Kolbe rider sparks noisy protest at town hall forum

By Hanh Quach
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 13, 1996

Robert Henry Becker
Arizona Daily Wildcat

During the town hall meeting last night in the Senior Ballroom, community members questioned Jim Kolbe on the budget and environmental issues.


Rep. Jim Kolbe cut discussion of the Mount Graham telescopes short yesterday at a town hall meeting when opponents became increasingly vocal.

Spokespersons from Native American tribes appeared at Rep. Jim Kolbe's town hall meeting yesterday to tell him how they felt about the use of their lands.

Some said they were unhappy that Kolbe, R-Ariz., saved just 10 minutes of the 90-minute meeting for discussions of Mount Graham and other environmental issues.

"He doesn't want anybody to know what he's doing and he doesn't want people to know how he's hurting the Apache people," said Ola Cassadore, chairperson for the Apache Survival Coalition.

"They (protestors) are not interested in the discussion, they're just interested in their issue (Mount Graham)," Kolbe said after the meeting.

The coalition opposes construction of three telescopes on the mountain, saying it infringes on the tribe's ancestral lands.

Roughly 20 protestors lined the back wall of the Student Union's Senior Ballroom hoisting banners to protest telescope construction.

"They're a vocal group," said Douglas Nick, Kolbe's press secretary.

"But it would be a real stretch to say it's a majority of the people that oppose the issue," he said, adding that others in Cochise County supported the telescope construction.

The Apache coalition also protested the Kolbe rider, an amendment to a vetoed budget bill allowing telescope construction to continue on Mount Graham.

The rider clarifies language in the 1988 law that authorized construction of the telescopes, Nick said.

"All we ask of Kolbe is to get that rider out and leave us alone," Cassadore said.

Opponents of the rider said they feel telescope construction obstructs their religious freedom and exploits their tribal lands.

Michael Davis, member of the Apache Survival Coalition, said the laws were created to protect tribal lands and that the government was lacking respect for the laws.

"It is time for you to restore equality for all American people and respect the Apache city," Cassadore told Kolbe.

In another matter, Steve Lopez, a spokesman for the Mojave nation, said he wanted to protest the Southwest Compact Commission.

This commission wants to place a nuclear dump in the Mojave Desert west of Needles, Calif.

Because the Central Arizona Project takes water from the Colorado River, Lopez estimated 27 million people, including those Phoenix and Tucson, could be affected by the nuclear waste site.

"It's not only a Native American issue, but it's everyone's issue," he said.