July 28, 2011 in Washington Voices

Spokane Valley Council Pos. 6 candidates answer questions

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Ballots for the August primary election are being mailed this week and Spokane Valley voters have one contested City Council race on the ballot. Position 6, which will be vacated by Councilman Bill Gothmann at the end of the year, has drawn four challengers. Only the top two vote-getters will advance to the November election. Each candidate was asked the same five questions and asked to limit each answer to 100 words.

John Baldwin, 74, has been a longtime volunteer with University SCOPE. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran and spent more than two decades working for Rosauers as a stock clerk and night manager.

He applied for two vacant City Council seats this year, but both times he asked that his name be withdrawn from consideration. He then applied unsuccessfully for a vacant planning commission seat, which went to Steven Neill. Baldwin is running a minimal campaign and has not collected any campaign donations.

Marilyn Cline, 56, was a longtime volunteer with Central Valley SCOPE before recently resigning to serve on the countywide SCOPE board of directors. She’s a West Valley High School graduate and was a frequent volunteer at her son’s schools.

Cline has aligned herself with the “Positive Change” majority of the City Council. Mayor Tom Towey and Councilman Chuck Hafner are her campaign co-chairs. Bill Bates, a planning commissioner and Towey’s brother, is her campaign’s treasurer. She’s also received campaign donations from several current council members.

Lewis Higgins, 68, comes from an Idaho mining family and held several jobs in the mining industry himself. He retired as the executive director of the International Association of Mine Safety Professionals. He has lived in Spokane Valley since 1991. Higgins has not yet reported receiving any campaign donations.

Ben Wick, 29, is the IT systems administrator for Goodrich Corp. He is a lifelong resident of Spokane Valley and graduated from East Valley High School and Eastern Washington University. He ran unsuccessfully for a council seat when the city first incorporated in 2003, a year that attracted more than 50 candidates for the council seats.

He applied for a vacant council seat once in 2009 and twice this year. In each instance he was selected as a finalist but was not appointed to the seat. Wick is supported by Gothmann, who is chair of his campaign committee and also donated $500 to Wick’s campaign.

Q. What is the most important issue facing the City of Spokane Valley and what would you do to fix it?

Baldwin:

Living within its budget. Keeping taxes the same, going back to basics, cutting nonessential programs. Our No. 1 priority is public safety and road repair.

Cline:

The Budget 2012: Making sure of the sustainability of the city for the future. Without that there is no city. The council is there to make sure of that. Nothing will work if not sustainable. Being good stewards of public money directed towards the future of the city.  Five to 10 years from now the city will be here because of decisions made today. We can’t always go to the reserve to balance the budget. The budget reflects the need of the city.

Higgins:

The primary functions of municipal government are security of its citizens, roads, and infrastructure. When we stray from these basic responsibilities, we tend to use the money entrusted to us irresponsibly. These are turbulent economic times. One of the most important issues facing city government is a continuing and dependable source of revenue in order to meet its obligations. In meeting those obligations, I would work to see that the city is frugal in its spending and vigilant in its efforts to be as lean and efficient as possible.

Wick:

There is great potential in Spokane Valley. We have a great quality of life and a community that wants to make our area even better for future generations. What we seem to be missing are long-term plans. We created our city so that we could be in control of our own destiny. We need to have a Vision, a direction that we want to start moving towards. In order to be successful, the vision must be shared. We need to bring businesses and the community together to collectively set the direction for the future.

Q. If you are elected, what issues to you want to address, and why?

Baldwin:

Tax increases. Insuring that we are not spending more than the revenue coming in. Looking for ways to improve infrastructure, streets, etc. without massive taxes by applying for state and federal grants. Keeping Sprague Avenue the way it is, not going back to a two-way, when the citizens will bear the cost for the project. This should be placed before the voters. New sewage treatment plant, which is going to be needed with the increase of population and how it will be paid for.

Cline:

Keeping the Valley culture alive. Preserve those qualities that make our Valley great.  I prefer to listen to the public and small-business owners, and hear their issues. I would be one of seven people and those seven people need to work together on all the issues. I have lived here for 66 years and have a tremendous love for the Valley.

Higgins:

Spokane Valley has much to offer both existing and prospective businesses provided that we find ways to reduce or streamline our permitting and regulatory processes, and the ways we perform the basic city functions described above. By demonstrating that we embrace a business friendly environment with fair and even-handed administration, we will retain existing businesses and attract new ones. Too, as we grow, we must do so in a responsible manner, ensuring that we retain our attractive neighborhoods while observing basic property rights. I will work to maintain what is successful and endeavor to improve what is not.

Wick:

Long Term Thinking – Instead of thinking constantly in the present we need to be asking, “Imagine Spokane Valley 50 years from now, what would it look like?” Once we have a direction where we want to go, we can set goals and create projects to take us there.

Communication / Collaboration – We could be regional leaders, working collaboratively with neighboring governments, businesses, and the community. We all want to do what is best for the city and our community. In order to be successful we need to bring people together and work collaboratively.

Q. Would you support a new tax or fee to pay for street preservation projects?

Baldwin:

No. Not unless it was put before the voters in a referendum for them to approve or disapprove.

Cline:

I am not in favor of any new taxes right now. People are having a hard enough time making ends meet in this economy. It is not about spending it is about smart spending. Raising taxes is not what you do, you spend less.

Higgins:

No. I’ve promised not to vote for new taxes, and I mean it. Wasn’t the utility tax levied to accomplish this? Street preservation should be a line item in the city’s budget, where it would have instant visibility. Currently this important city function does not have that visibility. We rely on grant money to fund specific projects, but grant money is not a dependable source of funds and often comes with onerous strings attached. With an economic downturn upon us, grant money from any source is likely to dry up. We must learn to live within our means.

Wick:

We definitely need a plan for street preservation. We should focus on understanding how often our streets need to be improved, how fast they are deteriorating, and what options we have to preserve them. By having a long-term plan we know which roads need help and can be more proactive about grant/matching fund opportunities to lower our costs. Adding a new tax or fee will make us less attractive for businesses and less desirable to citizens. Our city’s largest revenue source is sales tax; I believe that we should instead focus on expanding our business community.

Q. Should the city continue to lease a City Hall or build its own?

Baldwin:

Yes. There is no way the city can afford it with the economy the way it is.

Cline:

At the present time the city should continue to lease where they are. I believe the economy needs to improve before we think of building and spending. Money needs to be spent on a need and prioritized level. We do need to continue to set money aside so when the economy turns we could be ready to build, if that is what the people want.

Higgins:

The city currently pays $400,000 in rent for its quarters. Could another place be rented for less? With all of the vacancies along Sprague, might it make sense to purchase one of the larger ones and remodel it to suit our needs? Too, we own CenterPlace. That might be a possibility. In any event, I do not favor building another City Hall.

Wick:

I believe that, for the moment, leasing our city hall is helping our community. With the downturn in the economy there are a lot of empty buildings in the Spokane Valley. By leasing our City Hall we are supporting a business and helping reduce the amount of empty space. However, we should definitely start planning for the future. We need to be setting aside money now, or even purchasing the land now, before prices go up. By doing this we will be enabling ourselves to own our City Hall in the future.

Q. What can the city do to make Sprague Avenue more attractive?

Baldwin:

Encourage manufacturing to move into the area, with incentives such as tax breaks and less regulation. This would have a ripple effect, for other businesses to move in, such as restaurants, shops, etc.

Cline:

Some ideas are to repave Sprague. We could put in decorative lighting, new trees, benches and colorful banners. Of course, all of this at a cost to the taxpayers. In my opinion right now it is not the time to do all of this, but it would be more attractive. Zoning regulations designed to allow businesses to operate successfully could also bring in more business, improving the appearance. Perhaps more activities like car shows, arts and crafts, and maybe a farmers market would help, at very little cost.

Higgins:

The city should provide the business-friendly environment to foster business growth and development. Its current efforts to add welcoming signs, landscaping and better lighting is an excellent start. Recognizing that these economic times are extremely difficult, the best way to make Sprague Avenue more attractive is for private business to prosper. Revitalization will accompany that growth. Perhaps the city might explore the possibility of utilizing one of the aforementioned vacancies in one of the more deteriorated areas to put the City Hall. “If you build it, they will come” might indeed work.

Wick:

I believe that our city leadership needs to bring businesses and the community together. Together we can identify the development/prosperity road blocks, better understand them, know where we want to go, and together we can get there. We all want to make our city a better place to live, a better place to do business, and ensure that future generations can be prosperous. We need leaders that will bring people together. As a team we can accomplish more than as individuals.


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