Tribe gets hung up on protocal

By Bob Shiles

July 18, 2014

PEMBROKE — A proposed ordinance setting up guidelines for taking and acting on requests for housing assistance was sent back to the Lumbee Tribal Council’s Housing Committee for review Thursday after council members decided they could not vote on it because it had not been brought before the full 21-member council as a Housing Committee recommendation.

A second proposed ordinance that Councilwoman Anita Hammonds Blanks said for the first time requires the tribal administration to get council approval before submitting the tribe’s annual Indian Housing Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was also sent back to the Housing Committee because it was not a committee recommendation.

Blanks had submitted the proposed ordinances for council consideration despite the fact that none of the four council members who serve on her committee — Terry Collins, Walter Lowery, Robert Chavis and Terry Campbell — attended the past two committee meetings. Council policy requires that an ordinance brought to the full council for consideration must be recommended by a committee.

“I was there for the meetings, as were other council members,” Blanks said. “It’s just that the committee members did not attend.”

Council members at first approved the ordinance requiring more council input and oversight of the Indian Housing Plan, but after lengthy debate over procedure for bringing an ordinance before the council, dismissed its decision and voted to send it back for committee review.

Blanks said that the proposed ordinance setting guidelines for acceptance of housing applications and establishing a priority order for getting the work done would get assistance to tribal members in a more timely and fair manner.

“We have people who have been waiting 12 years for help,” she said. “Many have fallen through the cracks. This is a terrible situation and needs to be addressed.”

Councilman McDuffie Cummings said that the proposed ordinances are needed to specifically define the responsibilities of the Tribal Council when it comes to oversight of tribal housing programs.

“They help define the responsibilities of this body in housing,” he said. “… I think these ordinances are good but might need to be tweaked down the road.”

Councilman Alton Locklear called on the council to follow set procedures for considering proposed laws.

“I’m not against these proposals,” he said, “but they didn’t come out of committee. Let’s do this the proper way without being challenged by the Supreme Court.”

Lesaundri Hunt, the council’s speaker, told the council that Blanks should be commended for the work she has been doing to get the proposed ordinances ready for the full council’s consideration. He also encouraged Housing Committee members to attend their next meeting on Aug. 4.

In other business, the council on Thursday:

— Approved a request from Celeste Hunt that the tribe apply for a Lumbee Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation grant to assist tribal members with disabilities gain employment. The grant is provided through the U.S. Department of Education.

Hunt, the tribe’s grant writer and director for the tribe’s vocational rehabilitation program, said that the grant is competitive among American Indian tribes across the nation. The Lumbee Tribe received a five-year, $3.5 million Vocational Rehabilitation grant in 2007, which was extended an additional two years, she said.

— Heard a request from Jimmy Hunt, a former member of the Tribal Council, that the tribal government encourage tribal members to exercise their right to vote. He presented statistics indicating that the number of tribal members voting since 2008 has declined.

“To get full recognition we have to get politicians to listen to us,” he said. “We have to let them know that we are here. Politicians listen only to numbers.”

— Recognized the late Rev. Claude Dial, of Red Springs, who died in April at the age of 94. Dial began his career as a preacher at the age of 18.