How quickly the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade Bill moves before the Navajo Nation Council is up to Benjamin Bennett, legislative officials said.
Bennett, a Navajo councilman who represents four chapters located far from the proposed Escalade project, attended Tuesday’s Resources and Development Committee meeting. The project was not on the agenda and bill-sponsor Bennett remained quiet, according to people who attended the meeting.
“Until he tells me” to place it on the Resources committee agenda, the public will have to wait, a legislative official said.
The bill proposes the Nation approve a contract with Arizona Scottsdale-based Confluence Partners LLC that will put a gondola on the Grand Canyon Eastern rim. The tram is one of many parts of the bill and includes having the Nation pay $65 million for infrastructure for the project in western Navajo.
The legislative official said Bennett, vice chairperson of Resources committee, can ask anytime to add to the agenda at committee future weekly Tuesday meetings. The committee’s next meeting is scheduled 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29 at Navajo Department of Transportation facility in Tse Bonita, N.M.
Resources committee is part of the tribe’s legislative process review for the Escalade bill, which was introduced nearly three months ago in late August. When Resources panel approves the legislation, it moves to Budget and Finance and the Naa’bik’iyati’ committees before it reaches the council.
Bennett delayed the bill after the Nation’s Law and Order Committee unanimously rejected the legislation on Oct. 5. Resources committee had put Escalade on its Oct. 25 agenda.
Bennett, however, requested a lobby session of the Naa’bik’iyati’ Committee and Confluence Partners on Nov. 10 at Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort. The only people allowed to speak included Escalade proponents from Bodaway/Gap and Kenneth Maryboy, a former Aneth, Utah councilman and brother to Mark Maryboy, who lobbies for the Escalade.
Naa’bik’iyati’ members, however, had more questions, according to media that covered the session.
Marley Shebala, Gallup Independent reporter, wrote Council Delegate Dwight Witherspoon, who represents Central Agency chapters, noticed the agreement asked the council to excuse the Partners from paying tribal taxes.
“You’re not paying for it,” Shebala quoted Witherspoon. “The people who visit (the Escalade) and purchase stuff would be paying for it. So that’s a ridiculous request. Again, that’s a ridiculous request and I would not agree to it.”
Witherspoon also questioned why the renewal of the master agreement was automatic after 25 years, why the lease was non-revocable and why there were so many waivers of Navajo laws in the master agreement, Shebala wrote.
Naa’bik’iyati’ committee did not vote on the bill because the event was designated a work session.
Shebala also wrote about how the Escalade is a divisive issue. Navajo Nation Speaker Lorenzo Bates, who chaired the session, had security remove two people from the meeting.
It included Renae Yellowhorse, Save the Confluence spokeswoman, who asked why equal time was not offered to Escalade opponents in the audience. Also removed was Larry Hanks, a Cedar Ridge resident and strong staunch Escalade supporter, who was allowed later to re-enter the meeting.
To follow the schedule of Navajo Nation Council committees and the Grand Canyon Escalade bill visit, www.navajonationcouncil.org/meetings