FDL Voters Guide - Tribal Chairperson - Karen Diver
KAREN DIVER Q - What is the best way for the reservation to structure debt refinancing that will not only make the most fiscal sense but will also protect the forward momentum of current projects? A - Financial markets are quite unstable right no...
Q - What is the best way for the reservation to structure debt refinancing that will not only make the most fiscal sense but will also protect the forward momentum of current projects?
A - Financial markets are quite unstable right now, and most financing options for capital projects have collateral requirements and/or variable rate interest. This type of financing would not be in the best interest of the reservation at this time. The best scenario for the reservation is to delay refinancing until later in the year to see if financial markets stabilize. If not, the cash flow needs of the reservation would require paying off the debt early.
Q - How do you propose to go about preserving per capita payments and at the same time manage the increasing challenges to the RBC's budget?
A - The preservation of per capita payments is crucial to Band members. The various departments on the reservation must diversify their funding, and be aggressive in seeking grants and opportunities to create earned income. Departments will also need to submit and administer balanced budgets. Reservation support to the different departments can be maintained if we are cost efficient. The Band's casino revenue serves the Band as a way to earn money for needed services and those needs will have to be prioritized.
Q - How can casino operations be stabilized to ensure fiscal viability for decades to come? And how important is it to look beyond casinos for long-term financial security?
A - Casino operations have been a priority for the past year and a half. A new general manager was hired to oversee all aspects of the resort/casino, rather than having three managers for each part of the property, i.e. casino, hotel, golf. An investment was made in a professional marketing firm to create the property's brand. Staff training opportunities continue to be expanded.
The long-term financial security of the Band means initial focus on making our largest investment, the casino/resort, the best that it can be and to maintain its market share. The Band needs to continue to diversify its economy. This can happen in partnership with others, by promoting small business development by Band members, and by developing its workforce through a newly focused technical/vocational tribal college.
Q - Is there a way of streamlining management and improving governance on the reservation - or is the current structure necessary for maximum productivity?
A - The current structure has been in place for several decades and does not match the needs of the Band today or in the future. The Reservation should be split into for-profit and governmental divisions. The Reservation Business Committee's bylaws and relevant ordinances can be updated to delegate many decisions down to the department level. This past year the Reservation Business Committee started a Consent Agenda process that greatly reduced the time needed for RBC approvals and in the length of meetings.
Q - What sort of strategic planning is necessary to protect the health and welfare of current and future generations?
A - It is difficult to accomplish strategic planning in an organization as varied and large as the Band. The input of Band members is critical. One way to accomplish this would be to include Band members in a visioning process that would allow the community to think about what success would look like in the future in areas that are important to them, for example: education, financial stability, economic development, youth, elders, etc. The Band could then use that vision to start to define work plans for each of the departments on the Reservation.
Q - In your opinion, what is the best way of maintaining cultural integrity in the midst of the fast-paced world around us?
A - Native people have been remarkably resilient through the years. With governmental self-determination and self-sufficiency, tribal government is able to accomplish service delivery in a way that is successful for meeting the needs of the people. Maintaining cultural integrity is the responsibility of the community as a whole, and begins with remembering who we are, where we came from, and our values.
Q - Do you have suggestions as to how to improve education, retention and career training for Indian students on and off the reservation?
A - The Tribal College needs to be re-established as an independent institution. A major focus should be to focus on career needs within the local community and surrounding areas. The Tribal College should focus on the needs of the Band's current workforce, in order to provide careers, not just jobs. Technical and vocational education can play a primary role in meeting the [needs of the community].
Q - What are your suggestions for managing sustainable development as the reservation moves forward into the future?
A - The Band has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and is paying close attention to environmental issues. The new casino/resort incorporated energy efficient technology to the extent possible. The Band is exploring wind and hydro-electric power. A biomass operation should begin shortly. The development of on-reservation transit services not only helped our members but also the environment. The Fond du Lac Band has truly been a leader in its environmental stewardship, and it will continue to exercise its treatment-as-a-state status over air and water quality in a way that benefits the entire region.
Q - What means would you suggest to enforce the reservation's Declaration of Policy Against Violence Impact in order to prevent violence, drugs and gang activity?
A - The community as a whole needs to work together to develop a common understanding about what are the consequences for violence and other undesired behaviors. The Declaration of Policy did not have any guidelines for how it would be implemented. The Tribal Court is one means for establishing a stronger enforcement vehicle, whether it is orders for protection, evictions, etc. Policy development can be coordinated so that reservation departments have consistency in dealing with unacceptable behaviors. The community needs to make decisions about consequences that it will support no matter how difficult those decisions may be.
Q - Housing has become an increasing issue as more enrolled members stay on the reservation or move back. What type of plan do you favor to manage current housing and plan for the future?
A - The Band needs to develop others' models of housing. This past year, the Band has leveraged over $3 million in new funding for 24 units of supportive housing, which marries services and housing together to assist Band members towards greater self-sufficiency. There is also a need to develop programs for families who are not low income, but not yet able to secure their own mortgages, i.e. rehabilitation or gap financing and grants. Developing options for housing an aging population will also be a priority in the short-term. Current operations need to be adapted to move toward project development and customer services like homebuyer and financial education.
Education: Bachelor's in Economics (UMD) and Master in Public Administration (Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University). Previous employment: Director of Special Projects, Fond du Lac Reservation for three years; 11 years as executive director, YWCA of Duluth. Community Involvement: Current: Blandin Foundation. Previous: Chair, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits; Chair, Women's Foundation of Minnesota; Founder of Community Action Duluth and American Indian Community Housing.