Candidates Ben Wick and Marilyn Cline are competing to win Spokane Valley City Council position 6 on the November ballot. The seat is being vacated in December with the retirement of longtime Councilman Bill Gothmann, who decided not to run for re-election.
Neither candidate has the advantage of being an incumbent, but both survived the August primary election that narrowed the field from four to two. Cline received 41 percent of the vote and Wick 26 percent. The remaining two candidates got just over 16 percent each.
Cline is a longtime SCOPE volunteer who is focusing her campaign on the importance of public safety. She is supported by the “Positive Change” slate of candidates elected in 2009 and shares some of the same financial supporters.
Wick, an IT systems administrator, has long sought a seat on the council. He ran for office when the city incorporated in 2003 while still a college student and applied for a vacant seat on the council three times. He was selected as a finalist all three times. Wick has said he wants the city to work with businesses on economic development issues. He is supported by Gothmann.
Each candidate was asked three questions. Their answers are below.
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?
Cline: In today’s economy there are very few people getting any kind of raises. The union employees have and are getting a raise because of their union contract that was signed from previous years. I believe that contract is up next year and the plan is to take a good look at that contract. The city manager was asked to keep the budget at or under a 1 percent increase. He did that and that included the raises.
Wick: Operations of our city are entrusted in the city employees and managers. While I agree that in order to control costs and provide flexibility for the future, we need to keep our staff level low, by doing this we put more responsibility, duties, and importance on each of them. If we don’t offer competitive wages, our employees will find work elsewhere (just as most people would). We need highly qualified employees to be successful. Offering competitive wages will help recruit and retain high-quality employees.
Question: 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?
Cline: What I can glean from the council meetings is that there is about a half-million dollars already set aside in the budget right now.
Wick: Currently our city has adequate funding and I do not support additional taxes. I believe that street preservation can be better funded by using long-term planning. We know how many roads we have, how fast our streets are deteriorating; therefore we know which roads will need improvements and when. This long-term plan can be used to identify project priority, better understand which projects are coming up, combine projects to achieve savings, and allow us to better pursue grant money. If we need to repave a street, let’s improve the sidewalks, bicycle paths, or trail heads at the same time.
Question: Why are you the best candidate for this position?
Cline: I have lived here all my life. In that 66 years comes a lot of experience in the community. Having volunteered in SCOPE the last 12 years I have been active in many of their programs. I now sit on the all-county SCOPE Board of Directors. I just received an award for volunteering 4,000-plus hours. I am one of 177 to achieve that. I have deep roots in this Valley and lifelong experiences here. I have tremendous support from the citizens of the Spokane Valley.
Wick: I see great potential and have a great passion for the city of Spokane Valley. I have been involved in helping the city succeed since the beginning. My professional background is in technology, implementing technology to improve processes and continuous improvement/lean manufacturing. I volunteer with the Spokane County Interstate Fair and the Spokane Valley Kiwanis. My background and perspective are different than any other candidate. I have new ideas, skills, and a desire to help make our city successful. I plan on being here for the next 50 years; let’s work together for a better future.