FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - Hopis will vote Thursday to narrow the list of candidates for tribal chairman and vice chairman. Whoever is chosen in the Nov. 9 general election will lead the small northern Arizona tribe at a time when it’s expected to face a significant loss in coal royalties - up to 85 percent of its general budget - with the closure of a coal-fired power plant.
Various entities are trying to keep the Navajo Generating Station and its coal supplier running beyond 2019. In the meantime, the Hopi Tribe is looking at cost-saving measures.
The Hopi chairman and vice chairman run separately. Much of their authority comes from the Tribal Council, which functions like a city government. The chairman presides over meetings but doesn’t vote except to break a tie.
Turnout for the Hopi primary generally is low. About 1,450 Hopis cast a ballot in 2013.
Lamar Keevama, Arthur Batala and Clark Wayne Tenakhongva are seeking the vice chairman’s post.
Here are the chairman candidates in alphabetical order:
Herman Honanie, the tribe’s chairman and former vice chairman, says Hopi should look at economic development broadly, factoring in other markets for coal, renewable energy and gaming.
He said he’s also focused on bringing clean water to the east side of the reservation where water sources are contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic. Honanie, 63, said he’s hopeful Congress will approve $10 million in funding.
If re-elected, he said he would convene a constitutional convention to consider a three branch government that would allow the tribal chairman to work independently of the Tribal Council, and to create checks and balances.
“Without that flexibility, that privilege and prerogative and a certain authority, you’re left to the whims of the Tribal Council to a large degree,” he said.
ALFRED LOMAHQUAHU JR.
Alfred Lomahquahu Jr., the current vice chairman, says budget cuts and layoffs are inevitable if a new owner isn’t found for the coal-fired power plant.
He’s campaigned on the idea that everything can be improved.
“If we don’t fix our central government, no matter how much funding we get, we’re not going to be using it to the fullest benefit for the Hopi Tribe,” he said.
Lomahquahu, 53, said politics has taught him how the tribe’s culture often presents dilemmas in economic development. Creating solar farms while protecting eagle’s nests, for example. And being frugal with water when water rights litigation factors in historical use.
He said residents of the 12 Hopi villages, which are autonomous, should determine how they want their land used.
Tim Nuvangyaoma has positioned himself as the candidate closest to the community. As a volunteer for a local radio station doing cultural and traditional programming, he said he’s heard from people who want positive change for Hopi.
Nuvangyaoma, 46, credits a citation for driving while intoxicated years ago for turning his life around. He said he wants to ensure Hopis aren’t judged for their struggles and they get the help they need.
Nuvangyaoma has worked in finance and as a wildland firefighter. He admits he’s a political novice but would work on building relationships with outside entities and Hopi communities.
He questioned why the tribe hasn’t identified revenue to replace coal royalties.
“Are we going to have to start laying off our people?” he said. “I don’t want that.”
DAVID NORTON TALAYUMPTEWA
David Norton Talayumptewa said he wants to see stronger leadership at Hopi. As a Tribal Council representative, he said time is wasted micromanaging, and the chairman and vice chairman don’t work together.
Talayumptewa, 67, also sees disinterest from the villages and ordinary Hopis in the central government.
He said he would establish a labor commission and a language immersion program, improve governmental relationships, and find ways to address substance abuse.
Talayumptewa said his experience with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education and his education gives him “the ability to work with and to connect with people.”
He counted a coal refinery, wind energy and a wireless energy plant as possible development projects. He said he believes the Hopi Tribe is resilient enough to weather the loss of coal royalties.
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