Here are the rest of Spokane Mayor Mary Verner's responses to topics we asked her to reflect on as she prepares to leave office. The rest is in an article running today online and in print.
Background: As mayor, Verner opted to end the city’s court partnership with Spokane County and created a separate municipal court. This year, it became clear that the city-led regional trash system is likely to disbanded in the next few years as a result of city disagreements with the county and other cities. Also this year, an attempt to regionalize animal control services failed.
Verner: “Go carefully into the realm of regionalism. (She noted a study from Eastern Washington University about regionalizing local government.) There are some benefits in certain subject areas or service delivery areas and then other communities … don’t get what get what (they think they’re) going to get. You don’t always get a cost savings, Nor do you always get an improvement in service, which is why you have to approach it carefully and do a thorough analysis.”
Background: Verner was criticized by council members Richard Rush and Jon Snyder for not ensuring that Second Avenue was rebuilt with a bike lane, as called for in the city’s bicycle plan. But she’s also supported expanded bike lanes in other parts of downtown. Verner has generally agreed that roads paid for by the 2004 street bond should by completed only curb-to-curb and has argued that a new street bond be more encompassing.
Verner: “I think we’ve been working toward a good balance of installing bicycle infrastructure with the other transportation investments that we must make, including ongoing street maintenance. I’m glad that we have provided that opportunity for more people to get around on bikes safely and people of all ages and all skill levels, and I’m also glad and proud that we have not allowed one voice to dominate. We have a bicycle advisory board that has gone through its own evolution and (has a) better understanding of what an advisory board does. We’ve created the Citizens Design Review Committee that gives the bicyclists and pedestrians and schools an opportunity to help design our projects before we go out and do the projects. We’re talking about the phase two street bond – the next of the three series of street bonds that were anticipated in 2004 – and appropriately providing for bicycle infrastructure where it should be included. So I think we’ve struck a good balance on bicycle infrastructure.”
Background: Verner has had generally good relations with the City Council during her tenure, but her relationship has been particularly rocky with Councilman Bob Apple. Apple is known as the city’s most outspoken critic of the city’s handling of the Otto Zehm matter. But he’s also been critical of the city administrative staff on numerous other issues and earlier this year referred to one member of the city staff’s as a “Gestapo queen.”
Verner: “A changed man. He’s not the same person that I used to work with the council, and I also have changed. We all change over time. His approach to city government completely changed. He had controversy and we had conflict, and I would not be bullied and I would not allow our staff be bullied. And I know that that has frustrated him, and I have seen his behavior change to be really hostile toward me, which I regret because I did, when I first came on the council, admire him as an independent thinker. I didn’t always agree with him, but I appreciated that he came from a place of honestly believing his position was the right one, and that’s not what I see anymore. It’s regrettable.”
Background: Verner worked with the Spokane Transit Authority to purchase 100 bus benches without ads to replace benches that had ads in attempt to comply with the city’s sign code. Instead, the City Council in 2009, led by then-Councilman Al French changed the sign ordinance to allow bus bench advertising and forced the city to ask for bids for a sign company to continue providing bus benches with ads. Supporters of the ads said it didn’t make sense to pay for bus benches when they could be provided free by ad companies.
Verner: “Completed some long unfinished work making sure that the bus benches were brought into compliance with the ordinance and the comprehensive plan. Consequences? Retaliation.”