The candidates for the District 3 seat on the Spokane City Council approach the role with significantly different visions of city government, and their responsibilities as representatives.
Karen Stratton, whom other council members last year selected to replace Steve Salvatori, has cast her lot with a majority that has taken an expansive approach to city government and their prerogatives as legislators.
Challenger Evan Verduin says he would narrow the council focus and defer more to the mayor in his role as the city’s chief executive. He says he would also tread more lightly when issues affect small business.
Although we respect Stratton’s record of public service, we endorse Verduin, who as a one-man architectural firm is himself a small business.
Verduin’s limited public service has centered on the city planning commission. He was appointed by Mayor David Condon, who has not only endorsed him but has campaigned with him, as well.
Verduin says he has seen the harmful effect of council activism in its approval last December of a measure that requires a minimum number of apprenticeship hours on city construction projects. As a result, contractors with small crews find it difficult to bid on city projects.
The council threatened to wander further into private-sector affairs with a proposal that would have mandated paid leave hours for use in case of illness, or safety in cases of domestic violence. The plan was tabled, in part because Stratton backed away after getting an earful from business owners.
She deserves credit for listening, but we are concerned her caution is temporary. If voters reject Proposition 1, as both candidates recommend, paid leave may be back, which would be unfortunate.
Stratton emphasizes her roots in Spokane, and the interest in public service instilled by her parents. In her career, she has worked for the Legislature, two former mayors, Washington State University and the Community Colleges of Spokane.
She has also volunteered at many nonprofit organizations.
The record is admirable, and a problem. Spokane businesses need more support on the council from individuals who understand their problems from the inside out, a perspective Stratton is starting to come by as part owner of a marijuana growing operation.
We do have concerns about Verduin. Early on in his campaign, a functioning ombudsman and ombudsman commission was not the priority for him that, fortunately, it has now become. He also underestimates the time consumed by council duties. Spokane citizens can be demanding.
But Verduin and LaVerne Biel, who is running in District 2, can restore balance to a council that currently has a veto-proof majority. Predecessors Salvatori in District 3 and Mike Allen, who is giving up his District 2 seat, gave the council a strong center.
That’s where the council belongs, and that’s why we support Verduin.
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