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Editorial: Narrow council race to Waite, McKereghan

The race to replace Bob Apple on the Spokane City Council has drawn an eclectic mix of business owners, community activists and experienced campaigners. The northeast Spokane seat has drawn a half-dozen candidates at a time when the city faces enormous budget problems.

Gary Pollard pilots the Riverside Neighborhood Council and has served on many municipal committees. He clearly cares about the city, but his focus on what’s good for neighborhoods might be too narrow for the overall challenges that lie ahead. Chris Bowen declines to say what he does for a living and offers odd, unworkable solutions to budget challenges.

Luke Tolley, who is the marketing organizer for SustainableWorks, is an energetic cheerleader for Hillyard and is passionate about public service. He acknowledges the gap between the city’s revenues and expenses and the need to rein in labor costs, but an endorsement from the Spokane Labor Council could make it difficult for him to be wholly impartial.

Mike Fagan is well-known as the mascot weasel that used to stalk former Rep. George Nethercutt over the term-limits issue. He works for Tim Eyman on small-government voter initiatives. As a member of the Spokane Patriots, he views the federal government and the United Nations as threats to municipal sovereignty and pushed for the city to pass charter amendments that address these phantom concerns. Smaller government has its appeal, but there are candidates who can more effectively carry that banner without the fringe-politics distractions. His dogmatic views and distaste for compromise demonstrate that he would not be a collaborative problem-solver.

Donna McKereghan owns a Web design company and is a former member of the Washington state Legislative Ethics Board. She also was president of the Logan Neighborhood Council. She has been active in city issues for many years and helped the city devise its ethics ordinance. Her strength is her breadth of knowledge and experience in civic matters, but she is against any effort to lobby the Legislature for a change in binding arbitration for public safety workers. Current labor law makes it more difficult to gain wage concessions based on a community’s ability to pay.

John Waite is the longtime owner of a downtown comics/game store who touts his independence from political party influence. He is a focused problem-solver who has a realistic grasp of the city’s finances, including the daunting labor costs. As a business owner, he understands that City Hall departments need to be helpers, not impediments, to commerce.

Waite worries that partisanship is creeping back into City Hall and blocking progress. He shows a willingness to listen patiently to complaints from across the political spectrum, but he makes it clear that government actions must be grounded in practicality.

This race features passionate candidates with an array of views, but McKereghan and Waite are the top two choices and should advance to the general election.

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