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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Mary Verner

Mayor responds to Condon’s criticism of Verner’s handling of Zehm case

 

Below is Mayor Mary Verner's full response to the statement released earlier in the day by her opponent in the November election, David Condon, followed by Condon's statement. Condon offered harsh criticism of Verner's handling of the Otto Zehm matter. Verner's response was delivered by her campaign, not by the city.

MARY VERNER'S FULL NEWS RELEASE: 

Mayor Mary Verner says she is deeply disappointed in former Congressional aide Dave Condon’s reckless attempt to use the tragedy of the Otto Zehm death for his personal political ambition.

Condon wrote a campaign news release today, criticizing the mayor, city police, city attorneys, and city staffers.

More on Verner’s clarification on city’s Employee of the Month award

When Mayor Mary Verner made a point last week of explaining the process for selecting the city's Employee of the Month, she not only released the four-page set of rules, but the list of members on the selection committee.

Two members have indirect connections to the controversy surrounding the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.

Verner, responding to a Spokesman-Review opinion column that criticized the selection in December 2010 of Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi, said last week that she does not pick the winners. Treppiedi was criticized by federal officials in 2009 for his handling of the city’s defense in a lawsuit brought by Zehm’s family. City attorneys responded that the concerns were “baseless” and accused them of trying to manage the civil case.

Treppiedi was recommended for the award by the city’s Employee Recognition Committee, Verner said. She acknowledged that she can override the committee’s recommendation, but said she never has. The rules for Employee of the Month were written in 2005.

At the time of Treppiedi’s selection, the 10-member Employee Recognition Committee, which is made up largely of representatives of city unions, included Spokane Police Guild President Ernie Wuthrich and Capt. Steve Braun.

Verner beat the field in most precincts

(Click on map to enlarge)

By now, everyone knows that Spokane voters like to chew up mayors and spit them out after one term, so Mary Verner's ability to win the primary is noteworthy.

But just how noteworthy might be best shown by the above map of precinct results, which shows that she didn't just beat second place finisher David Condon in enough precincts to place first. She actually beat the field — all challengers' vote totals combined — in all but 11 of the city's 123 precincts.

And in 12 precincts, she beat the field by more than 100 votes. Condon outpolled Verner in seven precincts, but in six of them, she got more than 40 percent and the vote for the other three challengers was negligible.

One way to look at this — and it's much more likely that Verner will look at it this way than Condon — is that right now, the voters who want to keep Verner far outnumber the ones that want to replace her with anyone else.

David Condon is no Jim West

David Condon opened his campaign declaring that Mary Verner was no David Rodgers (the last mayor to win a second term).

On Tuesday night, Condon offered some reasons for hope for his campaign, comparing his run to Jim West's 2003 bid for mayor.

Condon said the gap between him and Verner likely was attributable to voter turnout in primaries that often favors incumbents.

“Just a few years ago, when Jim West ran against the incumbent, he got 31 percent (of the vote) and went on to win,” he said.

It's hard to fault Condon for offering conflicting analyses when just confronted with the gulf he has less than three months to close.

But there are flaws in Condon's comparison.

Spokane primary voters have not been favorable to incumbent mayors, at least in the last two mayoral primaries. In fact, Verner last night became the first incumbent Spokane mayor in the strong-mayor era to a majority of the primary vote. John Powers came in third, thus losing his reelection bid in the primary in 2003. Dennis Hession had enough support to advance to the general election in the 2007 primary, but he barely came in first place, with 34 percent of the vote.

Condon is correct that Jim West took 31 percent of the primary vote in 2003. The big difference was that in that crowded field, 31 percent was enough for first place. Condon won 32 percent of last night's vote, but Verner won 61 percent.

To reach the 50 percent mark in November, Condon not only needs the votes cast for the three candidates who lost, Mike Noder, Barbara Lampert and Robert Kroboth. He needs to change the minds of many who supported Verner. That is a task that's much more difficult than what West faced in 2003.

So as far as his run for mayor is concerned, David Condon is no Jim West.

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Hession's 2007 primary finish.

As city deals with more revelations in Zehm case, Verner campaign points to ombudsman

Mayor Mary Verner latest campaign newsletter picks a topic fresh in the news: police oversight.

Last week, Verner's campaign stressed her support for creating a police ombudsman position at City Hall. The week before, a filing in federal court detailed the position of Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks related to the death of Otto Zehm, who died in police custody in 2006. Nicks has told federal investigators that Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. violated department use-of-force policies and that detectives failed to thoroughly investigate Zehm's death.

Verner has indeed been on record supporting the creation of the position for some time, but she hasn't always pushed for the kind of independent, full-time ombudsman that was envisioned in a 2007 report commissioned by the city.

In 2008, Verner said that instead of hiring a full-time ombudsman, she planned to contract out for an ombudsman on an as-needed basis because of the city's budget problems.

In a meeting with journalists in March 2008, Verner explained that a full-time ombudsman wasn't necessary.

“I don’t really think that we need an in-house, full-time employee for an ombudsman,” Verner told reporters. “I really believe that with Chief (Anne) Kirkpatrick’s leadership and the evolving good working relationship between the guild and the chief that we would have a Maytag Repairman on our hands.”

Verner's position, however, had changed when she unveiled her 2009 budget plan, which included money for a full-time ombudsman, and her newsletter is correct that she conducted a nationwide search in an open process when she hired Ombudsman Tim Burns.

Since Burns started work, some council members pushed to give Burns the power to conduct investigations separately from police. Verner initially opposed that effort, and said that it was too soon to change Burns' powers and that doing so would require negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild.

Verner argued that during an economic downturn, her goals for Police Guild negotiations were for concessions to save jobs and service over gaining more police oversight authority. Verner signed the ordinance boosting Burns' authority after the council passed it unanimously. Next week, the council will consider revoking the ordinance in response to an arbitrator who ruled that the city should have negotiated the rules with the guild.

That action, along with the ongoing federal case against Thompson, will keep police oversight one of the top issues of the campaign even after Tuesday's primary.

Sunday spin2: I am shocked — shocked! to find gambling going on

Reporters have been known to bet on almost anything, from when a jury will come back to which candidates will win the races they are covering.

It’s a tendency that even some professional gamblers find appalling. So when a Craigslist ad offered a cash prize for the best handicapper of Tuesday’s mayoral race, it caught some eyes in the newsroom.

Even more curious, the referenced website seemed to be that of Mike Noder. But a closer look showed that it wasn’t his mikeforspokane site, but a mocking site, mike4spokane, set up by someone he describes as a former friend turned critic.

To be fair, the mike4 site is close to being an equal opportunity annoyer of all five candidates. The photo of Mary Verner looks like it was shot by the photographer who did Michelle Bachmann for Newsweek, and the shot of David Condon makes his head seem as round as a balloon. The other three candidate’s photos are so out of focus as to be almost unrecognizable.

Only 13 people found their way to the site and left a prediction before the contest closed. The average: Condon 40 percent; Verner 38 percent; Barbara Lampert 9 percent; Noder 7.5 percent and Robert Kroboth 3 percent. Actual results may vary.

The politics of water rates

What might be the most curious thing about the current City Council debate on water rates is the timing.

Here the council is debating what may be the biggest political hot potato of the year even though ballots are sitting on kitchen tables ready to be marked in time for Tuesday's primary election.

If anyone questions the political ramifications of the rate boost proposals, consider this: Two mayoral candidates were in the audience Monday night: Mike Noder and David Condon. (Condon, by the way, said he has concerns about the proposed increase and would have voted against it.)

Council observers are used to politicians proposing a rate freeze in election years and more quietly asking for increases out of the election cycle. The chart showing percentage increases over the last decade clearly points to election-year hesitation on rates among mayors and councils.

But Mayor Mary Verner has gone ahead with steep proposed increases in water and sewer this year despite this being an election year. Not only that, the debates on the water and sewer rates were scheduled for this summer — in time to be considered by voters. Until last year, the council voted on utility rates along with the city budget in December.

So why the change?

Verner was angered by the council's decision last year to increase sewer rates by more than she had proposed to balance its decision to reject her administration's proposed water rate increase. She accused the council of playing with the rates out of concern for the utility taxes they generate for services like parks, police, fire and libraries. As a result, she and some council members opted to set utility rates for 2012 well before the council approves the budget to avoid setting utility rates to generate utility taxes.

And don't forget that as a candidate for mayor in 2007, Verner accused Mayor Dennis Hession of playing politics when he proposed rate freezes for 2008. Verner has said if former leaders hadn't balked at increases, she wouldn't be in the predicament of asking for boosts like the proposed 8 percent request for water.

Democratic Party backs Verner, Stuckart, Rush and Jones

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner has won the seal of approval from the Spokane County Democratic Party for a new term.

The party's endorsement committee voted Monday to endorse Verner for mayor, Ben Stuckart for City Council president, Joy Jones for the City Council seat representing Northwest Spokane and incumbent Richard Rush for the seat representing South Spokane, said David Smith, chairman of the party.

Smith said Verner and Rush also won the party's support in 2007.

“She's even more popular among Democrats than she was four years ago,” Smith said.

None of the picks are that surprising, though the decision to endorse Stuckart is somewhat of a snub to City Councilman Steve Corker, a former chairman of the party who is vying for council president.

Smith said Stuckart was the only council president candidate who requested an endorsement. That opened the door for the party to pick Stuckart because the party only backs candidates who request party support, he said. If multiple Democrats had requested an endorsement in the same race, the party would have waited to make a choice.

Spokane County Republican Party Chairman Matthew Pederson said last week that the Republican Party won't make any endorsements, at least prior to the August primary. He added that no city candidates have officially requested GOP backing.

Verner's main challenger, David Condon, has sought to distance himself from the party with large “nonpartisan” labels on his campaign signs. Condon is the former district director for Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

“It is a nonpartisan office,” Condon said this week. “The platform they have wouldn't be a platform I would further at the city level.”

Labor coalition declines to back Verner or Condon

The race for Spokane mayor is getting more interesting.

The Spokane Regional Labor Council has released the list of candidates it supports for the August primary and Spokane Mayor Mary Verner isn't on the list.

That's a bit of a surprise given her recent support for a labor-backed change to contracting rules giving the city wider lattitude to pass over low bidders on contracts when a low bidder has had recent problems following labor, environmental or other laws. (Verner, however, surprised some union leaders when she said she would push to amend the rules.)

The council, which is the regional organization for the AFL-CIO, also declined to back any of Verner's opponents, including her main challenger, David Condon. That's not a surprise, given Condon's promise to be a tougher negotiator with unions and his calls for pay freezes at City Hall.

Verner's relationship with unions at City Hall has been mixed and grew strained as she worked to win contract concessions in the last two budget cycles. Most the city's bargaining groups eventually agreed to contracts or contract changes that allowed them to avoid layoffs.

Unions play a large role in city politics, just as the business and development community do. The decision means the main local labor group won't be working for a Spokane mayoral candidate, at least through the primary, an outcome that likely benefits Condon — especially since he already enjoys a big fund-raising advantage.

Beth Thew, secretary-treasurer of the council, said she wouldn't be surprised if the council reconsiders the race after the primary. Candidates were interviewed on June 28 and a group made up of representatives of local AFL-CIO-affiliated unions voted on the endorsements. To win backing, a candidate needed two-thirds support from the group, Thew said.

“If there are any questions that need clarification or anything like that, we will wait to hold off on our endorsements,” she said. “We want to make sure that when we move forward with our endorsement that everybody is comfortable and can stand behind it.”

To see the list of candidates endorsed by the labor council for the August primary, continue reading this post.

Spokane mayoral candidates to discuss ‘green’ business

Spokane voters can get an early look at their choices for mayor Tuesday night at a candidate forum focused on environmentally friendly businesses.

Four of the five candidates for mayor will be at the candidate forum sponsored by Sustainable Resources INW, a nonprofit that assists businesses to make changes that save money while helping the environment, said Susanne Croft, executive director of the organization.

Incumbent Mary Verner, David Condon, Mike Noder and Barbara Lampert will attend. Robert Kroboth has said he won’t participate in any candidate debate.

Croft, who worked as Verner’s sustainability coordinator in 2008, will moderate the debate. She said most the questions will be posed by the audience.

“We really don't take a stand on sustainability as a political issue,” Croft said. “It's a topic of community concern just like poverty is.”

The hour-long forum will start at 6 p.m. Tuesady at the Community Building, 35 W. Main Ave. 

Condon’s a candidate

David Condon officially became a candidate for Spokane mayor on Wednesday, joining three others, including incumbent Mary Verner.

The bigger news about Condon's campaign is his recent reporting of campaign contributions. Only a month into his campaign, he's already leading Verner in fundraising, having raised $74,630 in May, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Verner only has raised $45,407.

(Photo caption: David Condon addresses the media on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 outside the Spokane County Elections Office shortly before filing to run for Spokane mayor.)

Here are the Spokane candidates so far:

Mayor

Mary Verner, incumbent

Mike Noder, co-owner of MoMike Inc., a demolition company

Barbara Lampert, former nurse’s assistant, frequent candidate for office

David Condon, former deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

City Council president

Ben Stuckart, executive director of Communities in Schools

Steve Corker, Spokane City councilman

City Council, northeast district

John Waite, owner of Meryln's, a science fiction store in downtown Spokane

Gary Pollard, chairman of Riverside Neighborhood Council

City Council, south district

Mike Allen, former city councilman

Richard Rush, incumbent

City Council, northwest district

Karen Kearney, former regional operations manager at Capital Savings Bank in Seattle

Mike Noder files to run for Spokane mayor

Mike Noder, who ran for mayor in 2007, has again entered the race to lead Spokane's city government.

Noder, 53, is the co-owner of MoMoke Demolition and Salvage. He filed to enter the mayoral race this afternoon. In 2007, one of his major campaign focuses was his criticism of the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, which he believes wastes money and charges too much.

He said he's running again to reign in city government.

“The on-going cost of government is too high,” Noder said. “We're going to continue to drive businesses away.”

In 2007, Noder came in fourth out of five candidates in the primary and captured 3.4 percent of the vote.

Verner’s officially a candidate; so are Corker and Stuckart

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner filled out the paperwork and paid her $1,693.58 filing fee on Monday morning to officially enter the race to keep her job.

Today is the first day candidates can file to put their name on the ballot.

Handing the check to Voter Services Supervisor Kit Anderson, Verner said: “It's an investment in my grandchildren's future.” 

Afterward she spoke to supporters and reporters in the parking lot.

Also filing this morning were Ben Stuckart and Steve Corker for City Council president, Mike Padden for the Spokane Valley state Senate seat representing district 4, Mike Allen for the council seat representing south Spokane, Gary Pollard and John Waite for the seat representing northwest Spokane, and Paul Lecoq, Rod Roduner and Deana Brower for the Spokane Public Schools board.

The Spokane County Elections Office keeps an updated list for all the candidates who have filed for each office here.

(Photo caption: Mayor Mary Verner writes a check for $1,693.58 to pay her filing fee on Monday, June 6, 2011 to run for office.)

With a nod to Lloyd Bentsen, Condon kicks off campaign and asks for cash

If David Condon proved anything at his campaign kickoff breakfast for Spokane mayor it's that he can raise money. Probably, lots of it.

Condon spoke for about 20 minutes praising the city and criticizing the bureaucracy of city government.  At the end of his speech, he gave his pitch to donors.

More than 350 people attended the $40-a-plate breakfast at the downtown Doubletree Hotel.

“An individual can give $1,600. A couple $3,200, and companies can also give another $1,600,” Condon said. “But I'll tell you, you know what, if everybody in this room gave $100 or pledged $100 we'd have over $35,000 to start this race. That would put me leaps and bounds above my opponent and make sure that we can continue to grow the vision for Spokane. But of course there are some of you — this recession hasn't hurt you so much. You can give $1,600, your spouse can give $1,600 and, of course, your business can give $1,600. So will you consider that?”

Several in the crowd answered him, “Yes.” After he spoke and people began to leave, some stayed at their table filling out pledge forms and writing checks.

Council support for property tax boost dwindles

The Spokane City Council on Monday will decide if it will ask voters to approve a property tax increase to help balance the city’s budget next year.

At a meeting earlier this week, there appeared to be little, if any, support on the council for the tax proposal, and council members Nancy McLaughlin and Steve Corker argued that it should be pulled from the agenda. But other council members said they preferred to hold Monday’s hearing to hear from the public before making a final decision.

City administrators say there’s a $6.6 million deficit that must be dealt with to balance the 2012 budget. Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said earlier this month that she opposes asking voters for the higher property tax and prefers raising hotel taxes, diverting money from red light camera tickets and other measures to balance the budget. 

David Condon, McMorris Rodgers staffer, declares candidacy for mayor

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner finally has an obstacle in her bid to reelection.

David Condon, the deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, said Monday that he will enter the race for Spokane mayor.

Until now, only Christopher W. Fenton, a political unknown and lab analyst at Signature Genomics, had entered the race to challenge Verner.

Condon, 37, really made his announcement yesterday at Bloomsday. Some of his supporters, including his wife, Kristin Condon, wore “Elect David Condon” T-shirts. The shirts stress that the position is nonpartisan — a likely acknowledgment that the city leans Democratic.

He said he took a leave of absence from his job representing the Republican congresswoman as of Friday and will work full time on his campaign.

In a brief interview Monday, he said he has enjoyed positive relations with Verner.

“”I'm not going to run a race against Mary Verner,” he said.

Instead, he said he would focus on job creation.

“You do need to outright partner with the business community,” he said.

He said that he opposes the license tab tax that was endorsed by Verner and approved by the City Council in February.

He said that he hasn't formulated an opinion about the need to raise property taxes to help balance the budget next year. Verner said she plans to present the City Council with two budgets. One would solve the city's estimated $6.6 million gap in 2012 with a levy lid lift (property tax boost). The other would rely mostly on layoffs and cuts in case voters or the City Council reject it. 

Condon announces mayoral bid

David Condon, a congressional aide and Army veteran, said today he's running for Spokane mayor.

Condon, 37, is taking a leave of absence from his job as district director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. He said more than a month ago he was studying a challenge to incumbent Mary Verner; today he made it official, saying he wanted to be a “collaborative leader.”

“City government is about the basics: snow removal, street paving, police discipline and public safety,” he said. “These are not the kind of challenges that lend themselves to partisan politics.”

Condon is a nine-year veteran of the Army, and left as a captain. Military and veterans affairs were among his areas of expertise on McMorris Rodgers' staff, on which he served since 2009.

Verner has already announced her plans to run for re-election. Christopher W. Fenton, a lab analyst for Signature Genomics, also has filed with the public disclosure commission.

Under Washington law, candidates don't become official until July when they are required to file petitions with the Spokane County elections office.

Recovering from surgery, Verner makes ‘fashion statement’

As she recovers from surgery, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, has embraced a new look.

Since she returned to work March 7, Verner has been donning scarves to cover her neck brace and incision.

“It makes a nice place to drape a scarf,” Verner said.

Verner had surgery March 2 at Deaconess Medical Center to remove a bone spur that was affecting her spine. She's been ordered to wear a neck brace for at least six weeks.

“The doctor's orders were way too restrictive for my lifestyle.” But, Verner said, “no matter what I do to violate the doctor's orders, I have to wear the brace.”

Verner has maintained her public schedule, including reading her declaration of Julia Sweeney Day on Friday before Sweeney took the stage at the Bing Crosby Theater. Sweeney, a Gonzaga Prep graduate, comedian and Saturday Night Live alumna, was performing with Jill Sobule in “The Jill and Julia Show.” (Sobule: “I sing.” Sweeney: “I tell stories.”)

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Verner is “making a new fashion statement” at City Hall.

Verner says she hasn't bought any new scarves, but is supplementing her collection by “borrowing.”

Recent Whitworth grad is Verner’s first challenger

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner has her first official opponent in this year’s mayoral race.

Christopher W. Fenton, 32, filed paperwork last month announcing his intention to run for the city’s highest office.

Fenton, who works as a lab analyst at Signature Genomics in Spokane, said he began to think about running for mayor after the Spokane Police Department did not respond to three calls in 2009 reporting vandalism happening in the Logan Neighborhood, where he lives.

He said the lack of response is a sign that the city is not adequately serving its citizens and that more police officers need to be hired. He also said he is concerned about the city’s bond debt – including debt approved by voters that was accompanied by property tax increases to pay it off.

Federal records indicate that Fenton has personal experience with debt. He and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 2003 owing creditors $58,000.

Fenton said if elected he would work to speed up paying off the city’s bond debt by selling city property. He said he hasn’t identified any specific city-owned parcels that should be sold.

McMorris Rodgers staffer, David Condon, mulling run against Verner

The deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMoris Rodgers confirmed Tuesday that he is “seriously considering” entering the race for Spokane mayor.

David Condon, 37, said he is “trying to assess” if the city needs new leadership.

“It's something that I've always wanted to do, and I'm just trying to figure out if now is the time to do it,” Condon said.

Candidates have been slow to announce challenges to Verner and most of the people rumored to be considering bids last fall have said they won't run for mayor.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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