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Higgins, Thompson face off again for Spokane Valley council seat

Appointed incumbent Rod Higgins and challenger Linda Thompson are facing off in the race for Position 1 on the Spokane Valley City Council, and it’s not the first time the two have competed for the same seat.

Higgins and Thompson were both finalists for a vacant council position in February. The council split evenly on who to appoint to the seat. A coin toss decided the matter in favor of Higgins.

The Spokesman-Review asked each council candidate the same series of questions. Higgins’ and Thompson’s answers are below. Responses from candidates in other seats will be published in the coming weeks.

Q: How do you propose to pay for street preservation in the future after current funding sources are exhausted?

Higgins: The assumption that current funding sources will be exhausted is premature. Our 2014 budget has a dedicated fund for road preservation. That, together with the funding received from grants, which the city has been reasonably successful at acquiring, should last us well into the future.

Thompson: Upon election to the Spokane Valley City Council, I will have the full advantage of the depth of information about the current and proposed street preservation projects, budgets, and current resources that has been already provided to the current City Council members by our City’s Public Works and Budget Departments. In anticipation of this, I have researched a number of solutions to support our city with resources when current funding sources are exhausted. Seeking preservation and safety compliance funding through such grant sources as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Community Development Block Grants, Washington Department of Transportation, and Washington Traffic Safety Commission as well as exploring partnerships within Transportation Benefit Districts and Spokane Regional Transportation Council are options to explore for resources. One of the strongest assets we have in place for street preservation is an invested plan in proactive street preservation that prioritizes excellence in stewardship of the current funding. From my positive experiences with city of Spokane Valley staff, I know it will be exciting to roll up my sleeves and, along with my fellow council members, find solutions to benefit our community.

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?

Higgins: The problem is that “partial” nudity at the establishment in question is substantially more than that. While I am reluctant to force my moral standards on someone else, I am equally resistant to someone forcing theirs on me. In this instance, that appears to be what is taking place. Because this issue is likely to be taken up by the City Council in the near future, I cannot comment at this time.

Thompson: The City of Spokane Valley already has a public policy in place that regulates adult entertainment based on the community’s desire to protect its citizens from semi-nudity. I support that public policy. There is also state criminal law that addresses indecent exposure. The difficulty we are facing as a community is the balance of a private business owner’s rights and the public’s desire to protect its citizens. I strongly advocate for bringing all of the parties together to sit down and talk about alternative solutions to satisfy both sides of this issue. I believe through true open communication we can work together to arrive at shared values on both sides.

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?

Higgins: Yes. Public safety is the city’s No. 1 priority. Estimated revenue from sales taxes projected for 2014 will increase by more than $1.5 million. The total 2014 city budget is $37.4 million. Somewhere in those numbers an amount that is less than 1 percent of the total budget can be found to finance two more police officers.

Thompson: Public safety is at the forefront of issues facing our city. With an excellent Spokane Valley Police Department supported by the force multiplier of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort, Neighborhood Watch, and all of the regional partnerships including Regional Gang Task Force, School Resource Officers and others, we have opportunities to work together to increase policing presence in our neighborhoods. The office of the Eastern Washington U.S. Attorney has been instrumental in the past by supporting securing Department of Justice funding through the COPS Office such as the Weed and Seed Project for Edgecliff Community, the Washington State Meth Initiative and the Spokane County Drug Endangered Children project. This is just one partnership that we can pursue for the city of Spokane Valley to find funding for additional police officers. We can also look at resources to enhance regional communication and technology that may allow for deployment of personnel back on patrol. Priorities on increasing the ability of law enforcement to respond to crime and be proactive in crime prevention are essential to public safety. Again, when elected I will work strategically with my fellow council members, city staff and community to find solutions to increase public safety and a sense of well being and trust throughout our neighborhoods.

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?

Higgins: Only as a last resort after all other means of funding and cost reductions have been exhausted.

Thompson: No. We have many other options to explore. Combined shared resources among multiple private and public partnerships will enhance our city’s provision of services. Having experienced such positive community engagement when invited to participate in public forums, I believe the community will come together with the City Council and staff to find solutions for these issues. We are Spokane Valley – citizens who are innovative, willing to be involved, and truly care about where we live and work. I look forward to being a leader for our city and actively seek solutions to the challenges we face.

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