Tuesday, May 31, 2011

25 Days Until the Election- Save a Hog!

Candidates are having hog fries and ice creams socials and every kind of event you can think of to reach voters, so today we offered each of the Principal Chief candidates a chance to reach several hundred Cherokee voters without having to slaughter a hog, hire an out-of-state person to call voters, or fill our mailbox with clutter.  Our statistics show an average of more than 200 folks per day actively engage on our Facebook page, and more than 15,800 impressions of our content have been viewed by folks on Facebook just this week. Additionally, an average of 79 folks view our content on www.cherokeetruth.blogspot.com every day. 

We sent an email out to both campaigns today, through their official campaign web sites/emails, asking them to submit 700 words or less, with a preferred photo, for a free guest blog.  Our restrictions were few:  try to be positive and give a reason why people should vote for him as a candidate rather than vote against the other guy; back up any facts/numbers they use so we can be sure we are passing along the TRUTH; first candidate to respond will be the first candidate published; both candidates have a week to respond before we will publish anything.

We understand that the candidates are busy and may not choose to respond and we won’t hold it against them if they don’t.  But it sure would be respectful to the hundreds of you who are on the blog and facebook page every day if they did. So if you support a particular candidate, please ask them to contribute to the TRUTH.

Ideally, the first candidate who submits will have his guest blog posted on Wednesday, June 8th. Until then, we'll keep plugging away looking for the truth. Wado!

Monday, May 30, 2011

26 Days Until the Election- Memorial Day

Cherokee Veterans Memorial
Tahlequah, OK

On a Memorial Day, we’ll join the candidates in thanking our veterans and (presumably) chowing down on some bbq.

Baker’s message today on Facebook was:

"Thank you to all who have given their lives to protect ours. And to everyone still serving, come home safe. We salute you.

Wado and God Bless"

Smith posted some pictures of the Cherokee Nation’s ceremony at the Veteran’s memorial, which he attended. 

We’ll be back with more truth tomorrow.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

27 Days Until the Election: Baker Raises Almost $34,000 in Latest Reporting

Wrapping up our section on campaign finance, at least for now, we’ll finish up with Baker’s contributors.

For the second reporting period in a row, Baker was his own biggest supporter, loaning his campaign exactly $7018.49.  He raised a total of  $33,895.13, including his loan.  His total loans to the campaign now total nearly $70,000. 

Baker has a total of 44 donors (including himself), with an average donation of about $770 each.  If you take out his loan, which is probably fair, the average shrinks to $625 per donor.  Baker raised a little less than half of what Smith raised for this reporting period, after outraising and outspending him for the first reporting period. 

One interesting contribution was $10 from a lawyer in Ohio. We’re not sure, but that contribution, while not approaching chuckle-worthiness of the donation to Smith from Harry Potter, still seems pretty hilarious. We don’t begrudge anyone giving, because it’s their money and everyone has a budget, but our mental image of lawyers is more along the lines of guys lighting cigars with $100 bills, not trying to influence elections with $10.  We guess we should repent for buying into the ugly stereotype.  But still, $10?  Is the cheapest lawyer in the world?  $10? Really? 

A few moments for comparison:  Baker has no anonymous campaign donations listed, while Smith has had almost $500.  These are perfectly legal (see yesterday's blog) according to Cherokee Nation Election Law, but we thought we should mention it.

Baker’s average donation this reporting period is $625.  Smith’s was a little more than $700.  Smith had 111 donors to Baker’s 43.

Baker and his family now have loaned/given approximately $90,000 to his election campaign.

Smith and his family have loaned/given $250 to his election campaign.

On the reporting date, they both had relatively equal cash on hand:  $17,206.89 for Baker and $21,989.45 for Smith.

With the election less than a month away, it will be interesting to see how the candidates spend their remaining cash, how much more they raise down the stretch run, and who they raise it from.  That’s all the Truth we can handle for today.  Check back tomorrow for more truth, and let us know if there is truth the Cherokee people need to know!  We’ll get it out there.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

28 Days Until the Election- Smith Raises More Than $78,000 in April

Smith has some interesting donors on his May 16 filing (which covers the month of April), so we’ll start there as we add it all up to $78,000, which averages out to about $2,500 a day.

Since Smith hasn’t loaned himself a wad of money for campaign expenses, that’s a lot of support-- and a lot of supporters.  111 by our count, with an average donation of slightly more than $700.

$150 of that was a contribution from Smith himself, bringing his total to $100 in loans and $150 in donations to the campaign.

One of Smith’s donors was a gentleman by the name of Harry Potter, with an address in Tulsa.  So it must be comforting for Smith to know that if Volde--- I mean, "he who must not be named"--- comes after him, he’s got an English teen wizard on his side.  We did verify that there is a real guy named Harry Potter that lives at that address, but it’s still kinda funny and made us chuckle.

Funny in a different way are three separate anonymous cash donations, totaling $499.  That sent us scrambling for the election law, which does indeed have a section on anonymous contributions (page 18, Section 44 E).  It basically says that you can keep up to $1000 in anonymous cash contributions as a candidate, but you have to report it, and after you top $1000 you have to give it to the election commission for them to ‘pay for the cost of subsequent elections.’  We’re guessing if they ever get someone honest enough to fork over the additional anonymous cash that they’ll throw a big pizza party with the extra money, but we’re not holding our breath and we bet the election commission isn’t either. 

So that raises a good point:  should we be suspicious of a candidate that reports anonymous cash donations, or should we be suspicious of candidates that don’t?

And you know how we are always asking you to point out truth that needs to be told?  Reader Robin McClain Smith gets credit here for pointing out that 9 separate doctors all decided on the exact same day to give Smith’s campaign $1363.63.  And on the same day, another doctor gave exactly twice that amount, $2,727.26.  Which adds up, by our math, to $14,999.93.  So, if they all agreed as a group to give $15,000, they are seven cents short. 

Tomorrow:  Baker’s contributors.

Friday, May 27, 2011

29 Days Until the Election- Smith Spends More Than $56,000 in May 16 Reporting

31 pages of fun here, seeing where Smith gets his money and where he’s spending it.

We covered Baker’s expenditures yesterday, so we’ll talk about Smith’s today.  You can find Smith’s report by clicking here.

Smith spent more than $56,000 in the month of April, with his three biggest expenses being $14,633.55 for advertisements, $13,523 for postage and $15,909.97 for printing.

More than $10,000 went for billboards.  Almost all the rest is spent with printers and a place called Automated Mail in Tulsa, as well as what look like entry fees and ads for the Strawberry Festival in Stilwell.

There’s not a lot exciting here, but it should be pointed out that Smith spent more than Baker this period and seems to be using different strategies.  As we mentioned yesterday, Baker has spent more than $7,000 on online ads, while Smith is spending heavily on billboards.  We hardly think that this election will turn on the effectiveness of 21st century ad strategy vs. 1950s style ad strategy (burmashave, anyone?), especially when the candidates have such different styles and visions for the Cherokee Nation, as they themselves outlined in the Cherokee Phoenix debate, but it is kind of fun to see if the ad strategies have any effect or not.

Tomorrow: stay tuned to see what Chad Smith has in common with the guy pictured right.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

30 Days Until The Election- Baker Spends More than $49,000 in May 16 Reporting

We keep getting these phone calls and things in the mail, so now we get to find out how much it is costing the candidates to ‘inform’ us.

The Cherokee Phoenix has posted the second round of campaign finance documents.

We’ll break these down in several segments, ‘cause it’s a lot to cover.  If you need to catch up on the first round, you can read about the first round of campaign expenditures by clicking here and the first round of fundraising by clicking here.

photo courtesy Bill John Baker's

Facebook page
Baker started this reporting period with about $32k, after spending about $130k and raising/giving himself a total of $162k. 

In the past month, he raised another $27k or so and loaned himself another $7k.  He’s loaned himself now a total of almost $70,000, and his family has put in another $20k.  That’s quite a commitment from the Bakers.

Interesting things on the expenditure sheet.  Baker has spent more than $15,000 on those annoying phone calls we keep getting, and it was, once again, with an out-of-state vendor, but a much larger percentage of his vendor list was from Oklahoma this time around.

Other interesting items: for probably the first time ever in Cherokee elections, a candidate has bought a bunch of online ads.  Baker says he has paid Google $4,380.58 and Facebook $2,637.91, which makes them some of his biggest expenditures.

There’s also a bit of financial head-scratching going on.  Baker has an expenditure of $4,947.91 for supplies paid to Kalyn Free on 5/10, and then on 5/11 she turned around and wrote the Baker campaign a check for the exact same amount.  Don’t know what that means, but that’s a heck of a lot of supplies and it seems weird to pay her one day and her turn around and pay him back the next. We’re sure there’s a reasonable explanation.  Baker also spent $493 on stamps from someone in Alabama.      

Baker once again shows no expenditures in the categories of utilities, rent/lease, telephone, office supplies and office expenses.

One thing that hasn’t shown up is money spent with Cherokee Phoenix for ads, though he did report it in April.  We’ve seen them in print and we’ve seen them online, and we assume the Cherokee Phoenix isn’t giving them away, so that's really a question mark at this point.

Baker’s total expenditures for the period were $49,417.22, leaving him with a total balance of $17,206.89.

Tomorrow:  Smith’s expenditures for April reporting period.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

31 Days Until the Election- The Truth Hurts

We’ve taken some criticism lately because a lot of the truth we’ve been talking about has been perceived to be saying that Baker hasn’t told the truth on some issues.  Part of this is because Smith hasn’t made a whole lot of claims, and hasn’t been saying a lot of negative things about Baker.  Hasn’t said a lot period, really.  It appears so far that Baker’s strategy is to point out what he thinks Chad has done wrong, and Chad’s strategy seems to be pointing out everything good that’s happened since the turn of the century.  Or, as we said in the debate blog:

We’ve talked a little bit about our purpose before and you can click here for a reminder.

The point today is, if you have verifiable facts that can either prove something a candidate says is true, or prove that it is false, every Cherokee should know it.  And we’ll do our part.  But please don't blame us when the truth doesn't reflect well on the candidate of your choice. As always, you can send us an email at cherokeetruth@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

32 Days Until The Election: Some things are more important than politics

Baker cancelled his hog fry in Sallisaw tonight due to weather, and has extended his prayers to people who have been hit with the tornadoes in Grove and Joplin.

Smith says he spent the day yesterday helping people southeast of Grove clearing things out with a chainsaw (that’s a photo lifted from his facebook page).

With the storms moving in, we want to thank the candidates for their thoughts, prayers and actions to help Cherokees, and hope that everyone stays safe tonight as weathermen are predicting more bad storms headed for Cherokee Nation.

Be safe!

Monday, May 23, 2011

33 Days Until the Election- When 3000 + 5000 = -1000

It took us some time, but we managed to research some of the numbers from the debate where Bill John Baker claimed that the Cherokee Nation has actually lost 1,000 jobs since Smith took over. 

We haven’t been able to verify Baker’s claim that there were 3,000 employees at the Cherokee Nation in 1999.  However, we have been able to find that there were not 1,000 jobs at Hastings ---but approximately 600.

And there were not 1,000 at the Housing Authority--- there were approximately 250.

Baker has not presented evidence that the Cherokee Nation is not hiring Cherokees.  Moreover, his numbers on Cherokee Nation Businesses were proven wrong by both the Cherokee Phoenix and Cherokee Truth.

Baker, and the Cherokee people, would be better off if he stuck to the truth. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

34 Days Until the Election- Show Me the Money

The latest from the Baker campaign is the recycling of an argument from 2007 that didn’t really work out so well for Stacy Leeds, but he’s giving it a shot.

So let’s check out the Truth here…  First, was Leeds right in 2007?  According to the Tulsa World, no, not even if you do the math weird.

According to the World, the casino’s total gross earning were “$418.6 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2007. Of that revenue, $20.4 million went toward gaming compact fees, $119.4 million went toward payroll, and $167.2 million went toward operating expenses…”

That left a profit of $111.6 million, which means more than a quarter of the gross profit was net profit-- and that's pretty good.

Depending on if you count payroll (the majority of which goes to Cherokees, see truth report here), and services and reinvestment, way more than 10% goes to Cherokee people.

So if Stacy Leeds' claims were not true 4 years ago, are Bill John Baker's claims true today?

Let's run the numbers. 

So, the net profit was down, but hey-- the economy sucks for everybody. Still, no matter how you figure it, Cherokees are getting way more than 5% of the money. 

The Cherokee Truth:  Even if you count every dollar the casino makes before you pay the light bill or everyone's paycheck (we're talking total gross revenue), Cherokees still see 15-25% of every dollar that’s put into one of those slot machines. 

So, it looks like the Cherokee people are getting a lot better return than the shareholders of Baker Furniture, who lost $57,000 last year. And the year before that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

35 Days Until the Election: Is this the Busiest Furniture Store in the World?

Is this the busiest furniture store in the world?

Doing research on housing yesterday made us think:  where do the candidates themselves live?

The tax returns both of them have made public include, right at the top, their home address.  The Cherokee Phoenix chose not to black those addresses out.

This is where things get a little weird.  Baker lists his home address as 3231 S. Muskogee, Tahlequah, OK. 

Which also happens to be the address of his furniture store.  And his campaign headquarters.  And the address of at least one of the workers on his campaign disclosure form (scroll down to pg. 21).
That’s one happening furniture store/home/campaign office/employee dormitory!  Especially since the furniture store has lost $57,000 a year for each of the past two years, according to the Bakers’ taxes.

We don’t mind publishing that address ourselves, because we don’t think he actually lives there, even though he tells the IRS he does.  Baker does own 51 properties in Cherokee County (not bad for a guy who reports income of around $40k a year), so any of those could be his actual home, but we’re not sure.  For a guy who wants openness and transparency, this doesn’t seem like a good start.

Smith’s address is also listed, and it appears to be his real house.  We won’t repeat the address here… if someone is going to bring him offerings of frankincense and myrrh, they’ll have to steal the address from the Cherokee Phoenix just like everyone else.

A google map shows that Smith’s house is near the Cherokee Nation complex and is in a housing edition made up of old ‘Indian homes.’  Pretty modest stuff, especially for a guy who makes $129k year.

Again, we’re not here to draw conclusions, but the truth is that Baker lists his home address as his furniture store, and that’s weird at the very least.  Maybe a tax expert can share the truth with us about how weird it really is.  We'd love to know.

Friday, May 20, 2011

36 Days Until the Election- Cherokee Housing

One thing that was apparent in the Principal Chief's debate is that Baker and Smith have very different plans for spending the Cherokee Nation's housing money. Baker claims we can build houses like we used to and it would help the economy. Smith says the old system was broken and resulted in a 50+ year waiting list.

So what is the truth?  For this one, we pause from our mocking of the Cherokee Phoenix to sing their praises for researching this one.

Turns out it is true, there used to be a 50+ year waiting list, because the fine folks at the Housing Authority were putting about 93 families a year in houses and there were 5,204 people on the waiting list. (Scroll down to page 10.)

So… the perfect high school graduation gift was a spot on the housing waiting list.   That way, you’d have a house about the time you got a hip replacement at Hastings. 

Smith also claimed that Cherokee Nation puts 287 families in homes annually now, and way back in the day before he took over it was 23.  The Cherokee Phoenix says the 287 number is true, and so is the 23, if you look at it for just the years he claims, which were 1996-1999   (when Byrd was Chief and his Housing director went to prison), it was 23 houses.  From 1993-1995 (when Wilma Mankiller was Chief) the Housing Authority built an average of 136 houses.    Smith likely wasn’t railing against the Mankiller way of doing things, so by selecting the Byrd/Thompson/federal prison years, it throws the 23 number into sharper contrast.

Baker has presented ideas of using alternative funding to build houses without cutting into Smith’s existing programs.  He has identified $20 million at the Housing Authority that he says MUST be used for this purpose  (scroll down to page 8).

The Cherokee Phoenix says that’s not exactly true, but that there is around $20 million at the Housing Authority that COULD be used for that, but it could also be used for other housing activities.  Baker’s plan seems more housing-friendly than having money sitting in a bank, and it’s yet unclear what Smith’s plan for that money is.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

37 Days Until the Election- Thunder UP!

Just a couple of housekeeping things tonight and then it's on to some more important business...

Glad to see that The Cherokee Phoenix FINALLY got around to actually publishing a story online about the debate THEY conducted five days ago. Just days after The Tahlequah Daily Press and others, like us at Cherokee Truth! Anyway, just thought you might want to read their take. If so, click the hot link above.

Second-- if you've got a truth topic/idea, shoot us an email at cherokeetruth@gmail.com. Several of you have done that and our goal is to answer as many truths as we can in these final days before the big election. And we'd love it if you would encourage your friends to like us on Facebook or read our blog. We are flattered and humbled every day to see the fan number grow. 

We'll be back tomorrow slingin' some truth, but frankly tonight, we are watching the Thunder! No matter who you're voting for in the Cherokee Election-- we can at least all be united about The Thunder. Someone commented to us today that they thought Serge Ibaka was Cherokee. Ha!

Right now the score is 71 to 69 and the Thunder are ahead. Back to the game!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

38 Days Until the Election- It's Debateable

The Cherokee Phoenix has finally posted the videos of the debates from Saturday night.  Of course, they still don’t have a story posted about their own debate, which means they are quite a few days behind Cherokee Truth and theTahlequah Daily Press but we appreciate it anyway.

There is no direct link to the debate on Cherokee Phoenix's website, of course, because that would be too easy.  So, scroll down to the video section and you'll see where the debates are listed.  There is likely to be a paid political advertisement before the debates start playing, so just be ready. 

Like we said, we did an analysis of the chief debate and deputy chief debate,  so here are a few thoughts and some feedback we’ve had from others since then.

First, some much deserved kudos to the Cherokee Phoenix staff for asking some relatively substantive questions.  It’s not their fault the candidates started talking about side issues like airplanes-- they asked about budget priorities, water rights and the pay raise for elected officials, among other topics. 

Second, it’s pretty apparent that all the deputy chief candidates took a swing and a miss at the first question, which was something like: what would you do if something happened to the Chief and you had to assume the office?  I think what the Phoenix was really wanting to ask was: what would you do/what would your priorities be if you were in charge?  Instead, everybody just talked about an impromptu succession plan, like meeting with the tribal council and the leaders of the programs, etc.  No winners or losers on that question, just four people kinda missing the point, in our opinion.

The point today is, if you missed the debates, but are looking to vote in Cherokee elections this year, please watch them online.  You’ll learn a lot about the candidates from their own mouths, and you can see for yourself which candidates look, act and think like a chief or deputy chief should.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

39 Days Until the Election- Return of the Tax Returns

Both Principal Chief candidates have now released their tax returns from the past two years.  Smith had previously released his 2009 returns and Baker his 2010 returns, and Cherokee Truth looked at those in an earlier post, which we strongly encourage you to read, if you are into that kinda thing.

Recently, Smith released his 2010 returns and Baker released his 2009 returns .

The new tax returns don’t show much difference from the old ones.  Baker still claims business losses of $57,000 a year in 2010 on his furniture store, almost exactly the same as 2009.  The adjusted gross income for Baker and his wife is $32,095, because of business losses.  Baker’s council salary, according to the Cherokee Phoenix, is $36,450. 

Smith’s adjusted gross income was a little lower in 2010 vs. 2009, at $129,633.  Almost all of that income is salary or pension; Smith’s income as Principal Chief is $112,445.

That’s today’s truth.  Hopefully, later this week the Cherokee Phoenix will post the new campaign finance reports and we can go to work on those for you.  Email us at cherokeetruth@gmail.com or post to our blog and/or facebook with ideas or Truth that needs to be out there.

Monday, May 16, 2011

40 Days Until the Election- Who Decided to Build that Casino, Anyway?

We had a question earlier this week about who makes the budget decisions at Cherokee Nation Businesses.  We’ll keep it short so your eyes don’t glaze over.

The truth is out there, if we just know where to look for it.  In this case, we look on the Cherokee Nation’s online resource for legislation and find that the tribe’s corporation act appears to have first passed in 1996. 

It’s been amended a few times since then, the most notable being in 2005, when CNB was established to basically own and manage the other companies (mainly just CNE and CNI at that time), and in 2010 when they combined all the boards of directors to form one company.

Smith signed the amendments in 2005 and 2010, and Baker voted for them, so there should be no controversy there.  Baker also voted for the 1996 act when he was on the council.

Those acts designate the corporations and their board of directors to make the policy decisions for the businesses.  The board of directors are proposed by the Chief and confirmed by the council.  So the elected officials don’t make the decisions on the businesses, but they are able to hold them accountable.

After the debate where Smith talked about the smart guys from Harvard saying that, basically, the Cherokee Nation has done it the right way by keeping politics out of business, we looked to find out if the smart guys from Harvard actually said that.  It took a few minutes of googling, but it turns out, yes they do (skip the boring stuff and go to page 12).

Turns out that research confirms what your eyes can probably tell you:  tribes with a stable government and no politics in their business probably do better than the other way around.  Chickasaws and Choctaws, for instance, are doing really well and don’t play politics with their businesses. And they’ve had the same Chief longer than the Cherokees.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

41 Days Until the Election- Deputy Chief Candidates Debate

Last night’s Deputy Chief debate featured all four candidates, Chris Soap, S. Joe Crittenden, Raymond Vann, and Callie Hathcoat.  It was less eventful than the Chief’s debate, but we’ll spend some time catching up on it.

Chris Soap

Really there were maybe just a few high points, as the candidates agreed on almost everything.  The thing they disagreed on the most was whether the policy of a 30% dividend from our businesses is right or, what the percentage should be if they got to pick the number.

S. Joe Crittenden
Soap went first, and said 30% was the right number and the Nation has had good results with it.  Crittenden disagreed and thought we should double it to 60%.  Vann agreed and Hathcoat got some laughs by saying that it should be at least 50%, because she’s a woman and thinks that the relationship ought to be fair.

All candidates agreed that there should be term limits.  Crittenden had a rather cryptic remark, saying something like:  “In my heart I’m not sure we’re under the 1999 Constitution to be honest.”  It’s rare that someone runs for office while denying the existence of that same government’s Constitution, but there you have it.  We’d love to find out more about this in the future.

Raymond Vann

Callie Hathcoat
The best responses came to the last question, which asked about the language programs of the Cherokee Nation.  Soap had a good story about his son being able to read Cherokee to Soap’s father, a multi-generational language success story.  Crittenden had a good line saying that language represents the fire that represents the center of our nation.  Hathcoat finished up by saying that a lot of the Indian people she knows don’t know how to turn on a computer, and that technology was not the answer to continuing our language.  We’re not sure how the Indian people who read this blog will feel about that comment, but we do congratulate you on being able to turn on the computer!

We heard the link to the archive of the debates will be up Monday on Cherokee Phoenix’s website. When it is, we’ll let you know.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

42 Days Until the Election- Debate Blow by Blow

Tonight, Principal Chief Chad Smith and Bill John Baker went mano-a-mano at The Cherkee Phoenix Debate. 

Cherokee Truth will just jump right in with a little analysis and as much truth as we can cram into one blog.

Councilor Bill John Baker
hoto credit Cherokee Phoenix
Principal Chief Chad Smith
Photo credit Cherokee Phoenix 

In the opening statements, Smith basically said the Cherokee Nation is the best thing since fire.  Baker basically said the Cherokee Nation is going to h**l in a handbasket and/or private plane.    Baker lit into Smith pretty hard, and Smith was given a chance to respond.  He did so by saying he didn’t think the Cherokee people wanted to hear a lot of negative talk and declined to discuss it further.

The first question was about their top priorities as Chief.  Smith talked about his vision for the Nation as a happy healthy people, creating jobs and self-reliance.  Baker talked about how much money the Nation has but isn’t spending on housing and health care, but if he were Chief the Nation would. 

The second question was about water rights.  Baker said, basically, he didn’t know much about it, but he’d hire the best lawyers we can to do this because it’s as important as oil to the Osages.  Smith said he did know a lot about it, and that under his watch the Nation actually won a court case saying we had water rights, and that whatever water rights the state thinks they have, the Cherokee Nation actually has.

The third question was what is the greatest political mistake they ever made.  Smith got some pretty hearty laughs by saying his was getting his picture taken with former U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, then moved on to talking about increasing health care budgets.  Baker didn’t really answer the question either, just saying we all make mistakes and everyone could do better. 

On the fourth question, things got a little weird.  They asked about CNB buying a business in Colorado. Baker responded first by saying CNB is all screwed up, they have bad policies and that the council should be in control of the purse.  Then he lit into Chief Smith’s claim of creating 5000 new jobs.  Instead, Baker claimed the Nation actually lost 1000 jobs during Chief Smith's administration. 

The Cherokee Truth about had a milk-through-the nose moment there… We’re not sure how many more jobs are at Cherokee Nation now than before, but it’s sure as heck is NOT 1000 less!

Smith said that smart people at Harvard say that tribes do well in business when they have a separate board running the businesses, not the Tribal Council, saying that CNE, for example, used to have 500 employees and make $3 million a year and now they have 3,500 employees and make a ton more.  On the claim that the Nation has 1000 fewer jobs than before, Smith said he ‘challenged the mathematics’ of that. 

Question 5:  Basically, what’s the best way to provide housing for Cherokees?  Fortunately on this one, we have a Cherokee Phoenix  truth report (pg 10) that sorts it all out.   Basically, the truth on this is that yes, under the old system, there was a 50 year plus waiting list and yes, under the new system the Nation is helping tons more people.  But, it also says that Baker might be right about money at the housing authority that could be spent on additional programs.

The sixth question was about term limits for the Council and for the Chief and Deputy Chief.  Baker went first and said he was in favor of term limits for the Chief (just like the state and feds have for their top executive) but not for Council.   He said there is too much power at the top.  Smith said he didn’t think the argument was about too much power, but that Baker didn’t have the power and wanted it.  He said the Cherokee people went 70 years without being able to elect their own Chiefs after statehood, and we shouldn’t hamstring the power of the people to decide who they want on the council or as chief.

Question 7:  A question asking the candidates if CNB should release things like purchase prices or lease agreements when they buy businesses.  Both candidates agreed CNB should do so…. Smith by saying rather briefly that he’d already instructed CNB to do that in the future, and Baker saying that basically the Cherokee people are the shareholders and had the right to know just as much as IBM’s shareholders have a right to know these things.

On the last question, things got a little tense again.  The question was about the pay raise that is set to go into effect for elected officials of the Cherokee Nation starting next term.  Baker said it was wrong and the Chief should have vetoed it, especially since we are having budget cuts for services.  Smith said it was a non-political process and while he didn’t agree with the amount of the raise, he respected the process and the will of the council.  He pointed out that he, Smith, was the only candidate to say he would reject the raise, and that even though Baker had asked the council to turn down the raise, he never actually said he would reject the raise himself.  He said Baker had taken a $6000 backdoor raise for travel expenses this past year, and challenged him to turn down the raise for Chief or council (since even if Baker loses, he’ll stay on the council).    Baker did not directly answer whether he would or would not take the raise, so on Smith’s final rebuttal, Smith pointed out that Baker still had not declined the raise.  At that point, the moderator gave Baker a third chance to speak on the issue, but Baker again did not turn down the raise, though he said he’s never been in it for the money.

Oh yeah, another big moment, and I can’t remember which question it was a part of, was when Baker was going off about the private plane again and how no one can get their hands on the flight logs.  Then Smith walked over and handed Baker the logs and told him what Cherokee Truth said 8 days ago: JUST ASK THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE LOGS AND THEY WILL PROBABLY GIVE THEM TO YOU!  I’m sure we’ll hear more about those logs in the coming days.  In the meantime, maybe all the candidates will start following our wise advice! 

Finally, they had the closing arguments, which were just like what we heard at the top.  Smith told a story about kids speaking Cherokee to him in the new Sequoyah gym.  Baker talked about the plane and travel records, even though he already had them now.    He promised to sell the Cherokee Nation plane on Day 1 when he is chief. 

There is not a link to watch online yet, and it’s not our place to say who ‘won’ or who ‘lost.’  But at the end, one candidate looked about 2.5 seconds away from throwing a hissy fit, and the other one looked relaxed. 

Sorry this is going up so late, but as you can see, it’s really (too) long and took a while to put together.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

43 Days Until the Election- Budget Priorities: Postage Stamps and Livestock Auctions

The short version of today’s truth:  You can usually tell someone’s priorities by what they spend their money on.  Some people like fancy clothes, some people like big trucks, some people collect Hummel figurines.  Hey, to each his own.  

But when it comes to the Cherokee Nation’s money, we think you can tell a lot about our elected officials’ priorities by what they spend money on.  We’ve talked about some the cuts the Chief made in the budget, which was down overall 6%.  But what we haven’t talked much about is what the tribal council did to that budget once they got ahold of it.  

So what did they do to the budget? The answer is next to nothing.  They made very few amendments in budget hearings.  To read the minutes yourself,  click here, then search the executive and finance committee for 2010, and click on the minutes of the 9/8/10 meeting.

Since we’re focused on the chief race, it should be noted that Councilor Baker made no motions whatsoever to change the Chief’s budget.  But, the whole council has to vote on the budget and when it was their turn to add money, here’s where they put it:

Roads, livestock auctions, sports teams, water lines, individual water and sewer assistance, rural fire departments, adult community assistance and the tribal council budget for in-district mailouts* (for the longer, more detailed list, see below) 

You can judge for yourself if those are the priorities you want from your elected officials, but if an incumbent tells you they don’t like what’s in the budget, and that it should have perhaps been spent on dentures or mammograms, remember-- when they had a chance to do so, they voted for livestock auctions and postage stamps instead. 

The minutes show that Councilor Baker did not make a single motion to change the budget. So, it seems a little late now to say that he wants to spend more money on health care when he didn’t even try to do it when he had the chance.

*The Details
The budget hearings show that the Council moved $300,000 from roads projects to pay for livestock auctions ($25,000), sports teams ($25,000), water lines ($100,000) and water and sewer assistance ($150,000).  Then, they moved additional money from something called IHS Admin to build more water lines.  They put an additional $150,000 to fund rural fire departments and $50,000 for something called adult community assistance. And the last thing they added to the budget for the fiscal year was $46,000 for in-district mailouts.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

44 Days Until the Election- Budgets: When What is True Isn't Always the Truth II

As discussed yesterday, the Baker campaign has been talking about budget cuts. Scroll down to page 6 of this Cherokee Phoenix issue to read for yourself. 

Today, we'll address his claim that Chief Smith cut the budget 25% for something called the Cherokee Kids Program, and that cut amounted to $20,000.

Is it true?

The Cherokee Phoenix did confirm (scroll down to page 10) that the Cherokee Kids Program was cut $20,000, which was a 25% cut for that program. For reference, $20,000 equates to roughly 0.034% of the entire Cherokee Nation budget.

However, one of the last things added to the budget, by a motion from Council Member Tina Glory-Jordan, was $46,476 for Tribal Council Community Mailings.  That means the council voted themselves money to mail stuff to you.  Less than half of that would easily have paid for the Cherokee Kids Program, but it doesn’t appear that was an option.

Remember, the Cherokee Nation budget is a zero sum game.  The Constitution mandates a balanced budget, so we can’t spend more than we have.  That means every dollar we spend on education is a dollar we don’t spend on health care, and the Council always has the last say.  The Chief can only propose a budget; the council can change it however they want, and when it goes back to the Chief he can either a) approve the budget or b) veto the whole thing. If the Chief vetoes, the Council can choose to override the veto with a 2/3 vote.

So, if the Cherokee Nation’s budget has any line items in it that you like or don’t like, there are almost always at least ten people to blame or to thank--- a majority of the tribal council (nine) and the Chief, who has to sign or approve the budget.