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Thu., July 28, 2011

Editorial: Hession, Stuckart top picks for council post

Spokane voters have a choice between youth and experience for City Council president.

They can choose both in next month’s primary election.

Youth is served by newcomer Ben Stuckart and repeat candidate Victor Noder, who ran for City Council in 2009. Noder styles himself “Victor the Green” and is obviously passionate about environmental issues, although he correctly identifies the Envision Spokane “Community Bill of Rights” as an assault on business. He also strongly supports police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who could use more outspoken champions.

Noder’s top priority is a publicly owned farmers market on the north end of the Monroe Street Bridge. But he is vague on how the cash-strapped city would go about purchasing such prime real estate, as he is on most matters facing the city.

Although this is Stuckart’s first run for office, he was the prime mover of last year’s effort to create a Children’s Investment Fund for Spokane schools. Voters rejected that effort almost two-to-one, and Stuckart is candid about the initiative’s poor timing and ineffective messaging.

He remains the director of Communities in Schools but has been dedicating much of his time to visiting with small businesses to hear their beefs about dealing with City Hall. He says the city can help further transform Hillyard and capitalize on the promise of the West Plains. He says neighborhood councils feel shut out.

Stuckart says the city is not a partner with businesses trying to get started or expand, many of which say they are flummoxed by city permitting and licensing requirements.

He supports collective bargaining and wants a seat at the table, but is not satisfactorily specific about how he would close the gap between costs, largely related to pay, and revenues that are not keeping pace.

Former mayor and council president Dennis Hession is more direct about the unsustainability of the routine pay and benefit hikes of the past. They must be brought under control.

More than that, Hession says, the City Council must step back and do the strategic planning that will set goals and measure outcomes. Budgeting has too often become reliant on “spasmodic” revenues from fees or the transferring of funds among various municipal accounts.

The other veteran running is two-time City Council member Steve Corker, who says he can step up to president without breaking stride.

The city needs to reach out more to business for expertise, he says, and to other jurisdictions with which the city might be able to combine services or purchasing.

Both of the experienced candidates would restore a civility to council meetings that has sometimes been lacking under incumbent Joe Shogan. But Hession is preferable because of his willingness to address the city’s overriding problem: excessive pay. He hired Kirkpatrick and remains a strong supporter.

Stuckart, though less reassuring on how he would go about negotiating new labor contracts, should also advance to the general election based on his energy, outreach to small businesses and his pledge to improve council communications with the public.

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review's position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:

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