Council approves bi-annual town hall meetings
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Those members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who are unable to attend Tribal Council meetings in person and can’t stream them online will now be able to address issues at a Bi-Annual Town Hall Meeting held in the evening. Tribal Council voted unanimously during the regular session on Thursday, Aug. 4 to host such events in January and July annually.
“Some of the elders in our community and some of the working folks in our community asked if it would be possible to hold a Council session sometime in the evening because they would like to be here but they are unable because they’re working,” Vice Chief Richard G. Sneed said during the discussion on a resolution he submitted on behalf of Gary French of the Big Cove Community and Patty Grant of the Birdtown Community.
He stated that due to the fact that official business must be conducted at the Tribal Council House, these meetings would informal in nature and held to allow people a chance to voice their thoughts on certain issues affecting the Tribe. “They said they would just like the opportunity to ask questions and to talk to their elected officials in a public forum.”
The legislation itself states that the meetings themselves “shall be a cooperative effort of the Executive Staff, TOP staff, the Cherokee One Feather editor, and the Community Club Council” with the first event being scheduled for January 2017.
“Our community is very vocal and active, and when they want answers on something, they generally get them,” said Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy. “I can’t speak for other communities, but we keep our community updated.”
Vice Chief Sneed related that the meetings will not be required of elected officials. “This is just an opportunity for the members of our community who can’t be here during the day to engage with all of us at once.”
He also pointed to the size of the Council House and said he’d like to see these town hall meetings held in a venue such as the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center. “The reason there is a call for a large public venue is so that the entire community that would like to attend could be in attendance. The issue we have here is seating. I think the capacity is 56. It’s not much.”
Becky Walker, an EBCI tribal member, voiced her support of the idea, “Not every community can say that their elected officials show up, or bring an agenda, or are ready to discuss every issue.”
She added, “Sometimes, we get shut out in here. Someone calls the question or they decide that something is going to be voted up or down. We don’t get to talk.”
Walker said making the venue and forum available on a bi-annual basis will be beneficial to all EBCI tribal members. “We’re owed that. We deserve that. It’s time that you guys open the door to members of this community. It’s time that they be able to talk to every one of you.”
Yellowhill Rep. Anita Lossiah commented, “I am always in support of additional discussion on any legislation that we bring in here.”
She related that she would also like to see an improved official documentation on all public comment received on tribal ordinances as they set for 25 days after being deemed read and tabled.
Joey Owle, an EBCI tribal member, said, “This is just another opportunity for us, the public, to engage all of our elected officials, not just those of the community in which we live…you are all elected officials and should be available for us to speak with you on any topic.”
Rep. McCoy noted that it might be time for Tribal Council to rearrange how it conducts business. She suggested keeping Budget Council and Tribal Council on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively and adding Wednesday as a day to hear requests for time, for Council representatives to give their monthly reports and as a day to listen to the public on the various issues to be tackled the following day.