Candidates running for mayor and City Council in Cheney had a chance to introduce themselves to the community and answer questions forum last week in the little theater at Cheney High School.
There are two contested races for City Council in November. Vying for council position 1 are Fred Pollard and Graeme Webster. Kathleen Warren and incumbent Mike McKeehan are running for council position 3.
McKeehan couldn’t make it to the forum due to an emergency. Incumbent Teresa Overhauser is running for council position 4 unopposed and did not participate in the forum.
Squaring off in the mayor’s race is incumbent Allan Gainer and council member Tom Trulove.
John McCallum, the editor of the Cheney Free Press, moderated the forum, which included two parts – one for City Council candidates and one part for the mayor’s race.
During the City Council portion of the forum, McCallum gave each candidate three minutes to introduce themselves.
Kathleen Warren said she had grown up reading stories of U.S. presidents and dreamed of one day running for office. She said she has lived in Cheney three times over the years, and when she returned in the summer of 2008 she decided to run when the opportunity came.
“The time is right for me,” she said. “The season is right.”
Graeme Webster said that although he has never run for office before, he always attends council meetings. He decided that if he wants to have a voice in the decision making in Cheney, he needs to run for the council.
Fred Pollard also saw the opportunity to run.
“There’s a lot going on in the community,” he said.
McCallum asked the first question of the candidates based upon a letter to the editor he received that compared Cheney’s growth to that of Liberty Lake or Spokane Valley and said it was detrimental to the community. McCallum asked the candidates if they agreed.
“I do believe Cheney is growing,” Pollard said. He said that managing that growth is the key. “I think this is a wonderful place and the quality of life is something we need to preserve.”
Webster agreed that growth is coming to the city and said that Cheney needs to balance that growth with the characteristics that made it what it is today. He said there are far too many apartments being built in the city and that the zoning codes need to be changed.
Warren said when she returned to Cheney she saw a lot of changes – many businesses had sprung up, but many had disappeared as well.
“We will not become a Spokane Valley or a Liberty Lake because we are so unique,” she said.
Another topic was the bond issue on the ballot in November to build the new 50-acre park and whether or not the candidates support it.
Warren said she has been reading up on the park issue and often wonders if it would be beneficial in the long run. She was unhappy with the loss of the Wren Pierson Building last winter and wonders if there will be available transportation to the three social service programs – Cheney Outreach, the food bank and the clothing bank – if they move to a community center on the north side of town.
But she added that if the voters approve the bond she will support it.
Webster said building the park now would help save the city construction costs, since prices are lower now – when the economy turns around, construction and material prices would be higher. He said it would be a big investment but would put Cheney on the map and bring people to town for Little League, softball and events at Eastern Washington University.
“I would like to see a community center closer to the downtown core,” he added.
Pollard said that as a father of two children, he received a letter from a softball team stressing the importance of cleaning up the parks after games to keep the schools happy so teams are allowed to continue using fields, since there was limited field space as it is. As a former business owner, he wanted to sponsor a Little League but was told to hold off, since there were so many teams the league wasn’t sure they were going to have a place for all of them to play.
“I’m 110 percent for it,” he said.
During the mayor’s race portion of the forum, Trulove and Gainer each received five minutes to introduce themselves.
Gainer said he was running for re-election because there are a lot of projects in Cheney that are ready to go that he wants to see through to the end, such as the rewrite of the comprehensive plan.
He said that he supports the 50-acre park and wants to start Fourth of July traditions in Cheney at the park.
He grew up in Cheney and decided, when he returned to the area after being in the military, to raise his children here.
Trulove said he had been mayor of Cheney from 1977 through 1986, when he was appointed to Gov. Booth Gardner’s cabinet. He is an economist and chair of the department of economics at Eastern Washington University. He also said that every Washington state governor – Republican or Democrat – since John Spellman had appointed him to something in some capacity.
“The city’s CEO should be a demonstrated leader,” Trulove said.
One of the questions from the audience to the candidates was if the city should create building codes to conform to a theme, much like Leavenworth, Wash.
Trulove said the city has tried to do that a few times over the years, once with a railroad theme. The problem was absentee property owners who wouldn’t voluntarily adapt to the theme.
He said it should be a question the city looks at during its comprehensive plan rewrite.
Gainer said that business owners, himself included, recently formed the Cheney Merchants Association, and they often ask each other what they would like the city to look like in the future.
“We need to work together on that one,” he said.
McCallum asked the candidates what practical ideas they had for the city that they could achieve on their first day in office.
Gainer said that during his time in office, they have done small things in the city such as adding benches and town square lighting. Another idea that came up several times during the forum is forming a chamber of commerce specifically for Cheney.
“We are ready for a Cheney chamber here,” Gainer said.
Trulove said the city has spent a lot of money on the appearance of downtown. They have found grants for trees and money to put in sidewalks.
“I don’t see a lot of return on the investment,” he said. There are vacant buildings throughout downtown Cheney and Trulove said that having its own chamber of commerce would help find businesses to move into the buildings.
Ballots for these races must be postmarked by Nov. 3.