The race for Mike Allen’s seat on the Spokane City Council has attracted a crowd, but we think it boils down to two candidates who have the credentials and principles for the job.
One is Allen, who was appointed to a council vacancy in 2008 and didn’t plan to run for the office once the term was over. The other is former Councilman Steve Eugster, who declined to seek re-election in 2003 after a stormy four years. So, for both of them, this campaign signals a change of heart.
The rest of the field is generally untested, and one candidate, political consultant David Elton, has been so contentious at some City Council meetings that a judge ordered him to stay away.
Among the others, Kristina Sabestinas, on leave from a job in Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ district office, is bright, full of energy and aware of City Hall’s need for a more conservative fiscal approach to city business. But she concedes that she still has much to learn, and, moreover, she thinks Allen is doing a good job. With more seasoning, she has potential.
Jon Snyder, publisher of Out There Monthly magazine, is bright and animated, but less committed to confining city government to the essentials.
High school student Greg Ridgley wants to encourage civic engagement among young people – a fine goal, but he’s unprepared for a seat on the Spokane City Council.
Allen says the job grew on him, and now he’s fired up about a variety of enterprises, mostly related to economic development. His vision includes a thriving, centralized public market, a vigorous international district along East Sprague Avenue and a bold program to nurture business and job creation.
Allen has owned a small business, overseen a college athletic department budget and directed foundation and corporate relations for Eastern Washington University – a credible resume. As a council member, he’s pushing for the city to clarify its capital priorities and to control police and fire salaries to preserve more police and fire jobs.
Eugster’s views have some of the same appeal. Municipal government, he says, has a limited purpose that essentially translates to public safety, including streets. Throw in land-use matters, and that’s it. Other activities – parks and libraries – would compete for resources that are left over but might better be placed under another governing structure, such as a metropolitan municipal corporation.
But we can’t overlook the combativeness and litigiousness that marked Eugster’s earlier term. Whatever merit his ideas have, his ability to carry them out would be hampered if he’s as disruptive as he was before.
Allen doesn’t present that concern. He’s done a commendable job for the past 18 months and has begun work on several undertakings that line up well with Spokane’s economic development needs. Voters should reward that thoughtful work by electing him to a full four-year term.