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Claims checked in Pace-Schimmels council race

Sat., Sept. 21, 2013

Spokane Valley City Council candidate Ed Pace has taken aim at incumbent Gary Schimmels in a blog post on his campaign website,

The post, “My opponent has drifted away from the original Positive Change platform,” alleges Schimmels has “reversed course in a number of areas.”

Schimmels was one of five candidates who ran in 2009 on the Positive Change slate. All five candidates, who campaigned against the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan, won the election.

Pace’s commentary on his website is a mix of statements that are correct, incorrect and partially correct based on Schimmels’ voting record.

Claim: Voted for changing Broadway Avenue from four lanes to two lanes, unnecessary use of tax dollars for a road not in need of repair.

True. Schimmels did, in fact, vote to move forward with the Broadway Avenue Safety Project to restripe the street between Pines and Park roads. However, Pace’s assertion that the road wasn’t in need of repair are refuted by the words of then Public Works Director Neil Kersten, who said Broadway between Park and Vista roads needed to be resurfaced as part of the project because it was “substantially deteriorated”.

Only Councilman Dean Grafos and former Councilwoman Brenda Grassel voted against the project. Grassel, who now serves as Pace’s campaign manager, tried to have the restriping project killed even though the city had received a grant to cover 80 percent of the cost. Schimmels was a supporter of the project from the beginning.

Claim: Voted against putting on the ballot the Sprague one-way back to two-way issue for the citizens to decide (which overwhelmingly was defeated by the voters).

True. At the time Schimmels said he believed the one-way issue should be decided by the council and not put on the ballot. The ballot measure also included a $2.1 million bond to pay for the conversion.

Claim: Supports another revenue stream for roads rather than use the tax surplus dollars that have been hoarded up and built up to an extreme. … His own words: “We’ve spent nine years building these funds. If we keep eating away at the reserves, we won’t even be able to fix the streets.” On the contrary, not fixing the streets for the last nine years has cost us now eight times more than if the money had been spent on roads earlier before they deteriorated to full replacement.

Mostly false. Schimmels has not voted in favor of adding a new revenue stream because there haven’t been any proposals to raise taxes coming from the strongly anti-tax City Council. Schimmels did make the quoted statement, but he was referring to a plan to take roughly 45 percent of the city’s ending fund balance and set it aside for park development, a new city hall and other capital projects.

The final statement is inaccurate. It does cost roughly eight times more to completely dig up and replace a street than it does to simply grind out the top layer of pavement and replace it, but very few streets identified for preservation have deteriorated to the point where replacement is necessary. The city has performed street preservation projects every year for the past nine years. It has stepped up the number of street preservation projects the last few years, which Schimmels has supported.

Claim: In addition to wanting another revenue stream for roads, supports the annual 1 percent property tax increase.

Mostly false. For the past several years Schimmels has voted with the majority in declining the annual 1 percent property tax increase. In 2009, Schimmels joined the majority of the council in voting to increase property taxes by 1 percent but cast the lone vote against declaring a “substantial need” to allow the city to raise the property tax even if inflation was less than 1 percent. In 2010, he voted with the rest of the council to decrease property taxes by 1 percent.

Claim: Nominated Amy Biviano to replace councilmember Grassel, then went on to vote for Linda Thompson in the final round for her seat.

True: But it’s uncertain how this would be considered a reversal or how this is connected to the Positive Change platform. Schimmels voted for Thompson to get the vacant council seat after Biviano had been eliminated from consideration. Mayor Tom Towey and Councilman Ben Wick also voted for Thompson while Grafos, Chuck Hafner and Arne Woodard voted to award the seat to Rod Higgins. A coin toss broke the tie vote in favor of Higgins.

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