Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Election Limbo Part II, Day 10: Accountability Watch, Part 1

Today’s post doesn’t have a lot to do with the election, but it does have a lot to do with why Cherokee Truth even exists in the first place.  

We are going to make it a point to call out elected officials when they vote for something that is bad for their constituents but good for their political career.  And some of that happened last week at the Rules Committee meeting.

Lost in some of the discussion about who gets to vote after election day, and where they get to vote and when (all of which was decided by the freedmen, APCSJC and the BIA--at least two of which favor Baker for Chief), is the fact that the tribal council had an opportunity to send a message to the election commission about the idea that LATE voting should only take place in Tahlequah.

Smith made a big deal out of Baker voting against having any voting locations anywhere but Tahlequah. But Smith probably gives Baker too much credit--- the vote was 7-7, so Baker didn’t singlehandedly kill the idea of voting in other places besides Tahlequah.  He had some help.  Which made us wonder:  who was it that voted against their own constituents having a convenient way to vote late?

To start, there are 15 members currently on the council (APCSJC seat has yet to be filled, and Meredith Frailey is Acting Deputy Chief, so two seats are currently empty).  David Thornton arrived late, and didn’t vote.  So the council members who voted in favor of allowing people to vote in their own district were:  Lee Keener, Buel Anglen and Cara Cowan Watts, from District 5, Don Garvin and Janelle Fullbright from District 3 and at large council members Julia Coates and Jack Baker.  Voting against it were Baker, Tina Glory Jordan and David Walkingstick, who are all in District 1. Their folks are already voting in Tahlequah, so they were actually voting in favor of keeping an advantage for their constituents.  

That’s not the case for the other four voters. Jodie Fishinghawk from Stilwell and Curtis Snell from Kansas basically told their neighbors that if they wanted to vote late, they needed to drive to Tahlequah.  Same with Chuck Hoskin, Jr. from Vinita and Dick Lay from Ocheleta.

Lay is new on the council, so this was really one of his first votes, and it was to tell his constituents that they don’t deserve to be able to vote in  their district-- only in Tahlequah.  Our google maps show its 101 miles one way from Ochelata to Tahlequah.  202 miles round trip.  If you get 25 mpg that’s 8 gallons of gas-- a whopping $25+ to cast a vote.

Chuck Hoskin lives 70 miles away in Vinita.  That’s 140 miles round trip to vote.

Granted, any vote in a committee meeting would not have been binding, but it could have sent the election commission a message.  Hoskin, Lay, Fishinghawk and Snell could have at least made a symbolic gesture to fight for their constituents right to vote in their district during the extended voting times.

What do all of these council members have in common?  They all support Baker, not Smith, in the election. Baker wants the voting only to happen in Tahlequah, and at least four council members made the conscious choice to do what Baker wants instead of what would be good for the people that elected them. How's that for representation?