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Fri., Oct. 16, 2009

Robertson is best choice for Valley council

A bedroom community or an urban city? Seven years ago, Spokane Valley voters opted for the latter. Some residents have buyer’s remorse. Others never wanted incorporation, but a disincorporation effort has fizzled.

A city of approximately 88,000 people does need to act like one, and that means planning that establishes an identity and diversifies the repetitive strip of retail businesses. The vehicle for that is called the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan, and its goal is to create clusters of mixed-use economic activity along the city’s main arterial. The SARP provides a blueprint but isn’t set in stone. Nevertheless, it isthe dividing line between a candidate slate that wants to pursue it and one that does not.

The Position 2 race for Spokane Valley City Council features four candidates.

Ian Robertson, then a planning commissioner, was selected for the post on an interim basis. He represents the view that the SARP and a city center are worth pursuing, though he wishes the plan had retained its section on sustainability. He says it’s a misnomer to call the city a bedroom community, because there are so many businesses. He wonders where the opposition to the SARP was when the city held numerous town hall meetings and other public discussions about the plan.

Dean Grafos is a longtime Valley businessman who financially backed the disincorporation effort. He says a new state law would make it easier for cities like Spokane to annex unincorporated areas, so he no longer wants to put disincorporation up for a vote. He is outspoken in his opposition to the SARP and does not want to change the Sprague and Appleway couplet. He says the zoning for the city that predated incorporation worked fine and he’d advocate a return to that.

Grafos has studied the city’s finances and is alarmed at the size of the budget’s growth over the years. He hasn’t offered specific cuts but vows to find them.

Ed Foote is a substitute teacher who twice ran for the state Legislature. He is the biggest proponent for light rail but isn’t as well-informed on other issues. Edward Pace, a retired minister and electronics worker, is well-meaning but also is lacking in the basic knowledge needed to be an effective council member.

Grafos is a solid candidate and makes good points about the current stewardship of the city, but his vision of returning to yesteryear would be counterproductive and divisive. Robertson displays the clearest vision of where the state’s seventh-largest city needs to go, and for that reason he is the best choice.

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

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