After a packed, six-way primary, voters in northeast Spokane have two unconventional choices to fill the Spokane City Council seat that will be vacated at the end of the year by Bob Apple.
Both candidates have clashed with City Hall and were probably the biggest critics of existing city leadership among those who ran in the primary. Both have a bankruptcy in their pasts. Both have longtime ties to Northeast Spokane and have led neighborhood councils. Both have the backing of one council member who serves the district.
They are Mike Fagan, co-director of a group that works to lower taxes, and Donna McKereghan, former member of the state’s legislative ethics board. Making it to the general election as a candidate to represent the district isn’t new to either of them. McKereghan lost to Apple in 2007. Fagan lost to Councilwoman Amber Waldref in 2009.
Fagan is an experienced campaigner who has raised more than twice as much money as McKereghan. In 2000, he showed up at campaign events for U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt in a weasel costume to protest the congressman’s decision to break his term-limits pledge. Only last year, Fagan stood on a United Nations flag leading a group of protesters outside Spokane City Hall with a chant of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, United Nations gotta go!” Fagan was protesting Spokane Mayor Mary Verner’s sustainability plan.
But these days Fagan is distancing himself from some of his conservative positions and working hard to promote his image as an affable, hard-working Hillyard community leader.
Railing against the U.N. and the influence of other nongovernmental groups, as well as “the global warming lie,” as Fagan puts it, will take a back seat if he’s elected, he said.
“That is not on the radar. That is not on the priority list,” Fagan said. “The first priority for any elected official in today’s times should be trying to enhance the environment that businesses currently operate in so they can flourish.”
Fagan promises to work toward balancing the city’s budget without raising taxes and helping to foster job creation. He promises to use his “bulldog determination” to accomplish goals.
McKereghan, a Logan Neighborhood leader, also has clashed with City Hall from time to time, most recently over the summer when she accused the City Council of violating notice requirements for a public meeting. Her biggest confrontation with city officials came in the form of a federal lawsuit accusing the city of discriminating against her when she applied for a job. The lawsuit was unsuccessful.
She promises to be a voice for open government and to balance the budget without new taxes or fees, as well as eliminate inefficiencies in government – without the help of hired consultants.
“What is needed to be good at this job is a fire in your belly for a particular issue, and mine is the people of Spokane,” McKereghan said. “I don’t think they’ve had representation on City Council, genuinely, and it’s time for that to happen.”
While both have long ties to the community and a history of activism, there’s a wide gulf between them on many issues.
Fagan, who is a Republican precinct committee officer, helped found the Spokane Patriots, a group that split from the Tea Party of Spokane. He’s also co-host of a local conservative talk show that praised a Florida pastor who threatened to burn a Quran on the 9/11 anniversary last year and oversaw the burning of the Islamic holy book in March after it was found “guilty” during a “trial” at his church.
McKereghan has distanced herself from party labels, but she was appointed to the state Legislative Ethics Board by Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire. She also has received some backing from the Spokane Regional Labor Council.
Fagan opposes the $20 tab tax approved by the council this year to pay for street maintenance. He opposes the Waste-to-Energy Plant, the city’s sustainability plan and red light cameras.
He supports asking voters for a new, 10-year street bond, saying that though he prefers it pay only for curb-to-curb amenities, like the 2004 street bond, he’d be open to it covering sidewalks or other upgrades if that’s what the community wants.
McKereghan supports the $20 tab tax, continued use of the Waste-to-Energy Plant, the sustainability plan and red light cameras. She said the city should hold off on asking for a new street bond until the economy improves.
Apple said he’s backing Fagan because he’s experienced and can get along well with people he disagrees with. He also won’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and the assumptions of City Hall administrators, Apple said.
“I have a hard time believing that (McKereghan) will get along with other council members, ever,” he said.
Waldref disagrees with Apple and contends McKereghan is the better choice: “She has a record of fighting for government transparency and good ethics.”