Regardless of who wins the races for Positions 5 and 7 on the Spokane Valley City Council, pennies and tax hikes will be pinched.
Chuck Hafner, the Position 5 incumbent, was appointed to the council, then won the seat in a 2011 election. He headed the 2009 Positive Change Committee, which has placed five people on the council. That group has experienced political divisions lately, but Hafner still hews to the movement’s austerity-minded principles of low taxes and high budget reserves.
The personable Hafner, 81, seemingly knows everyone in the Valley, having been a principal of three high schools, an assistant school district superintendent and vice president and general manager of Appleway Equipment Leasing.
At Wednesday’s candidate forum, Donald Morgan Jr., a 28-year-old financial adviser, seemed intelligent and sincere, but he offered no substantive reasons why voters should replace the more experienced Hafner. Morgan declined repeated requests for comments on his candidacy. Hafner is the clear choice in this race.
The Position 7 contest poses a more difficult choice because both candidates are amiable and care about the Valley. Bill Bates, 75, has been on the Plan Commission since 2010 and is the current chairman. He retired in 1987 as vice president of retail operations for Rosauers. His half-brother is Mayor Tom Towey, who is stepping down.
At Wednesday’s candidate forum, Bates emphasized his willingness to listen to citizens, saying he tries to keep an open mind as a planning commissioner. And while he is a staunch proponent of property rights and small government, he’s also mindful of rules and regulations that officeholders must abide by. For instance, he supported a proposed Catholic Charities retirement home over the objections of neighbors, because the comprehensive plan calls for such housing and the need is apparent. The council ultimately rejected the Plan Commission’s recommendation.
Like every Valley candidate, Bates doesn’t believe the Valley needs to take the 1 percent property tax increase, but he would never say never on that issue – an apparent reference to his opponent, Fred Beaulac, who has said he would “never vote for a property tax increase or any other tax increase to generate revenues.” Beaulac reiterated that position at Wednesday’s forum, though he said it isn’t a focal point of his campaign.
Beaulac, 61, is also a member of the Plan Commission and an operations manager for Hatfield Enterprises, a Valley trucking company. He says the council needs a working person’s perspective. Ben Wick is the only other member who isn’t retired. As a worker, Beaulac says he has a keen appreciation for why public safety is important and how property crimes can be devastating.
Both candidates strongly believe the Valley needs to add at least two officers to keep pace with the city’s population gains. Bates did a nighttime ride-a-long with law enforcement, where he learned that officers are quickly overwhelmed.
We admire Bates’ willingness to learn and open-minded decision-making, and think he’s the best choice for Position 7.