San Juan commissioners meet with Spanish Valley residents

[Photo courtesy of the San Juan County Democratic Party]

Forty Democrat supporters from Spanish Valley, an area of growing economic activity in northern San Juan County, turned out to meet San Juan County Commissioners Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes on Saturday, March 9.

The listening session was hosted by the San Juan County Democratic Party at the Pack Creek Ranch. Both Maryboy and Grayeyes are Democrats.

The meeting represents a first for Spanish Valley, according to a San Juan County Democratic Party press release on March 12.

Residents in this area have often felt sidelined by the San Juan County Commission in the past, the press release said. But Maryboy and Grayeyes, both Navajos from the previously underrepresented southern area of the county, want to begin working on common goals with their neighbors in the northern part of San Juan County.

Residents of Spanish Valley and Pack Creek thanked Maryboy and Grayeyes for hearing residents’ concerns. Several residents commented that they couldn’t remember having a San Juan County Commissioner ever visit their area to hear from local residents.

Maryboy and Grayeyes emphasized they represent the interests of all citizens of San Juan County and encouraged residents “to call or email” and provided their personal phone numbers to those in attendance.

The commissioners reported they’ve drafted a resolution to hold “occasional” San Juan County Commission meetings outside of the county seat of Monticello to give more residents of the large county more opportunities to attend commission meetings — a move cheered by attendees.

However, Maryboy said the draft resolution is being held up by the San Juan County Attorney’s Office, even though the Utah Code allows occasional meetings outside the county seat.

The commissioners also said they passed a resolution to start live-streaming videos of the San Juan County Commission meetings as an additional way to allow residents who live hours away from Monticello to take part in county government.

Several residents worried about the looming threat of commercial and other developments in “rural” Spanish Valley and voiced concern they are not being heard by the county government.  

Maryboy encouraged residents to attend San Juan County Commission and San Juan County Planning Commission meetings to express those concerns. He assured them that he wants to learn more about the issues in the northern portion of the county, and said he intends to hold more listening sessions around the county to gather input.

The commissioners expressed frustration over getting information from other county officials. Commissioner Grayeyes is concerned about the county deficit the new commissioners inherited, including about $3 million in legal fees the county has incurred from hiring outside law firms to represent the county in questionable lawsuits the county eventually lost.  

“It is difficult to address problems” without having all of the facts and information, Grayeyes said.

Finally, commissioners Maryboy and Grayeyes were applauded for approving a commission resolution supporting legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to restore the Bears Ears National Monument and to expand its boundaries to the 1.9-million acres of land identified by local tribal entities as containing irreplaceable sacred and cultural artifacts.

Maryboy and Grayeyes described how important the earth is to their cultural beliefs and existence. Grayeyes said it “is the core” of him, and “impossible to imagine not having the sacred and traditional areas to be there to always return to.” 

Maryboy stated that the area is “Utah Navajos’ homeland … and sacred for traditional Navajos. I want it to stay that way for my children and grandchildren.”

The press release said Maryboy and Grayeyes encouraged residents to get involved with their county government by attending commission meetings, speaking up on issues that concern them, serving on county boards and commissions and ultimately running for elected office.  

“We really want to hear from you,” Maryboy said, and reminded the crowd that the more participation and watchdog efforts by citizens, the more transparent the workings of county government will become.

Contributed by the San Juan County Democratic Party.