Jason Weaver: A Report to the Membership
By Jason Weaver
LCO TGB Secretary-Treasurer
Wisconsin Legislative Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations.
I sit on this committee that is combined of Attorneys, State Senators, Representatives, and Tribal leaders to work closely on matters that affect Indian country in Wisconsin. We are called to the Capitol monthly to discuss and act on recommendations. Since my appointment to the Committee we have helped pass legislation (Act 226) that make it illegal for store employees to discriminate and deny our Tribal ID cards as legal identification. Elders can now pick up prescriptions with just a Tribal ID and Tribal Citizens can use their ID when carded for tobacco or alcohol purchases.
We passed Act 351, that makes Tribes eligible for Department of Justice grants that just went to Counties in the past. Ultimately this Act puts the Tribes on the same level as County governments for grant eligibility. These grants provide alternatives to prosecution and incarceration for criminal offenders that abuse alcohol and drugs. I believe nonviolent offenders need medical treatment not jail time.
We have helped pass Act 352 that provides the same protections to Tribal Court staff and their families as County and State Courts. It is a felony to threaten or intentionally harm Court staff and/or families of.
We are currently working on issues that cover equal status for Tribes as Counties for Veterans benefits, Protection of Children and Adults under Chapter 51, and improving and enforcing the educational components of Act 31 or Native American Studies requirements in Wisconsin Public Schools.
It is important for Tribal leaders to be present when laws are made that affect our Tribal Nations either in D.C. or Madison. So, when we have a seat at the table we need to be there ready to discuss, support and defend our positions. When laws are passed without considering the effects on Indian Country we spend years trying to correct the problems they have caused. When we are in the discussion from the onset we can address any issues up front before the law is passed.
Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) is a banking and loan industry trade group in Washington D.C. that advocates for Tribal Lending institutions. As the Vice-Chairman of NAFSA I advocate for equal and fair treatment of Tribal lending institutions like our Credit Union and Financial Services at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. When the banking laws are created without Tribes at the table or even in mind, we are left floundering between regulation by State and Federal laws.
I currently sit on the Sawyer County /Lac Courte Oreille Economic Development Committee and we focus on attracting new customers for current businesses and supporting events in the area that bring people to the area. We also look at ways of finding solutions that would hinder the development of new business opportunities in Sawyer County and for the Reservation. One of the biggest issues we have found are livable wages and affordable housing for potential employees that would like to move to the area. Lack of adequate childcare is also near the top of the list when it comes to concerns about our area and helping people open new childcare facilities is a priority.
Customer service training is needed for our front-line employees and making sure our businesses are functioning to the best of their ability is a concern. The Tribal Governing Board has created the Economic Development Director position and we hope to attract some candidates with strong accounting and marketing skills that will help our business managers improve their operations through training and oversight.
We have put a new roof on the Hideout and have fixed some other problems.
I will be meeting with a company that works on preserving old buildings next week to make sure any work done to the buildings would not cause more harm than good. There is a small working group that have been working on possibilities for the property and if anyone is interested in helping please reach out.
Many people have asked the Tribe to open a child care facility, but this is a great opportunity for a Tribal member or multiple Tribal members to go into business for themselves. There are a lot of resources available for people interested in starting a small business and I can help direct you to the right sources to start your business plan or learn how to write one.
LCO Development currently has 41 employees on the payroll and they are busy working as a subcontractor for Wood Stone (A Native American owned company) with the new tax credit project for housing. This new project continues to update and improve the housing stock on the reservation. Meth Remediation is continuous and very expense that is paid for out of our Housing dollars. Meth contamination is very dangerous and threatens our employees’ health and that of the families that they go home to and could potentially contaminate.
Development is continuing to work on infrastructure and electrical projects. The staff have been taking a lot of safety training to meet industry standards. They have participated in manufacturer training for the proper installation of windows and roofing materials that provide for better construction and warranty’s.
Development has been hired as the Contractor to replace the big culvert in New Post. They started on the project this Spring but the engineer for the township of Hunter decided to hold off the project until the fall so the water levels would be lower. Due to the heavy rains and flooding in central Wisconsin this has not occurred as planned.
Roads Department is limited to working on Tribal Roads. We receive a lot of complaints about various roads and highways that need attention, but it is illegal for us to work on a road that is owned by another government entity like the State, county, or township. We can help report issues to the right people and aid that entity if given permission. Trepania Road is currently under construction to be widened, new culverts and safety rails. This road has been in bad shape for a long time. This Spring a logging project will help remove the shade cover and provide much needed sunlight to the road that will assist with ice problems we have experienced in the past.
The safe route is finished and provides a designated “Mike on a Bike” walking/bike path that extends from the LCO School to the Casino. We hope to expand these safe routes in other areas to promote healthy alternatives to car travel.
The Sawyer County Trails Alliance is a group of volunteers that work on opening and maintaining the ATV/Snowmobile trails that attract thousands of customers to the area. Throughout the state many roadways are opening for ATV and UTV use, this makes travel cheaper and safer. We have worked with the alliance to open roadways so tribal members can better access the trail network and our places of work and entertainment