|PPresidentresident Begaye vetoes gaming resolution
Begaye vetoes gaming resolution
Navajo-Hopi Observer- News
WINDOW ROCK—On Friday, April 27, President of the Navajo Nation
Kelsey A.Begaye issued a memorandum to the Speaker of the Navajo
Nation Council,Edward T. Begay, outlining a veto message to the
Navajo Nation Council regarding Resolution No. –36-01:
“Adopting an Ordinance for the Regulation of Gaming Activities
within the Navajo Nation.”
The following is the text of the memorandum, dated April 26:
Please be advised that I have decided to exercise my veto
authority pursuant to 2NNC Sec. 1005 (C) (10). The
above-referenced legislation was passed by the Navajo Nation
Council on Thursday, April 19, by a vote of 44 in favor, 19
opposed, and 2 abstaining. However, 21 council delegates did not
vote and only two were actually excused.
Speaker Begay certified the legislation on Friday, April 20. My
decision, again, centered on the past two referenda in
which the Navajo people rejected gaming on the Navajo Nation.
Although Title 2 is silent on the effect of not passing a
referenda, this does not authorize the Navajo Nation government or
elected officials to ignore or subvert the will of the people. As
a matter of public policy, a referendum provides a procedure for
the people to voice their positions on issues important to them.
By casting their votes in the referenda, the people participate in
the decision-making process. In this case, the Navajo people, on
two different occasions, rejected gaming on the Navajo Nation. I
cannot ignore the will of the people.
In the 1994 Navajo Nation General Election, the Referendum Measure
on Gaming was defeated with a vote of 23,450 (45.5%) in favor and
28,073 (54.5%) opposed. These results were certified on November
19, 1994 by the Board of
Election Supervisors…Likewise during a Navajo Nation Special
Election in 1997, the Referendum Measure on Gaming was defeated
with a vote of 15,224 (45.7%) in favor, and 18,097 (54.3%)
opposed. These results were certified
on November 14, 1997 by the Board of Election Supervisors.
Additionally, since the issue of gaming at Tohajiilee Chapter
surfaced, my office has received numerous communications from the
residents of Tohajiilee Chapter in opposition to gaming in their
chapter and community. In my mind, there are enough of these
communications to raise the issue whether
Tohajiilee Chapter members support gaming at Tohajiilee.
Last week, I watched the Council as they debated this very
important issue. Not only do several Council Delegates opposed
gaming on the Navajo Nation, but also several oppose gaming simply
because of the referenda. These
Council Delegates understand their fiduciary duty to their
constituents and acted in the best interest of the Navajo Nation.
Furthermore, as elected officials we are responsible to our
constituents to make informed decisions. The decisions elected
officials make impact not only the Navajo Nation, but
also future generations.
In the past, I have suggested a fair and open debate on the gaming
issue. Although many legitimate concerns and issues were raised
during the Council’s debate, most were not adequately addressed
or answered. Some Council Delegates posed very complicated
questions pertaining to the waiver of
sovereign immunity, the imposition of state and federal
jurisdiction over the gaming facility, Navajo Nation liability
issues, and the role of Navajo Common Law in gaming at Tohajiilee.
Other issues brought up during the debate which were also not
adequately addressed were projected costs to build a gaming
facility, operating costs, anticipated revenues, mandatory
inspections, personnel, alcohol sales, societal impacts, and
revenue sharing. These questions were basically left unanswered.
From my observation, there were no current statistics, data, or
even a feasibility study available to substantiate the success of
a gaming casino at Tohajiilee, much less to assist the delegates
in making an informed decision. Fair and open debate assists the
public, as well as the Council Delegates, to make informed
decisions on these very important issues.
These same concerns were articulated by Britt Clapham, Deputy
Attorney General for the Navajo Nation in a memorandum dated
January 19, 2001. Mr. Clapham recommended the general cost
estimates associated with the
regulation of gaming be provided to the Economic Development
Committee and the Navajo Nation Council. Mr. Clapham further
suggested seeking information about gaming from gaming tribes.
Likewise, I articulated these concerns when I vetoed CJA-05-00 on
February 4, 2000. My concerns focused on a lack of a plan to
address the many facets of gaming, such as licensing and related
issues, the establishment of a gaming regulatory commission, etc.
As stated in that memorandum, it seems only prudent that the
Navajo Nation at least have a sound economic plan to undertake
gaming on the Navajo Nation, including the Tohajiilee Chapter.
Finally, I am concerned that 23 council delegates did not vote on
this most important issue. This means that 26% of the full Council
did not cast a ballot. This concerns me greatly because whether
the Navajo Nation should become a gaming tribe is one of the most
important issues before the Navajo
Nation, particularly in light of the last two referenda.
As President of the Navajo Nation, and the elected leader of the
Navajo people, it is my responsibility to protect and promote the
best interest of the Navajo Nation. It is, therefore, incumbent on
me to review and consider all legislative enactments carefully and
to make informed decisions on each legislative enactment. In my
best judgment and, without the consent of the people, I cannot
agree to the adoption of the Navajo Nation Gaming Ordinance. The
voice of the Navajo people resonates, loud and clear.
I must ask that each Council Delegate
take these very important points into consideration. Your
responsibility is to uphold the integrity of the Navajo Nation
Council, and to continue to promote the will of the Navajo people.