Of the half-dozen candidates in the District 3 City Council primary, three of them merit serious consideration.
The incumbent is Nancy McLaughlin, a fiscal and social conservative who was elected four years ago. She and her husband run a construction and remodeling business. She has made employee compensation at City Hall a top issue, voting against the last three contracts. The city’s budget suffers from a structural deficit, because it pays out more than it brings in. The chief reason is labor costs, which account for the lion’s share of the budget. Her votes and advocacy have helped shine a spotlight on this.
While it’s true that municipal governments, particularly on the East Side, are hamstrung by a state law that results in comparable pay to wealthier West Side cities, McLaughlin is in a good position to lobby state lawmakers for relief. As incoming secretary for the Association of Washington Cities, she is in line to be president.
On other issues, McLaughlin supports the police ombudsman position, though she would’ve preferred the Boise model, which includes investigatory powers. She strikes the right chord in supporting businesses and the University District. She voted against putting Envision Spokane on the November ballot, citing legitimate legal concerns and the unrealistic nature of the measure.
She does hold curious views on global warming, which emerged during a vote on the city’s sustainability plan. Her allusions to United Nations’ influences were cringe-inducing. In addition, we disagree with her views on several social issues.
John Waite, who owns a comic book store downtown, has run for the state Legislature and the City Council in the recent past. He also has a radio show. He is frustrated with the adversarial nature of the two main political parties and seeks to find common ground. He also supports the reining in of City Hall pay and correctly notes that residents cannot endure more tax increases.
He agrees with McLaughlin on the police ombudsman and thinks that the community is not ready financially for Envision Spokane, though he agrees with some of the principles. He supports the sustainability measure.
He is more socially liberal, but those issues are of lesser importance for a council member. While Waite has many commendable stances, he comes across as frustrated and pessimistic. The city needs work – no question – but it’s not “broken.”
Karen Kearney was a banking manager in Seattle for many years. She was the campaign manager for Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. She is adamantly opposed to the proposed Little League fields near South Indian Trail Road. She is earnest and vows to work hard, but she needs to offer more specifics. For instance, she says the city needs to “follow the budget” to stem the revenue shortfalls. On the issue of employee pay, she contends the unions have already made significant concessions. She would not vote against employee contracts agreed upon by the city and unions.
Kearney and Waite are solid candidates, but we think the city would be better served by keeping Nancy McLaughlin in office.
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