Q & A with Navajo Nation Delegate Bulter

Discusses accomplishments one year after election

TUBA CITY, Ariz. - I recently interviewed Tuba City Council Delegate Joshua Butler who gave some insight into the work he has done since being elected last year. Butler explains how things get done and what he is doing to continue to help the community.

Question: In your campaign you stated that you would make a community effort to combat bootlegging in the community. What efforts have you made towards this?

Answer: Bootlegging is certainly a huge problem for not only our community of Tuba City, but Navajo Nation-wide. It requires cooperation from all interested parties. Currently, I have made contact with several police officers in Tuba City. There are pressing issues that need to be remedied first. I was notified that tools to help combat the problems of alcohol and drugs are no longer in operation - this is the K-9 Unit and the Drug and Gang Unit. Tuba City does not have either anymore and we need to work to secure funds to begin these services again. I will continue to advocate for the restoration of funds. Bootlegging remains an issue that needs to be addressed by the community, the chapter and all interested parties.

Q: What ways have you extended your hand to the Hopis and San Juan Paiutes as you said that you would be willing to do to create a dialog?

A: I continue to believe inter-tribal cooperation is needed in order to accomplish certain goals. One such goal is the uranium issue, which is currently contaminating drinking water for the two villages of Moenkopi. I have conveyed to Hopi Chairman Shingoitewa that I support his efforts to file a lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the contamination. I support Chairman Shingoitewa's administration and believe he has made great strides as leader of the Hopi Tribe. I am in contact with his senior staff members and we do plan to meet to discuss other areas we can partner on. One such project is the Northern Arizona Transit System, which we will be partnering with Coconino County on as well.

As for the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, they are still trying to get back on their feet. Once they are back on track, I will certainly extend a hand to cooperate on issues affecting our local area.

Q: The infrastructure of Tuba City is in dire need of maintenance such as the roads that have potholes, sand accumulation and are in need of proper repair. What efforts besides the long term plans of revitalization of Tuba City Main Street have you made for the short-term infrastructure repair.

A: As councilman to the Navajo Nation Council, I work with the chapter to create policy and legislation at the council level. Local issues, such as infrastructure, potholes and sand accumulation are projects are conveyed to the local To'Nanees'Dizi Chapter. The chapter collects tax dollars and also receives funds from the Navajo Nation for various community projects and maintenance.

These problems also exist in all 110 chapters across the Navajo Nation. We have pots of money to draw from, but you also have the chapters competing for these funds and there are also priority listings that have already been devised.

The Navajo Division of Transportation is the entity responsible for some road repairs and some others fall upon the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It depends on where the roads are located. I've been working with Division Director Paulson Chaco to address the road leading to the Old Airport area on the far west side of Tuba City. They are doing preliminary plans to pave the road around the Old Airport.

As for "short term infrastructure repair," the local chapters have some projects on their listing already.

Q: How have you helped the fire department with their funding challenges?

A: Fire departments across the Navajo Nation are all in dire need of equipment and paid employees. Currently, I believe we only have one employee that is paid in Tuba City and the others are volunteers. I hear there is forthcoming legislation to help supplement the departments across the Navajo Nation and I will certainly vote in favor of it.

There are also several options and ideas that I have discussed with other policy makers and local leaders in Tuba City. One is to perhaps utilize part of the local tax dollars to help supplement the fire department by helping to pay employees. When you compare our Navajo Nation Fire Departments with off-reservation departments, there is no comparison. Our departments are certainly under-funded and they need more support. If we were off-reservation and this was occurring, the people would be up in arms, because their investments, their homes are all in jeopardy by fire. Money has to be identified, lobbying has to occur and it also needs to be a community effort as well.

Q: What are some of the accomplishments of your short time in office?

A: Since January 2011, the start of my term, I have been very busy with various projects. I have been working with the Office of Diné Youth to build a new community center. Such a center is very much needed to help occupy the time of our youth, so they are able to channel their positive energies into a positive direction. Such a center also provides a venue for social gatherings, for elderly events and for fundraising activities of the community.

Currently, the center is condemned. I have helped maneuver the department in the direction to build a new center. The To'Nanees'Dizi Chapter shares my concern for the need of a new center and they have helped by passing a resolution to demolish the center and have approved a legal description of the land for such a center. I am now working with the department's leadership in Window Rock to explore funding options to construction.

I am also supporting and assisting Bikeh Hozho Community Development Corporation to revive Main Street for economic development opportunities and to boost tourism.

I have also fostered a strong working relationship with the administration of the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation to help improve healthcare for our local people. Currently, I am working to convey land from the BIA to the hospital so expansion can occur.

Navajo Nation-wide, I have been a strong advocate and the Nation's representative for gaming. I am the gaming representative here in Arizona and also serve on the task force for New Mexico. We are addressing several issues within the gaming industry and protecting the exclusivity of Indian gaming within the state.

I am also very busy with my committee work on the Health, Education and Human Services Committee. We just completed the reauthorization of schools across the Navajo Nation. We are now entertaining annual reports from the 93-638 health care facilities on the Navajo Nation.

With Council reduction from 88 to 24 members, the workload has certainly increased for each individual Council Delegate. Regardless of the reduction in numbers, the work remains. As a result, I have been extremely busy with a wide array of tasks and projects, essentially doing the work that four council delegates representing Tuba City once did - now it's only me.

I advocate for the establishment of the satellite district offices of the council. Recently, Navajo President Ben Shelly line-item vetoed funding that would have created 24 district offices across the Navajo Nation. Funds would have paid for one full-time staff assistant and the operation of an office. We continue to negotiate with President Shelly in hopes that he would support a supplemental appropriation to restore the funding. I have conveyed the importance of the district offices to him and hope he supports it.

I work on a wide variety of issues and projects, not only for the community, but for all of the Navajo Nation as well.

One point to make is that as legislators, our work is now mostly centralized in Window Rock as policy makers. The local day-to-day operations and maintenance falls upon the local chapter. Council reduction has certainly changed the dynamics of how the chapter and the council work together now. I think the intention of council reduction was to restore the responsibility of Council delegates as legislators and law makers. I will work with the chapter on various projects in the Bennett Freeze area, as well as other projects planned. I will help the community as much as I can and to listen to their concerns, and to continue representing them at the council level.

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