DOWN — The last of the original group of Navajo Code Talkers, Chester Nez, died this week. He was one of 29 tribal members in the first group trained who transmitted messages in a code based on the Navajo language. They served during World War II in areas of the Pacific Theater where the fighting was ferocious and the human suffering immense. However, commanders who were there have said the Code Talkers' efforts saved many lives. We celebrate the contribution Nez and his fellow soldiers made during that war, but we mourn the loss of another eye witness to those events. Their experiences inform history, which gives us a chance to avoid repeating our mistakes.

 

UP — We support the Interior Department's approval of new regulations that streamline residential and business site leasing on the Navajo Nation. The changes shift authority to the tribe. The Navajo Nation General Leasing Regulations of 2013 also gives the tribe authority to approve agricultural, public, religious, educational and recreational land leases without involvement of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Mineral leases and rights-of-way will continue to require BIA approval. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said the change should remove federal limitations and delays. It is expected the move will support economic development on the reservation. However, those familiar with the details warn that obstacles remain. Business investors crave predictability and the Nation still lacks master planning or zoning regulations. Those regulations also can protect natural and cultural treasures on Nation land. We see this as a good step in a process that is not yet finished.

 

DOWN — That's what voter turnout was for the primary election this week. In this election, a little more than 19 percent of the county's registered voters cast a ballot. In the 2010 primary, the turnout was 23 percent. We know we harp on this, and we'll continue to do so. It's probably a sign that most of us don't have any major gripes if so few turn out to choose the people who will make decisions affecting public safety, how taxpayer dollars are spent and other vitally important issues. That's no excuse, however. When we hear the complaining, we always are tempted to ask whether those people did the responsible thing by participating in the democratic process. It appears things are pretty good in our part of the Four Corners.

 

UP — In a time of government austerity and shrinking budgets it was good to see some local businesses come to the aid of the Naaba Ani Elementary School in Bloomfield. Principal Sharon Jensen pointed to ruts and divots in the playground's hard surface she said posed safety concerns. Drainage also is an issue when storm water from a nearby subdivision flows across the playground. The school had about $25,000 set aside for playground equipment, and Jensen didn't want to divert that money for ground work. James Dennis of the architect firm James R. Dennis and Associates helped draw up a preliminary master plan to guide improvements at the site and Johnny Stinson of Adobe Contractors said he plans to haul in some dirt to improve the playground surface. It is concerning that the school doesn't have the money it needs to provide a safe playground, but we're glad to see these good samaritans step up.