Winslow’s Voice Heard By Board Of Supervisors

Approval of the proposed changes in the Navajo County Board of Supervisorial District boundaries was tabled Oct. 1, after a number of officials and residents of Winslow and Holbrook expressed concern with them.

Winslow Councilman Tom McCauley pointed out in his presentation to the board that Winslow is the largest incorporated city in Navajo County, with the largest tax base, and that the split would disenfranchise the entire city. He also noted that 53 percent of the population in Winslow is minority based.

Supervisor Jessie Thompson said that the point on minorities was well taken. He inquired if the Winslow Council had any minority members.

McCauley said yes, and he himself had a Native American wife and children, and that they were adopting a Hispanic child.

“The city council has voted against the plan you are considering today. Also we had requested that today’s public hearing be postponed because of a lack of advance notice,” he said.

The councilman submitted to DeSpain more than 500 letters of objection. McCauley suggested that hearings be posted in advance and be held in the evening to allow more citizens to attend. Other speakers also noted the lack of notice for the public hearing.

Dale Patton, former Navajo County attorney and legal representative for the Winslow City Council and the Winslow School District, commented that the proposed changes to District 3 took less population out than was being added, and the argument is that the districts should be kept the same size. “Your proposal is not doing that,” said Patton.

“You are proposing to take 5,000 voters out of an incorporated city. If you left our 9,500-population the same, Winslow would have an opportunity to vote as a bloc and possibly elect a supervisor for District 3. We would be better off being placed in District 2 as an entire community. Representation is not an issue, and Supervisor Jessie Thompson is doing a fine job and could represent us. But the issues are the large political clout that Winslow has a whole community, and destroying our community by assigning us to two different districts. It is not fair to people who have moved to a population center,” stated Patton.

He added that the school district agrees with the city on this philosophy, and in opposing any division of its voters into more than one district.

Patton said that according to information available on the Internet, Winslow has 2,436 Native American voters and 2,746 Hispanics out of a population of 9,520, or 53 percent of the total population. Holbrook has 1,294 Native American voters and 1,148 Hispanic, for a total of 49.6 percent of the total population.

He also requested public hearings on proposed boundary changes. “We have worked well with the county in the past, and we are only requesting that you look at what is the fairest to all,” said Patton.

Marlin Gillespie of Holbrook, former sheriff and supervisor, spoke to the board of supervisors, noting that by moving two of the Winslow’s precincts in District 2, half of the community would be disenfranchised.

“I do not see why Winslow has to be sacrificed or that District 3 would be so diluted that it would be possible to have a representative from the southern area representing Winslow and the I-40 communities,” said Gillespie. He also suggested that Snowflake 1 be moved back to District 4 to keep Snowflake intact.

He said a more fair approach would be to move Precinct 2 in Holbrook, along with Sun Valley, to District 2.

“I would recommend that additional plans be sought, rather than the board’s approval today of your draft,” he added.

In support of a suggestion by District 4 Supervisor Lewis Tenney, District 3 Supervisor J.R. DeSpain moved that each supervisor from Districts 2, 3 and 4 appoint two people from their district to sit on a committee. They will examine a plan to move the supervisorial boundaries that will be within the required 10 percent variance of populations. The committee has 30 days to submit its recommendations to the county board.

Boundaries for Navajo County’s five supervisorial districts are to be redrawn, according to state statute. Once the supervisors approve a plan, they are to submit it to the U.S. Justice Department by Dec. 1, 2001, for final approval.

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