Candidates for Spokane City Council responded to 20 questions from The Spokesman-Review soon after filing to run for the office. Because only two candidates filed to run for the south seat, there wasn’t a primary and none of the responses given by Richard Rush and Mike Allen ran in the print edition until today.
To read candidates’ responses to all the questions, head to The Spokesman-Review’s Election Center at spokesman.com/election.
Candidates were given up to 100 words to answer the following:
1. Why do you feel that you are the best candidate?
Richard Rush: I am the best candidate because I have the strongest work ethic, as demonstrated by my record of accomplishment during my first term on the City Council. Please see my website at: www.voterichardrush.com for a list of those accomplishments. Most significantly, I seek this office to implement the vision the citizens have expressed for their city, a vision I fully support. I represent my district and the community, not individual special interests that seek exceptions or legislation that benefits a few at the expense of the community.
Mike Allen: I will make job creation and economic development for our community my highest priority.
I will use my real world work experience as a small-business owner, budget manager and former city councilman to also focus on the financial accountability of the city, neighborhood safety and involvement.
I will also continue my previous efforts pushing the City for a comprehensive capital plan, published performance measurements and strengthening our city centers and corridors strategy.
2. Given the expected $7 million shortfall between the revenue the city expects in 2012 and the amount needed to maintain current services, should the city maintain a youth department? Should the city maintain an arts department? Should the city maintain a weights and measures department? Are there other city services that you would consider eliminating?
Richard Rush: The city would be best served by maintaining its current departments and services. Even if reduced, departments and services are much more easily re-established when a department remains in the budget. As Spokane positions itself for recovery, it is important we preserve the elements that distinguish our city and give us a competitive advantage. Only if a department is not serving this function should it be considered for elimination.
Mike Allen: The city should focus and prioritize essential functions. The youth and art departments add to our city, but are not essential functions and in some ways duplicate similar services provided by other nonprofit organizations. Weights and measures is still a function the city should perform.
3. Do you support the use of red light cameras? If so, do you support diverting ticket revenue from a fund for traffic safety projects to help balance the budget?
Richard Rush: Photo-red traffic enforcement has reduced the number of incidents of red light running in Spokane. The revenue from these traffic violations is dedicated to the purpose of traffic calming, a venture the city has had no resources to fund until the advent of photo-red traffic enforcement. Neighborhoods have responded overwhelmingly with requests for traffic calming features and to date, the program is a success. As this revenue was dedicated to this purpose at the inception of the program and the program has seen such success, I oppose diversion of these funds for another purpose.
Mike Allen: No. I voted against the red light camera program the first time. At the time there was little baseline information that supported its claim to safety, and I felt it was just a new revenue stream that would eventually end up in the general fund.
4. Spokane’s library system offers significantly fewer hours than many of the 20 largest cities in Washington. Would you be willing to ask voters for a tax to boost this service as was requested earlier this year by the city library board?
Richard Rush: Yes. Libraries are both an educational and employment resource. They are a critical element in providing residents the tools necessary to position our economy for recovery.
The city made a significant capital investment in its library system in 1994. Citizens have made it clear they want the benefit of library services and they should have the opportunity to choose to financially support the library system.
Mike Allen: Yes. I think access to libraries is important to a community and voters should have a say in their future. If possible, I would like to see the county and city library systems consolidate
5. Most city officials say that the street department has not been adequately funded to properly maintain city streets once they are reconstructed. This year, the City Council approved a $20 vehicle tab tax to boost street funding. Do you support this decision? If not, would you support a change in state law to allow the city to create a street utility fee that would be charged on city trash and water bills?
Richard Rush: Spending $117 million on street bond projects and not maintaining that investment is untenable. The city has depended on Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenue to maintain streets. REET revenue dwindled from $3.4 million in 2008 to a projected $1.3 million in 2011, leaving a significant shortfall in street maintenance funding. For this reason, the city adopted the $20 tab fee to partially make up the difference. I do not support a street utility because utility taxes damage our economy and further limit the ability of economically disadvantaged families to thrive and participate, thereby limiting the economy for everyone.
Mike Allen: No. Our street issue is a big one and we need a big solution. I think the concept of a street utility makes sense for our long-term street needs.
Candidates were given up to 150 words to answer the following:
6. Some nearby cities have crafted restrictions for watering lawns during certain hours. Would you support instituting similar rules in Spokane?
Richard Rush: No. The city doesn’t have the resources to enforce restrictions. Water conservation has been addressed with adoption of a conservation water rate structure. Those using excessive amounts are now encouraged to employ technology that saves them water and money. Another benefit of the new water rate structure: 60 percent of water customers will see a decrease in their annual water bill. Another 25 percent will see modest increases under $20 during the highest consumption month, an increase that we can avoid by employing best irrigation practices and avoiding overwatering.
While the region has an abundant sole-source aquifer, it is the river that dries up when we over pump that aquifer. (See Connecting Dots on my blog for details.) As Spokane County is expected to add 141,000 residents over the next 20 years, it is important to keep the per capita consumption of water at a level that will keep our river flowing.
Mike Allen: No. I think education is the right tool in this matter.
7. Many candidates are focused this campaign season on job creation. Should the city actively try to create jobs? If so, what should it do?
Richard Rush: If job creation can be spurred by municipal government, that phenomenon will be driven by the ability of the city to build public spaces where people want to live, work, shop and invest. This exercise is called “placemaking.”
Previous generations created public spaces with parks, buildings, schools and streets that made for a high quality of life and incented economic development. The city should continue this practice and reinvent our public spaces with the principles of placemaking in mind. Near nature, near perfect is more than a slogan. It references a quality of life the city should strive to provide and make accessible for all.
I continue to support the work of our economic development department and celebrate their success in the city’s centers such as Hillyard, the International District, the University District and the Perry District.
Mike Allen: The city should always be working to help create private sector jobs. Basic things the city can do is to promote business incentives, ensure good infrastructure and partner with key economic development organizations and our universities to attract and develop new business.