, said, “There’s not enough funding for capital outlays [from the Council’s budget]….We’re here to lobby for appropriations from the Legislature.” Honyaoma noted that the Hopi Tribe’s main source of revenue is mining royalties, which are declining. “Our Elders would like to see a new [senior service] facility before they pass on.”
Hopi Elder Corinne Lomatewana, who says she “just turned 80 on February 1,” said she came from her home of Hotevilla to advocate for services. Ruth James of First Mesa, 74, said that Hopi Elders are “trying real hard to get a senior center for everybody.”
Elders presented gifts of corn to Senator John Verkamp, Reps. O’Halleran and Sylvia Laughter, and other legislators in support of the two bills.
Another problem facing seniors and the people who care for them is transportation; both Hopi and Navajo senior agency officials said that purchasing and maintaining vehicles uses up big chunks of scarce funding.
Elders from Sweetwater and Cove Chapters spoke of conditions for many seniors in Navajoland. Betty Yazzie, 70, of Cove, said through a translator: “We’re specially down here [in Phoenix] to get our own senior center building, so we don’t have to use the Community Center. I won’t stop until we get our own building.” And Annie Belin, 73, of Red Valley, noted, “Some seniors have no place to go when their children are away and need some place to take care of them.”
This week’s bills
Friday, March 9, is the deadline for bills to be heard in their houses of origin. Any bills which have not been heard in their assigned committees by that date will not make it into the lawbooks this year. Lobbyists, legislators, and community members are working overtime to get their bills heard in committees.
SB 1328, the Native American Cultural Center appropriations bill, made it onto the Senate Appropriations calendar after tribal members called and visited with Senator Ruth Solomon, Appropriations Chair. SB 1024, the Charter School Transportation bill, is not on the Appropriations calendar as Capitol Watch went to print; however, Wide Ruins Community School officials, as well as other charter schools affected by the transportation issue, are expected to make a final bid to Sen. Solomon to include the bill in Tuesday’s hearing.