LUMMI NATION — Voters go to the polls Saturday, Oct. 30, to elect four people to three-year terms on the 11-member Lummi Indian Business Council, the tribe’s governing body.
Henry Cagey, council chairman for the past three years, faces a challenge from fisherman and construction worker Steven Toby. Cagey was the top candidate for the Position K council seat in the Oct. 16 primary field of five candidates with 38 percent of votes cast. Toby, also known as a youth basketball coach, got 28 percent.
At a Saturday, Oct. 23, candidate forum at Northwest Indian College, Toby said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of an earlier generation of Lummi leaders such as the late Vernon Lane, a former chairman.“I may not be like these wonderful people but if I’m chosen to be on the council, I will sit there with honesty and humbleness and always keep my ears open,” Toby said.
Cagey replied that it isn’t that simple.
“Working for the tribe is not that easy,” Cagey said. “It’s not as simple as coming in and being honest and humble It’s almost a thankless position We need more housing, we need more jobs, we need more education.”
That was the closest thing to a direct exchange between two opposing candidates at the forum.The eight candidates confined themselves to general statements and mostly agreed with one another about the need for better programs for youth and tribal elders, and unceasing efforts to address drug and alcohol abuse.
Asked about college scholarship funding for tribal students, both Toby and Cagey agreed the tribe should do more. Cagey added that college isn’t for everyone, and the tribe should also keep expanding vocational training opportunities. Toby said the tribe should do more to support those who continue to live by fishing.
“They’re still the biggest industry on this reservation,” Toby said.
Leroy Deardorff and Evelyn Jefferson are seeking the Position J seat as the replacement for Ted Solomon, who is not seeking reelection. Both agreed that the tribal council has a tendency to involve itself too much in day-to-day government operations, instead of being content to set policy. They promised not to do that.
Jefferson, a former council chairwoman, said she is not planning to seek the leadership role again if she is elected to the council, since she needs time for her two high-school age children. She promised to listen to concerns of tribal employees if elected.
“Our employees shouldn’t be afraid to lose their jobs,” she said. “They shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.”Position I candidates Merle Jefferson and Kathy Pierre were asked if they favor making the salaries of tribal employees public, as is already the case for federal, state and local government employees.Both said they thought that was a good idea.
Asked about the tribal justice system of police and courts, Pierre said she wants to see the police department beefed up, while Jefferson stressed the importance of separation of powers. The council should keep out of court affairs, he said.
Jefferson and Pierre had slightly differing perspectives on the question of whether tribal members should get preference in filling tribal government positions.
Jefferson stressed the need for qualified people in the court and education systems, but he added that the tribe should make sure that its education programs produce plenty of qualified tribal applicants.Pierre strongly endorsed a hiring preference for tribe members, and said that the tribe should take steps to make sure tribal members are well-qualified for those jobs, and that all tribe members get a chance to be trained for tribal jobs.
“Some people are afforded (educational) opportunities and some people aren’t,” Pierre said.Gordon Adams and Candice Lane-Wilson, two incumbents vying for the same Position H seat, agreed that the tribal constitution should be amended to require that council members be drug and alcohol free.“We should abide by the same policies that we impose on our employees,” Lane-Wilson said.Adams said council members should be role models.
“The community is out there watching,” he said.
Several candidates stressed the need to redouble efforts to deal with drug and alcohol problems. Pierre said parents need training on the best strategies for keeping their kids drug-free.Deardorff said everyone should get involved.
“The community’s got to come together to solve this problem,” Deardorff said. “You can’t depend on the police department and the court system to do it.”
About 40 people attended the forum, while others watched a live webcast and emailed questions to candidates.