By Todd Wels
Triplicate staff writer
The Yurok Tribe has made little or no progress toward economic development under Chairwoman Susan Masten.
Thats the conclusion drawn by her opponent, Richard Haberman, who will face off against her for the third time Nov. 8.
Haberman ran for Tribal Chairperson against Masten in 1994, but both of them lost to Susie Long, who became the tribes first chairwoman.
He ran again in 1997, but was defeated by Masten.
Haberman said Masten has yet to fulfill promises she made in that election.
Shes got to live by her record, Haberman said in an interview Monday.
Among the promises Haberman accuses Masten of not having kept are the creation of a pension plan for tribal elders, increased health care options and the construction of a drug and alcohol rehab center for youths.
In a prepared statement outlining his platform, Haberman blasted the Masten Administration for its lack of attention to economic development.
I am pleased that my opponent finally agrees with me and realizes that economic development and job creation are the top concerns for the Yurok Tribe, Haberman stated, in response to Mastens statement to The Daily Triplicate last week that economic development and job creation are the two top issues in this years tribal election.
I have advocated this for over six years and under the current leadership, we are no closer than we were three years ago, Haberman continued.
Haberman believes he is ideally suited to supervising the tribes economic development, having successfully managed his trucking company for many years.
Haberman proposes using tribal fisheries as a driving force behind economic development.
Fisheries is an easy one, he said.
Unlike other local governments, such as Del Norte and Humboldt counties, the Yurok Tribe is allowed, by law, to operate as a for-profit entity.
Haberman recommends that the tribe use that advantage to operate in both the wholesale and retail fish markets.
Tribal fishermen would profit by having a place to sell their fish, and the creation of businesses to sell those fish would also create employment within the tribe.
In addition, Haberman recommends returning a share of the profits to individual tribe members.
That resource belongs to all tribal members, Haberman said.
The remaining profits from the fisheries plan would go to fund other programs, and to generate matching funds for state and federal grants.
According to Haberman, his economic plan would benefit all members of the Yurok Tribe, while those proposed by his opponent would only benefit approximately 15 percent of the tribe.
I believe that a change in power is imperative in order for our tribe to economically advance, he said.
Haberman said he would also attempt to address the unique needs of tribal members who do not live within the boundaries of the reservation, attempting to heal divisions between the on and off-reservation membership.
Haberman also accused Masten of changing her position on the recent amendment to the Yurok Constitution requiring tribe members to be consulted before the Tribal Council makes use of the approximately $11 million garnered in the Hoopa Yurok Settlement Act of 1988.
According to Haberman, he and Councilwoman Bonnie Green initially brought the item before the Tribal Council, where it received a chilly reception from both Masten and the council.
Haberman alleges that it was only after he and Green successfully circulated a petition among tribe members, that Masten and the council changed their position.
Chairwoman Masten had nothing to do with the drafting of the petition nor the amendment, Haberman states.
In an interview with the Triplicate, Masten had stated that she had assisted in creating some of the amendments initial language.
In that same interview, Masten championed her position as president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) as being beneficial to the Yurok Tribe.
That is an assertion Haberman disagrees with.
The tribe has not received one thing from the NCAI, he said. Shes making claims that are just not correct.
Haberman said his first act, if elected, would be to examine the high turnover rate within tribal jobs. He accused the current administration of firing employments based upon their political disagreements with the administration, rather than on their job performance.
Haberman said he is proud of the work he has done for the tribe throughout his adult life.
He pointed out that he has served as a named plaintiff in several lawsuits against the United States, stemming from the 1988 Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act.
Haberman and others have alleged that the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act resulted in an unfair loss of resources for the Yurok Tribe when the former Hoopa-Yurok Reservation was split in two.
Haberman said the damages recovered from the suits could reach as high as $800 million, should the suits prove successful.
In addition, Haberman sat on the Interim Council created by the act, prior to the adoption of the Yurok Constitution, along with Masten.