By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
On May 4 and 5, the Junaluska Leadership Council held a candidate forum for the EBCI Tribal Council Wolfetown Community candidates. The members of the Junaluska Leadership Council moderated the event, providing each candidate an opportunity to give an introduction, answer four standardized questions and then some random pre-formatted questions.
Candidate Polly Jo Castorena stated that two of her goals would be youth success – financially and educationally. She says she wants to ensure elders have good quality of life. Services should not be cut for elders. Castorena wants to analyze and make good choices with regard to the Tribe’s financial situation. She said the Tribe needs to think long-term in order to grow and improve. She would increase handicapped services. Castorena wants to be a voice for the community and would poll the community for what they want.
Incumbent Councilman Bo Crowe stated he wants to continue to keep the community informed and encourages communication. He supports growth balanced with community needs. He supports higher education for tribal members. He wants to continue to work to improve quality of life; public safety, education, housing, health care and our elders. Crowe believes we (Tribal Council) should stewards of tribal funds.
Candidate David Jumper wants to involve the community in leading the tribe. He wants to have open communication between government and community. He stated that the “jealousy and games of the past” need to be left behind.
Candidate Albert Martin Jr. feels that education is very important. He said that the Tribe needs to create more business opportunities and needs to diversify its own holdings. He wants to set an example and have a vision for future generations. He would use the qualities of courage, integrity, humility and involve others in decisions.
Candidate Trina Owle said that she would support Women’s Wellness, Home Health, Tsali Care Center and a social service center. She stated that elder care is very important as well as higher education. She would work with programs to stop drug addiction including education in schools and more group programs. Owle thinks we need more targeted programs to train men to be good family members.
Candidate Quedi “Quet” Sampson says she would provide a better relationship between members of the community and Tribal Council and promote higher education for enrolled members. She feels that a code of conduct needs to be established for elected officials. She promised honest representation and to use tribal resources to meet each member’s needs.
Incumbent Dennis Edward “Bill” Taylor says he would improve overall health. He would address housing, healthcare, public safety and physical health issues. Drug abuse prevention and rehabilitation is a top priority. Education and economic development for the future of the tribe would also be his focus.
Candidate Marty Taylor says his focus would be housing opportunities, grandparent rights, children protection and better tribal program services. Every tribal member deserves to have the opportunity for a home. He stated that there needs to be quality care for children who are cared for, including giving more rights grandparents to step in when parents are not providing. He wants better treatment and services from tribal programs and plans on making sure people are doing their jobs. Taylor is in favor of establishing a code of ethics for Tribal Council. He would separate the Judiciary into an autonomous segment of government.
Candidate Francine Watty says her priority will be serving the people. The people should be involved in decisions and Council should be available to them. She wants to improve lives in the community and to provide tools to get programs to help one another. She stated that she wants to bring honesty and integrity to the Council.
STANDARD QUESTION SEGMENT
Question: What are your thoughts about staggered payments of the Minor’s Fund distribution?
Castorena: She is in favor. She thinks it gives minors financial stability for five to seven years and puts more money in the pockets of our young enrolled members. Castorena thinks it will have the effect of reducing problems with a number of social issues.
Crowe: He believes it is a good idea. It might help young people to manage the money more effectively. Crowe thinks it teaches youth how to take care of their money. He said, based on some conversations with community members, that the staggered distribution should be optional.
Jumper: Jumper feels it would be a good thing to do. The parent needs to be involved in the decision. He believes that if the Tribe decides to do it, then it should be either all member have staggered payments or not. If it is going to be set, then set it.
Martin: It is a great idea and will help with tax burdens. Money should be invested and young people need financial training to ensure they get the most out of their money.
Owle: She says it is a wonderful idea and will help enrolled members control their spending of the initial distribution. She stated that it will help with taxes.
Sampson: She would support it because it would make things better for children from a tax perspective. She commented that is difficult for a young person to know what is best to do with a large sum.
Bill Taylor: Taylor thinks it is a great idea and supports it. His stated that it provides a better tax break for youth if done in this fashion.
Marty Taylor: It is a good idea, staggered over a five- year period. It would provide a tax break and would give more time for individuals to think about what to invest in.
Watty: She thinks there should be staggered payments. She would create a meeting with Investment Committee and Tribal Council so that this issue could be discussed. There should also be a plan for how the money is used. It needs attention.
Question: What are your thoughts about a Tribal Constitution? Are you aware of the Junaluska Leadership Council’s involvement with a Tribal Constitution?
Castorena: She supports a tribal constitution as long as it is truly a document for the rights of the people and the privileges of the government. It needs an enforcement component. She stated that she was not aware and is glad that the JLC is involved in the process.
Crowe: The Tribe has needed a constitution for a while. Crowe believes a better separation of three parts of government is needed. Yes, he is aware that JLC had involvement and he had read parts of it.
Jumper: Yes. He stated it brings accountability for all. It will protect all of us. Jumper stated that, as a people, we all need guidelines. He was aware of JLC involvement and he had not read the draft.
Martin: I would support the constitution if the people have had the opportunity to review and approve of it. He was just made aware of JLC involvement and will be happy to review the draft.
Owle: She thinks it is a wonderful idea for the people and she supports it. She was aware of JLC’s involvement and had read the draft.
Sampson: She would support it. She is aware of JLC involvement and had not read the draft.
Bill Taylor: He would support it as long as the people support it. He was aware of JLC involvement and had read some of the draft.
Marty Taylor: He says that he is in favor of it. He thinks the constitution needs to include three separate branches of government. He stated that he is not too familiar with the draft, but is currently reading it.
Watty: Yes, the Tribe definitely need a constitution. She was aware of JLC involvement and had not read the draft.
RANDOM QUESTION SEGMENT
Question: Do you think that JLC is important and if so, should we be given more recognition and authority?
Castorena: Yes, Castorena stated JLC is important. They are the future. She believes that JLC should receive more recognition; more replays of JLC sessions on cable and internet, similar to Tribal Council.
Question: What morals and values do you find important and why do they qualify you to hold this position?
Castorena: She stated that she believes and fight for what’s right; honesty; sharing thoughts; listening, integrity. She believes that she should be a good ambassador and example.
Question: The drug problem in our community is a huge problem, causing crime and problems for our families. If you are re-elected, what are your plans to tackle this problem?
Crowe: Crowe said that the Tribe is about to develop a rehab center. He stated that installments for the minors fund distribution might also be helpful in this area. He feels that there is a clear answer for it, but the Tribe is making steps in the right direction.
Marty Taylor: He would advocate for being stricter on convictions, stronger drug laws and enforcement.
Question: If you are selected to serve on Tribal Council, what would you do to preserve our language?
Crowe: He feels the Tribe is doing are doing good work with the Kituwah Academy. Crowe feels the Tribe needs to make the school bigger so that there can be more involvement and more kids.
Martin: He stated that he would support and provide resources for the Kituwah Academy and any on-going efforts to preserve the language. He says it is never too late to learn the language and believes it is the identity of the Tribe.
Question: What do you think our community could do about our lack of foster homes on the reservation?
Jumper: Jumper feels that some members need to bring the focus back on the needs of the Tribe. He stated that the Tribe needs to set up and run programs to benefit everyone. He feels currently that there is no communication and no transparency to allow people to know what is going on.
Question: What are your plans to help with the drug abuse in our Tribe, and what is your stance on the situation?
Jumper: He wants the Tribe to get tougher on laws; tough love. Jumper said everyone knows the difference between right and wrong. We need to make legislation that makes offenses carry a higher penalties.
Question: Are you going to make an effort to regularly visit our elders at Tsali Manor and Tsali Care?
Martin: Martin stated that they are very dear to him and will make it a point to maintain contact.
Question: If you are selected to serve on Tribal Council, what you do to make life better for elders?
Owle: Owle would continue the programs that are for tribal elders like Community Health and Tsali Care Center. She would like to see an increase volunteer programs, especially ones that involve youth in helping elders. She plans to have on-going visits personal visits with elders.
Sampson: She would compile a list of all elders in the community and do a check-up on them on a weekly or monthly basis. She stated that she would make sure that they are alright and comfortable.
Question: What are your plans to increase the financial literacy of tribal members graduating high school and receiving their initial per capita distribution?
Owle: I would get everyone educated so that they can make the best decisions.
Question: What makes Tribal Council different other town councils?
Sampson: Tribal Council has more resources to use to better our people. She feels that the Tribe has more freedom to do things. Policies and procedures may be laid out differently in town councils.
Question: Do you think tribal budgets should be more transparent? If so, what steps could be taken to keep tribal members informed?
Bill Taylor: Budget process starts in March. Quarterly reports come to Council due to the Balance Budget Act. It shows what each division is spending and what money is available. He believes that could be published in the newspaper quarterly.
Marty Taylor: The quarterly review of the budget should be published in the One Feather for everyone to see.
Question: What are your thoughts on the group of tribal members that sued the current Council members for the pay raise they received?
Bill Taylor: That is the right of any enrolled member of the tribe or U.S. citizen, to see if anything wrong has been done. Everyone has that right.
Question: There’s not a place for children with disabilities or special needs to go to after school. If you got on Council would you create a place for them to go to?
Watty: She feels that they need a place. She agreed with that. Watty added that an adult day care or even around-the-clock care is needed.
Question: If you are elected to serve on Tribal Council, what will you do to benefit minors such as ourselves in five years?
Watty: She hopes that everything she does will benefit minors. Watty would advocate for increases in tourism and more businesses overall. She would support giving minor’s better opportunity for summer programs and open doors for everyone.
The JLC read a message from Dick Crowe, another candidate, who could not attend the forum due to his need to be at a school board meeting.