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Ben Wick Q&A: A more diverse council, Painted Hills decision on his mind

Ben Wick lost the election last fall and is leaving the Spokane Valley City Council. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Ben Wick lost the election last fall and is leaving the Spokane Valley City Council. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

For departing Spokane Valley City Council member Ben Wick, the fifth time was the charm.

Wick ran in the first Spokane Valley election, against 51 other people, then applied three times to fill vacant City Council positions before finally being elected in 2011.

In the last election, Wick lost to Sam Wood by just 99 votes in a race that was left blank on 3,097 ballots.

By far the youngest member of the Spokane Valley council, Wick is not ruling out another bid for office, but for now he’s ready for a little time off. As he gets ready to leave City Hall, here are his answers on municipal issues big and small:

Who was your favorite City Council member to work with?

I think Tom Towey. And also Chuck Haffner. Chuck always has a different approach to things – he helps dialogue on the council, he helps thought.

What’s an issue you are happy got done?

The street preservation program. I wasn’t sure we could get that done but we did. It allocates 6 percent of the general fund to street repair and maintenance every year.

What’s something you wish had been done differently?

Painted Hills. I wish we had dealt with that differently. I wish the city had bought the land.

What’s the biggest issue facing Spokane Valley right now?

Bridging the Valley is a big one, we have to get that done. And there are other train issues, like quiet zones, that we should deal with.

The council is now all men in the last quarter of their life – did you being so much younger add something to the council?

I think you make the best decisions when you have a diverse council. I would like to see diverse ages and and genders. We need to get more people involved.

How do you get more people involved?

I don’t know. When we were dealing with the topless barista issue, it was standing room only in City Council chambers. That was the same night as a budget hearing, and not a single person had a comment on the budget but they all had a comment on the baristas. I’m not sure what it takes.

Is there something the City Council could do differently?

I think the council could do more public presentations to service clubs and other organizations. Pick a topic, like streets or parks, and go talk to people about it. That way you also learn what’s on people’s mind.

And it’s been a long time since we’ve had a mayor who liked to go out in public. People like to hear from their elected – it means a lot to them.

Has incorporation worked for Spokane Valley?

I think it’s worked out very well. We are still making progress and there’s always room for improvement. But the permitting process has gotten a lot better and the streets have, too. Incorporation has allowed more focus on the Valley.

Is Spokane Valley still a new city?

Yes, I think it is. But it is getting better and better.

Does Spokane Valley have a good relationship with other municipalities?

I think we could do more partnerships. I’m an olive branch kind of guy; I like to get to know people so I can work with them better.

Does Spokane Valley have a bit of a chip on its shoulder when it comes to Spokane?

I don’t think it’s that bad, but I wish they’d bring back the joint city council meetings between Spokane and Spokane Valley. Those were good.

Should Spokane Valley have its own police department?

That’s an expensive idea. One key to our success is that we are a contract city; that allows us so much more flexibility than if we were running everything on our own. I don’t think having its own police department is the right fit for the city.

Would you do it again?

I’m not ready to say I’m done with the City Council.


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