The joke is on you, senator. You sold your vote, your district and your integrity for one mile of road repair.
Last week Senator Carlyle Begay published an article in the Navajo Times defending his vote for the governor’s budget saying, “Progress does not travel down dirt roads and broken bridges.” While I appreciate the impassioned support for tribal infrastructure, I don’t appreciate his lack of understanding of public infrastructure.
According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association $1.2 million will repair one mile of road, or build a half mile if starting from scratch. Considering the 70,000 miles of road in the Navajo Nation, it is hard to understand how one mile of road was worth selling out the interests of his constituents. He didn’t even make the right investment either, as clearly, that $1.2 million would have been put to better use going toward updating the Navajo DOT’s road inventory system and data so they can draw more federal dollars.
He then continues, “Especially school bus routes that often go unmaintained and disrepair.” Don’t let the grammatical disrepair distract you; there won’t be any school bus routes left after the “non-classroom” cuts start being administered as the budget Begay voted for intends. “Non-classroom” spending matters: it pays for school transportation, special education services, nurses, librarians, and certainly the Navajo Nation will see more than $1.2 million in cuts to their schools.
In addition, Begay tries to sell his passion for higher education, but as a representative of all tribal members in Arizona he fails to reconcile that with the $115 million in cuts he voted for. Over 2,000 Native American students attend our state universities and many more at the Pima and Maricopa community colleges. Does he realize that his “bipartisanship” has sold them short, too?
The negative impact this budget has on the Navajo Nation has yet to be seen clearly but surely it will be a far greater loss than a shiny new one mile piece of road. So senator, take your shiny piece of road you received as a consolation prize for the enormous heist you were victim to, because come next election your constituents will see through your spin and vote for someone who holds real progressive values.
-Ben Scheel is a Democratic activist.o