There’s not much daylight between the eight candidates for Spokane Valley City Council. Their priorities are public safety and well-maintained roads using the financial resources generated by current property and sales taxes.
That formula has worked for the city during its first decade. Budget reserves remain above 50 percent of operating expenses, an enviable cushion. With funding for replacement of the Sullivan Street Bridge in place, the community’s major transportation problem is on the road to solution.
That record suggests the incumbent council members have done their jobs well. So saying, today we recommend the retention of Rod Higgins and Gary Schimmels; the former a newcomer, the latter one of the original councilmen, and part of the conservative Positive Change slate that swept to a council majority in 2009.
Now, challenger Ed Pace accuses Schimmels of falling away from the strongly anti-tax PC orthodoxy. In anticipation of the need for two more Spokane County Sheriff deputies, both candidates say the projected $300,000 cost is manageable without raising taxes. But Schimmels, a staunch defender of the city’s rich reserves, does not absolutely rule out consideration of an increase when more deputies are needed in the future.
Pace would cut away more budget fat, as if that has not been a perpetual exercise since Spokane Valley was founded. He has also introduced gun control into the campaign, as if that has been an issue for the city.
Schimmels gives an emphatic yes of support for funding to complete the North Spokane Corridor, which would intersect Interstate 90 at Spokane Valley’s western boundary. Pace questions the time it has taken so far – who doesn’t? – and where the money went.
A coin toss put Higgins on the council. He replaced Brenda Grassel, who resigned. But Higgins ran for a seat in 2011 and took a seat on the planning commission when he was unsuccessful. He’s better prepared now.
Higgins is second to no one in his opposition to taxes and is probably the candidate least enthusiastic about regional cooperation, which is not to his credit. An independent economic development effort might work to Spokane Valley’s benefit more than Greater Spokane Incorporated, he says, and completing the corridor might not be a winner for the city, depending on the source of funds.
Higgins and opponent Linda Thompson, loser in the coin toss, say Spokane Valley input was an afterthought as the city and county of Spokane developed a new solid waste plan. Thompson is a lifetime Spokane Valley resident. She’s been executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council for 20 years. No one is better connected. The city could not have a better promoter.
We give the edge to Higgins because he has used his time on the council and planning commission to get a good grasp of the nuts and bolts of Spokane Valley government.
Working with a city staff that was roundly praised at a Thursday debate, and their fellow council members, Higgins and Schimmels can keep Spokane Valley the low-key but solid community residents have repeatedly said they want.
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