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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Valley residents gather to try to dissolve city

Lee Wilhelm wore a hat that read “Mr. Fix It.”

He and more than 75 other citizens turned out for a meeting Wednesday hoping to fix what they see as a big problem: the city of Spokane Valley. The group is organizing to collect enough signatures to put a question on the ballot that could dissolve the 2-year-old city.

“We were fine with the county,” said Wilhelm, 75.

Incorporation foes Sally Jackson and Rick Lloyd led the meeting, organizing volunteers into committees and encouraging the group to keep its momentum.

“I don’t know how much more of this new city I can afford or you can afford,” Lloyd told the crowd at North Pines Middle School.

But the citizens have a daunting task ahead. It’s been 40 years since a Washington city disincorporated. To put a vote on the ballot, this group will need to gather about 23,000 signatures, or 50 percent of the city’s registered voters plus one. In the last municipal election, only about 14,000 Spokane Valley residents even voted.

City foes tried to put disincorporation on the ballot in the summer of 2003, a year after voters approved forming the city. During that effort, only about 6,000 signatures were gathered.

Disincorporation backers said the situation’s different this time. People told them last time to give the City Council a chance, but they think the public’s had enough now.

“A lot of people have changed their mind,” said Kathy Foreman, 58.

Talk of disincorporation resurfaced last summer when several of the same citizens collected signatures to fight a pay raise that a commission had approved for the council. That group collected about 8,000 signatures in 14 days.

Jackson, Lloyd and other citizens listed concerns Wednesday night. For one, the council is allowing too many homes to be built per acre.

“They don’t have to jam every house into every little piece of land they can,” Jackson said. ” … The developers walk off with the gravy, and we’re left with the bill on the infrastructure.”

Many said they were happy with the services Spokane County provided and pointed out that the county is fiscally much healthier than the new city, which recently considered imposing a utility tax to make ends meet. The council tabled the tax last week, saying the city’s revenue picture had improved. Some disincorporation backers contend that shelving the tax was a ploy to take the wind out of their campaign’s sails.

Resident Jeff McIntyre, 53, said “service has gone downhill” since the city took over.

Contacted at home, Deputy Mayor Richard Munson said, “that’s just not true.” Police protection is better now, Spokane Transit plans to add more bus service to Spokane Valley, and the city’s permitting department is efficient, he said.

“I think this community has more representation than they have had before in more areas, and things are happening as a result,” Munson said.

As for the city’s less-than-rosy fiscal future, Munson said he thinks the city is “on track with our finances.”

“One of the things we do that the county never did was plan ahead,” he said.

Jackson’s response to the city’s newfound financial stability was “phooey.” And she said “local representation doesn’t mean zip out here.”

“I don’t care what they say, that just means you’re going to a politician” for help, she said, to laughter and cheers.

The group wants the question on the November ballot, which means it will have to submit the signatures by early August. During that election, all of the City Council seats will be up for grabs, creating an interesting predicament if enough signatures are gathered.