Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) is facing Eli Crane, a republican, for the seat that represents the Navajo and Hopi reservations

Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz, recently visited the Hopi and Navajo Nations continuing to address problems with broadband and infrastructure.

O’Halleran, who represents the Navajo, Hopi and 12 other tribes in his district, said the biggest issues on the Hopi reservation were broadband, water, health care, veterans issues, a new correctional facility and the proposed paving of Low Mountain Road.

At Hopi, ground was broken on a new correctional facility as the foundation was laid. O’Halleran helped get $3.5 billion approved for water projects on reservations as part of the infrastructure bill.

O’Halleran made several stops on the Navajo Nation including one in Chinle where residents from 16 chapter houses joined the meeting.

“Broadband is crucial for Navajo, Hopi reservations and rural areas,” he said.

O’Halleran said the American Rescue Plan Act has funds available to tribes and rural areas for broadband.

“Broadband would mean a lot to Hopi and Navajo. There are specific amounts for tribal governments,” he said. “Our office is highly involved to make sure there is fairness in the process for tribal governments. We’re starting to begin the grant process.”

O’Halleran said broadband is crucial because it would help with telemedicine, veterans care, education and economic development.

O’Halleran said phase one for installing broadband has already begun along I-17 and I-40. He said the reservations will be next with phase 2.

Veterans issues remain important on Navajo and Hopi. O’Halleran has been able to improve funding for veterans who were impacted by burn pits, increased funding for the veterans administration and increased the salary for active duty military by 15 percent.

“Veterans are near and dear to the people. We want to make sure that veterans on tribal lands get the benefits they deserve,” he said.

Low Mountain Road, which connects the Navajo and Hopi reservations, has needed paving for years. O’Halleran said the two tribes need to coordinate their efforts as funding is available for road improvements through the infrastructure bill.

O’Halleran said the uranium mines that need remediation continue to be an issue as there are plans to cleanup 200 of the contaminated mines. However, there are 520 contaminated mines and he is pushing to have the cleanup of those other mines addressed.

O’Halleran also wants to increase the number of law enforcement officers on and off reservations. He said reservation police departments are understaff caused by a lack of funding.

“They need to get back to the personnel levels they need,” he said.

Because of redistricting, O’Halleran faces a battle for re-election, as the Democrat is now in District 2, which has a higher percentage of registered Republicans. The race with Eli Crane is considered a tossup.

The Lugar Institute rated O’Halleran as the second most effective congressman on tribal issues with Rep. Ruben Gallego from southern Arizona rated number one. Gallego serves on the Natural Resources Committee, which addresses most Native American issues.

O’Halleran is concerned that if Crane wins it will take awhile for him to build relationships with Native Americans and represent them in a way they deserve to be represented.

“It takes awhile to build relationships. You look at where we were years ago and where we are now,” he said.

O’Halleran points out that since he was elected there are now more Native Americans working in federal agencies and some in the White House.

“We have never seen that before. There is an awakening in Congress,” he said. “The voice of the tribes is loud and clear. They are coming to (Washington) DC and we are coming to them.”

O’Halleran serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

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