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Friday, October 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Differences exposed as Spokane City Council, school board candidates debate at Northwest Passages forum

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 4, 2019, 4:06 p.m.

Spokane City Council District 2 candidates Tony Kiepe and Lori Kinnear answer questions from Spokesman-Review reporters Adam Shanks, far left and Rebecca White during the Northwest Passages Community Forum Ð Pints & Politics with School Board & City Council Candidates at Cracker Building Thurs., Oct. 3, 2019. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane City Council District 2 candidates Tony Kiepe and Lori Kinnear answer questions from Spokesman-Review reporters Adam Shanks, far left and Rebecca White during the Northwest Passages Community Forum Ð Pints & Politics with School Board & City Council Candidates at Cracker Building Thurs., Oct. 3, 2019. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Beer flowed cold and questions came in hot as voters got to know Spokane City Council and Spokane school board candidates during rapid-fire, 17-minute sessions at the first of two Northwest Passages’ Pints and Politics forums Thursday night.

The two candidates from each race answered questions from two Spokesman-Review reporters and voters who attended.

In one of the more fiery question-and-answer sessions, Spokane City Council District 2 candidates Tony Kiepe and Lori Kinnear sparred over Rep. Matt Shea and climate change.

Kiepe called Shea a mesmerizing figure in an Inlander article published Thursday, and he doubled down during the evening debate.

“Have you heard him speak?” Kiepe said.

Kinnear said she found Kiepe’s admiration of Shea concerning.

“Three (City Council members) are under surveillance and that is not OK,” she said.

Kiepe said that, just like Donald Trump, there are things he likes and doesn’t like about Shea.

“The fact that there might be some good qualities, perhaps, I have not found one,” Kinnear said.

Jesse Tinsley - Spokesman.com

Kiepe said he disagrees with Shea’s alleged surveillance of political opponents, including Kinnear and other local elected officials, as well his manifesto on biblical warfare. He added that the last campaign event he went to for Shea was two years ago.

“I haven’t talked to Matt Shea, and I haven’t talked to him about my campaign,” Kiepe said.

Kiepe also denied the existence of climate change, although he put solar panels on his home to save on utilities and wants to avoid pollution from city buses by adding electric ones.

“I would like to see everyone be a little greener, a little cleaner,” he said.

Kinnear said the city already has electric buses and plans to add more, like the fleet for the new Central City Line. She added that she co-sponsored the City Council’s climate change ordinance and sponsored the urban forestry ordinance to combat climate change.

“Each city has a role to play,” she said. “We have to act right now.”

Jesse Tinsley - Spokesman.com

Spokane City Council District 3 candidate Andy Rathbun and incumbent Karen Stratton addressed the council’s strained relationship with the mayor’s office and how they would foster collaboration with the next mayor.

Stratton stressed the importance of communication and said the council’s relationship with the next mayor isn’t a concern to her.

“There’s always been healthy relationships between the council and the mayor, even with disagreements,” she said.

Rathbun disagreed and said the council’s relationship with the mayor’s office has been dysfunctional lately, blaming council members’ personal political agendas and communication problems.

He said during his Air Force career he was able to put politics aside with other service members in order to accomplish a mission.

“I believe I could bring something like that to this council,” he said.

The District 3 candidates also disagreed on implementing more projects like the North Monroe Corridor.

Rathbun said it has slowed down traffic in the area and redirected potential business patrons to other roads, while Stratton called the project a success and would move forward in other areas with community support.

Jesse Tinsley - Spokesman.com

The conservative council candidates vying to replace Mike Fagan in northeast Spokane made their pitches to liberal voters in the area.

Tim Benn said he doesn’t think good road conditions and public safety fall on one side of the political spectrum.

“I’m just a guy that lives in the district,” Benn said. “I care about the district.”

Michael Cathcart agreed, adding that he wants to invest in streets and a greater law enforcement presence in the district.

“I’m going to be an unabashed champion of the district,” he said.

One thing the candidates didn’t agree on was campaign contributions from special interest groups, like the record amount of money spent by developers in Spokane elections this year.

Cathcart said he was proud to have the support of homebuilders and developers. He said voters can think for themselves on issues and look past monetary contributions.

Benn claimed he’ll be the only candidate in Spokane not receiving money from a special interest group.

“I just want to represent my district,” he said.

Jesse Tinsley - Spokesman.com

In the Spokane school board races, most candidates agreed that balancing the district’s budget is their No. 1 priority and did not support arming school resource officers.

Both position 4 candidates, Kevin Morrison and Erin Georgen, said they would not support arming school resource officers.

“Education is our mission, not law enforcement,” Morrison said. “I don’t believe having a weapon inside our schools is going to change” school safety.

Jesse Tinsley - Spokesman.com

Position 1 candidate Katey Treloar said that rather than arm resource officers, the district should focus on developing a stronger relationship with police by having officers in school more regularly.

Treloar’s opponent, Nikki Lockwood, said she believes that bond is already strong and it would be a waste of money to focus more effort on it.

“I believe that when we need the police they will respond,” Lockwood said. She also said she wants to focus on diversifying the board and its policies.

Jesse Tinsley - Spokesman.com

Kelli MacFarlane, a candidate for position 2, said she would support putting an armed resource officer in each school, but her opponent Jenny Slagle said that is not practical and would not increase safety.

Slagle also said implementing a racial equity policy would be her primary goal.

“We need to continue to support our most vulnerable students. That includes students of color and students with disabilities,” Slagle said.

The next Pints and Politics forum with mayoral and City Council president candidates is at the Bing Crosby Theater on Oct. 15.

Editor’s note: Board candidate Nikki Lockwood spoke at the forum about wanting to focus on diversifying the board and its policies. That position was misattributed to another candidate as a result of a reporter’s error. This report also was changed on Oct. 4, 2019 to add Lockwood’s position on police in schools.

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