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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

ON THE ISSUES: LaVerne Biel, candidate for Spokane City Council, District 2

LaVerne Biel visits with her daughter, Brita Frost as they prepare for guests on election night, Aug. 4, 2015. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
LaVerne Biel visits with her daughter, Brita Frost as they prepare for guests on election night, Aug. 4, 2015. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Explain your political philosophy. Who is your political hero?

Biel: My political philosophy is based on my experiences as a citizen, community leader, mother, employee, and employer.  I believe that what makes our country great is having citizens serve as leader representatives. Leader representatives are fundamental principles of democracy.  My fundamental view is framed around transparency, careful oversight, hard work, collaboration, with dedication to complete a task and to serve others.   

My political hero is President Harry Truman.  He was a man of the people.  He was a humble man from humble beginnings.  President Truman was faced with complicated issues that he continued to tackle regardless of his popularity.  President Truman led the way for civil rights by integrating the military which was not popular.  In addition, President Truman understood the importance of national and public safety. 

 

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.

Biel: It is my view that City Council and the Mayor are not headed in the same direction which continues to create the division.  There can and should be differences while maintaining a unity of purpose.  There needs to be healthy differences between City Council and Mayor to forge vetted results to fulfill their mission for Spokane. I will refocus the City Council’s efforts to align with their mission statement which will buffer conflicts between the Council and the Mayor’s office which will benefits everyone in Spokane. 

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?

Biel: I fully support enhancing our city’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Like everything else, we need to be cost effective with our investments.  I also think we need to put more efforts into improving pedestrian safety in our community.  I do have concerns with road diets unless they make sense.  We need to do our due diligence by studying the traffic impacts to ensure there are no long term consequences.

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

Biel: The police ombudsman should be empowered to independently oversee any citizen complaints against the police department.  I see it as a citizen advocate position.  

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

Biel: I support the recent issuance of 200m in municipal bonds to clean up the Spokane river and to ensure reasonable utility rates. 

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

Biel: Vacant properties owned by the City of Spokane that can be resold to capture the revenue.  Once the properties are sold the City would have reoccurring revenue from property taxes and sales taxes (if used commercially).   

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

Biel: Yes, I support the city’s Monsanto lawsuit.  We need to hold businesses accountable for the goods and services they provide that have long term environmental implications.   

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

Biel: School zones are a public safety issue and not a revenue issue.  I do not believe speed cameras will produce long term safety citizen awareness. 

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?

Biel: Yes, I believe Spokane has suffered due to the unfilled Planning Director Position.  The Planning Department needs a leader who leads, evaluates, and instructs personnel.  The Planning Director sets the tone and vision for the Department. 

I would recommend someone with an urban planning degree and a minimum of 8 years of responsible planning experience.  The position would require an AICP Certification or obtain certification within one year.  They must have strong communication and implementation skills.  I would also recommend seeking out planning directors with experience in other mid-size cities around the country. 

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

Biel: I believe there should be two public relations professionals:  A City Spokesperson and a Public Safety Spokesperson. 

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

Biel: I do not support Envision Spokane’s Worker Bill of Right.  I do not support the Worker Bill of Rights due to vague and restrictive wording in the underlying charter. 

The charter defines the following summary:

The family wage provision is vague and undefined.  Recent studies show that the new wage could be higher than anywhere in the world.  This will raise prices and impact everyone who is on a fixed income in Spokane.  This is not sustainable for Spokane. 

The Equal Pay provision:   eliminates seniority pay based on experience and bonuses based on performance.   

The at-will provision:  will hurt younger and entry-level workers as many local businesses will avoid hiring them due to restrictive rules. 

Corporate rights provision:  eliminates protection for corporations, partnerships, nonprofits, local governments, and unions.  This will essentially eliminate people participating in these organizations.  This has already been found to be illegal by the City of Spokane’s Hearing Examiner and will lead to expensive litigation funded by the taxpayers. 

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

Biel: There are a lot of issues that need to be considered, such as the utilities under the street.  Would we need to relocate those utilities’?  What will the cost be to citizens to do so?  I am concerned that vacating the public right of way may be detrimental to public walkability in the area.  Overall, I would have to see more information regarding the long rage plans for growth in the area.  

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.

Biel: I understand that the State of Washington allows Cities to borrow money internally for investments and paying interest on the loan.  I am concerned that that this policy circumvents citizen oversight on capital investments. 

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?

Biel: I do not believe that Spokane has a sprawl problem.  We cannot control were people want to purchase homes.  However, there are properties within the City of Spokane that can and should be developed.  We need a comprehensive study of where the lots are available and which are actually buildable at a market rate. 

Improvements can be made with the current model.  It’s been stated that “infill” sounds good until someone wants to build within a neighborhood. 

I briefly attended a forum on Smart Growth which integrates human and housing needs within walking distance for a healthier lifestyle.  I need to know more about this approach and how Spokane would benefit from this model.



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