Ballots for the November election are being mailed at the end of the week, making it decision time in the races for the four Spokane Valley City Council seats up for grabs. In the race for position 2, incumbent Dean Grafos is facing challenger John Carroll.
Grafos was elected to the council in 2009 to fill an unexpired term. He was one of five council members elected that year who ran together on a “Positive Change” slate. Their platform was pro-business and anti-SARP (Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan). Since being elected Grafos has spoken repeatedly about the need to be more business friendly, trim the city’s budget and reduce regulation.
Carroll has served on the city’s planning commission since the city incorporated and is now its chairman. He spoke in favor of keeping SARP before it was eliminated by the current council. He advocates working with the business community to promote economic development and has said the current council is not planning for the future.
Each candidate was asked to answer the same three questions. Look in the upcoming Saturday Valley Voice for the other council responses.
Question : The city has 20 nonunion employees and 61 union employees. In 2011 the nonunion employees did not get a cost of living pay increase, saving the city approximately $40,000. Do you think the nonunion employees should get a 2.5 percent cost of living pay increase in 2012?
Carroll : Failure to award the cost of living to all staff members is an overt act of discrimination. Discrimination against one in four is wrong. Discrimination will eventually cripple and destroy any organization. The Spokane Valley staff is a lean and effective organization, with little duplication of skill and responsibility. Each member provides critical input to the city’s operation. Discrimination against some staff members will eventually result in internal conflict and degrade operations. A cost of living increase is meant to be universally applied and all staff members should be awarded the raise.
Grafos : Nonunion employees will receive the last year of their 2.5 percent increase in 2012 promised by the previous council. Going forward, a future priority of this council is to review all wage contracts and job classifications, union and nonunion, held-over from the previous council. The current union contract will be renegotiated prior to renewal in 2013. Prioritizing, simplifying and redefining the role of individual departments will help control future wage/benefit costs. Cost-of-living and benefit increases, plus current salary STEP increases of up to 6 percent need to be in balance with the private sector and economic realities.
Q. The city has been working to set aside money for street preservation but has no revenue dedicated for this purpose. How do you think street preservation should be funded?
Carroll : Street preservation to a city is like a homeowner taking care of their house. Every conscientious owner sets aside a portion of their income for home upkeep to ensure the house is solid and retains its value. Good streets are a primary element to a vibrant community. Spokane Valley could, without any new or increased taxes, set aside a dedicated percentage of its general fund, along with tax revenues specifically allocated to road maintenance/ preservation, to ensure consistent funding of road preservation. Also the use of capital improvement projects, whenever possible, to offset road preservation projects will extend our program.
Grafos : In 2010, I asked that funds be set aside for road preservation. This fund, 311 Street Capital Improvements was funded in 2011 and will be funded in 2012. In 2008, City sales/gambling tax collections reached almost $20 million per year. Now they are projected at a little over $16 million. As collections return to higher levels, 40 percent of these revenues above the $16 million could be for street preservation. Excess reserve funds of $584,000 have also been transferred to this fund. Prioritizing, simplifying and constantly fine-tuning city spending plans increases funding opportunities for roads and infrastructure, without increasing taxes.
Q. Why are you the best candidate for this position?
Carroll: I am the best candidate because I believe in the city of Spokane Valley. I believe Spokane Valley is much more than a bedroom community, it has unlimited opportunity and a potential that sets it apart from other cities. Spokane Valley is poised to develop into a city that will serve as a role model. I have the education and experience necessary to understand our current and future issues. More importantly I have the leadership skills and experience necessary to bring together, in a collaborative way, citizens, business owners and officials to find solutions to those issues.
Grafos : I bring over 40 years successful experience as an owner/employer of multiple businesses in this community. Equally so, I’m also a husband, father, friend and neighbor. The Valley has my heart and Valley affection and respect has been returned to me tenfold all across the community. I’m deeply honored by this true consensus. It’s consensus based upon real accomplishment and my never-changing promise to value and manage their money carefully, respect their rights, and encourage economic prosperity and relief from oppressive government regulations that destroy the soul and commerce of communities. And always, common sense is essential.