September 11, 1997 in Nation/World

Let Me Finish, Geraghty Asks Politely

By The Spokesman-Review
 

This is the second in a series of reports about the Spokane mayoral candidates.

Spokane Mayor Jack Geraghty has unfinished business.

“There are some things I started I’d like to see continue,” says Geraghty of his bid for a second term. “I’m looking at this as an eight-year experience.”

There’s the downtown revitalization he backed, the improved City Hall communications he pushed for, the neighborhood councils he championed.

Streets need fixing, water pipes need replacing and the sewer system needs to be expanded.

Simply put, he’s not ready to hand over the mayor’s seat to any of the four challengers he’ll meet in Tuesday’s primary. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election.

Some people might wonder why Geraghty would want another turn in the city’s hottest chair.

He’s been called a weak leader for his quiet, consensus-building ways and avoidance of confrontation.

He’s been thrashed for marital problems that surfaced in public records.

He’s taken hits for his stance on controversial issues such as the redevelopment of River Park Square and the purchase of the Salty’s restaurant and land.

Geraghty brushes off criticism with characteristic self-control.

“He’s so patient with those people,” says his daughter, Sheila Leek, 36. “He chooses to be positive.”

“He amazes me,” says Geraghty’s secretary, Joan Jamison, of her boss’s ability to hold his tongue. “He can just sit back and be patient and allow things to fall into place.”

When Geraghty won the mayor’s race in 1993, he came to office armed with an “Agenda for Progress.”

In the five-page document, he vowed to work on reducing crime, revitalizing downtown and streamlining city government. He pledged to strengthen neighborhood involvement and improve the transportation system.

He’s proud of the progress he’s made.

During his first term, the community-oriented policing program expanded and the River Park Square project won council approval.

Nearly 70 jobs were cut through a voluntary severance program. A neighborhood council program designed to bring government closer to residents made its debut.

Geraghty calls the deteriorating streets the low point of his term. He gets defensive when asked why they fared so badly, pointing out past councils cut spending on crack sealing and other routine maintenance.

If streets suffered from neglect, the blame can be traced to shrinking gas tax revenues and legislators who failed to deliver more resurfacing dollars, Geraghty says. He notes that voters rejected a $37 million bond issue aimed at road repair.

Streets “are a major issue that we have to address,” he says.

They already should have been, say critics, citing streets as an example that Geraghty isn’t a strong leader.

“It seems to me that Jack had a lot of opportunities to lead the city in various areas,” says Bob Glatzer, a political commentator for KXLY-radio. “He had a chance to take a leadership role in paving the city’s streets, in examining the Lincoln Street bridge….

“He didn’t do it.”

Glatzer is quick to say that Geraghty is a “lovely person … I don’t think that he’s a leader.”

Former City Councilman Joel Crosby, who lost the mayor’s race to Geraghty in 1993, agrees. “(Geraghty’s) leadership style is - he doesn’t lead. He’s accommodating, but he doesn’t supply direction.”

Supporters say Geraghty’s detractors mistake his tendency to stay in the background and avoid confrontation as signs of weak leadership.

“Jack’s the kind of person who disagrees with people but listens to their point of view,” says Chris Marr, his campaign co-chairman. “You don’t get a lot of flash with Jack. You get a lot of earnestness and capability.”

“Jack understands the role of political compromise,” says Denny Ashlock, who has worked with Geraghty on several projects, including the Centennial Trail.

Geraghty believes in building consensus - not creating controversy. “I’m not perceived as being a table-pounder, a way-out-front, charismatic leader,” he says. “I’m perceived as low-key.”

Geraghty’s laid-back style follows him into meetings, where regular attendees often yell at him or shake their fists. His face might get red. He might call a recess. But he rarely loses his temper.

He admits he’s not flamboyant. But the man who often deadpans his way through meetings and interviews can turn unexpectedly witty and warm.

Shortly before Vice President Al Gore arrived at a Democratic rally last fall, Geraghty went on stage, prompting a groan from the crowd.

“I know, I know,” he quipped, “it’s like going to a concert and having to listen to the warm-up band.” The resulting applause and laughter made Geraghty blush.

He’s quick to poke fun at himself. In the past, he’s described himself as a “writer and half-assed politician” and “the oldest living former county commissioner.”

His sense of humor - and his devotion to the underdog - are traits people rarely give him credit for, says his secretary Jamison. She says Geraghty has been outspoken in the push for diversity and equality. “He’s a very caring man, very sensitive to people’s struggles.”

Geraghty has had his own struggles these past four years.

He separated from his wife and moved out of his upper South Hill home. His job as mayor took time and money away from his public relations consulting firm.

In February, Geraghty was found in contempt of court for failing to pay mandated support payments to his estranged wife.

He won’t comment on the pending divorce except to say the couple has reached a property settlement agreement.

“I consider that a very private, painful part of my life,” he says, moving the conversation back to what he wants to do if he’s re-elected.

His list includes improving the economy by attracting family-wage jobs, expanding neighborhood councils and improving communication with residents.

By the end of his term, he’d like to see new housing downtown and a completed comprehensive land-use plan. He wants a steady source of revenue for street and sewer improvements.

He may be coming from the city’s past, but he’s looking ahead, he says. “My vision is a forward vision.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: See candidate profile by name

This sidebar appeared with the story: Geraghty on issues Proposed Lincoln Street bridge project: Supports the project. The council needs to “seriously review” the bridge design and consider reducing it in scale. Public-private partnerships: “Whatever we can do within the law to further the economic means in the city, that’s a proper role for city government.” Street maintenance: Supports the proposed 2.3-cent-per-gallon county gas tax increase. The city needs to lobby legislators for more road money. The city also needs to establish a street improvement reserve fund and begin setting aside additional general fund dollars. State Growth Management Act: The law is “absolutely necessary … It’s pretty clear urban sprawl is costly for taxpayers.” Replacing retiring Police Chief Terry Mangan: The next chief should be a strong leader with good communication skills. He or she should be honest, committed to diversity and live inside the city limits. Biggest change needed at City Hall: He’d like to see changes to the personnel system that streamline the process of hiring, firing and promoting. No. 1 issue: Strengthening the economy.

See candidate profile by name

This sidebar appeared with the story: Geraghty on issues Proposed Lincoln Street bridge project: Supports the project. The council needs to “seriously review” the bridge design and consider reducing it in scale. Public-private partnerships: “Whatever we can do within the law to further the economic means in the city, that’s a proper role for city government.” Street maintenance: Supports the proposed 2.3-cent-per-gallon county gas tax increase. The city needs to lobby legislators for more road money. The city also needs to establish a street improvement reserve fund and begin setting aside additional general fund dollars. State Growth Management Act: The law is “absolutely necessary … It’s pretty clear urban sprawl is costly for taxpayers.” Replacing retiring Police Chief Terry Mangan: The next chief should be a strong leader with good communication skills. He or she should be honest, committed to diversity and live inside the city limits. Biggest change needed at City Hall: He’d like to see changes to the personnel system that streamline the process of hiring, firing and promoting. No. 1 issue: Strengthening the economy.


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