Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Paleontology professor, ag company employee vying for seat on Cheney City Council

Two candidates vying to represent Position 6 on the Cheney City Council differ on city zoning policy and causes of homelessness.

Agriculture company employee Pete Montague said he is running because there needs to be a good option for a candidate who is not a single-issue contender. He called for increased credibility on the council.

“I’m not running with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “It seems to me in our current times, everybody tries to politicize everything. I thought I would run and give people an option that isn’t political. I’m not running for City Council to make new ordinances and such.”

Jacquelyn Belock, a dinosaur paleontology professor, said she’s running for office because people feel like the current City Council isn’t listening to their needs. She wants to rework city zoning law to build more housing and combat the city’s housing shortage.

“Most of our town is low-density, single-family homes, commercial or industrial zoning,” she said. “There’s better use of our space. … I want to make sure there is an option on the ballot of someone who will listen.”

Causes of homelessness

Belock said apartments are raising rents at “unprecedented” rates in Cheney because there’s no competition.

“We have students sleeping in their cars,” Belock said, “Because they can’t afford to live in the city that they’re going to school in. We need to find a solution that’s not just jailing and fining people for a circumstance that they probably weren’t able to prevent.”

In Montague’s eyes, homelessness has nothing to do with a housing shortage. He pointed to his own circumstances, saying he’s “not rich” but has lived in Cheney for a few years and owns a home with his wife on a single income.

“People should be able to go buy a house, have a decent job and support their family,” Montague said. “I don’t think there’s a shortage of that. I’m not saying all homeless people are bad. Some people are truly in a bad spot and need help. But if you choose to live on the street and do drugs, go get a job and buy a house. It’s not rocket science.”

Montague said drug use in Cheney has gotten worse in recent years. When asked why, Montague said Washington’s legalization of cannabis – a “gateway drug” – started it.

“It’s become what people think is normal, and what people are used to,” Montague said. “That didn’t used to be the case. And there’s not a lot the police can do – the law has stripped away a lot of ability to do something.”

Montague said he supports city ordinances that prohibit camping and sleeping in vehicles, attributing crime to homeless people.

“Last winter, there were a bunch of random burglaries,” Montague said. “Everybody knew who it was, but they couldn’t do anything about where they were staying.”

Belock said she does not support ordinances that force homeless people outside of city limits or into jails.

“While nobody wants to see people in their community end up homeless, it’s a reality in our region due to the housing crisis,” Belock said. “There’s other ways we could use our resources to help combat this instead of just enforcing where people can and can’t be.”


About four years ago, a co-housing community drafted plans for a development north of Cheney’s city limits. A state law allows cities to move their limits and swap land with the county if they have a shortage of developable land. The proposed development would feature roughly 30 multi-family homes on about 10 acres of land.

Montague and Belock differ on the proposed “land swap” that was approved by the Cheney City Council in a 4-3 vote last year.

“I personally don’t think Cheney needs to grow that way,” Montague said. “I’d like to see the city of Cheney handle what they have right now and make it amazing.”

Belock said the land swap is necessary if the city has “any hope” of accommodating future growth, especially because a large piece of land within the city limits is undevelopable due to its wetlands and hard basalt.

“It was a terrible decision to include it in our city limits,” Belock said.

The candidate elected for position 6 will serve a four-year term on the Cheney City Council.

Election day is Nov. 7 and ballots are due in drop boxes at 8 p.m. that day.