By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff
Congressional fifth district candidate Joe Pakootas spoke in the Chewelah City Park on Sunday, explaining his positions on several issues concerning the area including poverty, veterans programs, slashing social programs in the national budget, care of the environment and several other items.
Pakootas grew up on the Colville Indian Reservation in Inchelium and did live in Chewelah for three years as a foster child, going to school in the grade school that is now city hall. Pakootas began his speech to the crowd at the Children’s Pavilion explaining his tough upbringing that saw the candidate and his siblings taken away from their parents at a young age and how he and his wife Cheryl want to make a better future for children.
“When I was recruited by the Spokane Democrats a few years ago, I paid more attention to how things were going in the area and country and our future looks very bleak for our young people,” Pakootas said. “We have a split in politics, and things have not been good for the middle and lower classes.”
Pakootas said there needs to be a change with an ineffective Congress, one that will address the issues of growing homelessness, especially in the fifth congressional district.
Pakootas used the example of 3,000 homeless high schoolers in Spokane. These kids, he said, go to school during the day and have to find a pillow to rest their head on after the final bell rings.
The candidate also pointed out his opponent – incumbent Cathy McMorris Rogers – is supporting a bill that would privatize the veterans administration and another called the Unauthorized Spending Accountability Act that Pakootas said would cut funding to the veterans administration, senior programs, the EPA, agriculture programs and the Affordable Care Act.
“It would affect the 47 million people on food stamps and the students in Spokane that live below the poverty level,” Pakootas said.
During the speech, Pakootas said he is against privatizing the veterans administration and wants to work to protect the services that former military service people do currently get.
He went on to say that a Republican congress has been unable to work with the US’s first black president and he hopes a change can happen in congress so that it can work with the first female president.
Pakootas also touched on environmental issues, saying that he’s with the 99 percent of scientists that say global warming is real. He said he certainly believes it because he’s been living in it here in Northeastern Washington.
“Native Americans think about the future for their children and seven generations after that,” Pakootas said. “My ancestors have prepared the earth the way it is today. We need to protect that for our own children and their children to come.”
The candidate also touched on his business background. Working for the tribal college government, Pakootas said he reduced eight million dollars of debt to $2.3 million in the black. Recently working for the Nez Pearce tribe, Pakootas saved them over $3 million.
“In DC it’s just going to be a whole lot more zeroes,” Pakootas said. “I want to save American taxpayers money, that’s what I can do.”
Issues Pakootas touched on included wolves after a question from the crowd. Pakootas said it was an issue for him when they were introduced back on tribal lands because they were not native to those areas. Working with tribal scientists, he said, wolves should be kept in small packs of 5-6. Any larger, he said, and they begin preying on cattle and other things to teach their young and keep the large population up.
“With 5-6 wolves you don’t have the devastation in the area,” Pakootas said.
Another issue was military spending where Pakootas said that our US military budget is disportionately spent on contractors and administrators while only about 29 percent of the budget goes to military personnel.
He also talked about the economy in the area saying that while the fifth congressional district used to have an economy based on logging, agriculture and mining, it needs to now focus on manufacturing with those three going away. He also suggested that the national economy needs to attract businesses back from off-shore with tariffs and increasing tax on dollars coming back into the country.
A question also came up from the crowd about gun control. Pakootas stated that he was a gun owner and believes in common-sense gun laws. Pakootas said he’s taught each of his six grandchildren how to hunt and believes we should find the right balance between individual rights and ensuring community safeties. On Pakootas’ website, it said that he supports criminal background checks, bans on military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The Pakootas campaign, campaign manager Susan Brudnicki said, has grown from about 250 volunteers to 800. They’re a grass-roots campaign and they said that while they’re getting outspent 12 to 1 by their opponent McMorris Rodgers, they’re nine points away from her in the polls.
At the event there were signs and support for Initiative 735 that wants to take big money spending out of elections.