September 10, 1997 in Nation/World

Rejuvenated Barnard Ready To Serve Again

By The Spokesman-Review
 

This is the first in a series of stories about Spokane mayoral candidates.

Former Mayor Sheri Barnard says her crushing re-election defeat four years ago turned out to be a blessing.

“A total blessing,” Barnard said recently.

Being mayor had left her exhausted. Immediately after her campaign crashed in the September 1993 primary, she went on vacation with her husband.

“It was like heaven. I was so relieved,” she said.

Four years away from the heat and furor of city politics have given Barnard a chance to recover and rejuvenate. After encouragement from friends and strangers, she’s trying to reclaim the mayor’s chair on the Spokane City Council.

Of the five mayoral candidates, Barnard is calling for the most dramatic and concrete changes. She wants to oust Spokane’s longest-serving city attorney, Jim Sloane, and close the $110 million waste incinerator. Barnard also wants closer scrutiny of the city’s finances, claiming an audit shows the city took in roughly $6 million more than it spent in 1996.

Coupled with her aggressive campaign platform is Barnard’s 10,000-watt personality.

When she showed up last week at a 4 p.m. meeting with her staff, it was like a blond whirlwind had entered the room.

She told of interviews and meetings she’s had, of a big donation she’d received, of the 500 campaign signs that needed to be picked up. She needed some signs in the back of her car to pound into the ground.

“Wham! Wham! Wham! I love it,” Barnard said, imitating the use of the steel hand sledge she carries in her car.

Her personality will have to carry Barnard a long way if she is to oust Sloane. Spokane’s mayor doesn’t have the power to hire or fire a city attorney. That can be done only by the city manager, subject to approval by the council.

“Should I be elected mayor, the city manager might get the message and the community would send a message that change is needed in City Hall,” she said.

Calling for Sloane’s resignation is an idea that came to Barnard shortly before she announced her candidacy in July.

Mulling over the lawsuits the city has been involved in, Barnard concluded that Sloane stifles decisions and should go.

“I’m not saying he’s ever done anything illegal; it’s just that he dominates every decision that’s made, and I think it’s time for new thinking,” she said.

But the proposed housecleaning doesn’t end there. “All the top managers should resign. I think we are stuck with people who have been there too long,” Barnard said. “Then we open it up and let them apply for their jobs. We could hire the best ones back.”

If getting rid of Sloane seems daunting, so does Barnard’s other goal: closing the waste incinerator.

“Burning is not healthy,” she said. “The whole thing is unethical in my opinion, and it must be closed.”

Barnard wants the plant closed for financial reasons, in addition to health concerns. Based on figures supplied to her by Rabanco, a West Side waste hauler, it would be cheaper to haul and bury Spokane’s garbage in Rabanco’s Klickitat County (Wash.) landfill than burn it at the West Plains incinerator, she said.

The tipping fee at the incinerator is $97 per ton. For each ton, $23, or 24 percent, goes to operate the plant. Another $14, or 14.5 percent, pays for hauling the ash to a Klickitat County landfill, based on figures provided by Eric Larson, Spokane Regional Solid Waste System accountant.

Roughly 23 percent, or $22, pays for the long-term debt on the plant - a bill that must be paid whether it is running or not. The rest of the $97 fee goes for a variety of programs from composting to recycling.

The figures take into account the $5.3 million the plant expects to earn this year by selling electrical power, Larson said.

But Spokane could ship and bury its waste for less than $40 per ton, Barnard contends.

There may be a way, through some loophole, Spokane can shirk its contract with the plant operator, Wheelabrator, Barnard said.

Asked if there wouldn’t still be millions of dollars in construction debt, Barnard said: “I’m sure there would, but you know if something is wrong, it’s wrong.”

It’s a position Barnard espouses with confidence, something she seems to have plenty of.

On her way to do some door-to-door campaigning, Barnard made an uninvited stop at the 10th anniversary celebration of Our Place, an outreach ministry in the West Central neighborhood.

Before she even got to the outdoor celebration, someone in the crowd recognized her and yelled her name in friendly greeting.

Within a minute, Barnard was visiting with everyone in sight, as if friendliness came as easy as breathing to her.

“People can be spitting daggers and she doesn’t care - she just works them,” said Patty Marinos, vice chairwoman of the campaign.

Even those who plan to vote against her acknowledge Barnard’s people skills.

“She’s enthusiastic and she’s a tireless campaigner,” said Joel Crosby, who served on the City Council with Barnard.

Involving people in government is a Barnard hallmark. When she was mayor, she appointed numerous citizens committees for everything from AIDS to electromagnetic fields. She has pledged to have a citizens summit on repairing city streets if she is elected this fall.

To Crosby, however, it’s a style of management that didn’t work.

“It is disorganized, winds up not solving any problems and creates gridlock because she doesn’t know what the committees are doing and they become demoralized because she forgets they exist,” Crosby said.

The image of being a consummate committee-appointer is a weakness, admits Jack Hebner, a former city councilman who considered himself one of Barnard’s political allies on the council.

Said Barnard: “I am a decisive person and I make my own decisions, but I do like to involve the citizens.”

Some of her decisiveness is based on hunches. She made it a clear campaign goal to look into the city’s finances without doing a lot of homework; she suspects there is $6.4 million left over from the 1996 budget.

Barnard claims that “we don’t know where the money is,” based upon her reading of a city audit.

But Dan Cenis, a city accountant, said the answer appears to be a simple misreading.

The city does have extra general-fund revenue at the end of the year, but that money - around $2 million - is needed to maintain the city’s bond rating.

In her assessment, Barnard was looking at figures that included special revenue funds - money not available for general purposes. If she would look at general funds only, she would have a more accurate picture of what the city has to spend, Cenis said.

Since special revenue funds are received and spent at different times of the year, they can appear to be unbalanced when the city sets its books.

Barnard finally conceded she hasn’t been to City Hall to get all the answers.

“I’m going to wait until after I’m elected - when the people elect me to find the answers,” she said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: See candidate profile by name

This sidebar appeared with the story:

BARNARD ON ISSUES

Proposed Lincoln Street bridge project: Supported it in the past but now opposes it due to rising costs, the elimination of Salty’s restaurant and concerns about the falls. “I think we ought to look at another alternative.”

Public-private partnerships: Generally supports such partnerships. She’s not familiar enough with the details of the River Park Square redevelopment to judge it. “I’m hoping it will be resolved before the election.”

Street maintenance: Believes a close examination of city spending would uncover dollars for street repairs. The city could persuade the federal government to shift dollars from the Lincoln Street bridge project to road repair.

State Growth Management Act: Supports it. “Our natural resources are becoming more scarce every day. Our wetlands, our rivers, our parks could be chewed up by development if we just let it go.”

Replacing retiring Police Chief Terry Mangan: The next chief should respect all people, “no matter the race, creed or whatever.” The chief should support community policing and be a good fiscal manager.

Biggest change needed at City Hall: The city should adopt a strong-mayor government that allows the mayor to appoint an administrator and all department heads.

The budget: The council needs to devote a year to examining the budget - with special attention paid to the trash incinerator.

See candidate profile by name

This sidebar appeared with the story: BARNARD ON ISSUES Proposed Lincoln Street bridge project: Supported it in the past but now opposes it due to rising costs, the elimination of Salty’s restaurant and concerns about the falls. “I think we ought to look at another alternative.” Public-private partnerships: Generally supports such partnerships. She’s not familiar enough with the details of the River Park Square redevelopment to judge it. “I’m hoping it will be resolved before the election.” Street maintenance: Believes a close examination of city spending would uncover dollars for street repairs. The city could persuade the federal government to shift dollars from the Lincoln Street bridge project to road repair. State Growth Management Act: Supports it. “Our natural resources are becoming more scarce every day. Our wetlands, our rivers, our parks could be chewed up by development if we just let it go.” Replacing retiring Police Chief Terry Mangan: The next chief should respect all people, “no matter the race, creed or whatever.” The chief should support community policing and be a good fiscal manager. Biggest change needed at City Hall: The city should adopt a strong-mayor government that allows the mayor to appoint an administrator and all department heads. The budget: The council needs to devote a year to examining the budget - with special attention paid to the trash incinerator.


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