July 13, 2013 in City

Three vie for Spokane Valley City Council spot in primary

By The Spokesman-Review

(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Primary election

Ballots will be mailed to voters beginning Wednesday and must be returned by Aug. 6.

About the candidates

Gary Schimmels

Age: 75

Occupation: Retired. He previously owned Affordable Lock Express and spent most of his life in the construction industry. He has served on the board of the Consolidated Irrigation District for 30 years.

Personal: He and his wife of 52 years, Myrna, have five grown children.

Finances: Schimmels said he will raise and spend less than $5,000 and is not required to report donations.

Why he is running: Schimmels, who has served on the Spokane Valley City Council since 2003, said he is concerned about protecting the city’s reserves, which have increasingly been spent on special projects.

Dee Dee Loberg

Age: 50

Occupation: A self-described community activist, Loberg is currently serving as the Washington state PTA programs director. She was a founding member of the Spokane Valley Arts Council, volunteers with Valleyfest, was a Block Watch captain for three years and volunteered with Central Valley SCOPE for 13 years.

Personal: She and her husband, Michael, have been married for 21 years and have two children.

Finances: Loberg said she will raise and spend less than $5,000 and is not required to report donations.

Why she is running: Loberg said she believes the City Council is not doing enough long-range planning and has been spending too much from its reserves.

Ed Pace

Age: 66

Occupation: Pastor of Caring Ministries at Redeemer Lutheran Church. He previously worked in the electronics industry for 27 years before graduating from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in 2003. He has an extensive volunteer history, including at Crosswalk, the Union Gospel Mission and the Boy Scouts.

Personal: He and his wife, Thuan, have been married for 40 years and have four grown children.

Finances: Pace has raised $5,075. The largest contributors are businessman Jack Pring ($900); Pace’s wife, Thuan ($500); and retiree Allen Cook ($500).

Why he is running: Pace is against raising property taxes and wants to make sure the city keeps rejecting its allowed 1 percent annual property tax increase. He wants to maintain the city’s focus on public safety and street preservation.

Election Central

Get more information about the Aug. 6 primary.

Spokane Valley Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels, who has served on the City Council since the city incorporated in 2003, appears to have lost favor among the Positive Change group that holds five of the seven council seats.

In the 2009 elections, five candidates ran together on a Positive Change ticket, including Schimmels. His fellow council members twice elected him to the post of deputy mayor, but donors that supported Schimmels in that election, most notably businessman Jack Pring, have shifted their support to Ed Pace. Pace and Dee Dee Loberg are facing off against Schimmels on the primary ballot that will be mailed to voters next week. The two who receive the most votes will advance to the general election in November.

Pace, who ran for a council seat in 2009, has received campaign donations from Councilman Arne Woodard and Elizabeth Grafos, wife of Councilman Dean Grafos. Former Councilwoman Brenda Grassel, who was mentored by Schimmels in 2009, is running Pace’s campaign, and her business, Precision Cutting Technologies, has made a donation to Pace.

Pace, who identifies himself as a Positive Change candidate, said the switch happened because Schimmels doesn’t always vote with the majority. “My understanding is that his voting pattern has drifted away from theirs,” he said.

Schimmels said he didn’t want to speak to why he has lost support from other council members. “I just try to stay out of that situation,” he said. “There isn’t one of those council people that have said one word to me.”

Many of Schimmels’ dissenting votes have been associated with spending the city’s reserves. The majority of the council is interested in moving forward with a growing number of special projects, including landscaping Appleway Boulevard, which would require spending some of the money that took years to accumulate. The council has also been spending money on street preservation projects that had been set aside for a new city hall and the eventual replacement of CenterPlace.

“I see a black cloud ahead of us in terms of finances,” Schimmels said. “That bothers me to sit here and eat our reserves up.”

Schimmels said that while he is generally in favor of the $2.1 million project to add landscaping to Appleway Boulevard, it’s not worth spending reserves on. The council is taking on too many projects, he said. This year the city put in an entrance sign and landscaping at Appleway and Thierman Road, and there are plans to spend $60,000 for business route signs on Interstate 90. “I’m not saying we’re off the edge or anything,” he said. “I think that’s what it’s leading to. The biggest cities are in trouble. I don’t want to get in that strait.”

The reserves are also important to Loberg, who ran for a City Council seat in 2011. “I still see a lack of long-range planning,” she said. “We’ve been using a lot of our reserve funds rather than a 1 percent increase in property taxes. Nobody likes taxes, but we can’t spend our reserves. It’s the easier path taken when you don’t increase revenue.”

Pace said he would rather make more cuts than approve a 1 percent property tax increase to pay for additional police officers, though he can’t say what he would cut. “I don’t have enough information,” he said. “If we increase it once, we increase it twice and then we get accustomed to it.”

He would favor raising taxes only as a last resort, Pace said. “As a citizen, I don’t want my taxes to go up,” he said. “I want to continue that majority on the City Council that would keep it that way.”

Pace said he’s not bothered by the similar views held by the current Positive Change council majority “because I agree with it.”

“It’s not like the Stepford council members,” he said. “They’re all different. I think there’s enough diversity.”

Loberg, however, has the opposite view. “I think we need more diversity on our council.”

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