October 22, 2011 in Washington Voices

Mayoral candidates weigh in

By The Spokesman-Review

(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Also on the ballot

 Proposition 1 in Liberty Lake seeks to replace the current mayor/council form of government with a city manager/council form. If approved by voters, the city manager would replace the position of mayor and the mayor’s position would become a council position.

 The Liberty Lake City Council voted in June not to put it on the ballot, but decided if the residents wanted the change, they must collect signatures and get it on the ballot themselves. They did.

 Supporters have said the position is needed. Liberty Lake hasn’t had a city administrator since 2005 and Community Development Director Doug Smith has been performing some of those duties.

 Critics argue it would cost taxpayers too much money.

The two candidates running for Liberty Lake mayor don’t know what that position will look like if elected to office next year. If Proposition 1 is passed by voters, the mayor’s position will be more ceremonial – a city administrator will lead the city and will serve the city council.

But up for the challenge this election season is current City Councilman Josh Beckett and former Mayor Steve Peterson.

Beckett, 33, has lived in Liberty Lake for six years and works as a consultant.

Peterson, 61, has lived in Liberty Lake for more than 13 years, has three children and two grandchildren.

Question: Why are you running for mayor?

Beckett: We need new leadership to help preserve what makes Liberty Lake so unique as the city continues to expand. Going back to yesteryears isn’t an option. The city has doubled in size over the last 10 years and will double again in the next 10. I have the passion and the ability to effectively lead the city into our second decade.

Peterson: I want to restore the public’s trust and confidence in our local government and ensure we maintain our vision of a safe, green, clean community that is welcoming to our people, businesses and job creation.

Q. What is your key promise to voters if elected?

Beckett: Transparency. Our city has made too many deals with developers, which has eroded the trust of our community. My opponent has given over $15 million of taxpayers’ money to developers. My promise is to expose this type of cronyism and I will do just that! With economic conditions so difficult and residents struggling to make ends meet – it’s offensive to be giving large developers taxpayer money to grow their businesses. Without transparency in our city government we will never regain the trust of the citizens.

Peterson: Provide proven leadership to facilitate efficient utilization of our resources, maintain low taxes, realistic spending and needed investment in capital improvements.

Q. What is your opinion of the utility tax which was implemented at the beginning of the year?

Beckett: The decision to impose a utility tax was a difficult decision to make. I believe that the city made the right decision based on all the information we had at the time. I’m pleased to support the reduction of the utility tax to 3 percent in 2012 and my goal is to aggressively seek ways to eliminate the utility tax.

Peterson: November 2010, I opposed the utility tax at the council meeting. I was the lone voice. We were led to believe it would be reviewed, adjusted and/or repealed. This hasn’t happened according to the Valley Chamber of Commerce! Today the utility tax costs each household $200-$400 per year, local businesses over $800,000 and yet there is no explanation how these funds are being used (which is a typical tax-and-spend philosophy). While we are collecting more taxes than in 2007 with our million dollar utility tax, our services have not increased.

Q. What is your position on 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 council member.

Beckett: I do not support Prop 1. I believe that the voters in Liberty Lake made the right decision, upon incorporation, to have a strong mayor form government. Rather than abandoning our form of government, we need to elect new leadership. My opponent has been on every mayoral ballot we’ve had in Liberty Lake. Let’s not elect career politicians, but rather new leaders who will restore the trust in our city government.

Peterson: I’m voting no regarding our form of government. Improvement needs to be made in the overall management and composition of our city administration. The ballot measure eliminates the “elected mayor” in favor of the council making all the decisions. Again, the problems that exist are not in the form of government; they are with the people that make up our government. As your elected mayor, I have been in favor of a city government that is responsive to community needs and finding efficient, effective solutions for them. I have a record of accomplishment and proven, well-run city administration.

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