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 |
Photo 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.