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City Council candidates show similarities at forum

The lack of controversy in the races for Spokane Valley City Council was evident in the candidate forum held Wednesday by the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.

At one point moderator John Guarisco noted that the candidates were agreeing on most issues and it was “a little kumbayah-ish.”

The lightly attended forum featured all eight candidates for the four council seats up for election. Each was asked general questions in addition to questions from the audience directed toward a single candidate.

The only bit of controversy has been in the race between incumbent Gary Schimmels and challenger Ed Pace. Schimmels was elected on the Positive Change platform in 2009, and Pace has challenged his viewpoints and said he no longer deserves the Positive Change mantle. All that is in the past, Schimmels said. “I’d like to dig a hole and bury that phrase,” he said.

The candidates all agreed that they were not in favor of raising taxes at this time. Fred Beaulac, who is running for Position 7 against Bill Bates, said he would favor doing line-by-line budget cuts to free up money to add new police officers rather than approve a 1 percent property tax increase. In rebuttal, Bates noted that the city has already done a line-by-line examination of the budget.

The money is there, Beaulac said. “I just believe there could have been one less sidewalk done,” Beaulac said.

Some of the candidates left a little room to rethink their anti-tax stand in future years. Donald Morgan Jr., who is running against incumbent Chuck Hafner, said he would also look to cuts before considering raising taxes but he would be open to tax increases, if needed. “Cutting essential services is not on the table,” he said.

Hafner said he would also be willing to raise taxes or use some of the city’s reserves to pay for new police officers, if necessary.

One of the audience members asked Pace about his campaign statements against gun control and what he planned to do to address the issue on the City Council. Pace replied that he wouldn’t do anything unless there “is an effort to encroach on people’s rights to own guns.”

Schimmels said that gun control is not an issue that comes up on the City Council level. “Why are we even considering that language?” he said.

The candidates spoke highly of the current financial state of the city and the professionalism of city staff. Several took the time during their opening or closing statements to explain why they were seeking a council seat. “I feel I can represent working families,” Beaulac said. “That demographic is missing on the current council.”

Appointed incumbent Rod Higgins listed organizations and individuals that have endorsed him, including state Rep. Matt Shea, and said he has received high ratings from We Believe, We Vote and the Citizen’s Alliance for Property Rights. “I’m proud to be a member of that team,” he said.

Linda Thompson, who is running against Higgins, said the council currently doesn’t have any women. “We need more diversity,” she said. “I want a chance to serve.”

Hafner said that the council positions are nonpartisan and candidates should not be campaigning on state or national issues that have no place in city government. “We are there to govern all the people,” he said.

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