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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Spokane City Council candidates debate union rules

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

The city recently has lobbied the Legislature to amend state law regarding binding arbitration so that if contract negotiations stall between the city and a union representing firefighters or police officers, an arbitrator could consider additional factors when setting wages and benefits, such as a city’s ability to pay and to maintain a reserve fund. Do you support this change to state law?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Gary Pollard:

Not in its present format, it’s too vague, and inequitable. Though I understand the reasoning, we can approach this issue in a more just matter. 

Mike Fagan:

I am not familiar with the full scope of this effort, but, on its face, I like the fact that we can now consider “ability to pay” as a criteria. I would also like to see a third party committee selected for the purpose of negotiating the contracts as opposed to just the Mayor, and that the arbitration process will not be using the likes of Seattle and Tacoma as comparable economies. With salary and benefits comprising 60 to 65 percent of the general fund, again, we have come to a point where a very serious long needed dialog must take place.

Luke Tolley:

I would support such a change.  In the past there have been major failures in leadership and diplomacy when it comes to contract negotiations.  Unions feel attacked and the city feels as if there is no sense of shared sacrifice.  I do not believe arbitration is the best way to solve those problems, but I would hope it would open up a new dialog that could potentially lead to convergent solutions.  Solutions that neither side thought of when they came to the table but are better for all.  It is a difficult dichotomy; the average citizen supports law enforcement and firefighters and appreciates them for what they do but at the same time is faced with pay cuts and job losses at home that are the reality of this economy.  We have to find ways to disassociate honoring our police and fire heroes and balancing the budget.

John Waite:

Yes. In order to build a sustainable budget, we must take a careful look at the factors considered for determining wages and benefits in union negotiations. We have proven as a city that we can prevent layoffs by asking our local firefighters and police officers to pitch in and sacrifice some of their well-earned pay – and preventing layoffs means preventing devastating loss and insecurity for families.

Donna McKereghan:

No. It opens the door to city government using funds for other projects and then claiming – legitimately – that it doesn't have the money when it comes time for contract negotiations. I consider this to be an end-run around the collective bargaining process, despite the fact that the unions that represent our local firefighters and police officers have given recent concessions that indicate they understand the state of the current city budget and are willing to do their part to keep it balanced.

Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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