Desert Rock: Is it all about jobs?
Viva Las Vegas indeed! Dooda Desert Rock Committee joined Ha'da'a Sidi and The Forgotten People in giving the Navajo Nation notice of intent to file suit because of the meaning of Navajo Nation government meetings in Las Vegas. It isn't simply about wasting money, as with the trips to Hawaii, but about open, responsive and inclusive government. This organization is very interested in a meeting between the Resources Committee of the Navajo Nation Council and the Dine Power Authority when they talk about the proposed Desert Rock power plant. The people who live in the area where it is proposed cannot afford to travel to Las Vegas to watch the business of their elected officials.
It's about jobs, they say. Take the $2.3 million the Navajo Nation put into expanding the Raytheon plant at NAPI, just above Farmington. A government press release says that will create 80 to 100 new jobs, including 40 (temporary) construction jobs. If you know where the plant is, you know that its workers don't live on top. There's no place up there for them to spend their money. They more likely live in Farmington and spend their money there. That doesn't help the other Navajo Nation economies in the area.
It's about jobs, they say. The Desert Rock environmental impact statement has no projection of potential employment and it doesn't say how many people will be employed in construction, the plant or the mine. The jobs, and the skills needed to do them, are not discussed. If there will be lots of new jobs, you would think the Navajo Nation would be talking about new housing construction and local business development. They might have talked about revenue sharing and local taxation for the chapters nearby. Desert Rock isn't about new jobs - it's about feeding the bloated bureaucracy and perks for Council Delegates (such as the trips to Las Vegas).
Our friends of The Forgotten People sued the Navajo Nation because, among other things, the Navajo Nation-Hopi Tribe Compact was kept secret until adoption. Although the Navajo Nation Council set guidelines for its negotiation that there must be freedom of religion for all, the Compact denies rights to Christians, Native American Church members and those who follow the Sun Dance Belief.
And it is about jobs, isn't it? Rather than study the best means to encourage appropriate local development for job-creation throughout the Navajo Nation, Window Rock proposes to put a lot of money into casinos in hope that they will lure customers away from already established casinos to make a quick buck for economic development. Or, do we know where the money would go, other than give profit to JP Morgan Chase or pay for more trips to Las Vegas to discuss more loans?
Window Rock didn't listen to us about the power plant, just as it didn't listen to the voters about what they feel about gambling. The industry web sites tell us it's "gaming" when it's legal, but "gambling" when it isn't. It used to be "gambling" in the Navajo Nation until the Council legalized it.
The complaint isn't just about jobs for all, preventing a deadly power plant, secrecy, or mortgaging who-knows-what for a high-risk venture. It's about the fact that ordinary Navajos like me have a right to know what is going on in our government and a right to say how we feel about risky ventures, public participation in decision-making and preventing the destruction of our culture.
Is it about jobs? How many Las Vegas jobs did the Navajo Nation pay for while people in the Bennett Freeze area are without homes, power or water?