By AMBLE SMOKER
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Junaluska leadership Council (JLC) hosted the candidate forum for Snowbird and Cherokee County Tribal Council candidates on Tuesday, May 26 in the Tribal Council Chambers. Each candidate was given an opportunity to present their platform, answer two standard questions, then given randomly-selected questions.
During the forum, a letter from Incumbent Snowbird and Cherokee County Representative Adam Wachacha was read by JLC Chairman Taylor Nelson stating Wachacha was unable to attend the event due to a previously scheduled engagement.
Candidate Janell Rattler introduced herself by providing information on her family background and a brief overview of her previous experience. She said, “I’m a hard worker. I feel like if given this chance as a Council Member, I could work hard for both our communities in Snowbird and Cherokee County. I would like to see more services extended for our seniors, youth, and middle-aged people. I would like to see more housing for our young families and a dental program that extends services.”
Incumbent Brandon Jones said his wife and children are the reason he chose to run for Council to begin with. Jones said, “I was watching my children grow up, and I realized some of the problems we had in the Tribe. I seen (sic) things there were going on and decided I wanted to make a difference. I love my community and the people in the Tribe. I’ve been blessed tremendously and wanted to make a difference. I’m here because I want to make a positive change through positive leadership.”
Candidate Bucky Brown spoke of his great passion for the Cherokee people and how he could help generate ideas for Cherokee. Brown said, “Every day I sit and think about things that I could do to try and make a change.” He commended the JLC and said thanked them for standing up and conducting these events.
What are your thoughts about staggered payments of the Minor’s Fund Distribution?
Rattler: “I agree with staggered payments of the Minor’s Fund Distribution, or even if they have the option to decide. Even the ones who have received it wish they had not been given that much money because they don’t have it now. It would help our young people, not with just taxes, but with deciding which direction they want to go in life.”
Jones: “I would like to see the implementation of that come from you guys (JLC) and your peers. The bottom line is it’s your money. As Tribal Council, we need to do more to educate young adults on how to handle that responsibility. If we give you that amount of money without preparing you for that, we’re setting you up for failure.”
Brown: “I think it’s up to the individual. The Tribal Council needs to educate or have an investment person over the money.”
What are your thoughts about a Tribal Constitution?
Rattler: “I support the creation of the constitution because it protects our freedoms and guarantees our rights as enrolled members. It puts the power back in the hands of our people.”
Jones: “It’s time that we have it. I do support a constitution. I think it would give the people their rights; it would define the rights in there. It would also create the separation of the three branches of government and clearly define our duties and responsibilities.”
Brown: “I think we need it, this Tribe very well needs.”
- Do you think the Tribal Budget should be more transparent? Is so, what steps could be taken to keep Tribal members informed?
Jones: “We saw this past budget cycle what can happen if things are hidden in there and not upfront and forthright in the budget. Certain things cannot be put on public display but the majority of it can. We need to be more accountable when we go through the budget and ask more questions and spend more time on it.”
- What are your plans to help with the drug abuse situation on our reservation?
Jones: “The main goal I had coming into Tribal Council was to push the Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center. It starts when the kids are little. You have to educate the kids when they are knee-high and let them know it’s a bad thing. “
- What’s your interpretation of Section 17? Do you support or oppose it?
Rattler: “For our Tribe, I do not support it. How it was worded and put it to Council, I could not agree with it. Mainly because I feel like it took the power away from our Tribal Council and leaving in the hands of five board members. All of them do not have to be enrolled. I can’t agree with that.”
- Making decisions on tough issues can cost you support. How would you approach tough issues knowing it would upset your voter base?
Rattler: “I’m not a yes person and I probably never will be. I would have to tell them I can’t make promises. All I can do is promise to do the best job that I can. There are some tough decisions you will have to make that are the right decisions but may not be liked. If it’s right, you got to stand by it. As long as you do it with honesty and integrity, then you can’t go wrong.”
- Legislators make laws and debate issues with law, what kind of legislation are you prepared to bring before Council?
Brown: “I’m not familiar with what goes on with policies and procedures. Whatever there is to learn, I’m willing to learn it the best and quickest I can. Any legislative things that I need to learn about the Tribal government, I’m willing to learn.”
- How do you intend on seeing the past resolutions through after they are passed?
Brown: “Just stay on them and ask about them.”