What a difference six years make.
In 2009, Tom Towey was among five candidates for the Spokane Valley City Council campaigning on a platform of “positive change.”
The insurgents were bent on reversing plans that threatened to put the city in the red by 2014. Once elected, they dumped a proposal to return Sprague and Appleway avenues to two-way driving, stopped consideration of a city center and eliminated unfilled positions at the city offices.
The looming financial crisis disappeared, and in 2011 the city was able to lower property taxes 1 percent, while other communities were taking the 1 percent increase permissible without the consent of the public.
Towey, mayor through that turbulent period, stepped down in 2013. Now, he wants to return to the council, and he has challenged Arne Woodard for the District 3 position.
We support Towey over Woodard, who has become the hard-liner on city spending to the point that last week he supported another 1 percent property tax rollback as the council neared the end of its annual budget process.
The proposal was ill-timed, if not unwise. Spokane Valley has been managed with tight fists and sharp pencils since its 2003 incorporation. This would have been tax-cutting for the sake of tax-cutting after months of work produced a budget extravagant only for the proposed purchase of a snow removal truck.
General fund expenditures will increase 2.7 percent in 2016, but revenues will increase still more, by 3.1 percent. Spokane Valley, like other Washington jurisdictions, is enjoying a rebound in retail sales, and so sales tax revenues.
City officials have wisely banked surpluses in reserves that make Spokane Valley the envy of many other jurisdictions. Those reserves will become invaluable as the city takes on more road preservation work to head off wear that will be more expensive to fix later on.
But style may be as important as substance in distinguishing Towey from Woodward, who differ only by degrees in their positions on other issues facing Spokane Valley, such as where to put multifamily housing, and how to move forward with grade separations at BNSF Railway crossings.
Towey says Spokane Valley will have to rebuild relations with other local governments if the city wants their support on that and other infrastructure initiatives.
He criticizes Woodard for questioning of city staff he says crosses the line into attacking their expertise.
Woodard, while praising the staff, says he just wants to assure himself and residents the city is saving every dollar it can.
The difference between the two is also reflected in endorsements, with Woodard backed by the Valley’s legislators and other conservatives, Towey by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Mayor Dean Grafos, the lone member of the positive change coalition still on the council, and Sally Jackson, a former chairman of the Spokane County Democratic Party.
Towey served his city with distinction before, and can do so again.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.