October 18, 2007 in Voices

Council hopefuls look at growth

By The Spokesman-Review
 

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“See profiles of the candidates on Page 7.

“To hear Post Falls’ City Council candidates describe their platforms, tune in to Channel 13 at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily through Nov. 5. The program was taped at a city-sponsored candidate forum Oct. 15.

POST FALLS – Nine candidates are running for four seats on the Post Falls City Council. One is sure to be a shoo-in: Council President Scott Grant is unopposed.

The eight remaining candidates are vying for three seats, two recently approved in a spring election, expanding the council to six members.

Hot-button issues include how to handle anticipated residential and commercial growth, alleviate traffic tie-ups, maintain and expand city infrastructure and whether to save the current City Hall, otherwise scheduled for demolition when a new City Hall building is ready in spring.

City spending, corporate tax incentives and zoning changes are also issues, say the candidates.

Add to those aquifer protection, job creation and assisting small businesses.

Voters have a range of personalities to choose from. They’ll see the names of newcomers, natives and people who’ve come to Idaho and adopted Post Falls as their hometown.

On the same ballot, residents will be asked whether to save the current City Hall and if they’d support a one-time tax levy to pay for it.

Kerri Thoreson, Kristy Reed Johnson and Jack Evans are seeking Seat 1, a four-year term being vacated by Dick Harris.

Seat 4, a new four-year position, is being sought by Skip Hissong and Angela Alexander.

Seat 6, a new two-year term, has attracted Anthony Skarisky, Keith Hutcheson and Linda Wilhelm.

Seat 1: four-year term

“Jack Evans: 47; owner/founder of TrackMy.com, an Internet company providing Internet marketing services to large U.S. real estate brokerages; former president of California-based Highland Estates homeowners association; past president of Dana Point Chamber of Commerce; and former member of Dana Point volunteer group for communitywide entertainment and social events.

If elected, he said, he’d draw on his personal experiences in a booming California coastal community to help Post Falls manage its expansion.

Attracting environmentally cleaner industries – like high-tech companies – is one of his top priorities, he said.

“I want to concentrate on better quality jobs, more industry and commercial businesses. … It’s crucial we bring in business at the same time (as housing). We need the taxes and the jobs” to pay for good schools and roads, police and fire protection, and city infrastructure, Evans said.

With vision, Post Falls can grow to become a community in which people live, work and play, he said.

“Kristy Reed Johnson: 60; retired flight services manager for now-defunct TWA; full-time directory services operator for Verizon; commissioner on Aquifer Protection District; court-appointed advocate for neglected and abused children; Post Falls Chamber of Commerce member; former board member of Post Falls Historical Society; member of League of Women Voters, Rathdrum Prairie Plan Citizens’ Advisory Group and Community Volunteers.

Reed Johnson is pleased the fate of the current City Hall building – which she believes should be torn down – will appear on the ballot, giving residents, rather than politicians, the final say.

Encouraging development on empty land within the city limits, protecting the aquifer by capping development on the prairie and bringing economic prosperity are the issues she’d like to tackle.

Reed Johnson said she wants to help bring more good-paying jobs to the region to ensure “families can flourish here, earn enough money for kids to go to school and enough to enjoy all the outdoor pleasures of the beautiful country.”

“Kerri Thoreson: 55; general manager of Kagey Publishing Co., which issues guides on North Idaho dining, recreation and family opportunities; columnist for the Coeur d’Alene Press (on hiatus until after election); former executive director and board member of Post Falls Chamber of Commerce; commissioner of Parks and Recreation Department; director of Post Falls Days Parade; member of Kootenai Alliance for Children and Families; precinct member of Kootenai County Republican Central Committee; and former board member of Kootenai County United Way.

Thoreson said the city must be prepared for its continuing growth. She thinks it’s vital in-fill development be encouraged rather than urban sprawl.

“Growth and change are not positive or negative,” she said. “It’s just something you have to be prepared for. I’m very excited about the smart code (that’s being written). It’s a great implementation tool” that will give the city a template for future development.

Thoreson also wants to encourage more public participation in city decisions. “The vote you cast in a City Council election is the one that’ll have the most impact on you on a day-to-day basis. The best decisions are made when you hear from all the stakeholders,” she said.

Seat 4: four-year term

“Angela Alexander: 48; owns two small local businesses, About Business Solutions and The Coffee Cottage; former Post Falls Chamber of Commerce CEO; member of Post Falls’ City Center steering committee; involved with the board of directors for a consortium of 21 business owners.

She vows to bring constituents’ perspectives to the council’s attention. “Communication is first and foremost. It makes everything else easier,” she said.

As CEO of the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce, she says she strived to ensure “decisions were fair and informed.” Her background in management, marketing and sales will also be assets, she said.

Top on her list of considerations is ensuring Post Falls manages its growth. “Before we grow any bigger, we’ve got to look at our infrastructure … to make sure it’s adequate … and we need to find ways to connect the north and the south of town that would work for everybody.”

“Skip Hissong: 60; co-owner/co-operator of Summit Equipment; previously served four years on City Council; 14 years as urban renewal district commissioner; Chamber of Commerce board member; member and co-founder of Post Falls Community Volunteers; and member of American Legion.

Voters can depend on him to be a watchdog over city spending, Hissong said. At the same time, he’d like to see the Post Falls urban renewal commission reined in, but not eliminated.

Because developments built under the commission’s umbrella often receive substantial tax breaks, he said, the city is collecting far less revenue from corporations than it otherwise could. And the city should also find ways to spend less revenue, he said.

“I really believe somebody needs to worry about the little old lady who lives on 14th Street, on a pension. How’s she going to pay her taxes? I think they need that voice back on the council,” Hissong said.

Seat 6: two-year term

Keith Hutcheson: 39; Chief of police for Coeur d’Alene Tribe for two years; member of Kootenai County Fire and Rescue Commission for five years; former Kootenai County sheriff’s deputy, K-9 trainer and evaluator; certified by Idaho State Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy; cross-deputized with sheriff’s departments in Kootenai County and with the city of Plummer; two years on Post Falls Parks and Recreation Commission; and volunteer for nonprofits Youth First and Sports USA.

Community growth, he said, is one of the most pressing issues facing the city. “I think I can bring the public safety aspect in.

“They need somebody on the board that’s worked on the street, talked to the people, been on emergency scenes and heard people talk about things – like the houses being burned in Montrose. You have to be able to listen to the people and we have to correct mistakes,” he said.

He credits the council for operating in a transparent fashion. And he thinks it has done a good job guiding the city and operating its urban renewal district.

“I want to continue to make Post Falls where it is now, a model city. I want to come in and make sure that it continues to run in a manner that is professionally done,” Hutcheson said.

“Anthony Skarisky: 35; founder/owner of Home Mortgage Northwest; member of the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce; frequently attends City Council meetings.

Skarisky promises to be a “common-sense voice of the people and a voice for small business here.”

He believes the big boom years in Post Falls have come and gone.

“Now, we need to look at the prudent management of the city. We really need to think about things in a conservative philosophy (and oversee) managed growth and wise use of our resources, natural and financial,” he said. That should lead to reduced city spending, he added.

Attracting new jobs with higher wages and taking a friendlier approach to encouraging small businesses could be antidotes to the slump, he said. “I believe we need to provide managed growth to stabilize local housing prices while increasing affordable housing and protecting private property rights,” he said.

“Linda Wilhelm: 51; real estate broker at Coldwell Banker Schneidmiller Real Estate; member of Post Falls Planning and Zoning Commission for about eight years; helped rewrite city’s 2004 comprehensive plan; co-chairwoman of city beautification committee; and involved with Habitat for Humanity.

As a real estate broker and lifelong resident, Wilhelm said she’s “pro-growth” so long as it doesn’t manifest itself as urban sprawl. “I’ve been interested in the growth here not only because of my job, but because it brings jobs and opportunities to young people that we didn’t have as kids growing up here,” she said.

She’s been active in helping create the city’s proposed smart code, a guide for development. It would encourage creation of diverse neighborhoods that include a variety of uses, such as shops, parks and homes.

“I feel more like I could help rather than change” the council’s vision for the community, she said.


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