September 15, 2021
Last week the Pocatello-Chubbuck Observer sent an email interview request to all Pocatello City Council candidates. Rick Cheatum currently holds City Council Seat #6 and is running for reelection. He was the first of the candidates to respond to our request. His answers to our questions follows:
1. What, in your opinion, is the main purpose of government?
For me, government is an agreed-upon mechanism for providing security and services individuals are unable to do for themselves. This very basic model has evolved and expanded to include services that individuals could provide, but have become cumbersome in the modern world, so government has assumed those services.
2. How would you ensure that citizens are given the opportunity to be involved in city government decisions?
During COVID-19, The Pocatello City Council moved all meetings to the Council Chambers instead of conducting some sessions in the Paradice room. I think this practice should be continued to make citizens feel more welcome during deliberations.
Ultimately, the role of elected officials is to make decisions on behalf of citizens. Virtually every decision the Council makes leaves some feeling as if their voice was not heard. With the availability of email, snail mail, and in person testimony during hearings to express opinions, I feel citizens who want to express an opinion on an issue have ample opportunity. However, that requires the citizen to use their own resources to be aware of issues upon which they might like to be involved.
3. What is your position on the City imposing health-related ordinances such as mask or vaccine mandates?
I feel the decisions necessary to manage your health are yours. Only you and your physician know your health risks and how that should be managed. And with those decisions comes the personal responsibility that might result from those decisions. I have consistently voted against the mask mandate at every step of the way in Pocatello.
4. What is your fiscal policy? How would you ensure that the taxpayer is getting the best value for his tax dollar, and what steps would you take to reduce spending therefore reducing taxes?
The Council needs to monitor expenses and income, comparing them to previous years and projections for the current fiscal year. Department heads need to be responsible for staffing levels, operational expenses, and constantly ask what could be improved to be a more efficient department. A motion I made this year during budgeting resulted in cutting the budget by about $800,000. However, that trend cannot continue indefinitely. Just as rising costs in fuel, constructions materials, clothing, etc. affect your personal budget, they also affect the ability of the city to continue to provide the current service levels.
5. What is your policy with respect to economic development?
I am a proponent of Bannock Development’s work to attract new business to our community, retain existing businesses and work to encourage existing businesses to expand their operations locally. Every job we can bring to our community lifts someone up, whatever the salary level it may pay. Idaho has very few incentives available to local communities to entice new businesses to a community. I feel Pocatello has a very good track record in establishing and managing TIF districts and we should leverage that skill set.
6. What do you believe are the most important issues facing Pocatello right now, and how would you address them?
I strongly feel housing is our most important issue. Almost every business I talk to is in need of additional employees. Our unemployment rate is very low, indicating we need more people in our community to provide the bodies necessary for an increased level of employment. However, we don’t have the housing for additional people if they choose to relocate here. In the end, this is a private enterprise solution requiring builders and contractors to construct homes, apartments, townhouses, etc. for the potential new residents. The only answer I see the city can provide is faster approvals of zoning requests, building permits, and construction inspections. We need to continue to manage the developments to assure future owners the home they purchase is sound, but we need to do it faster
Pocatello is in the midst of growing out of the 20th century. As in life, growth often means pains and I feel that is where we are today. Pocatello has been discovered and it is now our time to emerge onto center stage in Idaho. We have some natural handicaps that make development difficult, namely the geography of the valley. The river down the middle and the railroad that have been considered problems in the past, or have been ignored, can be made into tremendous assets of our community. It will take time to resolve issues with traffic, hillside development, and the emerging sports tourism market, but these will be solved by new ideas and new minds that can see the future.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about Rick Cheatum and his campaign, visit: