Candidates for Spokane City Council responded to 20 questions from The Spokesman-Review soon after filing to run for office. Because only two candidates filed to run for the Northwest seat, there wasn’t a primary and none of the responses given by Steve Salvatori and Joy Jones ran in the print edition until today.
To read more questions and responses, go to The Spokesman-Review’s Election Center at spokesman.com/elections.
Candidates were given up to 100 words to answer the following:
Q.Why do you feel that you are the best candidate?
Steve Salvatori: After three years of the worst recession of our lifetimes, our top priority has to be jobs. Small business is the backbone of our economy; 92 percent of Spokane business licenses are issued to firms with five or fewer employees. I have 25 years experience as a successful small-business person and founded the Spokane Entrepreneurial Center to help small businesses be successful and create jobs in Spokane. I have practical experience in managing a $100 million budget, a strong educational background including an MBA in financial management and believe we can protect our quality of life while creating greater prosperity.
Joy Jones: With a lifelong history here in Spokane, I am the only candidate that has a keen ear for neighborhood issues combined with hands-on experience assisting local businesses in the northwest district of Spokane. My educational background in urban planning has trained me to make long-term plans for the benefit of the communities I have worked with. With this combination of experience, educational background and history with Spokane communities, I know I have the essential framework needed to make responsible policy and land-use decisions that will benefit all of Spokane today and for many generations to come.
Q.Given the expected $7 million shortfall between the revenue the city expects in 2012 and the amount needed to maintain current services, should the city maintain a youth department? Should the city maintain an arts department? Should the city maintain a weights and measures department? Are there other city services that you would consider eliminating?
Steve Salvatori: It makes sense to look into areas like Weights & Measures or elevator inspections, where there is duplication with the state. Our citizens have been clear that their top priorities are police, fire, roads and parks. I understand there are other important programs, but I believe in following the priorities our citizens have been crystal clear in expressing. We need to look for productivity gains in high priority areas such as public safety, but we must take a hard look at every department and look for ways to streamline and reduce costs in those programs.
Joy Jones: The city budget is a manifestation of our city’s values. We need to prioritize spending according to those values. As a neighborhood advocate I know our priorities in northwest Spokane: public safety, fire, and a well-maintained transportation infrastructure. 2012 will bring another round of budget issues, forcing city leaders to find a way to run Spokane more efficiently. I feel funded youth, arts and weights and measures departments are needed for Spokane to thrive, and as a member of the city council, I will listen and act upon the shared values of the citizens of northwest Spokane.
Q.Do you support the use of red light cameras? If so, do you support diverting ticket revenue from a fund for traffic safety projects to help balance the budget?
Steve Salvatori: An agreement was reached with our citizens to accept the use of red light cameras, in exchange for using the revenue generated to improve traffic safety. Now, this promise is in danger of being broken, in an attempt to divert those dollars over to the general fund. We need to hold our elected officials to their promises. Red light funds were never designed to flow into the general fund, and this program would never have been approved if that was the original intention. I oppose the diversion of these funds.
Joy Jones: I do not support the photo red cameras because I do not believe they make the intersections safer. Currently, there are some legal issues around the validity of the program due to electronic certification in Arizona. If the City Council reauthorizes this program, we should honor the original agreement and use the funds generated for traffic calming. Neighborhoods really benefit from the traffic calming amenities provided through the photo red dollars. When revenue is supposed to support a certain project, the funds should only be used for that purpose, not diverted to the general fund.
Q.Spokane’s library system offers significantly fewer hours than many of the 20 largest cities in Washington. Would you be willing to ask voters for a tax to boost this service as was requested earlier this year by the city library board?
Steve Salvatori: No. The current number of hours was a compromise solution to our dire economic situation. The library board will be able to increase hours as the economy recovers, but I am not in favor of incurring further expense to put this measure on the ballot. We need to focus on growing our economy so we can afford these things, not take additional monies out of an already suffering private sector to try to provide services we can’t currently afford.
Joy Jones: I value our public libraries and the benefit they provide to our community. Because of our current economic standing, a tax increase to keep them open and operational at the same level of Washington’s larger cities should be deferred to the voters.
Q.Most city officials say that the street department has not been adequately funded to properly maintain city streets once they are reconstructed. This year, the City Council approved a $20 vehicle tab tax to boost street funding. Do you support this decision? If not, would you support a change in state law to allow the city to create a street utility fee that would be charged on city trash and water bills?
Steve Salvatori: Streets are the No. 2 priority for our citizens, after public safety. The $20 tab is to be used for incremental street funding to make up for the shortfall in street maintenance that used to be generated by the real estate excise tax, which plummeted with the recession. I support the tab, but will fight with vigor to ensure it remains incremental funding for streets and does not fall victim to a “City Hall Sleight of Hand,” in which other general fund monies previously going to streets are reduced. I am opposed to creation of a street utility fee.
Joy Jones: The people of Spokane want well-maintained roads. Historically, road maintenance was paid for by real estate excise tax, which has considerably decreased in the last few years, and yet we continue to drive on our streets. For Spokane to continue to provide safe roads, we need a dedicated fund to pay for preventative maintenance. Pavement maintenance can be done in a matter of days. Multi-month road construction projects hurt local businesses. If we can spend the $20 now to fund preventative maintenance we can avoid a much higher cost to taxpayers and businesses in the future.
Q.Do you support tax incentives for historic renovation? Do you support tax incentives for building condos and apartments downtown and in certain neighborhood centers?
Steve Salvatori: Spokane has tax incentives for historic preservation that have played a critical role in preserving many major landmark buildings in downtown, and these have proven to be an effective economic development tool, so yes, I support maintaining our existing incentives for historic renovation and preservation. I do not support incremental tax incentives for building regular condos and apartments. The city can have a positive impact on development in targeted geographic areas through innovative zoning and a streamlined permitting process, without having to provide additional tax incentives for private projects that should go forward on a free market basis. We have much needed tax incentives for housing targeted at low-income and workforce housing, and that has been vital in meeting the needs of our citizens. But I am not in favor of providing incremental tax incentives for private development of condos and apartments that compete in the general housing market.
Joy Jones: Historic preservation has been very good for the Spokane economy. We now have many great historic buildings available for businesses instead of sitting vacant for years. Tax incentives for condos and apartments are a good idea in areas of Spokane where the infrastructure is in place to support multi-family development. I would not encourage multi-family development in outlying neighborhoods like Indian Trail without the infrastructure in place to support such developments.
Q.The city has nearly completed the projects it promised voters in the 2004 street bond. Would you support asking voters for a new street bond of a similar or greater scope? If so, should the bond include money to pay for sidewalks, bike lanes, street trees or other street improvements besides pavement from “curb-to-curb?”
Steve Salvatori: Because of the high priority our citizens place on streets, and the magnitude of their cost of construction and maintenance, I believe the voters should be asked about any major initiative regarding roads. I also believe in giving the voters a say in whether additional monies should be spent for sidewalks and bike lanes, as opposed to any single special interest group attempting to ramrod that through with no evidence of broad-based support. I would encourage the ballot to be constructed in that fashion.
Joy Jones: Funding for streets needs to include sidewalks and bike lanes. As gas prices continue to increase more individuals are looking for alternative methods of transportation. The last time gas reached $4 per gallon, more people began biking, walking, and using mass transit. This helped to alleviate congestion and decrease wear and tear on our roads. By having sidewalks, bike lanes, and well maintained roads, individuals will be more likely to use alternative methods of travel, stay healthier and stay safe. I would support a bond for streets if it also included an option for sidewalks and bike lanes.