Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Rain 36° Rain

Spin Control

ON THE ISSUES: Evan Verduin, candidate for Spokane City Council, District 3

Evan Verduin
Evan Verduin

Explain your political philosophy. Who is your political hero?

Verduin: Our council, particularly after the appointment of my opponent, Ms. Stratton, has become increasingly partisan and deliberate in passing ordinances beyond their purview. Ms. Stratton, while claiming “a fairly liberal outlook” says “there is seldom a legitimate reason for partisan politics in municipal government”. However Ms. Stratton has voted with the liberal majority 91 out of 95 times through this past August, we need someone representing our city that is an independent thinker, a true non-partisan. I don’t believe our councils claim to fame should be “to pass the most amount of ordinances in the history of Spokane”, to paraphrase the council president nor should our ordinances have people lined up to talk for hours for or against the laws we pass. Our council should be focused on the mission statement of the city, “to provide efficient and effective services”. Ms. Stratton believes our council should “enhance the quality of life of our city” but in reality, our council purview is to be limited to providing the services that facilitate the enhancement of quality of life, that’s a big difference in understanding the role of our local government. Our seniors shouldn’t have to worry about increased taxes or utility rates nor should our business owners be worried about additional mandates or the fear of being micromanaged by their council members. The people of Spokane want our city to be run efficiently and effectively with priorities on public safety, attracting jobs and fixing our roads, not broad social issues, taxes, and burdensome mandates on businesses.

 

Describe the current relationship between the City Council and the mayor. If you think the relationship’s productive, explain why. If you think the relationship should change, explain why and how you would change it.

Verduin: Let’s be honest, both sides will say they have worked together and found great ways to compromise and maintain a productive relationship. However, the reality is when candidates march toward the general election to the drum of not being “the tool of the Mayor” there is some obvious underlying angst at play. Yes, there should be a working relationship between the two, but the real focus of our Strong Mayor form of government is that the council is the legislative body and the legislation coming from the council should be balanced unto itself, containing compromise and common sense, regardless of the relationship with the mayor. A super majority in any form of government, especially a legislative body, is less open to compromise and more likely to advance partisan agendas, the end result being the citizens of Spokane lose. We need more balance on our council and not partisan agendas being passed by super majorities to grow the size of our government.

Last year, voters overwhelmingly approved a 20-year street levy. Under the city’s integrated streets policy (also known as Complete Streets), part of that money will go toward pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Do you support that money, as well as other funding, going toward alternative transportation? Why or why not? Do you support the city’s work on road diets?

Verduin: I applaud the 20-year street levy as a means to accomplish a significant amount of road maintenance projects without increasing taxes. It should be noted that complete streets is more than just sidewalks and bike lanes. It’s about utility work, storm water, and road pavement maintenance among other things. All these improvements, when warranted, can and should happen together as a more efficient means to address infrastructure improvements. If there are neighborhoods where sidewalks are missing, insufficient “safe routes” to schools then those pieces of infrastructure should be evaluated and included in improvements as necessary. At the end of the day, it’s about providing the greatest value of work while at the same time being the best stewards of tax payer dollars. Frustrations I hear as I talk to neighbors and knock on doors is the inability to get firm commitments as to when a specific and much needed project will commence. At the time of the previous 2004 bond, city leaders were very specific about what projects would be completed, when they would be completed, and how citizens could track construction progress. It is critical that the accountability and oversight of the new levy is executed as quickly as possible to ensure efficient use of tax payer dollars. I believe all of these projects should be tracked online with an interactive map, costs of each project, overruns, and deadlines should be clearly and easily accessible.

Should the Spokane Police Ombudsman have more or less powers to independently investigate alleged police misconduct?

Verduin: Proposition 1 was passed in 2013 by a significant majority of Spokane voters and it is our responsibility to follow through with such an important call to action. In addition to adding the office of the Police Ombudsman was also the power to investigate alleged police misconduct independently of the police department. However, according to strong Washington State labor laws, negotiated labor contracts supersede local regulations, thus the investigative authority must continue to be negotiated with union leaders regardless of the charter language. I support continued efforts to negotiate such authority in future contracts.

Do you support the city’s recent issuance of $200 million in municipal bonds? Why or why not?

Verduin: I believe we have a truly unique asset in the Spokane River and we should look for creative opportunities to resolve ongoing issues related to sewage overflow and contamination and that is exactly what the municipal bonds allow for. Considering the significance of the work I believe this to be a wise investment. The bond payments will be limited solely to revenue from utility rates, rates pledged to never increase more than the rate of inflation. Running on a “no new taxes” platform, once I’m elected I refuse to assume any type of annual growth model and am committed to being an advocate for our seniors and those on fixed incomes that simply can’t give our local government any more of their hard earned money.

What’s the most underutilized revenue source for the city of Spokane?

Verduin: I don’t believe there is such a thing as an underutilized revenue source. We must recognize that every “revenue source” in actuality is the hard earned tax dollar paid by the retired senior on a fixed income, or the single mom working two jobs, or the dual income family working to send their kids to college. I firmly believe our citizens have reached a point where any additional increase in their taxes will severely hurt their financial wellbeing. We should be forward thinkers that can implement innovative techniques and technologies, look for efficiencies within departments, reducing redundancies and in general providing the people of Spokane a more efficient government that askes for less of your money.

Do you support the city’s decision to sue Monsanto over PCBs in the Spokane River?

Verduin: According to experts, PCB’s in the river have been traced directly to Monsanto and as of today we are planning on spending nearly $300 million dollars to clean up our river. Those that pollute our river with little fear or regard for our health should be held accountable.

Should speed cameras be installed in school zones? Why or Why not?

Verduin: Speed cameras have become the “go-to” for issues concerning traffic control and generating extra revenue. I believe they should be an option of last resort. In school zones I would advocate for less expensive solutions such as radars or speed trailers manufactured in the region before sending portions of the levied fines (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of local dollars) to out of state companies and padding the pockets of their executives.

The city has been without a planning director since Scott Chesney was ousted last November, a move that led, in part, to Jan Quintrall’s sudden resignation earlier this year. Do you believe the city has suffered due to the unfilled planning director position? And, if asked for advice by the mayor, what qualities would you recommend in a planning director?

Verduin: As an architect and Vice-President of the Plan Commission, I have worked closely with the interim director on many levels and believe he has been doing a great job during a period of increased work load and absence of long term leadership. With that being said, I believe the work load on our current planning department is straining and it would be a priority of mine to assist in the selection of a competent director that has similar “get to work” kind of qualities of the previous director, Mr. Chesney. Those in our community that worked closely with Mr. Chesney (including myself)  know him for bringing common sense and an anti-red tape attitude toward seeing projects through from start to finish. That was a great quality and one necessary for the future director. Unfortunately, that trait also comes with its pitfalls. Mr. Chesney was championed by the current council after his forced resignation, yet when advantageous those council members have unfairly cried foul on several projects he helped weave through the layers of bureaucracy within the city.

How many public relations professionals, or spokesmen and spokeswomen, should the city employ? Explain.

Verduin: As a council member in the Strong Mayor form of government I do not believe it would be my role to tell the administration how to handle personnel related issues. We do get to approve the final budget, but how those funds are utilized regarding personnel becomes an issue of micromanaging best not left to legislators and instead should rightfully be left to the mayor and his administration. I would however encourage those on the current council with concerns regarding personnel issues to run for mayor and not the legislative branch of our government.

Will you vote in favor of Envision Spokane’s Worker Bill of Rights? Why or Why not?

Verduin: I have publically endorsed the Vote No on Prop 1 campaign, I cannot say that for my opponent. If passed, companies with more than 150 employees would be required to pay a “family wage” which is determined by a formula that calculates cost of living, currently estimated at nearly $23/hr. Passing this proposition will hurt those it claims to help, low wage earners, fixed incomes, those in poverty. As a city we want to attract companies and new job opportunities, the added burdens imposed by this proposition will instead raise the costs of goods and services, force employers to cut other benefit packages and further deter business from locating within Spokane. Our own impartial decision maker (the hearing examiner) found one of the provisions to be unconstitutional, likely leading to the failure of Spokane to fully legally implement, significant legal costs to defend lawsuits and ultimately the reduction of city services or increases in taxes to implement other provisions of the proposition.

Should the city vacate two blocks of public right-of-way on Madison Avenue for use by a car dealership?

Verduin: I believe that the city should always attempt maintain a favorable business environment and work with business of all sizes to ensure Spokane remains a viable place to operate. The current council has called this particular vacation project a “mess”. Unfortunately, former Planning Director Scott Chesney, an individual they championed and subsequently decried the decision of his forced resignation was the driving force in trying to reduce the barriers and red tape to ensure this particular employer could maintain operations in its current location. Scott Chesney was a “get to work” kind of guy that worked with business owners and developers to break through bureaucratic nightmares, yet when it is to their advantage, our current council will berate the projects he led.

Since its creation in 2007, the Spokane Investment Pool has grown to contain more than half a billion dollars. In the past five years, the city has borrowed money against the pool to buy new equipment for the fire and police departments, to (potentially) build a Centennial Trail bridge over Mission Avenue, to buy a new fire station in the West Plains, to buy a new property evidence facility and to pay for the land below the old YMCA in Riverfront Park. Do you support the city borrowing money against its investments, much of which is bonded debt? Explain.

Verduin: No answer given.

Does Spokane have a sprawl problem? Should the city develop stronger policies encouraging infill? Is the current model working? Or should the city get out of the way and let development occur?

Verduin: A key difference between my opponent and I is our stance regarding the role of government. I do not believe our council should be focused on creating “stronger policies”. Yes, we want to encourage infill so that as a city we don’t lose families and business to neighboring communities. Infill by nature, does not place any extra burdens on our existing infrastructure, fire or police departments, instead it increases the tax base and revenue so that crucial services such as fire and police can continue to be improved and strengthened, not expanded. However, to encourage infill as a city we should look at the numerous burdens and regulations that make construction within city limits cost prohibitive. Burdens within the city need to be identified and reduced so that doing business in Spokane or living here isn’t dictated by stronger restrictions and policies imposed by a heavy handed government but by less of them.



The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.