Press Release by San Juan County Democrats — March 12, 2019
Pack Creek Ranch — Forty Democratic supporters from Spanish Valley, the budding economic hot spot of San Juan County, turned out to meet Democratic Commissioners Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes for a spirited meeting at historic Pack Creek Ranch Saturday afternoon. The listening session was hosted by the San Juan Democratic Party. The meeting represents a first for south Spanish Valley, where residents have often felt sidelined by the San Juan County Commission in the past. But Maryboy and Grayeyes, both Navajos from the previously underrepresented southern part of San Juan County, represent a sea-change in the three-member San Juan County Commission and came to start working on common goals with their neighbors in the northern part of San Juan County.
Residents of south Spanish Valley and Pack Creek thanked Maryboy and Grayeyes for hearing residents’ concerns. Several residents commented that they couldn’t remember having a County Commissioner ever visit their area to hear from local residents. Both Commissioners emphasized they represent the interests of all citizens of San Juan County, regardless of which district they live in, and encouraged residents “to call or email them,” even providing their personal phone numbers to those in attendance.
The Commissioners reported they’ve drafted a resolution to hold “occasional” Commission meetings outside of the County seat of Monticello to give more residents of the large county more opportunities to attend Commission meetings – a move cheered by attendees. However, Maryboy said the draft Resolution is being held up by the County Attorney, even though the Utah Code allows occasional meetings outside the county seat. The Commissioners also said they passed a resolution to start live-video streaming of the Commission meeting, as an additional way to allow residents who live hours from the county seat to take part in county government.
Several residents worried about the looming threat of commercial and other developments in “rural” Spanish Valley and voiced concern they are not being heard by the County government. Maryboy encouraged residents to attend County Commission and County Planning Commission meetings and express those concerns. He assured them he wants to learn more about the issues in the northern portion of the County and that he intends to hold more listening sessions around the County, including Spanish Valley, to get input. The days when concerns of southern and northern residents were ignored by County government are over.
The Commissioners expressed frustration over getting information from other County officials. Commissioner Grayeyes is concerned about the County deficit the new Commissioners inherited, including $3 million in legal fees the County incurred from hiring outside law firms to represent the County in questionable lawsuits the County eventually lost. “It is difficult to address problems” without having all of the facts and information, Grayeyes said.
Finally, Commissioners Maryboy and Grayeyes were applauded for approving a Commission Resolution supporting legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to restore the Bears Ears National Monument and to expand its boundaries to the 1.9 million acres of land identified by local tribal entities as containing irreplaceable sacred and cultural artifacts. Maryboy and Grayeyes described how important the earth is to their cultural beliefs and existence. Grayeyes said it “is the core” of him, and “impossible to imagine not having the sacred and traditional areas to be there to always return to.” Maryboy stated that the area is “Utah Navajos’ homeland . . .and sacred for traditional Navajos. I want it to stay that way for my children and grandchildren.”
Maryboy and Grayeyes encouraged residents to get involved with their County government by attending Commission meetings, speaking up on issues that concern them, serving on County boards and commissions, and ultimately running for elected office. “We really want to hear from you,” Maryboy said, and reminded the crowd that the more participation and watchdogging by citizens, the more transparent the workings of County government will become.