Approximately 75 tribal members attended the “community meeting” on Saturday, May 14, 2016. It was a typical meeting. Governor Eddie Paul Torres and the Isleta Tribal Council required a few program directors to provide presentations about the programs they manage.
Presentations began with Harold Baugus. He is the CEO of the Isleta Resort and Casino. Baugus began his spiel by telling us how much he cares about the Casino’s employees and that Albuquerque has a highly competitive casino market.
Baugus said that the Isleta Casino is a leader in gaming and that we have a premier facility. He also said that our competitors were copying the Casino’s marketing efforts. He repeated himself several times. Baugus provided no meaningful information.
Program directors followed suit with thier power point presentations. They provided organizational charts of thier departments and highlighted a few of their activities. Meanwhile, Council members were yawning and dozing off.
Shawna Ballay, Director of the Public Services Department, was explaining the various activities in her Department. Buried in her presentation was a bullet item. It mentioned that they were talking with Albuquerque to get permission to possibly inspect the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Last year, on February 27th, Albuquerque’s Southside Wastewater Plant spilled six (6) million gallons of sewage into the Rio Grande. Albuquerque failed to immediately warn the Tribe about the spill. The sewage contaminated the river with high levels of E.coli.
After Shawna Ballay concluded her presentation, Governor Torres quickly ran to the podium to introduce the next director. I interrupted to ask when he was going to allow questions. Torres asked, “Is it about the presentation?” I allayed his fears by responding, “yes,” he then allowed me to ask a question.
I asked the Council about thier actions against the City concerning the sewage spill. Council President Verna Teller tried to explain that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) fined Albuquerque’s Wastewater Facility but that the Tribe did not get any of the money.
She said, that the Tribe got the “raw end of the deal.”
I asked: Whether the Tribe took any independent legal action against the City or the EPA? Teller responded sheepishly, “no.” She said, “we had inadequate legal advice, but don’t quote me on that. Oh, I guess, you can quote me.”
The bottom line — the Isleta Tribal Council and Governor Eddie Paul Torres failed to take any meaningful action against Albuquerque’s Wastewater Treatment Plant or the EPA. So, Albuquerque suffered no consequence for sending us 6 million gallons of their crap.
Instead, Governor Torres and the Council are sending tribal employees to the City of Albuquerque to beg for permission to inspect their Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Decades ago, our Tribe established specific water quality standards for our river. The Tribe’s standards are more stringent than the City’s because of how our Tribe uses the water customarily and ceremonially.
But, Governor Eddie Paul Torres and the current Tribal Council failed to take any meaningful action to protect our river. We have two ex-governors sitting on the Council, Verna Teller and Frank Lujan. With the exception of Ulysses Abeita, everyone on the Council has been in an out of office multiple times. So, you would think that their experience would be beneficial to the Tribe. It was wasn’t because they did very little to protect our river.
What good does it do our Tribe to have stringent water quality standards — when our Tribal Officials take no action to enforce and protect the river?
At the end of the meeting, Council President Verna Teller rambled about the Council’s “strategic plan” for the Tribe. She did not provide any specific information about whatever is contained thier “strategic plan.” Nor, did she explain whether the Council and Governor are actually accomplishing the items in their “strategic plan.”
However, she was proud that the Council is now listing some of their Resolutions in the Tribal Newsletter. Perhaps that was one of the items in their “strategic plan.” Unfortunately, the Council does not make thier actual Resolutions readily and easily available to Tribal Members.
President Teller, like the Governors, then asked for forgiveness for any mistakes that they may have made. She said that they are doing the best that they can for our people. She explained that they will never be able to make everyone in our Tribe happy.
Teller explained that the Council is getting along and that they have been able to accomplish a lot. She also complimented Governor Eddie Paul Torres for all of his hard work. She said that the Council and Governors are working well together.
Teller explained that most everything that the Program Directors discussed has to go through the Council for approval. She wanted us to understand that the obligations of the Council are very heavy. I guess that is the reason that the Council failed to take any action against the City of Albuquerque for sending us 6 million gallons of crap.