At the 2016 Colville Tribal General Membership meeting in Nespelem, Oct. 8, Colville tribal member Richard Allen held the microphone for nearly 10 minutes to ask CBC members about a council pay increase passed as part of the 2016-17 tribal budget.
He asked if rumors were true. He asked if jobs were going to be cut back because of the change.
The CBC confirmed the increase was attached to a 2015 salary survey.
Longtime tribal leader Mel Tonasket replied to confirm, yes, there was a pay increase, and no, no jobs would be cut.
“We are the ultimate responsibility for what goes on this reservation,” said Tonasket, who represents the Omak district. “We have a council member who is out there trying to save our water. The Feds want it. The state wants it. You have ICWA still an issue... Plus, you’ve seen a lot of the national stuff we’re doing. If you don’t think $50 per hour is worth all that, I’m sorry.”
CBC member Willy Womer, Nespelem, stated he did vote for the increase:
“How many of you want council to have requirements to be on council? ... People with degrees. People who can pass background checks and drug tests. That will never pass ... The way it will pass is you have to up the pay and up the terms. That brings people out of the woodwork.”
In Special Session Thursday, CBC approved an election schedule for 2017 elections – an annual event required by tribal code, which announces the start of election season on the Colville Reservation. A second resolution has clarified residence requirements for candidates.
This year will be the first to test Womer’s hypothesis.
Will the increase in pay bring new candidates a larger field to choose from?