The Spokane City Council is guaranteed one new member because Amber Waldref is bumping up against the two-term limit in this District 1, Position 2 seat in northeast Spokane.
Waldref has endorsed Kate Burke, 28, who is a legislative assistant to Democratic Sen. Andy Billig. Burke is exuberant about public service and was co-founder of the Spokane Edible Tree Project, which connects the unused fruit from trees to food banks. She’s also been involved with the Lands Council and Project Hope. She has impressive networking skills, as evidenced from her array of endorsements and the amount of campaign money raised.
Burke moved into the Nevada Heights neighborhood about a year and half ago, and wants to make sure the district is getting its fair share of services. She says residents can’t afford more taxes, and points to her contacts at the state Legislature as a possible source of grants for the city.
On paper, she looks like she’d be an ally of council liberals, but in discussing issues, her priorities aren’t dissimilar to her opponents. However, she lacked specifics when explaining how she would tackle particular problems.
Tim Benn, 39, has run for the state Legislature a couple of times as a Republican. He helped gather signatures for a 2015 proposed initiative to overturn a city ordinance that prohibits police officers from contacting, detaining or arresting a person based on their immigration status alone. It didn’t make the ballot then. It is scheduled to be on the ballot in November. We oppose that divisive measure. On the other hand, Benn is critical of the council’s efforts to tilt at the federal issue of oil and coal train shipments. He has a point.
Benn’s involvement in the district is unquestioned. He has owned a day-care facility with his wife for nearly 20 years and is chairman of the Minnehaha Neighborhood Council. He was successful in getting safety lights installed near Cooper Elementary School. He says the Police Department needs more officers and more recruits, and he likes the idea of a limited commission for a lower tier of officers. We like that idea, too. He wants to push for better street maintenance, so that jobs are done right the first time. He does not want to raise taxes.
Like the other candidates, Kathryn Alexander, 75, says crime is a problem. But she connects it to other issues, such as the nature of the neighborhoods themselves. She says the district’s housing stock is in sad shape and wants to tackle the thorny issues behind absentee landlords and tenants who trash properties. She served on a citizens group looking into the issue. The goal is to fix up homes and raise property values, which would drive out criminals and generate more income for the city to improve services, such as police and street maintenance, including sidewalks, which are currently neglected.
Alexander moved to Spokane in 2014 and jumped right into community activities. She is co-chair of the Bemiss Neighborhood Council and sits on the Community Assembly, which she calls “a hidden gem.” She helped jump-start funding for the assembly, which hadn’t had any in 20 years. Alexander is a retired college instructor with a background in organizational leadership. She’s read the city’s comprehensive plan, calling it a “beautiful document.” But she described the city as having an urban vision with suburban enforcement.
Alexander strikes us as an independent thinker who would provide a fresh perspective. We recommend District 1 voters break the mold and give her a chance.
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