County Clerk Norman Johnson reported to the Commission on November 7 that he is using current US Census numbers to populate the voting districts in the county.
Johnson said that preliminary numbers show while the population has changed, it has done so evenly throughout the districts. He will present the final numbers and maps to the commission at their next meeting.
The commission discussed putting together a committee to look into redistricting the commission districts, as was suggested by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Office.
Deputy County Attorney Walter Bird reported that he is waiting for the files on the original case and thinks the case file needs to be evaluated before moving forward.
Bird said that since the county is under a federal order regulating the current system, they need to research further before they make any decisions.
Commissioner Phil Lyman said that a concern has been raised appropriately by citizens of the county and it deserves action by the commission.
Lyman suggested that the county take a proactive approach, suggesting going back to the court to have the ruling lifted and return to an election-at-large system. Lyman said the population of the county has shifted and is now “38.5 percent white.”
Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy said that the commission agrees that there needs to be research rather than assumptions on what needs to be done. Maryboy said a committee should be formed as soon as possible to show that the county is taking the issue seriously and is doing what they can regarding the need to redistrict.
Loren Bernelly spoke on behalf of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Office. She said that her office has received documents from the Department of Justice and their attorneys are analyzing them with plans to return to the commission next week to discuss their findings.
Bernelly said her office is willing to assist the county in planning if redistricting is going to be done.
National Park official Kate Cannon approached the commission to report on efforts being made by her office to support the Edge of the Cedars Museum with promotional and marketing efforts to visitors to National Park Service sites.
Cannon reports that less than 20 percent of visitors are local residents.
Cannon pointed out that persons age 15 and younger receive free admission to the parks, as well as those 65 or older. She said that the parks charge admission by vehicle. If a vehicle is driven by a personage 15 or younger or 65 or older, the entire vehicle can enter the parks for free.
In other business, the commission received a map from Monte Wells that shows all wilderness study areas, wilderness characteristic areas, state lands, as well as BLM and Forest Service lands.
Wells is tracking roads that have been closed by the BLM and Forest Service on the map. He expressed concern that many of the closures are taking place along areas flagged as “Wilderness Characteristic Areas” or WCA’s.
Wells said that WCA areas are not currently managed as wilderneses by the BLM, but there is no guarantee they won’t be in the future when roads that had previously existed may have returned to a natural state or forgotten.
Wells suggested that the commission “take a stand, draw the line and say this is it, you’re not closing the roads.” The commission thanked Wells for his time in preparing the map and said that they will continue to fight road issue battles for San Juan County.
Commissioner Lyman said, “These roads are the life blood of the county and that’s all we ask for... we just want our roads.”
Commissioner Adams said that BLM officials are no longer able to get out of the office and manage the lands as they are constantly tied up by environmental group lawsuits.
Lyman expressed hope that the state legislature will stand up for the rights of the people of the state. “It may be politically naive to think it’s going to be successful, but it is moving in the right direction,” said Lyman.
The commission approved the hire of Todd Bristol as the new sheriff’s deputy in La Sal and Spanish Valley. The county received 24 applications for the position. Bristol will live in La Sal.
Commissioner Adams reported that the Community Impact Board has approved $3 million in grants and loans for San Juan County in a recent funding meeting. In total, $700,000 is a low interest loan, and the rest is grant funding.
The commission appointed Mark Lyman to the San Juan County Library Board.