Jicarilla Apache Tribe, New Mexico


Former President Arnold Cassador wants another shot at the tribe's chief executive office. Cassador is circulating a petition to void his impeachment by the tribal council, said his lawyer, Ray Twohig. Cassador has contended he resigned as president before last June's impeachment vote, thus retaining his rights to run again for office. In early May, tribal election officials rejected Cassador's application to run in the June 15 presidential primary because of his impeachment. But Twohig said tribal law allows Cassador to earn a spot on the ballot through a petition drive. Twohig defended Cassador in a March trial on criminal charges filed after Cassador attempted to take office by force after winning the 1998 election. The trial ended in a hung jury, and charges were dropped. Four candidates have been approved to run for the tribe's presidency, including Cassador's political rival, Wainwright Velarde. Velarde repeatedly contested Cassador's 1998 victory by challenging the validity of the election and asking for a recount. The other presidential candidates are incumbent president Rodger T. Vicenti, Councilman Hubert Velarde and Claudia J. Vigil-Muniz. This year marks the first time primary elections will be held for council seats, a constitutional change approved by the tribe in January.

The tribal housing authority says the increase in mobile homes on the reservation is driving down property values. The tribe is offering low-costs loans to families to get more people to buy wood-frame houses that the housing authority says appreciate in value. A 20-home development just south of Dulce is planned for 2001. So far, 66 applications have been received for the homes, said Victoria Paquin, a housing counselor for the tribe. How many of those people will qualify financially is unknown, and the housing authority is encouraging more people to apply. "We need to increase our pool," Paquin said. "We have some problems with qualifying people financially." The tribe was awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund the program. Jicarilla officials matched the grant with its own $1 million commitment. To qualify for a house, a six-member family must have an annual income of $32,250 or less. Melanie Castillo, a mother of four, recently moved into one of the new homes. She will leave behind rent payments of $495 a month for larger house with monthly mortgage payments of less than $250. She said her friends are in awe of her new home. "They're just shocked."