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Traffic, growth key issues in Spokane Valley race

Sun., Sept. 18, 2005

As they try to squeeze in as many meetings with potential constituents as possible before the approaching primary, candidates for Position 6 of the Spokane Valley City Council list transportation and growth among the top issues in the campaign.

Some voters also have expressed concern regarding instructions they found confusing on their mail-in ballots.

“Just vote for one candidate,” said county Auditor Vicky Dalton. Some voters have mailed in ballots with two council candidates marked, she said.

The confusion stemmed from a line on the ballot for the Position 6 City Council seat that reads, “Vote for one – two or four year term.”

The length of council terms will be determined by the vote tally. All seven council seats are up for re-election, and the four positions with the most votes will receive four-year terms. The remaining three will receive one-time, two-year terms to ensure this is the last time that all seats are up for election at once.

Although the entire council is up for re-election, only three seats are contested. The two other contested seats, besides Position 6, each have just two candidates, so they will compete in the general election and not the primary.

In Tuesday’s primary for Position 6, the two candidates with the most votes in the six-way race will advance to the general election Nov. 8.

Interest in off-year primaries tends to be low, and voter turnout is expected to be about 25 percent. Consequently, candidates have been campaigning hard for every single vote.

“This is kind of sneaking under a lot of people’s radar,” said council candidate Dale Strom from a cell phone while going door to door.

Traffic was a frequent concern among the people he has talked to, Strom said, as was new land development for people who live near it.

A city planner and grant writer for the city of Spokane, Strom said a free enterprise philosophy should guide the city’s development – especially when it comes to attracting new businesses.

“Council and staff need to commit to a willingness to solve problems and not just read regulations out of a book,” he said.

Candidates Ron Lippincott and John Kallas are emphasizing the city’s relationship with the state government, which determines most of the taxes that businesses use to make relocation decisions.

“We’re taxed too high, it’s just ridiculous,” Lippincott said, adding that he wants to keep the governor involved in this part of the state.

On growth, Lippincott said many Valley residents affected by new construction are getting lost in the fine print. If elected, he said he would try to make the development process more inclusive.

“I like to take charge, but what other people have to say is important,” he said. “If we get to the specifics (in land-use disputes) we can get to the solution.”

Through the course of his campaign, Kallas said, the upkeep of Valley roads came up frequently in conversations with residents.

Another subject he has raised with voters is the pending decision on what to do with the city’s wastewater.

“That’s another issue that definitely needs to be viably addressed,” he said.

A retired police officer, he said his first priority will be improving the city’s law enforcement contract with Spokane County.

“I know what it takes to lower the crime rate,” he said.

Planning for emergency services, transportation, housing and other issues are all included in the city’s developing Comprehensive Plan – a document that candidate Bill Gothmann has a hand in creating as a planning commissioner.

“Because of that involvement I think it puts me in an excellent position … to move ahead with the plans we’ve made,” he said.

During door-to-door talks with voters, he said the Sprague-Appleway couplet also comes up frequently.

“I’ve had a lot of folks basically say, ‘When are you going to finish the couplet?’ ” he said, indicating that most of the people he talked with wanted the separate, one-way streets to remain.

Chuck Parker’s solution to the couplet question is to extend it to Gillis Road and keep Sprague one-way from there.

He said he has jingled doorbells at about 1,000 houses since the start of the campaign. Many who answered listed new housing developments as a big concern.

“We’ve got to balance land use. I’m a little frustrated with these developers right now,” he said.

A favorite of the disincorporation movement, his platform includes placing a measure on the ballot to dissolve the city, putting any new taxes in front of voters and increasing emergency services.

As it grows, “the Valley needs to be a leader, that’s the key thing,” he said.

Ed Mertens, the sixth candidate for City Council, was out of town and unavailable for comment.


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