Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey gave the first of four planned State of the City speeches Monday night to a crowd of about 50 people in Valley Fourth Memorial Church.
Towey spoke for 30 minutes before beginning to accept questions. But the question-and-answer period quickly became dominated by Alan Creach and other members of Greenacres Baptist Church demanding that something be done about how the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office uses unmarked cars. Creach’s father, Scott Creach, was killed last August during a confrontation with a uniformed deputy who was in an unmarked car. The Sheriff’s Office is under contract to provide law enforcement to Spokane Valley.
“My pastor was killed senselessly,” said Dennis Stuhlmiller. “I think it needs to be addressed.”
“I mourn along with the rest of Spokane Valley,” Towey said, but an investigation into the matter is already complete. “Whether you agree or disagree with that decision, it was made.”
Towey also said the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t expire for two more years.
“I don’t think it would be wise to break a contract in the middle of it,” he said. “We have to honor that contract until the expiration date.” At that point the City Council could make changes if it wants to, he said.
Alan Creach said it is illegal for police to use unmarked cars unless it is for confidential, investigative or undercover work. He asked the mayor to limit the Sheriff’s Office “in their blatant violation of state law. That deputy was trespassing on private property. All we’re asking you to do as a council is address this issue of unmarked cars.”
“We just don’t want this to happen again,” said Ed Mattfeld. “Let’s not shirk our responsibility.”
Towey repeatedly said that if people want the council to consider something, it must be done at a council meeting, on the record, in front of the entire council.
Creach said that he just wants the council to look at the issue.
“I don’t want it to be said that I’m over here picking on law enforcement,” he said, noting that the Sheriff’s Office includes good deputies. But there are problem deputies who must be dealt with, he said.
“Don’t duck and run. Deal with the problem,” he said.
During his speech Towey spent time thanking council members for their “sometimes active discussions” and city staff for helping him learn the details of his new position. Then he reviewed 2010 highlights. The city began broadcasting its council meetings on cable television for the first time last year. “It started to stimulate community interest in involvement,” he said.
He also touted the completion of the Barker Bridge, extension roadwork on Sullivan Road and the city’s new website that includes online problem reporting. The city’s financial health is good, he said, but the city must look for grant funds to help fill the gaps. “Financially we are in good condition,” he said. “But we must continue to budget conservatively, cutting expenses.”
The city has 437 miles of streets to maintain and must come up with a way to fund $4.3 million in street preservation projects annually, he said.
Towey also outlined several goals for 2011. The city will begin its own economic development program, he said. “What it’s going to look like, I don’t know yet,” he said. “I believe the future of Spokane Valley is the small business environment.”
The city also needs to look at options for a new city hall and continue to “adjust development regulations to encourage positive growth,” he said.
Spokane Valley has a frontier spirit, Towey said. People are independent but willing to help neighbors, if there is a need.
“Let’s just work together and do it,” he said.