Chief’s Monthly Report for May
PRINCIPAL CHIEF PATRICK LAMBERT
I have a lot of good things to report to you for the past month that have been accomplished for our Tribe. We still have a long way to go to get our Tribe back on track and in the right direction, but I’m glad to report there is progress on getting us headed in a better direction. I will always do all I can and strive to always make the right decisions on behalf of all our people.
In this prior month, we made many notable advancements and accomplishments, here are some of the highlights:
The day began with a meeting at the US Attorney’s Office to discuss some of our recent Forensic Audits and the report I delivered to Tribal Council in April. This process is ongoing, and we are still involved in several Forensic audits and accounting investigations. I will continue to give updates and briefings as the investigations and audits proceed. All of our findings will be reported to the U.S. Attorney and FBI. The rest will be up to them.
In the afternoon, Tribal Council held a work session on the resolution I submitted to pay off the Tribal debt. This included the loan for the waste water treatment plant and the Cherokee Indian Hospital which was discussed extensively. After much debate, Tribal Council agreed to proceed with the pay-off.
On this day, I also held meetings regarding Tribal Projects and Development, work session on the Election Ordinance, and review of Legislative Strategies for the State and National elections.
Today, we had Budget Council and the resolution to pay-off the debt was passed! The total pay-off amount was around $96 million. This was one of my campaign promises and has been the desire of the people for a long time; that we get out of debt while the economy is good and I am proud to say that we are now debt free from all Tribal debt. There is still debt held by the TCGE for the Casino but all Tribal debt is paid in full!
Today, I established a team called the Project Development Working Group to help focus our efforts on getting new ideas and new developments on the ground. This team will have the focus of economic diversification and work to bring new Commerce to a reality. Our team consists of casino personnel, Commerce Dept., Finance Dept. and Legal.
For far too long our business model has been stuck in 1950, and it is time we bring a new and diversified business model to town. Remember my pledge during the campaign for what I called “Jump Start Cherokee”. I have been focused on this and we are making some real progress. I have made two trips to Baltimore seeking a new development for a Retail/Entertainment venue and it is looking promising. Tribal Council is also very engaged with me in these efforts and working hard to bring new developments.
Regular Tribal Council was in session today.
I had the honor of participating in the Cherokee Speakers Walk. I appreciate all of our speakers and their knowledge of our language and what they do to keep our language alive. At the walk, I announced my plan to create a home office for a “Speakers Bureau” which will be a place where our speakers can call their own.
We have several children learning the language and it is a real delight watching them. I want to applaud everyone that is trying to learn.
Later this evening, I had the privilege of throwing out the first pitch at the Atlanta Braves Stadium. I must admit, I was quite nervous; a stadium full of people and I haven’t thrown a baseball since I was a kid and they put me up on the big jumbo screen in the stadium… I walked out there and didn’t hesitate… I wound up and threw it pretty hard (I think I broke the speed record haha) And, I am happy to say that I made it over the plate. (Whew! Embarrassment averted Haha.)
It was also great to see the Cherokee Braves Baseball team in attendance at the game plus several enrolled members and Council Members. It was an unforgettable experience.
Today was the 1st Annual “Mother’s Day Celebration” sponsored by the Chief’s office. It was really good to see all of the mothers who came out, they truly are the backbone of our families and we owe a lot to them. We had some good food, some great door prizes and we also had a photo booth for those that wanted to take pictures with their mothers. I personally handed out fresh roses to every mother that was present. We also took donations at the door for items to be given to the Cherokee Children’s Home and collected a lot of food and various items. I plan to continue this event every year. It was a great success. Thank you to my staff and all the volunteers that helped in any way. I am proud to do all I can to support and show appreciation to our Cherokee Families.
The day was full of various meetings; from staff meetings to meetings with enrolled members. This day was our first regularly scheduled meeting of our new Project Development Working Group. I also met with external auditors in regards to our annual financial audit.
Today Tribal council and I held a debt pay-off signing ceremony. We all met in the council chambers along with Tribal employees, several enrolled members and the manager of First Citizens Bank to witness the signing of the pay-off of the loan agreements for the Cherokee Indian Hospital and the waste water treatment plant. It was an exciting day to see this come to fruition. Our Tribe is in good financial standing and I was extremely proud to be a part of such a historic event.
Later in the day, I held a meeting with the TCGE Board and the casino personnel to discuss the allocations and the Murphy Casino management agreement. There is a lot of work to be done on that and I have set a negotiation committee together that consists of myself and the Vice-Chief along with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Tribal Council to work thru these issues.
I also had a meeting to restructure the Tribal GIS Department and roll the splintered departments together to make them cohesive and function as one unit. This will give us much better control of our land records and help us to take the mystery out of land transactions.
Today I was asked to give a presentation and open discussion to the Right Path Group held at the Chestnut Tree. This group of young people is energetic and I had a great time talking to them. It was an honor to spend some time with them and get to know more about this group. Juanita Wilson is doing a great job with this effort. Thank you for the invitation.
Later this day I was invited to have lunch with the enrolled members that work at the Casino. The free meal is something they have been doing for several years. It’s an appreciation for all of the enrolled members that work for us at Harrah’s. It’s a good way to show appreciation to our own people that work there and the team that sets this up for our enrolled members do a great job. Thank you for the invitation.
Today we had a Capital Committee meeting and approved several requests. I also held a lengthy conference call regarding a new business opportunity for Cherokee and also an office meeting with a few local business owners on new development opportunities.
Later this evening, there was a book signing for the new “Charlotte’s Web” book that was translated and printed in Cherokee Syllabary. The effort was led by Myrtle Johnson and it is a beautifully done work. Thank you.
Today I called a Special Called Session of Tribal Council to pass two important resolutions that needed to be dealt with immediately. We passed a resolution and adopted a Resolution to present to the USET Board of Directors on May 16 for support of Senator Tester’s Bill in the U.S. Congress for return of jurisdictional authority over non-member criminals on reservation lands. I also nominated and it was approved to hire a new Judge for our Cherokee Court to replace Mr. Danny Davis who took my job appointment as Attorney General for our Tribe.
Also, today was another first for my office. We held a Graduates Celebration Dinner for all of our upcoming higher education graduates, whether they graduated with an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree such as Juris Doctor, master’s or Ph.D. We had a real good time, good food and a photo booth for all the graduates to have their picture taken. It was great to see all our graduates and I want to congratulate every one of them that graduated this year. Good work!
Today was a very special day for our family. My son, Nelson, graduated from the Charlotte School of Law. He graduated with a Juris Doctor degree with a certification in Employment Law. He will take the bar in July. Cyndi and I are very proud of him and wish him the best of luck in the future as an upcoming father and lawyer.
This day was full of various meetings from staff to program meetings and attending funeral services.
Today, we held budget planning meetings and are preparing the budget for 2017 to be presented to Tribal Council. I am planning a new Department in this next year’s budget that will be our first real focus on farming and food sources. I am setting up a new “Department of Agriculture” in the new budget that will focus on creating a commercially viable farming enterprise. This department will also have all renewable energy programs within it to take advantage of the new technology to harness green energy for our Tribe.
Today, I called the first “Lands Acquisition Committee” meeting in years. The Tribe has many opportunities we are looking at and want to explore acquisition of properties that will benefit our Tribe from the perspective of economic diversification, housing, governmental need or for reserve. We are all working together to make sure any land purchased first makes sense and is needed and secondly is a fair deal for the Tribe to make.
Today was walk-in day for enrolled members. I am always glad to take a few minutes with each person and hear their concerns firsthand and attempt to help in any way I can. I met with over 20 individual people this day.
I worked on doing some office catch-up and signing of documents today and had a light meeting schedule but was busy with office work until late in the evening.
I had a meeting with the Cherokee Indian Hospital Finance Committee to discuss their long range outlook for financial need. Currently the Hospital has very strong reserves but show through their charts and diagrams that they could face a shortfall within the next several years. I asked them to be very mindful of creating any new positions and to work within their means.
In the afternoon I had the honor of a visiting US Congressman coming to our lands. Congressman Frank Pallone from NJ 6th Congressional District is a good friend of the EBCI. He has served for over 28 years in the Congress. He was instrumental several years ago in helping us to achieve the land swap with the National Park Service to secure the land for our new Schools. He is also very interested in helping Tribes get proper health care.
While he was here I took him on a tour of our new Hospital and then to the School so he could see first-hand how his work on helping get the land turned out. He was very happy to see our beautiful school and hospital.
While I had him in the area I stopped at the old bridge that Ms. Amanda Swimmer has championed to get reopened and walked him across it so he could see first-hand how it makes little to no sense for the Park Service to have closed the bridge! He promised to help any way he can to get it reopened and available for emergency access for our Big Cove community and emergency access to our schools.
I also told him about my dream of getting some other land across the bridge for a new Senior Assisted living campus and an adult daycare facility. He commented on how appropriate it could be for our youth on one side of the river and our seniors on the other. Both on land our ancestors I am certain felt a strong bond to! The land across the bridge could be perfect for a senior campus with apartments and assisted living and a new Tsali Manor and adult daycare facility. I had a great visit with the Congressman.
Today, I celebrated Cyndi’s Birthday! We took in a brisk morning walk, ate lunch in Maggie Valley, visited the Biltmore House and had dinner and a movie in Asheville.
Day of meetings: Vice-Chief, staff and Cabinet meetings, program meetings and Project Development Working Group weekly meetings.
Held a Business Committee meeting this morning and adjourned at 10:30 so we could attend the “Annual Elder’s Walk”. It was great to see all of our Tribal elders and visit with them. We all ended the walk at the Fairgrounds where lunch was served to each of them. I gave a short talk at the luncheon and let them know of the visit by Congressman Pallone and the topics we discussed. The weather turned out to be beautiful. I was happy to be a part of the walk and encourage everyone to stay as active as possible. Good job Tsali Manor staff!
We also had a Planning Board meeting in the afternoon and got a lot of updates and progress reports on project developments.
Later this same day, I held a meeting with our Tribal Pension and benefits to discuss new possibilities with retirement. I hope to be able to roll out some new and exciting initiatives for our employees soon.
Today we held the Ribbon Cutting for the Big Cove HIP housing development. Five enrolled members were given new homes this day. I’d like to thank the Cherokee Boys Club, the HIP committee members, our Tribal Housing Department and everyone else that took part in building these new homes for our seniors and handicapped. I’m sure they are very happy to have a beautiful new home to enjoy. I am so proud of this program and hope to expand it as much as possible. I am also planning to unveil a new housing initiative soon that should dramatically increase home ownership for our young families as well.
Today I met for my first official meeting with Principal Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation at their Tribal Headquarters in Tahlequah. The issue we had to discuss was our bill in the US Congress for the land in TN to be placed in trust for our Tribe.
The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council was in session while I was there and Speaker Joe Byrd welcomed me as I was introduced. He gave me the opportunity to address the full Council and I spoke of the honor it is for me to represent our Tribe and to be present with them.
I got assurance from Chief Baker that he would support our bill and we would enter a treaty between our Tribes to advise and consult each other on these matters and issues in the future.
After my meeting with Chief Baker, I flew to Baltimore to meet for a second visit with the Cordish Company to further discuss the opportunity of bringing a retail/entertainment outlet center here to Cherokee. Our talks are progressing and he is planning a second trip to Cherokee next month. If this works out we could have a whole new and exciting outlet retail area with new restaurants and some street concert venue areas. This could be a great addition and help further diversify our economy and tax base while giving our Tribal members places to shop and keep some money circulating right here on the Qualla Boundry. And it can add new food choices. I will keep you posted.
Cyndi and I attended the graduation at Cherokee High School. It was well attended and we had beautiful weather for the ceremony. It was great to hear that many of our students will be attending many schools of higher education. Good luck to all of you in whatever your future holds! We are so proud of you all!
Immediately after the graduation, we went to Fading Voices in Snowbird to join in the festivities. There was some good food, good company and we watched the “Fish” game. It was great to see our good friends there. I also gave a little history of how Fading Voices started and enjoyed seeing some new visitors that I met for the first time. As always, Cyndi and I love it in Snowbird and always look forward to it each year.
A Memorial Day Observance Service was held at the Veterans Cemetery on Yellowhill. I gave a speech on the meaning of Memorial Day and honoring our warriors who gave it all in our defense.
Looking forward into the next month: I will continue to work just as hard as I can to bring as much transparency and accountability as is possible. I plan to have a Town Hall meeting soon where I will give direct verbal reports to you.
I have submitted several pieces of legislation that can help our Cherokee Families. Such as, I am proposing, in conjunction with Chairman Taylor and other Council Members, to put into place a new system where you can take an emergency advancement against your own Per Cap up to a maximum of $500 per month as long as you do not have child support or garnishments in excess of that amount. This could prove to be a great help to many who find themselves short for the month and need a little help. Any advancements will be balanced out of your individual per capita share at the end of each per capita period.
I also have several other items in Council and ask for yours and Council support to get these items passed. Let me and your Council Members hear of your support and that you want the type of positive progress the legislation I am proposing can bring.
Thank you for showing interest in your government by reading my report. I know it is lengthy but I want to fully inform you of all matters I can. Thank you for this opportunity to serve, I will continue to work hard for you every day!
God bless you and your family!