Two men – Bill Bates and Fred Beaulac – are vying for the City Council seat 7, currently held by Mayor Tom Towey.
Towey announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.
The city of Spokane Valley has a city manager form of government, and the mayor is selected by the council for the largely ceremonial role. Whoever wins Towey’s seat will only earn a place on the council, not the mayor’s gavel.
Bates is the chairman of the city’s planning commission and Towey’s half-brother. Beaulac is a former planning commission member.
The Spokesman-Review asked each council candidate the same series of questions. Bates’ and Beaulac’s answers are below. Responses from candidates for other seats will be published in the coming weeks.
Q: How do you propose to pay for street preservation projects in the future?
Bates: Current funding for our street preservation comes from state gas taxes, surplus REET (real estate excise tax) funds, a civic facilities replacement fund and out of our general fund. This funding goes through 2016. Future funding will be based on assessment of overall road conditions to determine needed improvements. Setting aside monies from our reserves while still maintaining reserves at the 50 percent level can be used for a portion of street preservation as it has in past years. We also must constantly be looking for grant monies. Street preservation is a difficult thing to fund for most cities. Our city has done a great job of maintaining our roads without new revenues sources.
Beaulac: If we continue on the path we are on now, we should not run out of funding. Overlays cost much less than total reconstruction, so if we continue to identify roads that we can continue to repair with the overlay process, we will save a tremendous amount of revenue. Many street preservation projects are supplemented by grants, and we must continue to actively pursue this revenue stream. It is imperative we follow our six-year road plan and do everything possible to prevent the total deterioration of our roads. This is presently being done and I do not see why this process cannot remain in place.
Q: What are your views on the recent debate over partial nudity at local businesses? Should the City Council approve an ordinance regulating barista attire?
Bates: Partial nudity in local businesses is not something I’m in favor of. However, a city ordinance regulating conduct and appropriate attire of employees would be very difficult to enforce. Our City Council is studying this issue at the present time. I think a compromise could be worked out to protect our children and the safety of our citizens.
Beaulac: I do not support partial nudity at our local coffee servers. The current discussion concerning this issue can hopefully be mitigated by the owners of the business by requiring their employees to be properly attired. The attire that is in question does not portray the image that I want to project for Spokane Valley.
If Spokane Valley were to present an ordinance banning certain attire at these stands, I would need to see it first before I could endorse it. I am worried that if the ordinance was not properly worded, would it be enforceable? As this same scenario unfolds in the city of Spokane, some of the legwork on this issue has already been done. I do not agree with the decision the city of Spokane made, but many of the points they brought up concerning enforcement are valid. I do believe the government should be cautious when trying to legislate morality. In the past, trying to accomplish this task has resulted in mixed results at best. The most important vote we have concerning these stands is with our wallets.
Q: There has been some discussion this year about hiring two additional police officers in Spokane Valley in 2014 or 2015. Are you in favor of this? If so, how would you pay for the estimated $300,000 annual cost?
Bates: I’m wholeheartedly in favor of adding additional sheriff deputies to our law enforcement team for 2014 and 2015. As a city, we have not increased the number of deputies that respond to calls for assistance since incorporation in 2003. During that time, our population has increased by 10,000 citizens. We now find ourselves trying to play catch-up on the safety of our citizens. We need to prioritize the projects and issues facing our city and put public safety first. I would fund additional deputies now by setting aside taxpayer dollars from our reserves while still maintaining the 50 percent reserve fund. In the future, we can look for other revenue sources to keep our citizens safe. The need for additional deputies is now.
Beaulac: I would be in favor of additional police officers in Spokane Valley. This decision needs to be made in conjunction with Sheriff Knezovich’s input. To pay for these officers I would go though the current budget by line item to see if there was any item that could be removed or reduced. I would also consider refinancing any debt to reduce costs that would make funds available. Another possibility is to realign some personnel at our local fire stations much like what the city of Spokane has done. If this is something that would not significantly reduce response times I think that would be a viable option to free up revenues.
Q: Would you vote in favor of increasing property taxes or adding a new tax to generate income to pay for additional police officers, street preservation or other services?
Bates: Street preservation, additional deputies and other public safety issues are challenges that we must provide to our citizens. It becomes very difficult to sustain funding for these year after year. Currently, our city is in a strong financial position because of sound fiscal policies. I would not favor increasing property taxes or adding any new taxes at this time.
Beaulac: I would never vote for a property tax increase or any other tax increase to generate revenues. Any tax increases to fund any of these issues needs to be approved by a public vote. I would support bond issues provided they were approved by the public. Spokane Valley has continued to fund reserves and service its citizens without raising taxes, and I do not see why this cannot continue.