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Spokane City Council members meet with candidates vying for open seat

Most people who win a seat on the Spokane City Council have to persuade thousands of people over the course of many months to vote for them. The candidates for a vacant Spokane City Council seat only need to persuade four people.

That persuasion began in earnest Wednesday as the nervous candidates made their way, one by one, to the head of the table where they answered six questions from their possible council mates. Allotted 20 minutes each, the five candidates answered questions about the downtown transit plaza, urban growth and November’s ballot measures concerning Riverfront Park and street maintenance.

The questions reflected topics of the day as well as the current liberal make-up of the council. Most of the candidates appeared prepared for the questions, even if there was little disagreement. They all agreed that the urban growth boundary should generally not be expanded and that the bus plaza should remain downtown.

“It’s a little bit shocking to me that the location is still in debate,” Julie Griffith said about the plaza. Griffith, a personal finance educator with Money Management International, said the growth boundary should not “expand willy-nilly.”

Griffith said her work untangling complicated financial matters would suit council duties well.

“I have 25 years experience helping people,” she said.

Adrian Dominguez, an epidemiologist with Spokane Regional Health District, told the panel that his work as a public health official digging through data put him above the other candidates. On almost every issue, Dominguez said he’d let the numbers guide his choices.

“I know I sound like a broken record,” he said. “I go back to looking at the data. In order to make a strategic decision, I need to see the data.”

Kitty Klitzke, who was perhaps the most ready with her answers, has long made decisions on local issues, primarily as Eastern Washington program director for Futurewise, the land use advocacy group.

“I very much oppose the expansion of the urban growth boundary,” she said, adding that unplanned growth “hurts the city centers.”

Comparing Congress unfavorably to local government, Klitzke said city council “is one of the best places to get involved if you want to change the world.”

E.J. Iannelli, a freelance writer and chair of the Emerson Garfield Neighborhood, wouldn’t be outdone when it comes to enthusiasm for political involvement.

Quoting voter turnout numbers from the last four elections, Iannelli said he’d like to turn around the “apathy” and “disenchantment” with the political process.

“A democracy cannot function with 30 percent participation rates,” he said.

Citing his experience living outside the country, Iannelli said a robust transit system and lively arts scene are integral to a vibrant city.

“It’s thriving,” he said of Spokane’s arts community. “It’s no longer on the precipice.”

Karen Stratton, the last to appear before the panel, said she knew the priorities of Spokane’s residents because she hears the same thing all the time.

“I want to be safe in my neighborhood, and when are you going to fix my street?” Stratton told the panel.

Stratton has worked at City Hall since 2005, when she was named a senior adviser to then-Mayor Jim West. For the past two years, she’s been working in the clerk’s office. Because of this experience, she said she was more aware of how the city works than most of the candidates.

“I know how the sausage is made,” she said.