Small Town News

Small Town Life

Joe Pakootas hosts Cheney town hall

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

- Advertisement -

Campaign 2016 blew into town on June 2 in the form of Democratic candidate Joe Pakootas. The native of Inchelium, Wash., is running for the 5th Congressional District seat occupied by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane).

At a town hall at the Cheney Public Library, Pakootas outlined his qualifications for the office and fielded questions from about 15 residents. It's the second time he has run against

McMorris Rodgers, and Pakootas noted that he garnered 41 percent of the vote in Spokane County in 2014 after being out spent 12 to 1 by the Republican incumbent. According to information from the Spokane County Elections Department, Pakootas received 40.5 percent of the vote in the county in 2014, the most by any of McMorris Rodgers' opponents since Peter Goldmark's 45 percent in 2006. Pakootas said he would be campaigning more in Spokane County this time around, but also has plans to make frequent stops in other parts of the 5th.

Pakootas pointed to his business experiences as one of the reasons why voters should send him to Washington DC. this fall. A member of the Colville Confederated Tribe of Indians, Pakootas served on the tribal council for 16 years, five years as chair.

While owning several small businesses over a 30-year career, Pakootas' biggest successes came as the Colville's chief executive officer, turning around a corporation that was $8.1 million in the red into one that is now $2.9 million in the black in just nine months on the job. Pakootas said he has done the same in his current position with the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho, restoring their finances so that their government would be able to operate for at least one year should an economic catastrophe occur.

Pakootas said his approach to restoring both tribes' finances would be the same he would take if elected as the 5th District's congressional representative.

"I hate to say it, but government has wasteful spending," Pakootas said to laughter from the audience. "That's the very first place you look when you want to stop the bleeding."

During the question and answer period, Pakootas said government must also look at areas where it can increase its revenues, which mainly means taxes. When spending cuts are the only thing considered, those cuts typically fall on services used by the middle class and the poor, he added.

Asked about the federal minimum wage, Pakootas said he was in favor of increasing it, but acknowledged it would impact businesses at first. After a while, businesses would see their revenues pick up as more people had more money to spend.

"If it had kept pace with CEO and management salaries, the minimum wage would be $22 an hour," Pakootas said.

Pakootas said he would like to control wasteful defense spending through greater oversight of defense contractors, using the public bidding process more than sole-source as a means, of awarding contracts.

He also would like to see measures to get larger corporations to pay more in taxes in order to increase government revenues.

Pakootas expressed opposition to House Bill 4730, proposed by McMorris Rodgers as a way to get rid of unauthorized spending. He said the bill, labeled the "USA Act of 2016" would get rid of 256 programs funded through unauthorized spending, including the Veterans Administration, which could see its budget cut by $1.9 billion should HB 4730 become law.

"That's what our future is going to look like," Pakootas said.

Pakootas ended the meeting by noting that politics is a "blood sport," so it's a good thing he has become proficient in the sport of karate.

John McCallum can be reached at

Copyright 2016 Cheney Free Press, Cheney, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 16, 2016

More from Cheney Free Press