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Endorsement: Waldref has grasp of complex challenges

Northeast Spokane District 1 will have a new representative on the City Council, with term limits forcing the departure of Al French. Both candidates are opposed to Proposition 4 and support investigative powers for the police ombudsman, but there is little agreement beyond that.

Amber Waldref has been dubbed a “wacko Seattle greenie” by statewide initiative czar Tim Eyman. And why is he weighing in on a local race? It’s because Waldref’s opponent, Mike Fagan, co-founded Voters Want More Choices, which is the voter initiative factory run by Eyman. Thus, Fagan has been dubbed the “Tim Eyman of Eastern Washington.” Behind the simplistic labels are two candidates who have worked to make northeast Spokane a better place.

Fagan is rightly proud of his volunteer efforts in Hillyard, and he should be given credit for running for an office that must deal with the fallout from his initiatives. He was also involved in the term limits movement, which unleashed a costumed weasel at public events for then-U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt when the congressman reneged on his term limits vow. Fagan says his main reason for running for City Council is to bring balance to what he views as an ideologically “center-left” council and to protect taxpayers. As a supporter of Initiative 1033, he’d want strict limits on budget growth. He states that if the police and fire chiefs need to “ride shifts” to deliver adequate service, then so be it.

Fagan says the city should not be facing such a large deficit, but he doesn’t seem to see the connection between his voter initiatives and budget shortfalls. He makes the same arguments for audits and efficiencies that are the staple of small-government candidates. If voters want an embodiment of I-1033, Fagan is the choice.

Waldref has an environmental background, but the Eyman label is silly. As development director of the Lands Council, she worked for a balanced, collaborative approach on reducing phosphorus in the Spokane River. She wants to keep the issue out of the courts and says it is important to address all sources of pollution, such as “nonpoint” fertilizer use, because the problem extends beyond those industries with “pipes in the river” (including Inland Empire Paper, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review.) For that reason, she advocates strong shoreline protections. She says the state Department of Ecology’s standards for the river are probably unrealistic using available technology.

Waldref supports Mayor Mary Verner’s efforts to win significant concessions from employee unions on pay and benefits. She would like to explore efficiencies across government boundaries on areas such as animal control. She advocates a dedicated fund to street improvements and supports the completion of the North Spokane Corridor. She wants to build on the strengths in Spokane’s economy, with an emphasis on the health care sector.

Waldref has an impressive command of the issues and how they’re intertwined. She would bring a fresh, analytical voice to the council and gets our endorsement.

See 2009-election-endorsements for The Spokesman-Review’s endorsements.

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