He’s missed 13 Spokane City Council meetings and plans to miss more, but Chris Anderson doesn’t feel guilty about pocketing his $1,500-a-month paycheck.
“If I didn’t feel I’d earned it, I wouldn’t take it and cash it,” a tanned and fit-looking Anderson told about 35 residents and a half-dozen reporters gathered Sunday for “A Town Hall Meeting with Councilman Chris Anderson: Candid Answers to Candid Questions.”
The council’s self-proclaimed “rabble-rouser” stopped attending meetings June 3 to drive a truck on the “Dante’s Peak” movie set in Wallace. He then moved with the crew to Los Angeles to finish filming.
He still doesn’t know when he’ll be back, saying the “worst-case scenario” would be after Oct. 22, the film’s last possible shooting date.
Anderson held the two-hour town hall meeting to “dispel some pure myth surrounding his absence,” but spent much of the time leveling accusations at his council colleagues and the media.
The “important announcement” Anderson hailed in his written statement inviting the public to the meeting was this: He doesn’t plan to seek re-election or any other public office.
“In spite of being pushed to run for other offices … I have absolutely no intention to again seek public office in Spokane,” he said.
Some members of the public have asked Anderson to resign, but he refuses. “I believe that I have a job to do, that I committed to do a job.”
Calling his colleagues “clowns,” Anderson said he had no choice but to take a job outside Spokane to support his family. He’s lost two jobs because of his politics, he said, maintaining he’s been offered employment by businesses that wanted to buy his vote.
“I cannot be bought, and I will not be bought,” he said. “It may work with my colleagues on the council but it will not with me.”
Anderson wouldn’t elaborate on that Sunday, saying he planned to hold a press conference later to give names and examples.
Anderson said his 3-1/2-month absence has been consistently misportrayed in the media as a “complete” absence. He “has certainly been reachable” by computer, pager and telephone, he said, adding that he also picks up his mail and council agendas.
“I continue to serve the people to the best of my ability … under circumstances that are clearly not ideal,” Anderson said.
But former council candidate and part-time radio host Ron McArthur, an ardent Anderson supporter, said he left several unanswered messages on the councilman’s telephone recorder.
“I don’t recall getting a message from you,” Anderson said. “I offer a sincere apology.”
Council meetings are a “mere formality,” he said. The number missed is no gauge of a member’s devotion to public service.
“For 2sfr1/2 years, the preponderance of votes has been 6-1,” Anderson said, adding that he casts the dissenting votes. “Where I’ve been most effective … is distributing information.”
Once again going against his colleagues, Anderson expressed support for the strong mayor initiative that goes before voters Tuesday, saying the current system is “greedy, corrupt, manipulated and bought.”
He also withdrew his earlier support for the proposed $37.3 million street bond, criticizing the city for not guaranteeing what streets will be repaved.
All other council members support the bond measure and oppose the strong mayor initiative.
Nearly half of those in attendance Sunday were vocal supporters of Anderson’s. They burst into loud applause several times.
About 10 people approached the microphone to comment, most aiming shots at other council members.
“You represent me better than any (other) council member,” said former council candidate Ken Withey.
Darlene Brice came forward to disagree. Brice said she usually stays away from politics but attended the meeting to find out how Anderson would justify his absence.
She left feeling unsatisfied.
“I’d like to tell you what I saw today: pure politics, divisiveness and name-calling,” she told Anderson just before she left.
If Anderson stays away until after Oct. 22, he’ll have been gone five months and missed 19 council meetings.
Before Anderson, former City Councilwoman Katie Reikofski was absent the longest. She took a six-month unpaid leave but resigned after being away three months.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo