The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce’s first candidate fair last week was sparsely attended by the public and candidates alike. During the three-hour event last Thursday only a few people circulated through the large room at CenterPlace at a time. And of the seven candidates who attended, two candidates for the state Senate left about halfway through the event.
Those attending were Spokane Valley City Council candidates John Carroll, Ben Wick and Dee Dee Loberg; 4th District Senate candidates Jeff Baxter and Mike Padden, Spokane City Council candidate Steve Salvatori and Spokane mayoral candidate Michael Noder.
“We invited everyone that was on the ballot,” said Chamber president Eldonna Shaw. The idea was to have the event before people left town on summer vacation. “We thought this was a good idea because there aren’t many venues this early.”
The complete lack of candidates who currently hold an elected office could be explained in part by the Association of Washington Cities annual conference taking place at the same time. Shaw said she wasn’t aware of the conference when she scheduled the candidate fair but tried to accommodate elected officials. “I encouraged them to send their campaign people and have a display,” she said. “It was not our intent to exclude anyone.”
But the event was appreciated by Cindra Shields, who took the opportunity to quiz Wick on his views on disincorporation and the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan. Shields said she was looking for something specific in a candidate. “I feel like the incumbents lack vision,” she said. She believes the current council spends too much time talking about what they don’t want and not enough deciding what they do want, she said. “I don’t want my city turned into a used car lot and that seems to be what they have in mind. A lot of them were for disincorporation. How can you support a city you don’t believe in?”
Wick said he didn’t mind her rapid series of questions. “It’s part of putting yourself out there,” he said.
Each candidate got a few minutes with the microphone to introduce themselves to the thin crowd. Carroll touted his years of experience providing service to others, first as a communicator in the Air Force and later as a business owner. He said he is in favor of forming an economic development council and formulating a common marketing theme for the area.
Loberg said she believes it is important to be a team player and collaborate on issues. She favors careful, planned growth and believes her role as a community activist would give her a unique approach. “I want to bring another perspective to the council,” she said.
The city needs a vision for the future and it can’t be just the vision of city council members, Wick said. “It’s got to be collaboratively built.”
Padden said the recent state legislative session lasted too long and didn’t address the high debt. He also supports eliminating the business and occupation tax. “We need to do more to have a good business climate,” he said. He also suggested calling a special legislative session to do nothing but repeal existing laws and regulations.
Baxter, who like Padden is a Republican, said he wants to reduce the size and scope of government. He said he agrees with Padden that the B&O tax should be eliminated. “We’re on the same page on that,” he said.