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Budget, taxes focus of Post Falls races

Tue., Oct. 20, 2009

Three incumbents challenged in City Council elections

All three incumbent Post Falls City Council members tout that the city held the line on taxes this year in the face of difficult economic times.

Despite that fact, challengers are making taxes and the budget the primary issues in this year’s races.

The City Council races pit incumbents in seats 2, 4 and 6 against one challenger apiece.

Bodman vs. Henderson

Three-term Councilman Joe Bodman pointed out that this year’s general fund budget is $2 million less than last year. “How much more can you cut?” asked Bodman, a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy. “I’m not willing to jeopardize the citizens’ safety and start cutting the police department.”

Bodman, 51, said this council built a new City Hall and police station without raising taxes. He also said he’s always voted the way his constituents wanted.

“The council gets along great. We’re moving in a positive direction,” Bodman said. “I’d hate to see that change.”

His opponent, however, could present a formidable challenge. The wife of Republican state Rep. Frank Henderson, Betty Henderson is taking her first stab at public office and is well-financed by prominent local politicians.

The 77-year-old, who runs a home security caretaking business, wants to know why the city’s levy rate is among the highest in Kootenai County and why new growth isn’t paying for itself.

“I’m conservative to the core,” Henderson said. “Conservative principles might help guide the city in the right direction.”

Jacobson vs. Hutcheson

Ronald Jacobson, a senior vice president for Inland Northwest Bank, is seeking a fourth term on the council. He said he has helped the city properly manage growth in his time on the council, during which the city built City Hall and the police department without raising taxes. Jacobson applauded the city for not raising taxes this year, considering the difficult economy.

Jacobson, 53, said growth will return to Post Falls, but the city will have to continue to work to bring more jobs in and ensure it can handle the growth it attracts. He’d like to see the city develop a reserve fund for emergencies. He said he’s “ever mindful” of spending and will continue to control taxes in his fourth term.

Challenger Keith Hutcheson, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s police chief, said “overall, the city is run pretty well,” but he’d like to offer a different perspective. He’s run twice for the council and has been elected twice as a commissioner for Kootenai County Fire and Rescue. Hutcheson, 41, said the city needs to do a better job controlling growth. When he sees so many houses on the market, he said, he wonders why the city continues to approve subdivisions.

“The infrastructure is being pushed to the limit,” Hutcheson said. “The revenues aren’t there that used to be. I’d like to be part of the decisions that are coming.”

Wilhelm vs. Flowers

First-term incumbent Linda Wilhelm faces a challenge by political newcomer Bob Flowers, a construction worker. Flowers, 53, said people have grown dissatisfied with city government, and he’s running as someone who will listen.

“I want everybody to come in and have their say,” he said. “I just don’t think City Hall is representing all the citizens of Post Falls these days.” Flowers said he’ll advocate for controlled growth, improve the police department and seek financial resources other than new taxes.

Wilhelm, a licensed real estate broker, said she’s a lifetime Post Falls resident who always has been involved in civic matters. A former member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Kootenai Perspectives board, she said she has been a “good public servant.”

She’s proud of holding the line on taxes, pushing for a “smart code” for building and planning, and raising money for water features at the city entrance. In her next term, she’d like to be more active with the urban renewal district and help secure benches for Citylink bus stops.

Wilhelm, 53, also wants to help the city negotiate with the state and county regarding wastewater discharge into the Spokane River. She said Environmental Protection Agency standards guiding that discharge are “so stringent,” and she’d like to help broker an agreement “everybody can live with.”

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