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

Spokane City Council 2nd District candidates disparate

Jon Snyder knows he’s in a fight for his political life. His two opponents in the race to represent Spokane City Council District 2, John Ahern and LaVerne Biel, are making sure he knows it.

From left to right, Snyder, Ahern and Biel.

Two years after joining the council in 2009, Snyder watched two of his progressive compatriots fall to their more conservative opponents.

Former Mayor Mary Verner and former Councilman Richard Rush, who both endorsed Snyder this year, said things similar to the current councilman during their unsuccessful re-election bids. Things like, he’s worked hard to build consensus on the issues that are important to his district.

“I’ve co-sponsored legislation with every member I’ve ever served with,” Snyder said. “My job is not to make Jon’s ordinances. My job is to go and to listen to people in my district and be a conduit for their desires about policy. … Ultimately, if I’m just acting on my own impulses, I’m doing a bad job.”

But the recent sale of Out There Monthly, the outdoor magazine he founded a decade ago, shows Snyder is all in for this election.

Snyder is by far the most prodigious fundraiser of the bunch. His biggest endorsements come primarily from labor groups, but he’s drawn thousands of dollars from individuals such as downtown developer Jerry Dicker, Democrat heavyweight Sharon Smith and Liquor Control Board member Chris Marr.

What Snyder is best known for is making streets accessible for all users: cars, cyclists, walkers, the disabled and mass transit. He’s unhappy with the loss of coverage by the fire department and said the city’s business centers could use more attention other than a “catchall development process that hasn’t had a lot of deliberate planning to it.”

Biel, however, said she prefers a “less is more” philosophy. Not that she dismisses city planning: She said she has no problem with the proposed Target on the South Hill because “it passed through the development planning process” with the city.

With a son who works for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Biel said she understands that police officers are “valuable.” One of her goals, though, is to cut their pay; she’d also like to consider cutting the compensation and benefits of all city workers, including the mayor and city administrators.

Her primary goal for the city, however, is to create a process where “business owners want to work with the city, and the city wants to work with them.”

Coming from the private sector, Biel said she doesn’t have a “political side.” Still, she’s telling potential voters: “Anybody but the Jons.”

Or Johns, as the case may be.

Ahern’s name recognition from his 10 years in the state House of Representatives could help him. He’s also earned a reputation for knocking on a lot of doors: 2,600 so far, with plans to reach 4,000 before the primary votes are counted.

Ahern’s banking on his experience to convince voters to support him.

“At my young, tender age, I have the wisdom, maturity and common sense to lead on the council,” said Ahern, who celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary this year.

As a fiscal conservative, Ahern is focused on creating a lean government that relies on fewer taxes from its citizens. And he said he believes Spokane could become the place for businesses to relocate, with its lack of corporate or personal income taxes, low electricity rates and overall quality of life.

He said the role of government is “public safety. No more, no less.”

Ahern said if the government maintains a safe citizenry, other functions of government, such as building roads, bridges and providing a safety net for the needy, “will just come.”