The Liberty Lake City Council will deal with several issues in the near future, including the recently implemented 6 percent utility tax and what could be a change in the city’s government if Proposition 1 passes. That proposal will decide whether the city should keep the strong mayor-council form of government or move to a council-administrator led organization. Incumbents Susan Schular and Cristella Kaminskas and newcomer Daniel Dunne are running unopposed.
Position 5 has two candidates, Shane Brickner and Keith Kopelson.
Brickner, 36, works in pharmaceutical sales and has lived in Liberty Lake for more than seven years.
Kopelson, 46, owns a janitorial company, security-guard company and an online business directory after working in management at retail companies. He has lived in Liberty Lake for more than seven years, has four children and volunteers in the community.
Q. Why are you running for city council?
Brickner: I have a true passion for this city and the people that live in it. I have always had a motto to be part of a solution when it comes to life. I think this is an amazing city that has some great things going for it, but just like any other city in this country, there is always room for improvement and if I can get involved and bring ideas to the table to help for the greater good of the city, then that is where I belong.
Kopelson: As far as my decision to run for City Council is concerned, I am a big believer in action rather than just words. The city needs good leadership and organization from a well-balanced perspective which must include a business background, someone who has a good pulse on what the majority of the community would like and finally, a strong desire to improve our already fantastic way of life in Liberty Lake. I have felt that with my diverse background both professionally and living in many different areas throughout the country, I have these traits and can help lead the city through well-researched decisions and votes that encompass what is best for the city and what most residents would like to see.
Q. What is your key promise to voters if elected?
Brickner: My overall goal is to be a voice for the needs and concerns of the community. I would like to help in thinking of new ideas to help the budget, find new ideas for programs in the city for our kids to be active and to be a support system to our local businesses, civil service and overall community.
Kopelson: I publicly make the promise, if elected, to prudently research all issues before the council prior to making a vote and make the best decision for the community as possible. The votes will always, to the best of my ability, reflect what the average resident of Liberty Lake would agree with. I will ensure that city resources are not wasted and used first and foremost to improve the city and to benefit both the public and business residents of Liberty Lake in an equitable manner.
Q. What is your opinion of the utility tax which was implemented at the beginning of the year?
Brickner: I did not like the fact that we got to a point to where we had to implement the utility tax, but at the same time, as a resident, am willing to pay it to get the city back on track financially. Once we start making financial choices thinking about not only short-term effect financially but we need to start thinking long-term effect as well on those decisions so we don’t come across this again.
Kopelson: The recently imposed utility tax clearly was not in the best interest of a number of current businesses located in the city and also not conducive to attracting new businesses to the area. Although there was a projected deficit for 2012, it is not clear to me that the tax imposed of 6 percent was the right way to prepare for that projection. Although taxes are the main source of revenue for our city, most residents and business owners were caught “off guard” by the amount. I believe that this tax should be revisited and modified if other solutions to a budget shortfall can be found and implemented that have a more fair impact on citizens and local business.
Q. What is your opinion of Proposition 1, which would change the city’s government from a strong mayor/city council form of government to a city administrator-led City Council. The former position of mayor would be ceremonial and the person holding the position would be counted as a councilmember.
Brickner: The city council makes major decisions through conversation and voting, so I don’t think it will have any major effect overall.
Kopelson: I believe that we need to have a strong leader and decision-maker for the city. Whether this is in the form of a strong mayor or a strong city administrator depends on the people involved. Although I will vote for a mayor that I believe is the right candidate for the position, my vote on Proposition 1 will also reflect my desire to have a city administrator hired and managed by the city council. Elected officials are not always guaranteed to have the knowledge and skills needed to effectively manage the city resources and personnel. It is always possible for an unqualified person to run unopposed and take office by default. When a city administrator is placed into the position, they will have previously had experience that justifies the position and be compensated accordingly. Rumors of mandatory “golden parachute” employment contracts are not necessarily reality when hiring for this position. Someone with the best interest and motivation to make the best decisions for the city will be successful, someone who does not, will be replaced.