Q&A: Gary Pollard, running for Spokane City Council seat representing Northeast Spokane
1. Why do you feel that you are the best candidate?
To bring reasonable, fair, common-sense solutions to challenges currently facing our city.
BUDGET AND TAXES
2. Given the expected $7 million shortfall between the revenue the city expects in 2012 and the amount needed to maintain current services, should the city maintain a youth department? Should the city maintain an arts department? Should the city maintain a weights and measures department? Are there other city services that you would consider eliminating?
Yes to all three; individually and combined they only make up a fraction of our budget yet each provides a service that reflects on the heart of our city.
3. Spokane has one of the highest utility tax rates in the state. Would you consider implementing a local business and occupation tax, as many cities in western Washington have done, as a way to lower the utility tax or other city taxes?
In general – no, for any advantage would prove harmful in the long term. However, there has been discussion of a limited B&O tax with a sunset clause that could be considered. Another resource is convincing the Legislator to pass an online sales tax.
4. The city recently has lobbied the Legislature to amend state law regarding binding arbitration so that if contract negotiations stall between the city and a union representing firefighters or police officers, an arbitrator could consider additional factors when setting wages and benefits, such as a city’s ability to pay and to maintain a reserve fund. Do you support this change to state law?
Not in its present format, it’s too vague, and inequitable. Though I understand the reasoning, we can approach this issue in a more just matter.
5. City officials increased sewer charges by 17 percent last year and predict more increases the next few years in large part to pay for nearly $650 million for projects required by the state to improve sewage treatment and prevent untreated sewage from spilling into the river. Do you support sewage fee increases that could top 10 percent in each of the next couple of years? If not, what would be your preferred alternative?
Though I’m bothered by fee increases, I’m lost at finding an alternative at this time. I’m more concerned over the federal and state governments placing unfunded mandates on local communities.
6. Should the city continue to use the Waste-to-Energy Plant to dispose trash collected within Spokane?
Yes, until an alternative method is found.
7. Do you support tax incentives for historic renovation? Do you support tax incentives for building condos and apartments downtown and in certain neighborhood centers?
Yes, for each represents an economic driver for our city. The state allows us few tools to increase much needed revenues, jobs, growth, etc. We need to take advantage of the few we do have.
8. Many candidates are focused this campaign season on job creation. Should the city actively try to create jobs? If so, what should it do?
Yes. By seeking input from the small business and development sectors as to ways the city can partner with them to help decrease their overhead, road blocks to growth, amending regulations that no longer apply, speeding up time consuming processes such as permits, licensing, inspections; finding ways to help businesses get up and running in a more timely matter. We need to do a better job of convincing citizens to shop and bank local, keeping local money local and in our own pockets and tills.
9. Do you support the use of red light cameras? If so, do you support diverting ticket revenue from a fund for traffic safety projects to help balance the budget?
Yes, I support it, and no – I do not support diverting revenues.
10. Do you support the decision to have a full-time police ombudsman? Do you believe that the ombudsman should have the authority to conduct independent investigations into alleged police misconduct?
I do not support the ombudsman program the way it is practiced now. Unless given investigative authority the position amounts to little more than a figurehead.
11. Would you support a law, modeled after a law in Seattle, to make misdemeanor possession of marijuana by an adult the city’s lowest enforcement priority?
LIBRARIES, PARKS AND ENVIRONMENT
12. Spokane’s library system offers significantly fewer hours than many of the 20 largest cities in Washington. Would you be willing to ask voters for a tax to boost this service as was requested earlier this year by the city library board?
Not at this time, for as the year progresses other departments may find that many of their services would need to be curtailed as well. Though not in favor of a levy lid lift, we may find it is our only true option and would much rather have one ballot issue for the voter to contend with rather than several.
13. A consultant hired by the city to review city services in 2006 said that the city was not investing enough in its urban forest. Should the city do more to plant and maintain street trees. If so, how?
Yes. Those of us on the committee to develop a citywide street tree ordinance understood that one of the main motivators for doing so was being designated a “Tree City USA” by the Arbor Society, making us eligible for urban forest grants. We also composed a vegetative management program to oversee the creation of an urban forest. I would revisit those programs with the goal of finding tools to plant and maintain street trees.
14. Do you support the sustainability plan promoted by Mayor Mary Verner, which was adopted by the Spokane City Council in 2010? Do you support the decision of former Mayor Dennis Hession to sign the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement?
Yes. Aside from our people, Spokane’s richest asset is our water. If cared for now it will enrich our region many times over. We have some of the lowest power rates in the country, thanks to hydroelectricity. Many parts of our nation, mainly the Midwest and southwest are running out of water, with many scientists, economists and urban planners predicting that it will be on par with oil as a resource.
15. Some nearby cities have crafted restrictions for watering lawns during certain hours. Would you support instituting similar rules in Spokane?
Yes. To water a lawn mid to late afternoon is a waste of water, and money.
16. Most city officials say that the street department has not been adequately funded to properly maintain city streets once they are reconstructed. This year, the City Council approved a $20 vehicle tab tax to boost street funding. Do you support this decision? If not, would you support a change in state law to allow the city to create a street utility fee that would be charged on city trash and water bills?
Yes to both – temporally with the goal of a City Charter amendment to set aside a percentage of the general fund for street maintenance, much as we do with parks.
17. The city has nearly completed the projects it promised voters in the 2004 street bond. Would you support asking voters for a new street bond of a similar or greater scope? If so, should the bond include money to pay for sidewalks, bike lanes, street trees or other street improvements besides pavement from “curb-to-curb?”
No. I served on three street bond committees. The first two included many of these “extras,” and were rejected by the voters in times that are more affluent. In these economic times, I can’t see the people supporting anything more than curb-to-curb, with accountability. In addition, organizations, applying for grants and LID’s can finance several quality projects much as has been done in Hillyard and South Perry. I do believe, however, that the city should be responsible for placing usable curb cuts (ramps) throughout the city.
18. Do you support asking voters for a sales tax to build a streetcar or trolley system in central Spokane?
19. Where should the city install bike lanes? Would you be willing to support the installation of a bike lane on a street if the city engineer determined that doing so could cause an intersection to earn a “failing” rating for car traffic congestion?
In suburban neighborhoods, secondary arterials and within a 1-mile radius of major centers. I would not support a bike lane if it went against the advice of the city’s Engineering Department.
20. Current plans for the North Spokane Freeway call for its interchange with Interstate 90 to expand I-90 to about 20 lanes wide, including onramps and service roads, in a portion of the East Central Neighborhood. Do you support this configuration?
Yes. Foreseeing that the delay and backup in shipping goods from the Far East will only worsen in time, and that Sea-Tac and other import/export centers can only expand so far before delays can hurt our economy then the only logical place for expansion is Spokane. With a completed north-south corridor, combined with the in place east-west freeway our city will catch the west-coast overflow for decades to come. Starting the groundwork now, with the goal of having a free trade zone at the airport, joined by the freeway system will only hasten growth, development, and jobs for Spokane.