This year, we asked each of the candidates running for office in Spokane to describe the relationship between Spokane Mayor David Condon and the City Council. This post includes the answers of the mayoral candidates, which are a bit longer because they were asked additional, related questions . Answers from the council candidates were in a previous post.
David Condon, incumbent candidate for Spokane mayor: I think there is some great collaboration that has happened. When we go through the deliberative process, we’ve had some big successes. Those take months, if not a year. So you’ve seen the street levy, you see the parks bond, you see a complete remodeling of our utilities, a complete almost nearly 180 on the way we fund city government. Those have been long deliberations.
We also had Steve Salvatori, who was at the time was the chair of the public safety committee, put together a task force that included labor and business and the city administration on the fire task team. And we’ve been deliberate to fill those out. In police, we put together the use of force commission and then subsequently working with (the council) there. So there’s been a lot of collaboration. I would say there’s been waning interest on the fire task team, which is unfortunate, but you’ll see that the collaboration has happened when we’ve had a long, deliberative process of research and study and coming together.
Where you’ll see some instances where we have not agreed, where legislative agendas were very compressed in the deliberative process, whether that be the apprenticeship program, whether that be sick and safe leave, whether that be a handful of other initiatives that you’ve seen. The (Fire Department’s Alternative Response Unit) program, where the relationship has been strained. I think you wrote a good article about the political nature of the City Council. You won’t see in my office people who have worked on my campaign. Many of them I didn’t even know them when they applied for the jobs. There is a place for politics, don’t get me wrong. But I think at the end, it shouldn’t be a win-loss column. It should be what was right for Spokane and what is best for our citizens.
You’ve waded into City Council races. You’ve endorsed LaVerne Biel and Evan Verduin.
Condon: Absolutely. Like I did last time, with Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori.
Right now the council has we what call a vetoproof supermajority. It looks unlikely that the majority will change, but it could be slimmed down or enhanced. Could you work with a council that votes 6-1 with Council President Ben Stuckart?
Condon: Look at the voting on critical pieces of legislation. Namely, the budget. I’ve enjoyed the vast majority on that. I did not agree with some of the items that were put into the budget, but we have eight elected officials. I don’t agree with the increase in their personal budgets, going up 26 percent, in some cases higher than that depending how you look at it. It doesn’t align with what I see as affordable and effective. But at the end of the day, in the large picture of a multimillion, $170 million budget, it would not be the direction I’d go in. I also see as we’ve waded into issues of late, it concerns me that job creators are not on the (council).
You talk about me and Shar Lichty, you talk about the Envision proposal, from my understanding she is the only candidate or elected official that supports it. Between Ms. Lichty and I, it’s pretty obvious where her philosophy comes from.
Have you endorsed Councilman Mike Fagan, or John Ahern, candidate for council president?
Condon: I have not endorsed John Ahern. I don’t know whether I have or haven’t Fagan. We work together a lot. What does endorsement mean? I think he serves northeast Spokane very well. I don’t think anybody could take away from him the passion he has for northeast, and I think he represents his constituents very well. He and I haven’t always agreed on everything. I believe he’s the only one in the last two years that’s voted against the budget. Now, I believe his is because of concerns in the increase in budget of the city council itself, but you’d have to ask him. At this point I don’t remember why he voted no.
And why no endorsement or support or fundraising for Ahern? He’s a stalwart within the local Republican party, a longtime state legislator.
Condon: I don’t believe the Republican Party endorsed me this time or last time. I come as a Republican in the sense of me personally. But you’ll see, and the public sees, this a completely nonpartisan office. The issues that I’ve brought forward and the people I’ve hired, it has not been an issue of their affiliation. It goes back to if you have a real passion for the city, and secondly an affordability alignment.
Does this have more to do with Ahern or Stuckart?
Condon: I think many of the philosophies Ahern brings to the table, he and agree quite a bit. That being said, I think there’s a time for elected officials to serve, and I think he’s served our community very well at the state level. I think with Ben, we have on major issues come to a lot of agreement for this community.
Shar Lichty, candidate for Spokane mayor: There have been incidences of a lack of cooperation, the City Council being blindsided by things coming from the mayor’s office, such as when the council had a certain understanding of when the (Fire Department’s) Alternative Response Units would be put back in place, and that they would be given certain information before hand. That’s one recent example.
I think there’s more cooperation now, but the mayor’s running for reelection.
Has it been productive, that tension between the two branches? Or has it stifled things?
Lichty: I think it’s a little bit of both. It certainly hasn’t stifled production like it has in national politics. We’re nowhere near there. But, the mayor’s office and the City Council should work collaboratively on things, on policy issues or the budget. Council has to approve the budget, so ultimately they hold the purse strings.
As mayor, how would you increase cooperation and include council members in the conversation? How would you do that if the council had a majority that didn’t share your views?
Lichty: Transparency. I would still work collaboratively with them. The council is the one that creates legislation. But the mayor can and should keep the council apprised of changes she’d like to see. I would do that regardless of political leaning. I’ve worked with Republicans, conservatives on the death penalty, one of the most controversial issues. I have no problem working across the aisle.