Former Mayor Dennis Hession shook up Spokane politics on Thursday by announcing his entry into the race for City Council president.
He joins City Councilman Steve Corker and Ben Stuckart, the executive director of Communities in Schools, in the race to lead the city’s legislative branch.
Hession said he would bring longer-term vision to the city.
“The challenge that you face if you always try to fill a budget hole (each year), is you tend to do things that aren’t necessarily strategic.”
Hession was City Council president when he was named mayor in late 2005 after Mayor Jim West was recalled from office.
Stuckart has had one of the most active and organized campaigns for Spokane office most of this year, having raised $35,000 and solidifying key support.
He said he welcomes Hession to the race but remains confident.
“We’ve got in place what it takes to win,” Stuckart said.
Corker said he’s grateful for the competition, which means the Aug. 16 primary vote has meaning. The top two candidates advance to the November election.
“A primary allows for a more informed decision by the voters in November,” Corker said.
Stuckart said he’s running because he believes that since the strong mayor system was instituted in Spokane a decade ago, council leaders have been too weak.
“They seem very reactive,” Stuckart said. “A strong leader as the City Council president can come in and work with people with different viewpoints … and create that shared vision.”
Corker said he believes he’s the best candidate because of his experience and ability to work with the current members of the council. He said he will improve interaction between the council and the public.
“I intend to be the captain of the team, not the coach,” Corker said.
Hession said he opposes Mayor Mary Verner’s plan to balance the budget, which includes increasing hotel taxes. He said he also disagrees with the council’s decision earlier this year to approve a $20-per-vehicle tab tax.
“We ought to be very reluctant of putting any higher burden on our citizens,” Hession said.
Corker and Stuckart say they are waiting to get more feedback from convention officials and hoteliers before taking a final stance on the mayor’s proposal. Corker voted against the tab tax as a council member.
Stuckart said as long as vehicle fees are used to improve streets, he supports the decision.
“Our streets are a mess,” Stuckart said. “Right now, that is one of the solutions.”
The man who currently holds the seat, Joe Shogan, said he backs Hession to replace him.
“He has the best interest of the city at heart,” said Shogan, who also has endorsed Verner for mayor.
Also filing on Thursday to run for City Council president was Victor Noder. He’s the brother of mayoral candidate Mike Noder, although Mike Noder said this week that they don’t share political philosophies and he won’t back his brother’s candidacy. Victor Noder ran for City Council in 2009, coming in sixth in a six-way race for the seat won by Nancy McLaughlin. Some of his homemade signs, which say VTG, already have sprouted in the city.
Noder said the signs stand for “Victor the Green.”
He said he wants to promote development in Spokane. Asked what kind of businesses he would bring to Spokane, Noder said: “Anything that’s good for the globe, you know sustainable things. I’m Victor the Green.”
Meanwhile, the list of candidates for Spokane School Board continued to grow on Thursday.
Larry R. Vandervert became the sixth candidate to file for the seat held by Garret Daggett, who recently announced that he would not seek re-election.
Vandervert, 72, a retired Spokane Falls Community College psychology instructor, was elected to the Spokane School Board in 1973. He resigned in 1975 to pursue a doctorate. He took on Spokane County Commissioner Phil Harris in the 2006 Republican primary. Vandervert lost but took 40 percent of the vote, a strong showing for a candidate that raised no money against a powerful incumbent.
Vandervert said he believes experience makes him a strong candidate and pointed to his successful fight to prevent the school district from moving North Central High School.
“I want people to look at what I did in office, not what I say I’m going to do when I get there,” he said.