Editorial Board releases statement on proposed FOIA changes

BY Phoenix Archives
05/20/2014 09:06 AM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board released the following statement on May 15, 2014, concerning the changes to the Freedom Of Information Act under review by the Tribal Council.

“The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board, which is entrusted with monitoring the performance of the Cherokee Phoenix, the Phoenix’s delivery platforms that serve tribal members, and the provision of timely and correct information to the nation’s citizens, believes the current language in the Freedom of Information Act should be left intact. The FOIA not only embodies and forms the foundation for the nation’s commitment to unbridled communication with its citizens, but also symbolizes the openness of tribal government that tribal members have come to expect and to which they are entitled.

“The FOIA has worked well since 2001 and has helped ensure transparency of tribal operations for our individual citizens and the Phoenix, thereby enhancing government accountability. It represents the progressive nature of the nation and certainly is an enactment of which the nation’s government and tribal members should be proud.

“The Cherokee Nation was the first tribe in Indian Country to have a FOIA law on the books. The statute, along with the Independent Press Act of 2000, was responsible for the tribe receiving the prestigious Elias Boudinot award from the Native American Journalists Association for its contributions to a free press in Indian Country.

“In all states with FOIA laws there are some costs associated with providing access to governmental records, but this is usually considered an insignificant price to pay for ensuring that the public and the press have access to governmental activities. Sometimes requests can be overly broad, and it would be logical for tribal entities to work with those requesting information to narrow the scope so costs would be lessened.

“We consider the changes under consideration by the Tribal Council to the FOIA to be the first regrettable step toward limiting governmental transparency in the Cherokee Nation. Specifically, we would recommend removal of the single-point control over what gets released when the nation receives a FOIA request, to whom and when, so as to remove the potential for political influences infecting the processes, and thus further enhance transparency. Each agency of the nation that is the subject of a FOIA request should be the entity determining compliance with the request and the appropriateness of such a request. To do otherwise, irrespective of who may be the single-point of decision making, does not bode well for independent, non-political decisions.

“Given that the tribe’s primary profit centers are the Cherokee Nation Businesses, it would make sense that those entities, in particular, are not exempt from scrutiny, as has been proposed. There may be, indeed, some reason for keeping proprietary matters under wraps, but that is usually the only limitation for such entities under most FOIA laws. Concerns with the non-release of truly proprietary information should not and cannot form the basis for exempting arms of the nation from the FOIA and, thereby, restricting access to records and information of importance to the nation as a whole.

“Further, extending the time period for responding to requests to 60 days from the current 15 appears to be a mechanism to further dilute the law and make it more difficult for tribal members and the press to obtain relevant information to ensure tribal government is acting in the interest of its citizens.

“In short, the FOIA should remain in its present form and undiluted if the nation, as a government, is going to live up to the goals espoused in the FOIA and in order for the nation’s citizenry to acquire the information and maintain the transparency that gave rise to enactment of the FOIA initially. Darkness and closed-door decisions are, thankfully, for our nation a thing of the past, and they should remain so.”

News

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
04/23/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Attorney General’s Office filed an appeal on April 13 asking the Supreme Court to reverse a District Court ruling declaring Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden ineligible for re-election in 2019. Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo submitted the appeal that states District Court Judge Luke Barteaux “erred” in his decision. “The deputy chief has only served one four-year term and should be able to run for re-election in 2019. This court should reverse the District Court’s decision as to Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden’s eligibility to run for the same office as he now holds in 2019,” the appeal states. Cherokee Nation officials declined to comment further on the proceedings. Barteaux’s April 6 ruling, which also declared Principal Chief Bill John Baker eligible for re-election, cited the CN Constitution in ruling Crittenden ineligible. He wrote that Crittenden had “assumed the office of Principal Chief pursuant to Article VII, Section 4, in faithful discharge of his duties as Deputy Principal Chief” while Baker had to await the results of an appeal of the 2011 principal chief’s race. Article VII, Section 4 states: “In case of the absence of the Principal Chief from office due to death, resignation, removal or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office, the same shall devolve upon the Deputy Principal Chief for the remaining portion of the four (4) year term to which the Principal Chief had been elected.” Barteaux ruled that by Crittenden stepping into the role on Aug. 14, 2011, as dictated by the Constitution, he “completed his first four (4) year term of office four (4) years later without any loss of time from his term, and is now in his second consecutive four (4) year term.” The ruling stemmed from a Feb. 19 petition by CN citizen David Cornsilk, who asked the court to overturn Hembree’s opinion that states Baker and Crittenden were eligible for re-election. Hembree’s opinion states both officials were eligible despite winning elections in 2011 and 2015 because the appeal of the principal chief’s election delayed Baker taking office until October. As such, both Baker and Crittenden were denied full four-year terms. Cornsilk said he’s aware of Hembree’s appeal and plans to file an appeal so that the Supreme Court can decide. “I feel like the decision that was made by Judge Barteaux is incorrect, so I’ll leave it up to the Supreme Court to make a final decision,” he said. “I think in the interest of the health of our election process and for the health of our nation, we need our courts to make to make the decision at the final level, that way nobody can say, ‘well, it could have been different if you had just appealed.’ I really think that a final decision by our tribal court, the Supreme Court, is a good thing.”
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
04/23/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen Michael Moore has filed a motion asking the District Court to reconsider its April 6 ruling regarding the election eligibility of Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, as well as dismiss the petition that led to the ruling. Moore, an attorney from San Diego, filed the April 13 motion asking the court to allow him to “intervene” and for it to “dismiss” a Feb. 19 petition by CN citizen David Cornsilk. Cornsilk’s petition asked the court to overturn Attorney General Todd Hembree’s 2016 opinion declaring Baker and Crittenden eligible for candidacy in 2019 because neither had served a full four-year term after being elected in 2011. Crittenden took office on Aug. 14, 2011, and assumed principal chief duties until Baker was sworn in on Oct. 19, 2011, following a disputed principal chief’s race. Hembree on March 1 motioned to dismiss Cornsilk’s petition, but on March 26 filed a motion in favor of the court handing down a ruling. District Court Judge Luke Barteaux on April 6 ruled that Baker was eligible for re-election but Crittenden was not. Moore’s filing asks Barteaux to reconsider and rule on Hembree’s original dismissal motion while rebuking Hembree’s March 26 motion to withdraw. By withdrawing, Moore states Hembree essentially “attempted to waive sovereign immunity” that he “lacks authority” to do unless given permission by Tribal Council. Moore argues the burden of proof to show the CN waived its sovereign immunity to be sued is on Cornsilk, who “has not shown” any evidence of a waiver. Moore also argues because “there is no issue or controversy,” the case is not “ripe” for a ruling, as “none of the parties in Cornsilk’s petition have filed to run for office.” Moore asks that Cornsilk’s petition be declared “premature” because Hembree and Cornsilk are asking for an “advisory opinion” in regards to an interpretation of election law provisions in advance of an actual election. “They shouldn’t be ruling on matters of speculation,” Moore said. “When it comes to Attorney General Hembree’s pleadings, he withdrew the issue that the court should have been deciding on in order to move his agenda forward, which was to have his opinion deemed legal...It was clever luring by the attorney general, but I hope that the district judge will reconsider the issue of ripeness and recognize that the issue is not ripe and dismiss the case for everyone.” As of publication, neither Baker nor Crittenden had indicated they planned to run in 2019. Moore states Cornsilk’s petition also “lacks subject matter jurisdiction” because it is without a “case or controversy” as required by the Supreme Court. Instead, it recommends Cornsilk should challenge Baker and Crittenden’s eligibility “when they actually file for a third term.” Moore states the CN Constitution provides an “exclusive remedy” for challenging a candidate’s eligibility in Title 26, Section 37(A) or Section 37(B). Section 37(A) allows any CN citizen who is registered to vote “the right to contest the eligibility of any candidate to run for office” at a hearing with the Election Commission, while Section 37(B) gives the right to appeal decisions concerning a candidate’s eligibility to the Supreme Court. “In regards to Mr. Cornsilk’s pleadings, it’s all based on speculation,” Moore said. “There was no controversy at the time that he filed, and so people applauded him for filing it and moving forward and trying to have this resolved, but on this kind of issue when there is no controversy, for a non-lawyer to go in and try to have this matter decided, it creates problems.” Cornsilk said he’s read Moore’s filing. “Basically what it looks like is he reiterated all of the motions to dismiss, the attorney general had filed and withdrew,” he said. “I think his timing is off because if he wanted to join the case he should have done it before the judge ruled or after we appealed. I don’t know why he’s trying to jump into mine, but the more the merrier and I’ll just leave it to the judges to decide whether or not to let him join the case.” Attempts to contact the attorney general’s office were unsuccessful, though it did file an appeal in the Supreme Court on April 13 concerning Crittenden’s eligibility.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/22/2018 12:00 PM
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – A judge has rejected the request by two American Indian tribes to be more involved in a court-ordered environmental review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg last June ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to further review the pipeline’s impact on tribal interests, though he allowed oil to begin flowing. In December, he ordered Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners to produce an oil spill response plan for Lake Oahe, the Missouri River reservoir in the Dakotas from which the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux draw water. Boasberg also ordered a review by an independent engineering company on whether the pipeline complies with federal regulations. The two tribes have said they were being left out of the process and they asked Boasberg to order that they be given more involvement. Corps and company attorneys accused the tribes of being difficult to work with. Boasberg wrote in an order dated Monday that “the parties engage in a lengthy dispute over who is refusing to talk to whom.” “The court does not believe that further inserting itself into the minutiae of this disagreement is either permissible or wise,” he wrote. Boasberg also noted that ETP submitted the spill response plan and the independent review on April 2, making any request for additional tribal involvement in that work moot. The Standing Rock tribe has started raising money for its own spill response program. As for the Corps’ additional review of the pipeline’s impact on tribal interests, Boasberg said the tribes can continue to press their argument that the study is flawed when that work is completed and presented to him. The Corps had anticipated an April 2 completion date, but that has been delayed by what the agency maintains is difficulties obtaining needed information from the tribes. Standing Rock attorney Jan Hasselman in a statement to The Associated Press said the Corps “is missing the opportunity to engage with the Standing Rock tribe meaningfully on its legitimate concerns about the safety of this pipeline, and continuing to accept without question Energy Transfer’s shoddy technical work.” The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribes are leading the four-tribe lawsuit against the $3.8 billion pipeline that is moving oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. They fear environmental and cultural harm. ETP says the pipeline is safe.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/22/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix needs your help in determining what type of content we should focus on to better please you, the reader. You can help us by completing and mailing back the survey you received with this month’s issue. If you don’t want to complete the form and mail it in, or if you got this issue at one of our many distribution sites, then you can complete the survey online at <a href="https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PHOENIXSURVEY2018" target="_blank">https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PHOENIXSURVEY2018</a> until April 30. “Ultimately this survey helps us serve the Cherokee people better,” Brandon Scott, Cherokee Phoenix executive editor said. “Any method we use to gather information is used to improve and give our readers what they want and need in a newspaper. I hope everyone will take a few minutes of their day to answer a few questions. Thank you in advance.” Readers who complete the survey will have a chance to win a $100 gift card as well as one of several Cherokee Phoenix prize packages, which consist of Cherokee Phoenix tote bags, shirts, fleece jackets and office supplies. The Cherokee Phoenix is also still taking names of Cherokee elders and military veterans to provide them free newspaper subscriptions. In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund, which provides free subscriptions to elders 65 and older and military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens. “The Elder/Veteran Fund was put into place to provide free subscriptions to our Cherokee elders and veterans,” Scott said. “Some of our elders and veterans are on a very limited budget, and other items have a priority over buying a newspaper subscription. The donations we receive have a real world impact on our elders and veterans, so every dollar donated to the Elder Fund is significant.” To request a subscription using this fund, or to nominate an elder or veteran, visit, write, call or email the Cherokee Phoenix. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. You can call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email <a href="mailto: justin-smith@cherokee.org">justin-smith@cherokee.org</a> or <a href="mailto: joy-rollice@cherokee.org">joy-rollice@cherokee.org</a>. No income guidelines have been specified for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last. Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder/Veteran Fund donations. For anyone who donates to the fund, you will be entered into our quarterly drawings as well. For every $10 donated, you will receive one entry. The prize for the second quarterly giveaway is a custom 12-foot, two-piece fishing pole by Larry Fulton of Larry’s Bait and Tackle in Fort Gibson. We’ve also heard that some communities in the tribe’s jurisdiction have no Cherokee Phoenix distribution sites. Most of our paid distribution sites center around CN offices, health facilities and Cherokee casinos. However, if you want to sponsor a distribution site, call 918-207-4975 or email <a href="mailto: justin-smith@cherokee.org">justin-smith@cherokee.org</a>. A bundle of 50 newspapers costs $15 a month.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/21/2018 04:00 PM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The push for legalized marijuana has moved into Utah and Oklahoma, two of the most conservative states in the country, further underscoring how quickly feelings about marijuana are changing in the United States. If the two measures pass, Utah and Oklahoma will join 30 other states that have legalized some form of medical marijuana, according to the pro-pot National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws. Nine of those states and Washington, D.C. also have broad legalization where adults 21 and older can use pot for any reason. Michigan could become the 10th state with its ballot initiative this year. Utah and Oklahoma already are among 16 states that allow for use an oil called cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound from cannabis that doesn't get users high but can treat a range of health concerns. Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, is confident the Utah and Oklahoma measures will pass. "America's appetite for cannabis is not going away," Strekal said. "We are in the death rattles of prohibition." Marijuana legalization efforts have faced some pushback from religions before — including in 2016 in Arizona and Nevada from the Mormon church, and the same year from the Catholic Church in Massachusetts. But not to the scale they could face this year in Utah, where Mormons account for about two-third of the population, said Matthew Schweich, executive director of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. Mormons have long frowned upon marijuana use because of a key church health code called the "Word of Wisdom," which prohibits the use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out against the proposal this month, saying in a statement drugs designed to ease suffering should be tested and approved by government officials first. The church said it respects the "wise counsel" of doctors, and commended the Utah Medical Association for opposing it. The association has accused organizers of trying to disguise their intention of simply paving the way for legalizing recreational marijuana. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told middle school students in January that he thinks medical marijuana will someday be legalized in the state but in March he announced his opposition to the ballot question, which he argues lacks safeguards for the growing and distribution of marijuana. Advocates remain confident that they've crafted a medical marijuana measure that respects the Mormon church and culture while providing much-needed relief for people with chronic pain, Schweich said. His Washington, D.C.-based organization helped draft the measure. Unlike other medical marijuana states, Utah's proposal would not allow pot smoking or for residents to grow their own, Schweich said. It would create a state-regulated growing and dispensing operation to allow people with certain medical conditions to get a card and use the drug in edible forms like candy, in topical forms like lotions or balms, as an oil or in electronic cigarettes. Proponents turned in the signatures Monday to get the measure on the ballot in November. "It's a question of compassion," Schweich said. Oklahoma will vote in June on its proposal that would allow doctors to recommend that patients receive a medical marijuana license allowing them to legally possess up to three ounces of the drug, six mature plants and six seedlings. Ted Lyon, a 78-year-old Mormon, is a supporter because he saw in the past decade how medical marijuana helped two of his neighbors in Provo — one with multiple sclerosis and another who has seizures. He said he wouldn't support the drug's legalization for recreational use. Lyon, a retired professor at Mormon-owned Brigham Young University, said he's afraid the church's opposition will have a chilling effect on members of the faith but said he remains hopeful there are enough progressive-leaning Mormons who will see the benefits. "In 10 years, the church may say something different," Lyon said. "This is not an eternal banishment of medical marijuana. My father was a good historian, and he used to say, 'If you don't like something in the church, just wait a while because it will change.'" Nathan Frodsham, a 45-year-old married Mormon father of three, is hoping the measure passes so he can get off opioids and back to using the vaporized form of marijuana that he used when he lived in Seattle after his doctor recommended trying for his painful osteoarthritis in his neck. Frodsham wasn't discouraged by the Mormon church statement, which he notes doesn't go as far in opposition as when the church explicitly asked members to vote against full marijuana legalization in Arizona and Nevada. He said marijuana is a natural plant and that the religion's health code doesn't single out cannabis as being prohibited. "I think there's some room for interpretation on this," said Frodsham. The 4,500-member Utah Medical Association isn't against the idea of legalized medical marijuana but has numerous concerns with an initiative it thinks is too broad and doesn't include necessary regulatory measures, said Michelle McOmber, the group's CEO. "We want to be very careful about what we bring into our state," McOmber said. "This is an addictive drug."
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/21/2018 12:00 PM
FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — Legislation on an alternative substance that some say could help mitigate the effects of opioid withdrawals is divided along state lines. Kratom, a tropical tree from Southeast Asia with leaves that produce stimulant and sedative effects, has been used in the Fort Smith region to both treat chronic pain and mitigate the effects of opioid painkiller withdrawals. Though it is sold legally through alternative medicine stores throughout Oklahoma, it is listed as a banned substance in Arkansas. People in the United States have started to use kratom as a remedy for drug dependence, anxiety and pain. Proponents argue it is safer than prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin, according to the Associated Press. The Drug Enforcement Agency has listed kratom as a "Drug of Concern." In February, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said claiming kratom is harmless is "shortsighted and dangerous" and that it's "an opioid that's associated with novel risks because of the variability in how it's being formulated, sold and used recreationally." The Jack Henningfield, vice president of Research, Health Policy and Abuse Liability at Pinney Associates, an organization that assesses the medical value of substances, said there is "insufficient evidence" for the DEA to restrict kratom. In Oklahoma, a similar debate is being held. "Right now, I just don't think everyone is on board with banning it," said Kayla Madera, an employee at the kratom store Earthly Mist in Roland. "They're just butting heads right now." Kratom was banned in February 2016 in Arkansas and is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance in the state. It is also banned from Tennessee, Alabama, Indiana, Wisconsin and Vermont. Paul Smith, director of the 12th and 21st District Drug Task Force in Sebastian and Crawford counties, said the legislation that banned kratom likely came about after the substance was tested in the Arkansas state crime lab. He said other substances have been banned in similar fashion in Arkansas. "They start receiving submissions, and they come back for a particular substance," Smith said. "They'll kind of keep track of it and see if it's a problem, and they'll also do their own research around the United States and see what their other colleagues at other state crime labs." Smith, who supports the substance ban, said other countries that have extended experience with kratom consider it to be dangerous. He called such protocols "a good guide for us to go by here in Arkansas." West of the Arkansas border, kratom is dispensed without fear of seizure, the Times Record reported . Though legislation has been brought against kratom in Oklahoma, no law has officially passed that would ban or schedule the substance in the state. Because of its legality, kratom is sold through shops designed purely for its sale and smoke shops across the state. A handful of them are under the brand name Earthly Mist, which has locations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City along with its Roland location. Earthly Mist in Roland receives 7-10 customers a day, including people who have been prescribed methadone, Madera said. She said she does not ID people at the store, as it is not under any licensed medical practice. "They'll come in, and they'll be tired and groggy and all that, and there will be a lot of pain," Madera said. "They'll come back a week or two later and say how great they've been feeling." Smith said law enforcement officials have conducted one kratom seizure in Sebastian County and a handful of seizures of the drug in Crawford County since the substance was banned in 2016. Though the kratom seized in Sebastian County was found in a plastic bag, it was found in Crawford County with labeling from Earthly Mist, Smith said. "They're basically coming from Roland," Smith said of the drug seizures. Though seized like other recreational drugs, Smith has not seen kratom used in Arkansas for recreational purposes. He said people are attracted to the drug to overcome symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea that come from heavy opioid withdrawals. "It can be used to kind of satiate or stop that kind of withdrawal that comes when they don't have any kind of opioid pills to consume," Smith said. Personal testimonies submitted to Earthly Mist line up with Smith's statements. Some even go as far as to say the substance gives the user energy and helps with pain. "I had been prescribed oxycodone and morphine for five years due to chronic illness," one testimony reads. "One of my friends introduced me to kratom when I was complaining about some of the side effects that were making my life miserable. Within one month, I was able to quit taking those drugs because of the effectiveness of kratom." "Kratom has changed my life," another reads. "I have PTSD, bipolar and fibromyalgia. I am also a recovering addict. Since starting to take kratom, I have been able to stop taking all prescription medications." While he has spoken against opioid over-prescribing and its effects in Sebastian County, Smith also spoke against the use of kratom in an opioid withdrawal situation. Smith said anyone going through an opioid withdrawal — especially a severe one — needs to seek medical attention for his or her symptoms. "It's a medical problem that needs to be addressed in a medical setting, not someone who's trying to do it themselves," Smith said of opioid withdrawals. Smith said "all treatment facilities" in Sebastian and Crawford counties have a protocol to ensure the person going through an opioid withdrawal is medically safe while he or she is going through an opioid overdose. "We try to steer people away from these types of remedies into treatment or medically supervised withdrawal protocols," Smith said. Though he has discussed how opioids are over-prescribed in the past, Smith said the difference between prescription opioids and kratom is that prescription opioids are prescribed as the patient needs them. He also said prescription opioids, if prescribed correctly, are given with the patient's medical reactions in mind. "(Kratom) causes different reactions, psychologically and physiologically to the individual that's taking them," Smith said.