October 18, 2005 in City

Most money in Valley council races coming from outside the city

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Candidates for Spokane Valley City Council have raised about $45,000 for their campaigns so far, with more than half that from ZIP codes outside the city and about a fourth coming from contributors who have a stake in real estate development.

Data compiled from reports sent to the Public Disclosure Commission show campaign accounts that vary widely both in size and the source of contributions.

“I’m proud of the support I’ve gotten from this community,” said Councilman Mike DeVleming. His campaign has raised the most so far – about $15,000.

Almost half of his campaign funds come from landowners, Realtors, builders and others with a financial stake in land-use policy in the city, a connection that has generated anger from neighborhood groups at recent meetings.

DeVleming’s response is that there hasn’t been any evidence that contributions in the last election have affected council decisions so far, and he’s basically using the same network of associates who contributed to his first campaign.

“I’ve been in the construction industry for almost 20 years now; these are people I know,” he said.

But some voters with development disputes in their neighborhoods say they don’t see it that way.

Contributions that have raised the most ire include two $500 donations given to DeVleming and Councilman Steve Taylor by Lanzce Douglass, a developer involved in a court appeal over a proposed development in the Ponderosa neighborhood.

At last week’s council meeting, angry Ponderosa neighbors asked the councilmen to recuse themselves from decisions on their neighborhood, which neither said they would do.

“It’s a hard thing because money’s hard to come by,” said Mary Pollard, a community activist who has fought denser development in the Greenacres neighborhood.

While Pollard acknowledged that the donations are completely legal, she said they still pose a conflict in the eyes of many residents.

“Apparently they don’t hold themselves to a very high standard,” she said of the politicians.

The Ponderosa neighbors wanted the city to help them appeal a hearing examiner decision on the Douglass development, but council members said there was little the city could do at this point.

“I still have the duty to represent all of the constituents in the Valley and not just one person,” Taylor said of contributors. “They are supporting a person and not a particular stance I’m taking,” he said.

Both DeVleming’s and Taylor’s opponents have accepted $500 from the Spokane Valley Business Association, which has lobbied the city on the Appleway couplet and other issues.

Howard Herman, DeVleming’s opponent, has taken in a total of about $3,600.

Jennie Willardson, who is running against Taylor, has raised about $1,300. Taylor has raised $12,420.

In third place in the money race is Mayor Diana Wilhite, who is running unopposed with more than $9,500 in donations.

“I’m always gratified that people are willing to donate their hard-earned money to my campaign,” she said.

Asked how she would spend the money, since she will automatically win her uncontested Position 1 seat, Wilhite says she plans to send mailings, take out ads and do other campaign activities. Whatever is left over, she said, she will keep for her next campaign and give to charity.

Wilhite was one of three candidates who accepted money from the sign industry. Tighter billboard regulations and other sign issues are being considered in the city’s new Comprehensive Plan now before the council.

Her contributions include $347.20 from Sign Corp., while Taylor and DeVleming each took $250 from the Lamar billboard company and its general manager, respectively.

At least $1,900 has been donated to the DeVleming and Wilhite campaigns from car lots. They too have a stake in the city’s planning as the council considers a possible Auto-Row overlay district that could invest public money around them.

The biggest donor so far has been the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, which has spread $4,000 across four campaigns.

DeVleming, Taylor, Wilhite and Position 6 candidate Bill Gothmann all received $1,000.

“My conclusion was, we have a contract between the city and the county. This is the union. We don’t have a contract with the union,” Gothmann said, adding that he’s proud to have the endorsement of law enforcement.

He has raised about $3,000 and has spent nearly that much of his own money on the campaign.

Ed Mertens, his opponent, has raised about $1,700. He has also taken $500 from the Spokane Valley Business Association.

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