Bruce Adams, San Juan County Commissioner, has made a jaw-dropping, tone-deaf proposal. At the Commission meeting on April 16, 2019, he insisted that the Navajo-majority San Juan County Commission not take any action related to the Bears Ears National Monument issue, as the BENM is too “controversial” in the County. Adams thinks a 2020 ballot referendum on all issues related to the BENM is required.
The proposal is laughably ironic given the history of BENM issues in the County and Adams’s prominent role in that history. Two years ago, the former white-majority Commission, of which Adams was the chairman, never proposed ballot referendums before passing previous resolutions condemning President Obama’s proclamation establishing the BENM — an historic culmination of years’ work and first-ever agreement by several Native American Tribes supporting the designation. Further, the former white-majority San Juan County Commission wasted no time with a referendum to get San Juan County citizens’ input before deciding to intervene on behalf of defendants in the lawsuit filed by Tribal entities and others challenging the Trump Administration’s drastic reduction of the Bears Ears. These acts, taken with Adams’s leadership, were a slap in the face to Native Americans who were deliberately shut out of the decision-making process. Certainly, Adams was unconcerned with consulting the County’s Native American citizens through a referendum vote when he stood laughing at the side of President Trump when Mr. Trump signed an unlawful Executive Order to undo the BENM.
Now, however, because Adams and a few disgruntled and vocal white residents think a ballot referendum, an option never offered to the Native American citizens of the County, is their right. In fact, comments at the April 16th meeting suggest that some white citizens of the County should have the right to submit a host of issues to referendum elections, rather than learn to work with the Navajo majority on the Commission. This is flatly racist.
The elections have come and gone. San Juan County residents spoke at the ballot box. Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes, who campaigned on a promise to restore the Bears Ears National Monument, were elected and now have a right, as republican principles make clear, to decide issues concerning the monument for the County. Commissioner Adams should respect the election, be a leader, and stop his bullying and patronizing tactics.
Chairman, San Juan County Democratic Party
Monument Valley, UT