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Monday, November 11, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Spokane candidates on the Mayor Vs. the City Council

Spokane Mayor David Condon, left, with City Council President Ben Stuckart, announce police Chief Frank Straub’s resignation Tuesday at Spokane City Hall. (Colin Mulvany)
Spokane Mayor David Condon, left, with City Council President Ben Stuckart, announce police Chief Frank Straub’s resignation Tuesday at Spokane City Hall. (Colin Mulvany)

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 City Council candidates below. Stay tuned for the mayoral candidates' answers.

John Ahern, candidate for City Council president: Did not provide answers.

Ben Stuckart, incumbent candidate for City Council president: 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.

Mike Fagan, incumbent candidate in City Council District 1: I believe that a veto proof majority is unhealthy for the city of Spokane. With this type of government, the forward progress of the city and it's people are impacted greatly by spinning wheels. I believe that more political balance, and a variety of philosophies is needed to ensure that policies are thoroughly vetted to limit the potential for unintended consequences, and/or power struggles which may take the city in a negative direction.

Randy Ramos, candidate in City Council District 1: It seems like there have been a couple of incidents in the last few months that have strained the city council’s relationship with the mayor. I would like to see more cooperation, honesty, and transparency between the two, and I look forward to helping that process once elected.

LaVerne Biel, candidate in City Council District 2: 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. 

Lori Kinnear, candidate in City Council District 2: The current working relationship between the mayor and city council has room for improvement. To work as voters intended, the strong mayor form of government must have a strong, independent council responsible directly to the citizens not the mayor. While the Mayor and Council have different responsibilities, they do need to work together specifically on budget priorities and outcomes that benefit the citizens. Each mayor and council member brings their own expectations and set of priorities to the job so the give and take we see these individuals exhibit is part of a healthy process. However, I believe that press conferences, and major announcements, should include the council president or a council member. Council should share major policy initiatives with the administration with the expectation that the result will be a collaborative process.

Karen Stratton, incumbent candidate in City Council District 3: The Mayor and Council agree far more often on policy issues than they disagree. It is inevitable that there will be disagreements between the Council and the Mayor from time to time.  That is a sign of a healthy democracy. The process works best when disagreements are honestly and fairly discussed.  In my view the problem is that the Council has little basis to believe the administration is being candid when it presents information about City programs and practices.  Until we as a council have faith that the information presented is always the administration’s best effort to be honest and straightforward, the relationship between the council and the Mayor will be strained. It is hard to play fair and square with the Mayor when one feels he is always hiding the ball. The lack of candor is made worse by the Mayor’s campaign activities.  I am disappointed that the Mayor has chosen to endorse candidates in these local races and actively campaign for them. This behavior is unprecedented in a Spokane mayor and does little to improve the current dialogue between the Council and his administration. 

Evan Verduin, candidate in City Council District 3: 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.

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Be sure to read our complete coverage of this year's election before marking that ballot.



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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