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Ewu Student Running Uphill For Council Seat

The fraternity brothers at Eastern Washington University might squabble on occasion.

They’ve been known to throw loud parties, and even a few fists in anger.

But this fall, they have a new enemy: the Cheney City Council.

Justin Franke, the president of EWU’s largest fraternity, is campaigning to unseat a council member who opposes fraternities and sororities in Cheney’s residential areas.

Franke, a senior, also is student body president this year. His opponent is incumbent Councilwoman Ilene Wahl.

Wahl and her colleagues a couple of years ago passed a new law regulating fraternities. Now the Greeks are forking over bundles of money to comply.

Franke’s fraternity took out a $20,000 loan to pay for an asphalt parking lot, 8-foot-tall shrubbery and other improvements required by the law.

Wahl lives a couple of blocks from Greek Row, and voted for the zoning ordinance.

Being neighbors of sorts, Franke and Wahl are down-playing their differences on Greek Row rights.

“It’s not an issue as far as I’m concerned,” said Wahl. “I consider it a moot point.”

Franke said, “I’m not running as a Greek. I’m not running as a student. I’m running as a member of this community.”

What Franke is doing is running uphill. No EWU student has ever been elected to the Cheney City Council, although another student ran and lost some years ago.

Still, Franke has his fraternity brothers helping him sign up students to vote, and they are planting his yard signs around the quiet city.

There are 8,000 students enrolled at Eastern, while the population of Cheney is almost exactly the same.

No one knows for sure how many students will show up next month to vote for the 22-year-old Franke. Students are not considered a political force here. Most of them commute from Spokane, or maintain voter records in their hometowns.

Franke, a former Central Valley High School quarterback, has rugged good looks and an air of confidence.

“He’s just an all-around good boy,” said his mother, Colleen Franke, a payroll administrator for Johnson Matthey Electronics in the Spokane Valley. “I think he likes the challenge and I think he wants to make a difference.”

When he was in junior high school, he delivered the morning paper and played sports in the afternoon. “Sometimes he had two or three jobs in the summer,” his mother said.

Wahl, who works as a secretary for the dean of libraries at EWU, thinks Franke’s a good guy, too.

“He’s a very bright young man,” she said. “I hope if he’s elected, he stays and finishes out his term.”

Wahl said she’s lived in Cheney 14 years and raised three children there. “This is our home.”

Franke moved to Cheney to go to school. He said he will stay and work for a master’s degree in business administration if elected.

He is scheduled to get his bachelor’s degree in marketing next spring.

Franke said he wants to improve relationships between the university and the city. “I want my campaign to be about unity.”

He said the current council is failing to reach out to students, even though students make up the base for the city’s largest enterprise.

“We do a lot for this city.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo