Just a few weeks ago, Spokane Valley seemed like it was going to sleep through the 2007 election. Campaign signs were scarce. Candidates stumping door to door were even more so.
The only two incumbents running for the re-election to Spokane Valley City Council were headed back to office by virtue of being unchallenged. The city’s only contested race, one to replace a council member uninterested in running again, featured one candidate with no intention of waiting up on the night of the primary to see if he’d won and another unwilling to shelve her personal life to meet with voters.
But suddenly hibernation is over. A write-in candidate, Tom Towey, has emerged to challenge incumbent Steve Taylor, and candidates Dave Crosby and Rose Dempsey are scrambling to woo Valley voters for the seat being vacated by Mike DeVleming. Current City Council member Bill Gothmann is the only uncontested choice.
The contested races seem to pit two candidates intent on keeping Spokane Valley’s mostly spacious neighborhoods the way they are, against two candidates with active roles in increasing the number of homes allowed on a single acre.
Dempsey and Towey are the candidates advocating for more elbow-room. She’s a 63-year-old music director at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Coeur d’Alene, who thinks the Spokane City Council ignored the citizenry when it voted recently to allow roughly six homes per acre in most residential areas north of 16th Avenue. Towey, a 64-year-old retired manager of four Rosauers markets, asserts that while deciding Spokane Valley’s future development, the City Council has been working against neighborhoods rather than protecting them.
Taylor and Crosby both support the city’s move toward smaller building lots. Taylor, 31, is a council veteran who also works as the government affairs director of the Spokane Homebuilders Association and the Spokane Association of Realtors. Crosby, 47, is a past president of the Spokane Association of Realtors and a Realtor with American Dream Homes in Spokane Valley.
Taylor gives the City Council high marks for its performance thus far. He has said he is careful to avoid conflicts of interest defined in state law and that his employment has helped the city improve its permitting processes and promote a better dialogue between builders and the city. Taylor has recently argued that a City Council member has to act in the best interests of the entire city, not just a few neighborhoods.
On the subject of smaller lots, Crosby argues that smaller parcels are key to more affordable housing in Spokane Valley. He also asserts that many soon-to-be-retired baby boomers will be looking for houses on smaller lots that require less maintenance.
Of the four contested candidates, Crosby and Towey appear to be the underdogs. In a three-way August primary, Crosby earned 30 percent of the vote to Dempsey’s 43 percent and the 27 percent garnered by odd man out Joseph Edwards. Edwards and Dempsey had similar platforms, suggesting that his supporters might gravitate to front-runner Dempsey.
Towey’s seems most daunting. As a rule, write-in campaigns are a long shot, but the Ponderosa neighborhood resident said he’s been quickly drawing support from community leaders in Greenacres, Central Valley and other segments of the city. But Towey’s name will not appear on the ballot. Voters will have to write in Towey’s name correctly for the right race and then check the box beside it, which has been a stumbling block for previous