Flagstaff, AZ – Navajo people voted overwhelmingly yesterday to drastically reduce the size of the tribal council, and to give their president line item veto authority. It was the first time ballot initiatives have ever been brought directly to tribal members.
They voted by about 61 to39 percent to reduce the size of the Navajo Nation Council from 88 delegates to 24. The vote to give the President line-item veto authority was nearly as big a spread, with 59 to 41 percent voting in favor. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley launched both initiatives last year. He called yesterday's vote a victory for Navajo people.
"I'm very happy for the people, I've said all along this is their initiative, their government, their resources, their monies, they need to be involved, I think this is a first for the Navajo Nation, it's history in the making."
Shirley believes the two initiatives will help reign in what he calls excessive spending at the Council. Council delegates who opposed the initiatives couldn't be reached for comment, but in a video the Council produced leading up to the vote, they outlined their main concern.
"When we need a voice, will our elected council delegate be available, considering we'd have to share our voice with six or seven other chapters, a drastic change compared to the current makeup, where delegates represent 1 or 2 chapters."
The two initiatives have sharply divided the Navajo Nation's executive and legislative branches.
In late October the council voted to place President Shirley on administrative leave, pending an ethics investigation. Shirley supporters claim the move was in retaliation for Shirley's push to reduce the size of the council. But just yesterday a tribal judge in Window Rock reinstated Shirley, ruling the Council lacked authority to put the president on leave over allegations that remain unproven.