Six people have applied to fill the Spokane Valley Planning Commission seat vacated by Arne Woodard and there are some familiar names. Four have applied to fill vacant city council positions this year and one is a real estate broker who has frequently clashed with city staff and once said he wanted to shoot someone.
Gordon Curry, who owns Gordon W. Curry Realtors, spoke to the City Council during a meeting on June 29, 2010. He complained that the process to complete a lot line adjustment was too long and that city staff was rude. “By the time I got out of there I could have shot somebody, really,” he said. “It was a real nightmare.”
This week Curry said he was just venting. “It was just a statement I made,” he said.
Curry said he still believes city staff have a “my way or the highway” attitude. “These people work for us,” he said.
In a report given to the council on July 20, 2010, Community Development Director Kathy McClung said Curry wanted staff to accept his application before he had gotten signatures from affected property owners. Staff was correct not to accept it before it was complete, she wrote. Curry was also upset about a requirement by Spokane County that taxes be paid on the affected parcels, the report said.
This week McClung said that some forms and processes have since been changed. “He’s made some complaints and I’ve made some changes because of things he has suggested to me,” she said. “A lot of times his reaction comes because of a misunderstanding. We give him a lot of attention and are trying to do the best job we can with his applications.”
Curry was also vocal in his support to collect signatures to put city disincorporation on the ballot in 2009 and donated nearly $1,800 to the effort. But Curry said he’s moved on from that. “The people of the Valley were apparently satisfied and weren’t interested in disincorporation,” he said.
Despite everything Curry said he believes he can work effectively with city staff if he should be selected as a planning commissioner. “I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all,” he said.
A 2009 Spokesman-Review story reports Curry applied for a planning commission seat that was ultimately filled by Woodard, but Curry denies it. “It was unknown to me if that’s on there because I have never applied before,” he said.
A memo dated Dec. 1, 2009, addressed to the city manager and the community development director gives a list of eight names of people who applied for the planning commission seat. Curry’s name is on the list.
Among the other candidates, George Watson applied for the first vacant council seat this year. John Baldwin, Steven Neill and Jennie Willardson all applied for both vacant city council seats this year. Baldwin asked that his name be removed from consideration both times and during the most recent application process Neill was selected for an interview before also withdrawing his name.
“I felt that it would be better to gain experience on the planning commission and then look into getting on the City Council,” Neill said. “There’s more responsibility on the council.”
Several candidates have ties to one or more council members. Curry donated $500 to councilman Dean Grafos’ re-election campaign this year and has attended daily gatherings for coffee that often include Positive Change council members and their supporters.
Bill Stallcop and Willardson both made small donations, $37.50 and $50 respectively, to Mayor Tom Towey’s 2009 election campaign. Neill gave $50 to Councilwoman Brenda Grassel during her campaign.
Nominating one of the six candidates for the position is up to Towey. His decision must be confirmed by the council. Towey said that despite knowing some of the candidates and having received campaign donations from two of them, he will not recuse himself from the discussion as he has with other recent decisions made by the council. “I have no problems with this decision,” he said. “Certainly it’s something I should announce. I don’t think it’s criteria to recuse myself.”
Towey said he always considers carefully whether he should take himself out of the discussion. “I don’t take it lightly,” he said. “I do have to consider the integrity of the office.”