By Nolan Madden
Attentions were turned to an historic American milestone, as Tuesday marked the 70th anniversary of the raising of the American flag over Mount Suribachi by U.S. Marines in the battle for Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945. The iconic photo of that captured that moment has become a symbol of victory for World War II.
The reflection was timely, as Hope MacDonald Lone Tree presented to the Navajo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday highlights of legislative issues currently being addressed on behalf of the Navajo Nation.
“Today is actually a very special day, and what makes it even more special is that, as I was driving on the road here to the Navajo County government complex, the street is named Code Talker Drive,” she said.
“That makes my heart feel warm, because I am the daughter of a Navajo Code Talker. There were over 800 messages that were flawlessly sent in Navajo code on Iwo Jima.
“Many people don’t know, but there were two lines of communication during World War II: in English and in Navajo. Because of that, Major Howard Connor, who was a signal officer at Iwo Jima, said, ‘Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima.’”
MacDonald Lone Tree is the tribal relations advisor for the U.S. Department of Justice, providing political guidance for all 22 tribal districts statewide.
She noted that among the numerous public safety and criminal justice issues handled by his current administration, Arizona U.S. Attorney General Judge John S. Leonardo has placed “reentry” as a top priority.
“Reentry is simply the transition from incarceration back into the community,” she related.
The Federal Interagency Reentry Council reports that approximately two million adults are incarcerated in state prisons and local jails, costing U.S. taxpayers about $80 billion each year.
The majority of these persons return to their home communities, presenting obstacles to finding employment, as well as increased potential for re-arrest. FIRC notes that, nationally, two out of every three people released from state prisons are rearrested for a new offense and about half are reincarcerated within three years.
“The federal prosecutors’ number one issue with the successful reintegration of these individuals is public safety. We don’t want these persons to return home to either commit another offense or to re-victimize their victims,” MacDonald Lone Tree said.
She pointed out that several cabinet-level agencies within the AG’s office regularly communicate with the FIRC to expand outreach to support the initiative within tribal communities.
“Across the nation, there are many governors who are spearheading efforts at reducing recidivism in their states. They now offer a ban of the checkbox on employment applications which asks, ‘Do you have a felony on your record?’ Our president is also working on restoring voting rights for persons who have previously committed a felony,” the advisor said.
Navajo County Chief Probation Officer Shanda Breed explained the local efforts.
“We work with community corrections, which is not just adults here within Navajo County Superior Court, but it’s also the Department of Corrections parole, U.S. Federal Probation, as well as tribal parole,” she stated.
“In my eyes, the county is doing a really good job with probation reentry. We’re assessing probationers regarding the types of leads they have when they’re released from jail. We’re also looking at housing, we’re looking at job search and any other type of support, from mental health issues to substance abuse issues, or whatever else they need to somehow get whole again and be successful back in the community.”
Breed said a rift in reentry exists for offenders not on probation who “go home to nothing, where they have no counseling or support, and law enforcement and their community has labeled them as a bad person. So it’s scary for them.
“That’s the huge gap that I want to look at, how can we better our resources and give them better support.”
She noted that recently a criminal justice collaborative committee has been formed among county officials, which meets once a month to assess how to enhance services for offenders.
In other action Feb. 23, the board:
* Approved a memorandum of agreement between the county and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN).
IPAWS-OPEN is a national integrated public alert and warning system that allows emergency messaging across a variety of media formats. The agreement will allow authorized users to broadcast emergency messaging by utilizing the county’s current Everbridge software.
* Approved a fiscal year 2015 Community Development Block Grant funding agreement between Arizona Department of Housing and the county in the amount of $468,825 for the 911 equipment upgrade project.
This funding will be used to replace obsolete emergency 911 dispatch consoles and related equipment, and to add two dispatch stations/controls to bring the total number of stations from four to six. The project will also include necessary upgrades to the communications tower.
Additional funding for this project in the budgeted amount of $105,820 will be provided through the Northeast Arizona Regional Dispatch Center (NARDC) fund.
* Heard a county financial update by Assistant County Manager Bryan Layton.
* Approved abatement of taxes on personal properties that have been removed or demolished at various parcels countywide.
* Approved adoption of a resolution extinguishing a roadway easement as Sawmill Way that intersects the property of Wagon Wheel residents Wayne R. and Barbara J. Church.
* Approved personnel actions.
* Approved the consent agenda, including Feb. 9 regular and executive session meeting minutes, constable reports for Holbrook Precinct No. 1, Winslow Precinct No. 2 and Pinetop-Lakeside Precinct No. 6 for January, and Snowflake Precinct No. 3, December 2015 and January; and Justice Court reports for Holbrook Precinct No. 1, Winslow Precinct No. 2, Snowflake Precinct No. 3, Kayenta Precinct No. 4, Show Low Precinct No. 5 and Pinetop-Lakeside Precinct No. 6 for January.
Also approved were January Clerk of the Superior Court and Juvenile Probation reports.
Approval of seven back tax land parcels sold over the counter in the amount of $7,288.70 was granted.
A thank you letter to the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise regarding fiscal year funding was approved.
Reappointment of Michael Larsen and Robinson Honani to the Navajo County Extension Advisory Board beginning April 1 and expiring April 1, 2018, was approved.
A letter of support endorsing the 2016 TRACKS and WOMOTA grant submission to Arizona State Parks for its regional non-motorized/motorized trails map was approved to enhance recreational and tourism opportunities for county citizens and visitors to the region.
A resolution approving poll workers for the 2016 Presidential Preference Election and May 17 special election was approved.
Intergovernmental agreements with the Arizona Department of Fire, Building and Life Safety, Office of Manufactured Housing and Navajo County were approved for the City of Holbrook and the Town of Snowflake to issue permits and conduct course-of-construction inspections to final certificate of occupancy for all manufactured housing within the city limits of Holbrook and town limits of Snowflake.
Reappointment of Robert VanWyck as Superior Court judge pro tempore to be effective July 1 to June 30, 2017, was approved.
A sympathy letter to the family of Pete Shumway was approved.
A letter to legislators regarding Navajo County Budget Mobilization was approved.
A letter of support for the submission of a Navajo Nation Promise Zone application by Navajo Technical University on behalf of the Navajo Nation was approved.
* Approved a proclamation declaring Feb. 23 as the Day of the Cougars, honoring the Show Low Junior High School wrestling team and recognizing its state championship victory.
* Approved the Navajo County Public Health Services District consent agenda, including professional services contracts with Connie Baine, RDH, AP, for dental hygiene services through the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation effective March 1 to Feb. 28, 2017, in the amount of $45 per hour, and with Menith Mackenzie, RDH, and Candice Marissa Matthews-Penrod, RDH, for dental hygiene services through the Navajo Nation Oral Health Program effective Feb. 1 to June 30, also in the amount of $45 per hour.
The next regular board meeting will be held at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 8, at the county complex in Holbrook.
By Nolan Madden