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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

ON THE ISSUES: Ben Stuckart, candidate for Spokane City Council president

City Council president candidates Ben Stuckart, left, and John Ahern, right, debate at the candidate debates held by the Chase Youth Commission Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015 at North Central High School. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
City Council president candidates Ben Stuckart, left, and John Ahern, right, debate at the candidate debates held by the Chase Youth Commission Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015 at North Central High School. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Explain your political philosophy. Who is your political hero?

Stuckart: I try to make decisions using Aristotle’s definition of good.  Making the right decisions for the right reasons at the right time.  My political hero is Robert F. Kennedy.

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.

Stuckart: The Mayor and I have worked closely on the Streets Levy, the Parks Bond, and the Economic Incentive Policy.  A balanced government is important.  It forces both sides more towards the middle and creates a better Spokane for all of our citizens.  I believe the current council and mayor make each other stronger.

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?

Stuckart: Yes.  For every bicycle, pedestrian and person riding a bus we are decreasing the wear and tear on our streets.  If we look at successful business districts like Perry and Garland they are built for pedestrians.   If we want our young people to graduate from our local colleges and universities and stay in Spokane we will invest in these alternative transportation networks.  I support road diets if the neighborhoods and local business districts are in favor of them.  On Sprague, the decrease in lanes has increased business. 

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

Stuckart: Since the new ordinance went into effect we still have not had an instance where the new measures implementing independent investigatory authority have been used.  I do not believe until we see how the current law works we can judge whether it is appropriate or not.

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

Stuckart: Yes, we have to comply with the Clean Water Act to clean up our River by 2017.  The upgrades to the Sewer Treatment Plant and Combined Sewer Overflow tanks will clean up our river and are on track.

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

Stuckart: We need more infill development (more people) and higher wage jobs so Spokane’s tax base is larger and tax increases are not necessary.  We can do a better job with our infill regulations and a better job attracting manufacturing so the current revenue sources all grow while taxes for individuals stay the same.

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

Stuckart: Yes, as far back as 1969 Monsanto knew that PCB’s were an environmental disaster.  Yet they continued to put them in common products.  Now we are paying millions to clean up our river, they should be held accountable.

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

Stuckart: Yes, they are being tested now.  In regular intersections cameras have decreased the number of crashes and we can test whether the same thing will happen in school zones.  The revenue is spent on traffic calming measures in the neighborhoods so projects stay in Spokane.

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?

Stuckart: Scott Chesney’s firing was a horrible decision.  He was respected by both the business community and neighborhoods.  That is a hard task.  I would hire someone with a similar demeanor and skill set as Scott Chesney.

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

Stuckart: Marlene Feist used to be the Spokesperson for the City as a whole.  It seems now that each department has their own PR person and that Brian Coddington is now the Mayor’s spokesperson.  I would like to see things move back to being less partisan and more like it used to be.

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

Stuckart: No, plank 4 of Envision Spokane is unconstitutional and will cost money in the court system.  I do not like that Spokane is being used as a test case for one group to try and pass an initiative so that we have a Supreme Court test case. 

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

Stuckart: Actually, it is only one block of right of way and it is not a vacation.  Larry H Miller is requesting a conditional use permit that would expire when the dealership leaves.  I believe if the businesses in the area approve of it and the investments make the area better for all businesses the one block should be granted.

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.

Stuckart: Yes, the City pays itself back on these capital investments through cost savings.  This saves the taxpayers money and allows us to invest in cost saving measures.

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?

Stuckart: We should encourage infill.  We can grow our tax base by either encouraging infill or bringing more high paying jobs to Spokane.  The City Council recently approved the Water Plan.  This puts the City in the driver’s seat in this conversation.  No permits for building can be issued without the City enlarging its’ water service area.  Growth can be smart. 

Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

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