Benny Mills says issues won’t go away
Although the Washoe Tribal election is over for 1998, the issues aren’t going away nor, he says, will Benny Mills.
Mills, 59, and three others challenged reelected incumbent Washoe Tribal Chairman Brian Wallace.
“When he was supported by only about half the voters, it should have sent a clear message (to Wallace) that people want government to be accountable,” Mills said Tuesday. “Since he hasn’t taken direction from the Tribal Council, he’s still accountable to no one.”
Mills said he still believes the tribe’s operational structure should evolve from that of a small business in which one person runs everything to a board-directed big business.
“Businesses that revolve around one person are doomed,” Mills said. “We have to adopt a structure that won’t collapse if the top person leaves. We have to be training our young people to take over. As we continue to grow, we have to make changes and learn from our mistakes. We no longer have just the ranching and smoke shops as revenue sources.”
Mills said he thinks the tribe’s various business ventures will bring in about $1.7 million in 1999.
“If things run true to history, Wallace will overspend the budget by about $300,000,” Mills said. “I can’t say it often enough – the financial people should take direction from the tribal council, not just the chairman.”
Mills said in the past he had focused on reservation-oriented issues and helped bring about needed changes.
“We basically lost it in the off-reservation vote,” he said. “I also hoped to do better in Carson City and Alpine County where I walked neighborhoods and knocked on doors.”
Mills said he thought he lost many off-reservation votes because of President Clinton’s repatriation of a portion of the tribe’s traditional homeland at Meeks Bay at Lake Tahoe. He said some may credit Wallace with the land’s recovery.
“People who don’t live on the reservations get most of their information from Associated Press stories in their local newspapers and we didn’t communicate with them,” he said. “Of course, I question whether the Tribal Council approved paying the $15,000-per-year users fee to the U.S. Forest Service – that’s $450,000 over the life of the 30-year lease. I know that I as a (then) council member did not commit to this.”
Mills said he has not yet decided if he will run again in four years. He said he has seen improvements in many aspects of tribal operations over the past few months.
“The election board removed barriers and mistrust by making the (vote) counting process open and above board, I can’t thank them enough,” Mills said. “I guess I’m mostly disappointed that people are hesitant and aren’t ready for a change from the way we’ve always done things. So we’ll take the changes in small increments – we’re becoming a force to be reckoned with.”
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