House Republicans upset with the handling of the renaming of Squaw Peak are moving to strip Gov. Janet Napolitano of her power to appoint most of the members of the State Board on Geographic and Historic Names.
The legislation would require that six of the nine members be appointed by lawmakers, four by the majority party and two by the minority. The remaining choices would be up to the Arizona Historical Society, the Arizona Association of Counties, and the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.
The proposed legislation would prevent any state employee from sitting on the board. Four of the current board members represent state agencies that report to the governor, on top of the two people the governor names.
Rep. Phil Hanson, RPeoria, who crafted the legislation, said the issue isn’t specifically that the board voted earlier this year to rename the mountain in Phoenix after Spc. Lori Piestewa, who was killed during the invasion of Iraq. The issue, Hanson said, is the way the governor "ramrodded the thing through the board." The April 17 vote came under fire for various
reasons, including questions about the adequacy of the meeting notice.
Piestewa, a Hopi living on the Navajo reservation, is believed to be the first American Indian woman serving in the U.S. military to be killed in combat.
Efforts made by gubernatorial aide Mario Diaz to pressure then-board chairman Tim Norton to consider the issue stirred controversy earlier this year. Hanson said the board ignored the rules of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, whose policies the state board generally follows, which precludes the naming of a geographic feature after someone for five years after the person’s death.
In the end, the board voted 5-1 to back the petition filed by the governor to change the name.
Napolitano has defended her push for the name change both as a method to remove an offensive word from a prominent mountain and to honor Piestewa. She would not comment Tuesday about Hanson’s bill.