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Five interview for vacant Spokane Valley council seat

Thu., Jan. 31, 2013, midnight

Sullivan Bridge, streets, taxes among topics

The Spokane Valley City Council spent more than two hours Tuesday interviewing the candidates vying to fill the vacant seat created by the resignation of Councilwoman Brenda Grassel, who moved outside the city limits.

Questions from council members ranged from asking why the person wanted to serve on the council to what they thought about property rights, street preservation and tax increases. The candidates all spoke of a desire to serve or give back as a motivation for seeking an appointment to the council.

Kevin Anderson, who serves on the city’s planning commission, said he wants to protect the character of Spokane Valley. “It’s not to start a political career, at my age,” he said. Anderson is retired.

Amy Biviano, a former candidate for state Legislature, said she believes she would bring a new perspective to the council. She’s a mother, an accountant and an education advocate, she said. She also noted her gender. “To point out the obvious, we don’t have a woman anymore,” she said. “Having a small business of my own helps me relate to small business owners.”

Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council executive director Linda Thompson said she has good relationships with law enforcement, the county commissioners and regional legislators. “I know how policy works,” she said. “I can just jump in and be ready to go.”

Real estate appraiser Samuel Wood said he’s not used to being in the spotlight, but wants to see Spokane Valley prosper. “I’m not a political creature by nature,” he said. “I’m service oriented.”

Anderson tackled the street preservation question by saying he’s not sure it’s possible for any city to have all its streets in excellent condition. The city should focus more on chip seal and thin overlay projects, he said.

Several candidates also spoke about the challenge of balancing revenue and expenses. Rod Higgins, who serves on the city’s planning commission, said he believes business development is the solution. “That, to me, is the key for future revenue,” he said.

The city’s job is to help businesses thrive, Wood said. “We don’t create jobs,” he said. “Business creates jobs.”

Wood said he believed the council is doing a good job of being fiscally responsible. “That balancing of revenue and expenses is tricky,” he said.

Anderson said he believes the city provides too many services in some areas, such as the police department, and he wouldn’t be afraid to make cuts if needed. “We very seldom use them, but they’re there when we need them,” he said.

Biviano said that any council member must respect private property rights. “We’ve all worked very hard to secure the property we have,” she said.

“I believe in citizens’ rights,” Wood said. “We’re not dictators. We’re public servants.”

Higgins said he believes the city’s top issue is replacing the failing Sullivan Bridge. The city needs another $4 million to begin building the estimated $19.5 million project. “It’s out there,” he said. “It needs repair. The council may have some hard decisions coming before it.”

Councilman Gary Schimmels asked Higgins if he would be willing to use the city’s reserves to pay the final $4 million if needed. Higgins said he would because the bridge is so important to the city that “if we don’t we’re in big trouble.”

Higgins also said he might consider additional funding sources in the future to pay for street preservation. “That would be my last option, but I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said.

Thompson said she favored leveraging partnerships to save the city money and wouldn’t favor raising taxes right now. “At this point I think we do as much as we can with what we have,” she said.

The city can also bolster economic development by continuing a recent advertising campaign, Thompson said. “I think we have to advocate and advertise the greatness of our city,” she said. “We have great schools. We have great parks.”

The council is scheduled to make an appointment at its Feb. 5 meeting.

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