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Plain facts about City Council and what it’s doing for us all

Sat., April 17, 2010, midnight

As Spokane Valley City Council members, one of our responsibilities is to make sure accurate information is available to citizens: no fancy rhetoric; no impassioned plea – just the plain facts.

The Mayor’s Ball was funded 100 percent through private donations and ticket sales. All citizens were invited to purchase tickets and to “have a ball.”

Council travel has always kept within its budget. Fast-food dinners have been supplied for council and staff from 5 to 6 p.m. if they were involved in the 6 to 9 p.m. council meeting. No funds were ever spent for alcohol.

To maintain our present public safety effort, property taxes were increased 0.68 percent for residential homeowners. This amounts to $1.12 annually for the average homeowner. However, because of decreasing home values, many homeowners have seen a decrease in city property taxes this year.

Since incorporation, salaries of employees have increased 2.5 percent per year in “good” years and in “bad” years, while inflation averaged 2.5 percent per year. However, our recent salary survey found that employees were about 9 percent behind comparable positions so they were granted an additional 3 percent in this last contract to close that gap.

Except for code violations, the city has initiated only one lawsuit since its incorporation. We congratulate the city on its commendation by our insurance agency regarding its low rate of litigation.

Spokane County initiated cessation of the snow-plowing contract, not the city. Contract bidding laws require us to accept the lowest bid and do not permit us to favor local bidders.

We have 66 percent of the vacancies of commercial properties, but only 40 percent of the commercial space in Spokane County. Obviously, Sprague-Appleway corridor needs revitalizing. We believe that cosmetics cannot solve this problem and, thus far, SARP is the best alternative. Let’s hear from citizens, make the changes the council wishes to make, and get on with it before we lose even more jobs and businesses.

If Appleway were extended, it would cost about $24 million over the next 20 years; upgrading Sprague would cost another $11 million. This would be financed by private developers, grants, and through real estate excise tax receipts – not through property taxes. This is the same method used to finance Appleway west of University. Some wish to refuse these grants and development; we think that is unwise. We can not, as some suggest, abate taxes for financing private development.

We are spending about $450,000 per year to house our employees. Is there a better way to spend these funds? Just as owning a home is considered a good investment, we believe the city should at least explore the option of owning a City Hall. To do otherwise is a disservice to our citizens.

Intersection improvements are more durable and require less maintenance. They are financed through grants. Some citizens prefer our present high-maintenance intersections; we respectfully disagree.

According to traffic engineers, adding mid-block crosswalks along Sprague without other improvements would increase hazards to pedestrians and increase the city’s liability for such accidents.

These are the facts. It is our pleasure to work with all citizens of our proud city to improve our community. This includes the over 1,000 businesses who provide the funds for the operation of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Spokane Valley Business Association, the citizen volunteers of the Planning Commission, all City Council members, and others. Let’s get to work on the needed improvements in our fine city.

Spokane Valley City Council members Rose Dempsey and Bill Gothmann can be reached by e-mail at rdempsey@ spokanevalley.org and bgothmann@ spokanevalley.org.


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