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Election issues sound familiar

After its first three years as a city, Spokane Valley’s friendly politics and hot issues seem to have changed little since the first election in 2002.

“I haven’t seen anything new come about” said Janine Eldredge-Underdahl, who was one of 49 candidates in the city’s first primary.

Many issues like the extension of the Sprague-Appleway couplet that were discussed during the last campaign have yet to be resolved.

“I think the council is going to have to take a look at what they want to do with that area. They have to make some decisions,” recently defeated Position 6 candidate Chuck Parker said of the couplet.

Impact fees and regulating development are probably the issues where this year’s candidates will diverge the most, Parker said.

Other topics raised so far during the campaign include the city’s ongoing wastewater problem and its law enforcement contract with the county – both issues that were prominent in 2002.

One significant difference in the city’s latest election compared to its first is the diminished number of candidates. Only three of the seven City Council seats up for election will be contested in November. And while several former candidates have complimented the first council on its work, some wonder why more people didn’t run.

“I can’t understand it at all,” Eldredge-Underdahl said.

For the most part, she said, the council has done a good job of holding down taxes and responding to residents’ needs. All the same, she said she thinks incumbents shouldn’t go through an election unchallenged.

“It’s only fair that everybody should, for lack of a better word, fight for that position,” she said.

Eldredge-Underdahl considered running this year but felt she would be at a disadvantage because she doesn’t approach issues like a seasoned politician, she said.

Other former candidates listed financing a campaign and the incumbents’ political advantage among the factors that discourage people from running.

“I think the money thing is a big deterrent for a lot of people,” said 2002 candidate Joan McCurdy.

Despite not advancing out of the primary, former Position 6 contender Chuck Parker said he enjoyed the experience and would consider running again.

“Everybody kept it above board and there was no digging at each other or negativity. Everything was positive,” he said, echoing comments made by candidates during the 2002 election.

One new political force in the city has come from a group of people who want to dissolve it.

After gathering some 10,000 signatures to place a disincorporation measure on the ballot – well short of the 24,000 required – many people who are unhappy with the city’s formation intend to stay organized.

“They want to stay as a unit,” said disincorporation leader Sally Jackson, although there are no immediate plans to start another petition.

Another tactic her group adopted to undo the city is supporting candidates who promise to put disincorporation on the ballot from the dais if elected.

Parker signs began replacing “Sign petition here” signs in yards across the Valley late in the primary campaign.

While Parker said his willingness to put the issue to a vote was not his primary reason for running, incorporation foes supported him.

He placed fifth in his six-way race.

Jackson said the group would probably continue to unofficially endorse candidates in the future.

In the meantime, if a tax hike or another contentious council issue emerges, the disincorporation petition could crop up again.

“We’ll always be there,” Jackson said.