Four years ago, John Talbott campaigned to get Orville Barnes elected to the Spokane City Council.
This time around, Talbott wants to knock Barnes out of his Council Position 2 seat.
The two came away the top vote-getters in a four-way September primary race. On Nov. 7, either Barnes prepares for another four-year term or he prepares to hand the $18,000-a-year seat off to Talbott.
The battle between the two is by far the most rancorous of the three ongoing council campaigns.
Talbott calls Barnes a “tired” councilman who failed his supporters once he got into office.
Barnes calls Talbott “angry” and “anti-” everything - traits that could derail Spokane’s progress.
Talbott says he doesn’t “owe any debts to any special interests.”
Barnes says Talbott doesn’t know how to see beyond his own narrow view.
Talbott attacks. “Orville’s record will beat Orville.”
Barnes defends. “John feels the only way he can win is by criticizing me.”
It’s not that the two disagree on everything. In fact, they share many ideas and concerns.
They both talk about streamlining government, promoting family values and restoring faith in City Hall.
They like aspects of city-county consolidation, but worry about the current proposal.
They support downtown revitalization but differ on how it should happen - Barnes favors publicprivate partnerships, Talbott says a good project can find private financing.
Four years ago, both Barnes and Talbott challenged incumbent Bob Dellwo. Talbott fell off in the primary, and Barnes knocked Dellwo out of office in a close race. After losing in the primary, Talbott launched an unsuccessful write-in campaign against Councilwoman Bev Numbers.
Just days before the general election, Talbott, Barnes and Councilman Joel Crosby appeared on television advertising a campaign they hailed as a way to bring fiscal responsibility to City Hall.
Talbott says that, back then, Barnes asked “the tough questions.
“Did he live up to what he said he would do?” said Talbott, shaking his head no. Talbott criticizes Barnes for raising real estate and gas taxes, and letting budgets get flabby.
Barnes admits his image as a “renegade” councilman has changed over the past four years. He did vote for increased gas and real estate taxes, he said, but he felt the user taxes were necessary to help pay for roads and other infrastructure stressed by growth.
“People would say we didn’t hold down spending as much as we should have, but in general, our budgets have been good budgets,” he said. “We didn’t please everyone.”
Barnes is quick to dismiss critics who say he’s betrayed voters.
“I could be a hero in their eyes if I jumped up and down and had big confrontations in public, but I don’t think that’s the way to get things done,” Barnes said.
“You have to work with people to solve their problems.”
Barnes doesn’t trust Talbott to do that, saying that the retired Air Force colonel’s quick-fire anger will get the better of him.
“It’s simple as heck to stand down there and bitch and complain,” said Barnes, a semi-retired commercial real estate manager. “It’s a whole lot more difficult to analyze facts and come up with a decision.”
Talbott admits that, in the past, he let anger over the council’s decisions and attitudes devour him. In April, he vowed to the council he wouldn’t be back, saying taking part in the process was “futile.”
Talks with his two sons and a trip to Promise Keepers, a Christian men’s group, changed that anger into positive action, he said.
“I have people walking and standing close to me, keeping me on track, helping me solve problems rather than become them,” he said.
Talbott was born to an unmarried 14-year-old girl. Adopted from a Seattle orphanage, he was raised in Spokane by a single mother who worked as a seamstress.
“My mother gave me a set of Christian values - honesty and integrity,” Talbott said.
After graduating from Gonzaga Prep, he enlisted in the Air Force, where he spent the next 29 years. After that, he worked seven years in Virginia for Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he directed communications projects.
He retired with his wife to Spokane in 1989.
Barnes was born in McCall, Idaho, where his father worked as a foreman at a seed company. Raised during the Depression, he spent weekends unloading slab wood from trains with his father for extra money.
“It was a matter of survival,” he said.
He graduated from the University of Idaho, moved to Spokane and worked as an accountant. Later, he joined McCarthy Management, which years later was rolled into Goodale & Barbieri.
Barnes left Goodale & Barbieri earlier this year and went into semi-retirement, working part-time as a private real estate consultant.
Friends say his management skills and business sense serve the city and its residents well.
“It’s quite a trying job to manage a business and always come out with the right figures, but he does it,” said Art MacKelvie, a former business associate. “He’s always very quiet, but he’s always thinking.”
Don Zwanzig, a business broker, points to Talbott’s years of military service and his “fierce sense of justice” as reasons he’d make the better council member.
“He went into the military and excelled, worked hard and advanced,” Zwanzig said. “He has a lot of passion. He’s well informed. He’s well prepared to debate and discuss.”
, DataTimes MEMO: See individual profiles by name of candidate.
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