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letters, opinions, editorials
re: response to Placitans who sent
holiday packages to the New Mexico National Guard troops stationed
Thank you for taking the time to send the generous holiday cards
and packages to the Infantrymen of Company A. It is great to know
that you are thinking of us. We are currently conducting security
and stability operations on the west side of Baghdad. We truly appreciate
your time and effort sending us the packages. It was a pleasure
to see fellow New Mexicans taking the time out of their busy schedules
to think of us. Please pass my regards on to your families.
—ALI R. DIPOUR, CPT. INFANTRY
Event marks four hundred years of genocide
In the midst of Santa Fe’s Cuartocentario of 2008, no amount
of fanfare could ever reconcile the atrocities of the Spanish colonizers.
In retrospect, the colonization was brutal. The event is billed
as an intriguing experience that will have a national and international
audience in New Mexico’s commemoration.
The Cuartocentario failed to address the impact of Spanish colonialism
four hundred years afterward and the ramification on the Pueblo
people today. In 1620, by royal decree of the king of Spain, groups
of Pueblo governors and officials were instituted into a civil government,
which the Spanish could control and assimilate into the Spanish
As Pueblo people, we have never asked ourselves, “Why do
we celebrate these Catholic feast days…to honor who? Is it
the legacies of Spanish colonialism? The impact of fear and brainwashing
became a part of life. In order to continue to live and practice
our traditional beliefs, the Spanish forced us to convert to Catholicism
and gave the Pueblos Spanish canes to reinforce this subjugation.
A life of servitude to the Spanish sovereign and the Roman Catholic
Church is still practiced today. These institutions were designed
to make us servants by indoctrination, to believe that by abandoning
our “free will” in place of a life of servitude.
The Cuartocentario is remembering not just what colonization was
about, but what this commemoration will symbolize…political
Ultimately, we must restore ourselves emotionally and spiritually
and work toward educating our Pueblo people about the truth.
Realistically, Spain needs to officially grant us our independence
from the symbolic canes. A declaration of independence from Spain
would demonstrate mutual respect and historically grant us our inherent
right to decolonize from the Proclamation of 1620. Most pueblos
need to assert their right to self-determination and take a stand
with a democratic constitution.
Keeping this issue of sovereignty alive is a “very real concern”
today. We must focus our attention on abstaining from participating
in Santa Fe’s Cuartocentario in 2010. Support of this event
would give the impression that the Pueblo people endorse and validate
events that commemorate the “genocide” of indigenous
people of Southwest.
As Pueblo people, we must secure our right to “say and speak
the truth without fear of intimidation.”
The opinions expressed in this article do not represent the Santa
Ana Tribal Council nor the nineteen Indian Pueblos’ Council.
The federal Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 states, “no Indian
tribe in exercising powers of self-government shall make or enforce
any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion or abridging the
freedom of speech or the press.”
“Today, I exercise my First Amendment right to free speech.”
Manuel R. Cristobal is a councilman at the Pueblo of Santa Ana
re: animal control pet peeve
It’s a pet peeve of mine when someone tries to get me to
do his or her job. I also don’t believe in incentive pay.
If someone accepts a job, he or she assumes an obligation to do
that job and do it well. It was in that venue that I was disappointed
in the actions of a Sandoval County employee on Monday morning,
I was on my way to an appointment for which I could not be late.
While coming through River’s Edge 2, I encountered dogs loose,
including one badly frightened and confused animal that I feared
might wander onto busy Highway 528 and get hit by a car.
You can imagine my relief when I soon encountered a Sandoval County
Animal Control vehicle. Although delaying cars behind me as I stopped
in traffic, I signaled the individual driving who reluctantly stopped
and rolled down his car window. I asked him if he could contact
Rio Rancho Animal Control for me, with it hopefully implicit that
he would go look for the animals himself.
You can imagine my shock and anger when this individual yelled
back that I should use my cell phone and call Rio Rancho Animal
Sir, beyond my lack of a cell phone—or applicable phone numbers—I
did my job as a citizen and informed you of a problem. How nice
it would have been if you had replied, “Yes, ma’am.
I’ll look into it right away,” either dealing with the
problem yourself or making sure appropriate people were notified.
After all, the safety of peoples’ pets was involved.
—KATHLEENE PARKER, Rio Rancho
A tax to remember
A coalition of twelve environmental organizations in New Mexico
has initiated a new strategy to help get American kids back outdoors.
The Environmental Alliance of New Mexico renewed its call for a
one-percent sales tax on televisions and video games to fund outdoor
education programs. The tax idea, initiated by the Sierra Club,
would raise an estimated $4 million a year to fund programs aimed
at giving school kids an outdoor education. “We believe it
is such a nominal tax that consumers won’t feel it too much,
especially if they are educated about where that money goes,”
said Michael Casaus, the New Mexico youth representative of the
New Mexico’s State Parks Division estimates that although
eighty percent of New Mexico’s students live within a half-hour
of a state park, less than ten percent have ever visited one. The
state’s underfunded Outdoor Classroom program helps students
visit state parks and assists teachers with using the hands-on parks
experience for science, math, and other academic skills.
Casaus told the New Mexican that the “Leave No Child Inside”
movement has grown tremendously during the past year in the state.
More than forty organizations have asked for more outdoor education,
including Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties, the New Mexico Wildlife
Federation, the Hispano Round Table, the New Mexico Science Teachers
Association, and health organizations.
Studies in the past five years have linked the increasing amount
of time children spend watching television or playing video games
to lower academic scores, obesity, and increased attention-deficit
disorder. A study funded by the Sierra Club and carried out by the
state of California found that one week of outdoor education had
the same beneficial impact as six weeks of regular classroom time.
According to state health and education reports, New Mexico students
continue to lag behind their peers in most academic areas, and an
increasing number are struggling with obesity.
re: recycling center thanks
Robin’s great article on “Separating plastic, making
a difference” in the February Signpost was terrific, as are
all her updates for the Placitas Recycling Association (PRA). There
was a mention of the funding source for our “new look,”
however, that I would like to clarify. We did not receive a grant
from the County for the purchase of new much-needed equipment; rather,
we submitted a funding proposal last legislative session (2007)
with the wonderful assistance of County Manager Debbie Hays’s
terrific team, headed by Gayland Bryant.
Initially, our then-president, Len Stephens and his wife, Fran,
longtime board members and supporters of recycling approached Senator
Cravens with a request for some funding assistance, and he wisely
directed them to first approach and discuss with the County our
very pressing needs list. After that excellent advice, we proceeded
to develop our first Legislative Funding Proposal in the amount
of $75,000. Len and Fran painstakingly gathered information from
the truck and trailer suppliers in the area.
With their help, we compiled data on the number of vehicles served/pounds
of material processed from the inception of PRA to the present.
We were successful in having the County combine our funding proposal
with the County’s requests, thereby effectively increasing
our visibility as a vital component of County operations. Our binder
described our all volunteer operation which had its beginnings in
a house/garage operation instituted by our founder, Jimi Gadzia,
to the leased PNM site we now occupy. Without the considerable efforts
and talents of our board members, we would not be the proud possessors
of new trailers and a truck far better-equipped to handle our hauling
All in all, it was a noble effort, and we are justly proud of our
success. So, we want to thank all of the essential parties mentioned
above and Representative Kathy McCoy, all of our board members,
and our wonderful, we-could-not-do-it-without-you volunteers, whose
interest and dedication to improving our environment has aided in
—MARGARET PALUMBO, Placitas
Editorial: Paved roads or city windfall?
—RIO RANCHO IN FOCUS, WWW.RIORANCHO-NM.COM
We have a question: How does splitting SAD 7 into two assessment
districts do anything to solve the problem of the SAD 7 controversy?
The more the issue drags on, the more apparent it becomes that the
City of Vision is not only blind, but deaf, and the recent Council
decision to allow work to proceed in certain areas, but not others,
is just plain silly.
It couldn’t be clearer that most city residents who are up
in arms about the flooding issue aren’t arguing that work
needed to prevent flooding shouldn’t be done; they’re
arguing about two major things: the proposed “solution,”
and money. Now, it seems obvious to just about everyone except a
select few that must have money to burn that the cost involved to
provide drainage and paved roads to those that don’t have
them is enormous. Because of this, you naturally have people upset.
But the questions that arise from such a move come from more than
just people who don’t want to pay, and this is something the
Council just can’t see.
PAVING WON’T GET IT DONE
We’ve said it before; the flooding issue will not be solved
by paving roads. Paving adds tremendous cost to the SAD project.
It’s also hard to see how sewers will do anything to prevent
flooding, but that’s another story. This is not an issue of
rain water overcoming makeshift dirt gutters and spilling over into
yards. This is an issue of torrential flood waters running down
Northern Boulevard, cascading over side streets, rushing over hillsides,
and wiping out homes. This is an issue of severe flood waters overcoming
inadequate flood channels, and overcoming major roadways. This is
an issue of weak code enforcement, and lack of policing. Residential
road paving will have very little impact on future flooding. Paved
roads would have done next to nothing to prevent the damage of 2006,
and paved roads will do little or nothing to prevent future damage
when we see that type of flooding again. The only thing paved roads
will do is create a project that can be overcharged for, and they
will provide an extra lining in the city coffers, and maybe a few
pockets. Most of the real work that’s needed such as holding
ponds, arroyo improvements and expansion, and added flood channeling
is being provided by the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control
Authority (SSCAFCA), and the City has nothing to do with it. That
work will proceed as needed with or without the City of Rio Rancho.
LARGE FEE, NO COMMITTEE, BIG PROBLEM
The City of Rio Rancho has not yet provided justification for the
large fees they want to charge to do the work that they say needs
to be done. These charges are in the form of property liens, and
run from $12,000 to $14,000 dollars per property owner in most cases.
The City has run into stiff opposition for several reasons, and
cost is not the only problem.
There has been no mention of an independent oversight committee
to oversee the project, and you won’t hear the subject brought
up by any of your government officials either. Why? Because that
could possibly muck up the flood waters (of cash) for the Council.
We’ve seen this before. Just a few short years back, after
Rio Rancho imposed impact fees on its citizens, residents began
to question why improvements weren’t being done. Even today,
many of the “rural” areas of the city have no parks,
bike trails, and other impact fee type improvements. The City explained
that impact fees weren’t for improvements such as residential
roads. Fair enough. But the question of impact fees went further,
and it was soon discovered that the City couldn’t account
for the fees that had been paid. As time went on, the official that
was in charge of the impact fees and their administration suddenly
resigned, moved out of town, and an uproar started. Soon, an independent
audit was conducted. Finally, it was determined that the impact
fees that had been collected for years were “lost” and
unaccounted for. There never was (to our knowledge) an official
statement made as to how the audit came out; so much for “open
government” in Rio Rancho.
Now we have a Council that expects people to quietly swallow the
more than seventy-million-dollar price tag for road and drainage
improvements without an oversight committee, and without a whimper.
Those who oppose such a move are seen as troublemakers, but those
that have lived here for a while see the resistance as an appropriate
response, and claim they have the battle scars to justify their
THE CITY IS RESPONSIBLE TO DO THE WORK
No matter how much it wants to deny it, the City of Rio Rancho
is responsible for building the internal infrastructure such as
holding ponds, central drainage, and any other improvements that
are necessary to protect life and property in the city. It says
so in the City Charter. This type of work usually gets done by developers
when they build their tract developments, and this is by custom.
The problem is that the City didn’t care when it allowed indiscriminate
development in rural areas that was being done without major developers
Councilors are being honest when they say that the City simply
doesn’t have the money to make the improvements, but the problem
is, neither do many of the citizens. How is the City relieved of
its responsibility because it doesn’t have the funds necessary
to protect life and property as it’s charged to do by its
Representative Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert just sent out a letter
to her constituents explaining that she is seeking almost $14 million
to help out Rio Rancho on infrastructure funding, but our Council
has done very little, if anything, to seek outside funding. Why?
If the City thinks it doesn’t have the money to fund the
improvements it should have had done in the first place, wait until
the lawsuits come. If SAD 7 proceeds as outlined, we predict lawsuits
not only from the imposed fees, but future lawsuits as residents
that do have the work done wake up, and begin to wonder why the
paved road improvements they paid so dearly for don’t work
to stop flooding. We also predict problems for the City as it tries
to explain how commercial development it allowed that flooded citizens
downstream should now be taken care of by the finances of the very
citizens it did harm to.
We’re surprised the City Council doesn’t claim that
street lights would also help stop the flooding—after all,
it’s a good way to get work done for nothing, and would be
a nice addition to the flood-stopping sewers they plan to put in.
RIO RANCHO IN FOCUS WEBSITE INFORMS AND ADVOCATES FOR CITIZENS
There are several news agencies that report Rio Rancho news, but
only one site that’s an advocate for its citizens. Not a typical
news site, Rio Rancho in Focus is a citizen-based information center
that digs into current events and issues that affect Rio Rancho.
Important issues in our town are often ignored, or even hidden from
public view. We exist because our community deserves to know what’s
going on where we live, without special interests controlling what
we see and hear. To do that, residents need to be connected. We’re
opinionated for sure—but we’re communicating the real
feelings and ideas of our residents.
This site is unique, because it’s powered by the people who
live, work, and vote in Rio Rancho. We depend on you, the concerned
citizen, to provide content that’s of interest to us all.
Let us know about any issue related to our city that concerns you.
If we feel it contributes to the best interest of your neighbors,
it will appear on these pages. You don’t need to reveal who
you are. Most importantly, spread the word that we’re here.
Rio Rancho in Focus is a website created by the citizens of Rio
Rancho in support of the community good. The only way effective
change will take place is if concerned citizens stand together and
mold the community we all want to live in, work in, and raise our
children in. Together, we’ll create a community we can be
proud of—a true “city of vision.”
re: Ernalillo High School?
Ernalillo High School, in Ernalillo, New Mexico, is where I am
currently a high school senior. Oh! What’s that you say? My
“B” is missing? Well, I’m glad you noticed and
brought it to my attention, but it has been missing for some time
now. It’s very interesting to see that you have noticed the
“B” missing in my spelling, when most of our community
no longer takes the time of day to notice that Bernalillo, New Mexico’s
“B” is gone—or at least the “B” that
sat at the base of the water tower at the north exit of our town.
Our beloved “B” had no true significance in this world
to anybody other than Bernalillo High students, alumni, and townspeople.
The company that set up shop in that area has removed what has
been a long-standing tradition for Bernalillo High School (BHS)
Since 1972 (as far back as I could trace), seniors from BHS have
been visiting the infamous “B” and putting their graduating
year within the two half circles that create the capital letter.
Beginning this year, that senior tradition will no longer be observed.
Apparently that tradition, which started some two decades before
I was born, has sadly ended with the class of 2007.
Nobody I spoke with had really noticed what happened under our
very noses; several people were shocked to hear what happened after
I revealed it to them. Shocked, not because the letter has been
removed, but that they have been far too busy in their lives to
notice it gone right out of their own backyard. With the advancement
of technology and industry, we begin to lose a lot of long-standing
traditions. This is proof of one tradition that will no longer be
available, unless we decide to act upon it now.
I would like to see another area in Bernalillo designated for the
resurrection of another “B” for the students and alumni
of Bernalillo High School—one that is close to the high school.
Then invite both students and alumni to recreate what was started
by the senior class of 1972.
—MONICA LOVATO, Bernalillo High School Senior, Class of
re: hacking it out West
Dear Friends Back East:
Thanks for your thoughtful note inquiring as to my health following
my holiday visit to your region. I believe my health has been quite
good, if you don’t include my respiratory system and any and
all associated anatomical doo-dads.
The first return leg (from Providence to Atlanta) was unique in
that one could not hear the roar of the aircraft engines due to
passenger coughing. Those persons unable to fully muster a good,
solid, hacking cough produced a sneezy, snuffly, phlegmatic, throat-clearing
accompaniment to the performance. The rest of us just sat back,
struggling mightily to draw the shallowest of breaths.
And what a performance it was! When I closed my eyes, I realized
that my fellow passengers were actually—and unconsciously,
I suspect—engaged in a choral production not unlike those
famous singing dogs of the seventies who barked a recording of “Jingle
Bells.” In this case, my fellow travelers were coughing out
the melody to “The Happy Wanderer” (“I love to
go a-wandering.”). The fellow sitting next to me was particularly
good with “Valdaree” and “Valdarah,” whenever
it was time for the chorus, although he absolutely reeked of Nyquil.
The usually dry cabin air wasn’t dry—as clearly evident
by the ever-thickening slimy, silvery haze that filled our passenger
compartment. I concluded that Delta had not provided me with a healthy
The leg from Atlanta to Albuquerque was less noxious, i.e. the
number of the afflicted and the degree of affliction were less.
They could only hack a few slow verses of “My Old Kentucky
Home” before we touched down in the Duke City.
In driving to Placitas from the airport, I made it all the way
to Sandoval County before my throat and lungs commenced their own
rebellion. Truthfully, the only productive thing I did for the next
month was hard, nasty, solo coughing along with all that other associated,
highly disagreeable activity—even with medication.
Mighty Patrick, my handsome old Maine Coon Cat, became quite concerned
for me, and would spend much of his time giving me big yellow-eyed
looks of alarm, not unlike those I give him when he struggles with
gigantic hair balls. He trailed after me far more than usual, and
there were times when I thought he was going to try a heroic, but
likely futile, feline version of the Heimlich maneuver on my person.
Now, however, I am back to taking some short hikes with vital assistance
provided by clear lungs and, for the most part, a dry nose. This
is the Land of Enchantment, and I have no justifiable complaints.
Thanks for your concerns. Stay well.
re: candidates have to address issues
We must demand that candidates for council and mayor answer tough
questions. Here are some I consider critical:
What will you do to bring openness, adherence to open-meeting requirements
and accountability to city government? What will you do “through
neighborhood meetings or opinion surveys” to reach out to
constituents to find out how you as their representative should
vote on critical issues?
Out-of-control growth strains the city’s ability to ensure
good growth, while amenities and services for existing citizens
are woefully lacking. What will you do to work for a city that is
not just an endless series of remote and disjointed subdivisions,
but a community?
We face a looming water crisis. What will you do to ensure that
Rio Rancho—as many other communities in the Southwest are
doing—requires developers to show a one-hundred-year water
supply to ensure that our children and grandchildren have adequate
water? Some assert there is adequate permitted water for 225,000
Rio Rancho residents; others say there is sufficient water for 150,000
or fewer. What will you do to gain a scientific determination of
which, if either, is accurate?
With Rio Rancho’s sprawl, high growth rate, and commuter
economy, the city faces a transportation crisis and gridlock issues.
What solution do you suggest? What will you do to help plan a city
around likely $4-, $5-, or $6-a-gallon gasoline¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬?
Rio Rancho is the third most populous city in New Mexico, but ninth
or tenth in gross receipts tax collections. What will you do to
build a stronger business base?
New housing starts plummeted from 3,084 in 2005 to 1,046 in 2007.
This and other factors could lead to a critical shortage of income
for city coffers. What would you do to ensure diversification away
from the city’s dependency on growth for funds and to ensure
adequate funds for city services, especially in a recession?
Considering SAD 7, what will you do to ensure that problems associated
with poor drainage and a lack of paving, gutters, curbs, and storm
drains are avoided in future developments in the city? Where do
you stand on SAD 7?
Please explain why the term “Rio Rancho: City of Vision”
should not be considered an oxymoron.
—J. GORDON HAWLEY, RIO RANCHO
The State of Bernalillo
A few days ago traffic came to a screeching halt on Camino del
Pueblo in front of the former post office. As our cars edged forward,
the cause of this inconvenience became apparent. That proud red
chicken that probably lives east of the current post office was
once again trying to cross the road. Later as we descended into
the bowels of the Town Hall, I reasoned that said chicken’s
latest attempt must have been to take part in early voting. In this
year of great political change everyone should take part—or
at least try.
An important change on the local front seems to be taking place
on a regular basis. The great passion most of us have to save Bernalillo
from high density development seems to be acquiring real staying
Plaza Miranda’s development failed to pass the Planning and
Zoning Commission’s scrutiny. And then when East Side residents
were once again ready to do battle with our elected officials in
a Council meeting, the developer withdrew – probably to fight
again another day. One has to wonder if there might be a more suitable
use for that property—one that will benefit both sides.
It might have been fun though to see how the Trustee’s would
have justified overturning the P & Z’s ruling. If they
did, the power of the people would have raised the roof. Indeed,
if they once again ignored the Commission’s decision, an unruly
crowd undoubtedly would have challenged their qualifications to
represent the people.
Could it be that the sentiments of the majority of our citizens
is actually beginning to matter? Town Hall, with the exception of
the P & Z Commission and Trustee Jaramillo, has ignored the
will of the people and decided that bigger is always better. They
think that if Bernalillo could just fill up with new residents,
businesses and industry that the New Town created would justify
the loss of our cherished way of life. Clearly there are dozens
of struggling towns across New Mexico that are crying for economic
development to save them. It is our contention that we’re
not living in one!
On February 5, Kelley Moe and Maria Rinaldi acting in their official
capacities promoted out of town developers in another P & Z
meeting. This time they tried to talk the commissioners into approving
a 32-unit townhouse development just south of 550 and east of Main
Street. By the way, it seems odd that locals have to represent themselves
to remain on the agenda while out of town developers have been represented
by staff when they don’t happen to show up.
Anyway, with determined leadership Commissioners Montoya and Kilfoy
spoke against high density development and resulting water runoff
problems. The idea of initiating this kind of development scenario—as
recommended in Bernalillo’s Transit Oriented Development Plan
[TOD]—went down to defeat with the addition of Commissioners
Dameron and Satriana agreeing.
Rumor has it that the Mayor is searching for two new members for
the Commission, replacing two of the longer serving Commissioners.
One can only guess at her motivation.
The Planning and Zoning commission is standing up for our town
and our way of life. The clear and obvious truth that they were
also ignored during the TOD process may have something to do with
their reluctance to obey its dictates. Karma.
Good ole Slim Randle’s buddy Delbert McLain has a lot in
common with Town Hall. If I may quote: his job “is to invite
huge industries to set up here, give all of us jobs, and turn the
place into someplace we won’t really like. Fortunately, he’s
not very good at it.”
Unfortunately for us some of the Town staff are quite good at forcing
their own agenda down the throats of their bosses, our elected officials.
With the help of a few caring citizens fighting the pro hyper-development
factions at Town Hall, Bernalillo just might survive after all.
We need to elect people who truly know and understand our town,
and will work hard to put some backbone into our elected officials.
We need an open transparent government responsive to the people
with “participation from citizens in conjunction with elected
All of us who care deeply for our town would do well to channel
some of the spirit and work ethic of the late Michael Carroll. Fire
Chief Carroll worked fearlessly and unselfishly for the good of
Bernalillo for over 40 years. The star spangled tribute to his life
and service was truly inspirational on Main Street that February
Don’t forget to vote, March 4th at City Hall.
Tell Max what for at: email@example.com.
President Bush would jettison Indian health for
—JENNIFER PEREZ COLE AND STEVE WOODRUFF
Is President Bush willing to sacrifice the health and welfare of
Native Americans in order to pursue one of his administration’s
pet peeves? It sounds as if he is.
The White House recently warned that the president may veto long-overdue
legislation to improve health care for Native Americans if the bill
includes a provision calling for paying workers hired to build new
facilities prevailing wages and benefits. The bill in question is
the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2008. The provision
in dispute involves a 77-year-old labor law known as the Davis-Bacon
This health-care bill rightly topped the Senate’s list of
priorities when it returned to work Jan. 22. It is no secret that
Indian Country is in the grip of a health-care crisis. It is one
made worse by poor access to doctors and clinics, outdated facilities
and services that are inadequate to deal with rates of disease,
and death rates that far exceed those of the overall U.S. population.
Co-authored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and the late Sen. Craig
Thomas, R-Wyo., the bill enjoys bipartisan support for its comprehensive
approach to a health care crisis throughout Indian Country. The
measure authorizes $1 billion worth of desperately needed health
care facilities, along with another $1 billion in projects to improve
sanitation in tribal communities. The bill also aims to improve
mental health services, tackles high rates of teen suicides, makes
it easier for tribal members to enroll in Medicaid and Medicare,
and encourages Native Americans to pursue careers in health care.
Although the White House Office of Management and Budget says it
has some objections to various aspects of the bill, it’s the
so-called Davis-Bacon provision that triggered Bush’s veto
threat. That provision extends requirements of Davis-Bacon Act to
the Indian Health Service. The White House isn’t objecting
to the facilities themselves or disputing the urgent need for them.
It simply doesn’t want to pay full price for the labor.
It’s worth noting that the Davis-Bacon Act already applies
to nearly all government agencies and federal contracts. Why prevailing-wage
requirements don’t already apply to Indian Health Service
contracts is an interesting question that raises the issue of discrimination.
However, extending the requirement is consistent with overall federal
practice. Signing Davis-Bacon into law in 1931 was perhaps the most
constructive thing President Herbert Hoover did during the Great
Depression. By effectively setting minimum pay scales for workers
on federal construction projects, Davis-Bacon was designed to ensure
that skilled, local workers aren’t aced out of jobs by low-balling
contractors bringing in unskilled workers at substandard wages.
It was Republicans in Congress who sponsored Davis-Bacon and a
Republican president who signed it into law. In recent years, however,
political conservatives have taken to attacking prevailing-wage
requirements as an undeserved leg-up for organized labor. In a statement
issued Jan. 22, the White House said that “expansion of Davis-Bacon
Act prevailing wage requirements … would violate a longstanding
administration policy.” Fair enough. If the president and
his administration want to fight for lower construction-worker wages,
nothing’s stopping them. This is an election year. Let them
argue for Davis-Bacon repeal, and see where that gets them.
Well, no. Instead comes the threatened veto casting Native Americans
desperate for better health care as pawns in the administration’s
ideological tussle over a long-settled aspect of federal law. Better
health care for Native Americans isn’t a favor or just a good
idea. It’s an explicit legal obligation. Health care for Native
Americans is among the federal government’s clearest but least-fulfilled
responsibilities. It’s been promised by treaties and guaranteed
by law in exchange for lands ceded to the government. Failing to
live up to this responsibility is bad. What’s even worse is
arguing that the promised care shouldn’t be provided if it
means creating a level playing field.
Jennifer Perez Cole and Steve Woodruff are contributors
to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News
is coordinator of Indian affairs for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer;
he is deputy director of the northern region for Western Progress
in Missoula, Montana.