UP — We were glad to hear that new Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe's first order of business is to promote people who are doing good work and fill vacancies that have plagued the department. Hebbe, after being officially sworn in on Tuesday, told The Daily Times that he is still meeting with officers and getting feedback, which is the right thing to do. But filling positions is vitally important. As recently as six months ago, the department had only 113 of 131 authorized positions filled. And the department is facing the loss of several high-ranking officers to retirement. That means Hebbe will be bringing in new recruits from the police academy and promoting some of the department's younger officers. Hebbe says he will emphasize a department program that identifies small problems before they become large ones to give the new officers the best chance to succeed. And he will work with supervisors to ensure they are aware of proper policies and procedures, including the types of mistakes that can "get us sued." The department will have a younger face, but we think a commitment on the boss' part to directly confront any issues related to that fact is a good sign.
DOWN — A meeting among Farmington city leaders and Navajo Nation officials to talk about the problem of street drunkeness didn't appear to plow any new ground. Members of both groups lauded the progress that has been made over the decades — Nation President Ben Shelly mentioned Farmington's "outlaw" days when "the only good Indian was a dead Indian." We'll grant that relations have improved from that dismally low standard. Even so, there is a long way to go. There are simmering resentments — sometimes based on ignorance, which comes from a lack of close interaction — that still need to be addressed. More useful was the input from Jolene Schneider, Four Winds Recovery Center executive director, who said the center admitted about 3,500 people they classified as street inebriates last year. She said 95 percent of those people are Native Americans and 90 percent are Navajo. One way to improve outcomes, Schneider said, would be increasing the amount of time a client can stay. But most of the proposed solutions take money and Shelly had this to say about the tribe's contribution, "This is something I'd like to help you with, but I am limited." So much for making the problem a priority.
UP —Visitors to the area's national parks are pumping some serious cash into the local economy. A recent federal report says 83,788 visitors spent more than $4.6 million while visiting Chaco Culture National Historical Park ($2.25 million) and Aztec Ruins National Monument ($2.4 million) in 2012. Apparently those are numbers that can be increased. Lauren Blacik, spokeswoman for the local parks, says the federal government doesn't allow them to spend money on marketing, so they form partnerships with local organizations. That sounds like untapped potential. We have heard lots of talk about boosting the tourism section of the regional economy and this report indicates there could be a way to increase what is already a substantial infusion of money into local cash registers. These sites have an unmeasurable value to historians and archaeologists. We also think increasing the local investment in marketing these areas would pay dividends for local businesses.