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‘Positive change’ bloc sweeps to power in Spokane Valley

Five city council candidates promising “positive change” for Spokane Valley’s 6-year-old government swept into power Tuesday.

“We changed it,” retired school administrator Chuck Hafner, said of the Positive Change committee he led. “I’m so excited.”

Hafner said supporters of disincorporation and other critics “all had the same goal, but coming from different directions.”

Except for state Sen. Bob McCaslin, the candidates and about 100 Positive Change supporters gathered at the Players & Spectators casino to receive the tentative election results and celebrate.

Speaking from his home, McCaslin said he prefers to wait for final results before declaring victory, but the election night count gave him 59- to 41-percent edge for the City Council seat of Mayor Rich Munson.

“The people have spoken,” Munson said. “They’re going to get the government they asked for.”

Munson said he had no regrets. “I can look back and know that I did my best and the city benefited from it.”

In many ways, the sea change was a reaction to the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan the council passed earlier this year. Motorists hated the part that would tinker with the streets’ one-way couplet; some business owners hated its zoning restrictions.

One of those businessmen was Dean Grafos, who overwhelmed recently appointed Councilman Ian Robertson and two other challengers, Ed Foote and Ed Pace. He said he was pleased with the results, but had no other comment.

“The city will go on in a different direction, and we wish them well,” said Robertson, whom Grafos will replace as soon as the election results are certified.

Robertson said he planned to start cleaning his desk today. “I’m as free as a bird now,” he said.

Incumbent Gary Schimmels and Tom Towey, who ran unopposed for the seat Dick Denenny is vacating, also are part of the Positive Change slate.

Towey said his top priorities will be public safety and roads, “and anything after that is gravy.” The Sprague-Appleway plan is an unfunded “pipe dream” in his view.

Schimmels said repeal of the Sprague-Appleway plan “is on the table,” but “we have to do some due diligence before we do anything like that.”

“Parts of it, I think, will definitely need to be scaled back,” said challenger Brenda Grassel, who apparently unseated incumbent Diana Wilhite with 53 percent of the vote. “I don’t know that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Grassel’s priority is to overhaul the city’s planning and building regulations in general to make them friendlier to builders and businesses.

“I hope she puts all the work into it that’s needed to keep the city growing and moving in a positive direction,” Wilhite said. “Doing nothing is not an option.”